Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Alice McCarthy, October 28th, 2010 | Filed under
  • Illumina GAIIx retrofitted with Breast Cancer Awareness skins
    Photo courtesy of Kim Delehaunty, The Genome Center at
    Washington University

At the Beyond the Genome workshop held here in Boston a few weeks back, this image of the Illumina Genome Analyzer IIx was posted in a presentation on next-generation cancer genomics. The presenter, Elaine Mardis, co-director of The Genome Center at Washington University, gave the keynote for the session on sequencing cancer and complex disease genomes. The Illumina GAIIx sequencer, outfitted in pink in the photo to the right, has been a workhorse in advanced genome sequencing, churning out the genetic information related to cancer and other genetically complex diseases.

It is these machines and others like them that scientists at the Broad, like those shown in the bottom left photo, rely on daily to help break the back of cancer genomes.

Gene sequencing is the process by which scientists determine the specific order of DNA components, namely the chemical bases, making up a gene and other genetic information.  DNA sequencing machines like the Illumina GAIIx sequencer are the essential tools of genomics researchers. By looking at the DNA sequence of breast cancer tissues and healthy tissues, researchers at the Broad like those shown in the photo below hope to find the genetic reasons explaining why breast cancers develop and hopefully provide new roadmaps to finding ways of preventing and treating them.

Broad researchers working with gene sequencers.
Photo courtesy of Broad Communications

As we close the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness month, these images are visual reminders that what we do is more than just cool science. It is about making discoveries that will change lives for the better.