Cancer Dependency Maps Developed by Two Research Teams

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Two research teams have mapped out genes that cancer cells depend on for growth and survival.

Using genome-wide RNA interference screens, research teams from both the Broad Institute and Novartis knocked down thousands of genes in hundreds of cancer cell lines. By then examining which cells survived, the researchers could gauge whether cancer cells were dependent upon the silenced genes. The teams reported their results today in separate Cell papers.

Both groups said that these dependencies could help identify drug targets.

“We wanted to identify vulnerabilities — the genes and proteins that cancer cells care most about,” Rob McDonald, senior researcher in oncology at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research and a co-corresponding author on one of the Cell papers, said in a statement.

In their Cell paper, the Broad team silenced more than 17,000 genes in 501 cell lines that represented more than 20 cancer types. The cells were passaged for 40 days before being sequenced to assess which short hairpin RNAs were depleted from the cell population.

“The simplest thing one can do with perturbed cells is allow them to keep growing over time and see which ones thrive,” David Root, a Broad researcher

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