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Boston Research Institutes, Hospitals Launch Clinical Genomics Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A quartet of Boston-area research centers including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, and the Broad Institute have teamed to create a new clinical cancer genomics center that will be headquartered at Dana-Farber.

Dana-Farber said today that the new Joint Center for Cancer Precision Medicine will harness a wide range of scientific resources and clinical capabilities from the partners to treat cancer patients and feed treatment data into research programs. The multiple capabilities these partners will share and use in the new center include DNA sequencing and other tumor molecular profiling tools, pathology, radiology, surgery, computational interpretation, and tumor modeling systems, they said.

"The center is creating a new capability to use these huge resources in sequencing and pathology and making sure the data gets to caregivers to help customize cancer treatment," Dana-Farber President Edward Benz said in a statement.

A core part of the center will be a program to obtain and characterize biopsies from patients during treatment by looking at the tumors' DNA, RNA, and proteins.

The center also will create a computational biology working group that will spread across Dana-Farber, Broad, and Brigham and Women's Hospital and will include biologists, bioinformaticians, and software designers to develop algorithms aimed at interpreting genome sequencing data.

The partners also plan to support a translational innovation lab that will pursue studies on actionable cancer mutations and drug resistance, as well as preclinical studies of targeted drug combinations. In addition, they will work with members of the Profile cancer genetics research study, a project already launched by Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women's that is focused on analyzing tumor DNA and creating a database of relevant mutations.

The CanSeq study, a whole-exome sequencing effort involving Dana-Farber, Brigham and Women's and Broad investigators, will become "an integral part of the new center," as researchers plan to study the value of whole-exome sequencing in cancer treatment, Dana-Farber said. Currently, the CanSeq partners are sequencing the whole exomes of 50 lung and colon cancer patients as part of a pilot phase.

"This center will allow us to be optimally positioned to answer the big questions in cancer genetics, especially as they affect clinical decision-making," said Levi Garraway, an associate professor at Dana-Farber and the new center's director, as well as head of the CanSeq study.

"We seek to understand which genetic and other molecular alterations predict how tumors will respond to targeted drugs, why some patients become resistant to drugs, and what that means about the treatments that should be tried next," he added.