What are ‘omics and how can they improve cancer treatment?

One gene can tell you a lot about your risk for developing cancer and how well you’re likely to respond to cancer treatment. But there’s only so much one gene can do, and in your body, it’s working alongside thousands of other genes, proteins and molecules to support everything your body needs to live. Where ‘omics come in That’s where ‘omics come in. The term comes from the Greek word “ome,” meaning group or whole, and in biology, it’s the study and characterization of all biological molecules of one type and how they interrelate in the body to produce the functions of life. So proteomics – the ‘omics of proteins – is the study of all proteins that work together to provide a specific function for a cell or organ. Genomics is looking at all of your genes – your genome – and how they interact. It’s important to look at individual genes in detail to learn more about their function, says John Weinstein, M.D., Ph.D. But researchers can complement that work by using ‘omic approaches to look at a gene in context and see how things work and interact in the cellular environment. Since Weinstein first used the term in a publication in 1997, ‘omics has been applied to almost anything scientists can study: glycomics, lipidomics, metabolomics, pharmacogenomics and immunomics, among dozens of others. Asking the right questions Scientific research is based on hypotheses – and the clearer your hypothesis is before you begin your study, the better chance you have of finding a high-quality answer. Much of the ‘omics work done helps researchers craft better-formulated hypotheses. “Using...