Dr. Dronamraju Addresses the 103rd Indian Science Congress at the University of Mysore

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HOUSTON: In his Plenary Address to the 103rd Indian Science Congress in Mysore, Dr. Dronamraju presented a discussion of the use of Genetic and Genomic Biomarkers in the early detection of various types of cancers and other diseases. Research in molecular biology, genetics and computational biology is being pursued to identify new risk factors which will improve our methods for identifying individuals who are at high risk for certain diseases. Various types of cancer, infectious diseases, respiratory diseases and others fall under this category. The completion of the human genome sequencing has led to much hope and search for biomarkers which can be useful for recognizing disease progression and therapeutic intervention.

Earliest known markers include the “Philadelphia chromosome” as a predictor of Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, and the association of Trisomy 21 with Down’s syndrome. A recent example is the association of GSTP1 Promoter Methylation with recurrence in early state Prostate Cancer. Somatic mutations, which are only present in tumor cell DNA, provide an extremely specific biomarker that can be detected and tracked.

Various types of Biomarkers include “Screening Biomarkers”, “Predisposition Biomarkers”, “Prediction Biomarkers”,  and many others.  But where do we stand today? The results are not consistent. Other problems include bias in sampling, data collection and analysis. It is important to evaluate the present status of their clinical applications, indicating directions of future research, especially in pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine.

Dr. Dronamraju is President of the Foundation for Genetic Research, Houston, and a Visiting Professor of the University of Paris. He is a former advisor to the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Department of  Agriculture, Washington, D.C.