Proteogenomics: A Research Rocket Ship
for the Cancer Moonshot
Proteogenomics is the foundation of precision medicine, an approach to medical care that uses
precise information about the genes and proteins in an individual person’s tissues to inform
individual treatment options.
The Cancer Moonshot is a challenge to double the rate of progress in cancer treatment and research. What
will it take to achieve success?
This effort will need a map—the DNA.
It will need a delivery vehicle— the RNA
transcripts of the DNA. But most of all the
Cancer Moonshot will need a destination—
the proteins that actually make cancer
This national roadmap to dramatic
progress in cancer research will also need
a way to understand the connections
among the genes, the transcripts, and the
proteins. That means joining forces around
the globe to stop this dreadful disease. The
Cancer Moonshot will require integrating
tremendous amounts of information to
understand both the fundamental drivers of
cancer and the individual nuances of how
the disease manifests itself, and responds—
or fails to respond— to therapy.
All these imperatives mean employing new
research concepts. One is proteogenomics.
Although the word may not be familiar,
The Cancer Moonshot itself is based on
a precision approach to the entire spectrum
of cancer, from detection and diagnosis, to
prognosis and therapy.
The search for protein function
The genes in our DNA are only the
beginning of what happens in our bodies.
What really counts is function — what
cells actually do. The potential encoded
in the genome is executed by proteins.
In turn, protein function is regulated by
small molecular change known as post-translational modifications, which cannot be
detected in the DNA or RNA.
Cancer is initiated by changes in our
DNA. But the real damage is done by
proteins that cause cancer cells to misbehave.
The cells grow when they should not and
they aggressively invade tissues where they
Researchers need a way of understanding
those rogue proteins. That’s where
proteogenomics shines. As a fusion of
proteomics and genomics, it’s a way
to generate hypotheses from genomic
observations, which are then tested at the
protein level. To interpret protein abundance
and protein modifications, researchers are
guided by their knowledge of the actual
genome in the specific cells and tissues
In the past decade, a revolution in
DNA sequencing technology has led to an
explosion of information about the human
genome. In turn, the availability of next-generation sequencing technologies has
fueled comprehensive analyses of the human
genome and transcriptome, such as The
Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA).