Rights James Beck, Duke University

Rights James Beck, Duke University

An emerging type of cancer treatment currently being extensively researched is single cell sequencing.  By sequencing the entire genome of individual cells in a primary tumor, researchers hope to find the origins of the cancer, and the exact method of how it spreads.  Often, it is not the primary tumor that proves to be the most deadly, as it is the metastasis of the cancer to other parts of the body that proves most difficult to treat.  By determining the exact cells that the cancer originates, scientists would be able to efficiently target these individual cells before they metastasize.

Just as antibiotics can fail to kill off the entire sickness, resulting in a more powerful, drug resistant strain, the same thing can occur with chemotherapy.  Current chemotherapy methods seek to target the tumor as a whole, and is not specialized to the specific cells within the tumor responsible for causing and spreading the cancer.  Through whole genome amplification, doctors could better access the cancerous cells within the tumor, by looking at the unique pattern of copy number variations, and provide individualized treatment.

This process, although relatively new, has proven to be extremely promising.  As data from volunteer patients continue to produce useful results, the technique of single cell sequencing will hopefully become industrialized in the near future.  Rather than amplifying individual cell’s genomes by hand, machines will perform this task through assembly lines, making individualized cancer treatment widespread and hopefully bringing society one step closer to the end of this terrible disease.

For more information on this groundbreaking technique, visit: A method for amplifying DNA from single bacterial cells shows promise for complete genome sequencing


Single cell sequencing research is currently underway at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, as the lab’s state-of-the-art new sequencing machines allow these scientists to lead the way in this new type of cancer research.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email