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    New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

    Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.
    A team of Toronto researchers, led by Professor Jason Moffat from the University of Toronto's Donnelly Centre, with a contribution from Stephane Angers from the Faculty of Pharmacy, have switched off, one by one, almost 18,000 genes -- 90 per cent of the entire human genome -- to find the genes that are essential for cell survival.
    The data, published in Cell on November 25, revealed a "core" set of more than 1,500 essential genes. This lays the foundation for reaching the long-standing goal in biomedical research of pinpointing a role for every single gene in the genome. By turning genes off in five different cancer cell lines, including brain, retinal, ovarian, and two kinds of colorectal cancer cells, the team uncovered that each tumor relies on a unique set of genes that can be targeted by specific drugs. The finding raises hope of devising new treatments that would target only cancer cells, leaving the surrounding healthy tissue unharmed.
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