News FocusProfile: Bert Vogelstein

Cancer Genetics With an Edge

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Science  20 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6092, pp. 282-284
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6092.282

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Bert Vogelstein and Kenneth Kinzler, who co-direct a lab at the Johns Hopkins University medical campus, helped lay the foundation of cancer genetics by revealing how mutations in key genes lead to a tumor. Their work helped inspire others to use genetics to predict cancer risks and develop personalized cancer treatments. Yet today, Vogelstein often offers what he calls a "reality check" on such efforts. In the past few years, Vogelstein and Kinzler have shifted away from discovering new cancer genes to a less glamorous pursuit: using genetic tests to detect common tumors as early as possible, when they are easiest to cure. This is not mainstream work, they say. But it's a natural progression of earlier research, the two said in a recent interview. Their research was never driven by curiosity about biology, Vogelstein says, but by "an overwhelming desire to empty the cancer clinics across the street."