Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Assuming I didn't lose you at "TED Talk"

I need to do more research before I wade into this (or convince Joseph to do it for me), but even with the 10 to 50 year wiggle room, talk of having absolutely total confidence makes me nervous.

[GUY] RAZ: Which they did, an amazing scientific feat. They mapped the code that makes up all human DNA. Now they're still trying to figure out what it means, but they already know what it could mean for the future.


RESNICK: The world has completely changed and none of you know about it.

RAZ: So how is it going to change the world?

RESNICK: In a bunch of ways. The good news is it's going to help us immensely in treating cancer 'cause cancer is nothing more than a disease of the genome. It's a disease where one cell has certain changes, which cause it to get a little bit worse and then it reproduces. And by the time you've got a solid tumor, you've got this really heterogeneous population of cancerous cells. And if you sequence their genomes, they're a mess. And so right now, prior to genome sequencing, we're taking wild guesses at what the molecular basis of one's cancer is. And now going forward, what we're going to do is say, forget all of that, what is happening at the molecular level because this drug can target only those cancers that have the BRAF mutation, as an example.

RAZ: So where is it headed? What can you imagine in 10 or 20 years or beyond?

RESNICK: I think we will cure cancer. Genomics and sequencing at large will ultimately cure cancer. Whether that happens in 10 years or 50 years or more is difficult to say.

RAZ: That's incredible. I mean, you can say that with total confidence?

RESNICK: Absolutely. At some point, we'll snuff it out. I mean, people will still develop cancer, certainly, unless we get into genetic engineering of humans, which is something we ought to talk about, but it will be curable.


  1. So far, genomics has brought us a few drugs that have improved the outcomes of cancer treatment for a few cancers, but nothing really radical. Also the cancers where it is helping tend to be rare variants rather than the common ones.

    I think anyone who tries to predict what will be in 50 years is foolish. But so far the hype has greatly exceeded the results.

  2. "Whether that happens in 10 years or 50 years or more is difficult to say."

    So we can't actually falsify this statement for another 50 years? Richard Resnick graduated from MIT in 1994. So I would bet he was born in the mid-seventies and is around 40 today. In 50 years he will ~90 years old.

    And this TED talk will be as useful as predictions in the 1960's about what is happening today.

    It's also tricky in that it would be hard to imagine a cure that isn't influenced by knowledge of the genome (think finding drug targets) but it's much harder to demonstrate it was critical to success.

    I'd say this statement represents an abundance of enthusiasm for his technological area but doesn't really convey information, per se.