Targeted therapy, precision medicine and cancer genomics — this is the new vocabulary of cancer research and treatment that Harold Varmus, co-recipient of the Nobel Prize, advocated in his lecture ‘New directions in cancer research’ at the Indian Institute of Science on Tuesday.

“It is more important to know which gene causes cancer than what tissue it affects,” said Prof. Varmus, who is also the director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), U.S. While conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy targets cancer tissues, cancer genomics looks at the mutations the disease triggers, the proteins associated with it, therefore helping with more precise treatment, he said.

Cancer was rising especially in less developed countries, he cautioned, and added that the number of deaths by cancer was projected to be 11 million by 2030 around the world. The study of cancer genes had, however, dramatically helped improve cancer therapy, Prof. Varmus said.