Scientists criticize $1.5 cancer atlas project

A growing number of prominent scientists are raising serious criticisms about the government's $1.5 billion Cancer Genome Atlas, calling it a waste of money at a time when federal funding for science is facing a critical challenge. The key criticism is that the atlas intends to catalog mutations related to primary tumors. But the researchers say that primary tumors aren't the chief threat. A more serious threat are the malignant cells that cause metastases, a rapid spread of cancer to other organs. The atlas may miss these cells, while identifying scores of mutations that are innocuous, critics maintain. Mutations in primary tumors may not be optimal drug targets and the mutations they track largely irrelevant. Noted UCLA cancer researcher Dennis Slamon says that even if the atlas identifies mutations, researchers will still be left with the hard work of determining if they cause cancer.

- read the report from MSNBC