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Monday, August 22, 2022

Is every gene associated with cancer?

There has been an enormous expansion of papers on cancer and many of them make a connection with a particular human gene. A recent note in Trends in Genetics revealed that 15,233 human genes have already been mentioned in a cancer paper (de Magalhães, 2022). (I'm pretty sure the author is only referring to portein-coding genes).

The author notes that this association doesn't necessarily mean that there's a cause-and-effect relationship and also notes that justifying a connection between your favorite gene and a cancer grant application is a factor. However, he concludes that,

In genetics and genomics, literally everything is associated with cancer. If a gene has not been associated with cancer yet, it probably means it has not been studied enough and will most likely be associated with cancer in the future. In a scientific world where everything and every gene can be associated with cancer, the challenge is determining which are the key drivers of cancer and more promising therapeutic targets.

I think he's on to something. I predict that all noncoding genes will eventually be associated with cancer as well. Not only that, I predict that several thousand fake genes will also be associated with cancer. It won't be long before there are 100,000 human genes associated with cancer and then the remaining parts of the genome will also be mentioned in cancer papers.

This will mean the end of junk DNA because anything that causes cancer must be part of a functional genome.

I hope my book comes out before this becomes widely known.

de Magalhães, J.P. (2021) Every gene can (and possibly will) be associated with cancer. TRENDS in Genetics 38:216-217 [doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2021.09.005]


Anonymous said...

I haven't seen any recent update on the release of your book. Do you know when it is expected to be published?

Larry Moran said...

January 2023 is the current publication date.

Anonymous said...

Have you picked a publisher? I have been searching online for info on pre-ordering.

Larry Moran said...

The publisher is University of Toronto Press. You won't be able to pre-order until the Fall catalogue comes out in November.

Right now we have just begun preparing the manuscript to send to the printer. This means that the material is now "locked" and no substantive changes can be made.

If Nature or Science publishes breakthrough papers proving that all of our genome is functional then it's not going to make it into my book and I'm going to look very silly.

I'm also going to be embarrassed if either journal issues an apology for their behavior during the ENCODE publicity stunt.

DK said...

But in the big picture it's true - every gene really is associated with cancer. It's all just a matter of degrees and probabilities. It's an iron-clad argument, in fact (however silly it is)