Sleeping beauty: a novel cancer gene discovery tool
The National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute recently announced a 3-year 100-million-dollar pilot study to use large-scale resequencing of genes in human tumors to identify new cancer genes. The hope is that some of these genes can be used as drug targets for developing better therapeutics for treating cancer. Although this effort will identify new cancer genes, it could be made more efficient by preferentially resequencing genes identified as novel candidate cancer genes in animal models of cancer. Although retroviral insertional mutagenesis has proven to be an effective tool for identifying novel cancer genes in the mouse, these studies are limited by the fact that retroviral mutagenesis primarily induces hematopoietic and mammary cancer, but little else, while the majority of cancers affecting humans are solid tumors. Recently, two groups have shown that sleeping beauty (SB) transposon-based insertional mutagenesis can also identify novel candidate cancer genes in the mouse. Unlike retroviral infection, SB transposition can be controlled to mutagenize any target tissue and thus potentially induce many different kinds of cancer, including solid tumors. SB transposition in animal models of cancer could therefore greatly facilitate the identification of novel human cancer genes and the development of better cancer therapies.