World Gets Closer to Identifying Cancer’s Genomic Drivers

February 25, 2020 by Alec Stone MA, MPA, Former ONS Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy
alec stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

Although most cancers contain four to five driver mutations, those drivers remain unknown for about 5% of cancers, according to results of a series of studies examining genomes from 38 different cancer types ( The international Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) Consortium reported the findings in a collection of 23 articles published in Nature and other affiliated journals.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, MD, provided context for the study, which builds on previous work that NIH funded. “Because many cancer drugs are designed to target specific proteins affected by driver mutations, the new findings indicate it may be worthwhile, perhaps even life-saving in many cases, to sequence the entire tumor genomes of a great many more people with cancer,” Collins wrote on his NIH blog (  

Some highlights from the genome report include:

According to Collins, “The findings represent a big step toward cataloging all the major cancer-causing mutations with important implications for the future of precision cancer care.”

Understanding the cancer genomics conversation is key to successful patient education for nurses. Learning about genetics and genomics ( and staying abreast of the latest information will help clear any mystery and put cancer genetics into perspective for nurses and their patients. Learn more about genetics, genomics, and how nurses can collaborate with genetic counselors on the Oncology Nursing Podcast (

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