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British Columbia Cancer Agency Funded $9.5M for Personalized Cancer Project

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Investigators at the BC Cancer Agency in British Columbia have reeled in an infusion of C$10 million (US$9.5 million) in funding from regional and national partners to fund an effort to use genome sequencing to personalize treatments for patients with lymphoid cancers.

The project at the BC Cancer Agency's Centre for Lymphoid Cancer was funded by Genome BC, the BC Cancer Foundation, Genome Canada, and the Canadian Institute of Health Research, Genome BC said today.

Joseph Connors, clinical director at the center and the project leader, said in a statement that the project seeks to show "how we can use genomic analysis cost-effectively to treat more cancer patients in a way that can readily be duplicated elsewhere around the world."

Lymphoid cancers are the fourth most common cancer in British Columbia, and recent research has shown that sequencing can differentiate specific types of lymphoid cancers that are not often cured now, but which could be treated more effectively with personalized treatments, Genome BC said.

The agency estimates that the cure rate for several common lymphoid cancers can be boosted by at least 20 percent by better diagnostic accuracy. By improving treatments and keeping patients from suffering relapses, the province could save around C$2.5 million per year.

So far, Genome BC said, such sequencing-based personalized treatments for lymphoid cancers have only been used in research settings and not in regular medical care.

The investigators plan to show that genomic sequencing and analyses can be used for lymphoid patients across British Columbia in a practical and cost-effective manner to improve treatment delivered by local oncologists.

The research team plans to design a guidance report that covers a range of activities and requirements for the program, including sample collection and treatment; personnel; standard operating procedures; specimen transport and analysis; report generation; communication procedures to help guide the primary oncologists; and a database to track the entire system.

The study will focus on four specific lymphoid cancers that occur around 500 times per year in the province. In more than half of these cases, the primary treatment fails and the costs of secondary treatment swells to more than C$60,000, while the cost of anti-cancer drugs can run even higher than that.

The investigators also plan to closely analyze all of the costs associated with the personalized lymphoid cancer care and develop analytic tools to enable healthcare planners to assess the economic impact of using these techniques to treat other cancers and diseases.