CRISPR Technology Could Accelerate Cancer Research

The revolutionary CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tool can target and inactivate cancer mutations, leading to more personalized therapies for patients.

The increasing popularity of CRISPR/Cas9 may gain traction in the cancer research world, as scientists recently demonstrated how mutations that act as cancer drivers can be targeted and repaired.

In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers have found a way to utilize the CRISPR technology to diagnose and inactivate cancer mutations.

“Mutations in cancer cells are identified at increasing speed through next generation sequencing, but we mostly do not know, which of these mutations are actually driving the disease and which ones are rather benign,” said head of study Frank Buchholz.

With more than 500,000 reported cancer mutations, researchers first analyzed how many of these mutations could theoretically be targeted. As a result, they found that >80% of the cancer mutations could be cleaved with the CRISPR/Cas9 system.

For the next step, researchers demonstrated how they could specifically cleave a panel of common cancer mutations without significantly targeting healthy, wildtype alleles. Furthermore, they showed how the expression of Cas9 in combination with the guide RNAs unmasked the mutations that drive growth in cancer cell lines.

“This is an important advance, because we can now rapidly separate driver from passenger mutations,” Buchholz said.