Bringing out the usual – and unusual – cancer genomics suspects
Several years ago, researchers sequencing lung cancer genomes encountered a peculiar problem. After combing through thousands of genes in a large number of patients, they had come up with a list of likely genetic suspects tied to the disease. Most of these genes made sense – some had previously been implicated in cancer, others clearly played an important biological role. But the data also pointed to a group of genes encoding olfactory receptors – the proteins that allow us to smell. Why were so many of these genes cropping up? Could these possibly be culprit genes? In the end, researchers found that they were simply red herrings – distractions along the way to pinpointing the mutations driving cancer.