Julian Bell

Period 3
Current Events: What are some of the major issues and discoveries in the Field of
Article Title: When Will Genomics Cure Cancer?
Author (last name): Fallows

Date Published: January 2014

Source: The Atlantic

1. Give a detailed synopsis of the article.
James Fallows, a writer for the Atlantic, conducted an interview with Eric S. Lander last year
on the progression of anticancer treatments using knowledge about the human genome which
contains the human DNA sequence. Lander is a contributor to the Human Genome Project
which is a worldwide research project with the goal of mapping all of the genes present within
the human genome. He also teaches at Harvard Medical School and MIT as a biogeneticist who
deals with the variables affecting the genome in organisms. Fallows begins his interview with
Lander by inquiring about the significance and progression of cancer medications that target
particular genes in individuals with various forms of cancer. Lander reminds Fallows in the
interview that substantial progress has already been made in regards to treating people with a
wide variety genetic related afflictions using the knowledge scientists currently possess
regarding the human genome. However, according to Lander, such similar treatments
formulated to target cancer are still being developed and are expected to flourish in the next 25
years. As the discussion continues Lander makes some profound statements regarding the nature

of these anti- carcinogenic drugs, the tendency for certain cancers to adapt to the treatment
options and, the economic obstacles that stagnate the progression of future scientific research
into cancer fighting drugs that target particular genes.
Eric Lander makes it clear that cancer research in regards to the human genome is a very time
consuming progress. According to Lander, it took 15 years for scientist to unravel a single
individual’s genome sequence. He assures Fallows who questions Lander on the timeline of this
progressive research, that gene sequencing was initially a more laborious process, but with the
progression of research thousands of individual genomes can be viewed and analyzed. Landers
also affirms that there are cancer fighting drugs that aid in the immediate removal of tumors.
The problem is however, that some of the cells become mutated thus, building a tolerance and
resistance to the cancer drugs. Once Fallows questions Landers on the necessity of funding for
genomic projects, Landers responds by inferring that economics is perhaps, one of the most
formidable barriers, preventing all of the research that can be conducted.
Eric S. Lander concludes his discussion with James Fallows by stating the fact that younger
scientists who are proliferating research efforts require funding for more materials and the
dealings with unique substances in order for the research to flourish in the most efficient way.
Lander makes the following statement which successfully summarizes his viewpoint on the
current economically limiting factor, “ If you aren’t prepared to waste money on things that
might not work, you can’t possibly do things that are transformative.” This comment alludes to
the fact that research institutes need to be more liberal in their funding techniques to in order to
forward research goals. Lander finally suggests that it is a shame that young scientists with so
much potential are limited in their capabilities due to the lack of funding.

2. Pick the most important 5 words from your article. State the significance of each word.
A) Genomics: This word is crucial because it is both the medium and the tool that biogeneticists
such as Eric Lander link certain genes to the acquisition of cancer. Thus in effect provides
treatment techniques accordingly.
B) Money: Economics is crucial in funding these research projects that have the potential to
revolutionize the world in regards to cancer treatment. More funds increases research
C) Cancer: This formidable disease is the main subject and opposition to the research being
conducted. The fact that this disease has become more common, makes this term crucial to the
overall objective of the research.
D) Research: This term is important because scientific findings and evaluations are key in
developing cancer fighting drugs. Research is also related to the previously mentioned terms in
unique ways (e.g., research efforts are largely reliant on money/economics).
E) Deoxyribonucleic acid: DNA is crucial to the article’s overall meaning and the efforts made
by numerous scientific researches to understand the relationship between the human genome
potentially fatal diseases such as cancer. DNA provides the clues in which geneticists can
further their progress.
3. Is the tone of the article positive or negative? Support with a quote or other piece of

The overall tone of the article is positive which is reflected upon the following quote addressing
the optimism of the progression of cancerous treatments: “Therapeutic development has already
been transformed by genomics.”
4. Describe three scientific principles that you already knew prior to reading the article that
helped you to better understand the science discussed in the article.
Prior to reading the article, it was already understood that mutations could occur which can
develop resistance to certain drugs. This piece of information enhanced the overall meaning of
the article in regards to cancer. The idea of genome sequencing was also known about prior to
reading the article which deals with the assembly the various genes that make up the human
genome. Additionally, the principle of disease’s ability to spread to various cells throughout the
body was also thoroughly understood.
5. Discuss one future implication of the science discussed in your article.
One future implication of the science discussed in the article is the progression of treatment
drugs for cancer that target specific genes in the next 25 years. Lander suggests that if the young
scientists of today continue their exhaustive research methods and laboratory practices in finding
ways to combat cancer, stronger drugs based on the structure of the human genome will perhaps,
provide a permanent cure for the disease. Lander of course, warns that this research will not
explode immediately, but will take many more years of work by researches and scientists.

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