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Cancer Genome Project Team Releases Preliminary Treatment Response Data

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Researchers involved with the Cancer Genome Project announced today that they are releasing treatment response data and corresponding genomic information for hundreds of cancer samples.

"Today is our first glimpse of this complex interface, where genomes meet cancer medicine," project co-leader Andrew Futreal, a human genetics researcher at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said in a statement. "By producing a carefully curated set of data to serve the cancer research community, we hope to produce a database for improving patient response during cancer treatment."

The Cancer Genome Project's Genomics of Drug Sensitivity project is a five-year effort launched in late 2008. Researchers involved in the effort, including investigators at the Sanger Institute and the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, plan to look at how some 1,000 genetically characterized cancer cell lines respond to treatment with 400 anti-cancer treatments, alone and in combination.

Findings from studies looking at the effects of 18 anti-cancer drugs on 350 genetically characterized cancer samples are being made available to other researchers through the Cancer Genome Project's Genomics of Drug Sensitivity web site.

"By ensuring that all the drug sensitivity data and correlative analysis is freely available in an easy-to-use website, we hope to enable and support the important work of the wider community of cancer researchers," co-project leader Ultan McDermott, a medical oncologist and human genetics researcher at the Sanger Institute, said in a statement.

Along with drug sensitivity information, the team is providing genetic data on the cancer cell lines tested, including information on mutations, copy number changes, and gene expression patterns in the lines.

For instance, from experiments done so far the team was able to detect some known treatment-related genetic patterns, including activating mutations in the BRAF gene in melanoma that correspond to BRAF-targeting treatment response.

"It is very encouraging that we are able to clearly identify drug–gene interactions that are known to have clinical impact at an early stage in the study," McDermott noted. "It suggests that we will discover many novel interactions even before we have the full complement of cancer cell lines and drugs screened."

"The effectiveness of novel targeted cancer agents could be substantially improved by directing treatment towards those patients that genetic study suggests are most likely to benefit, thus 'personalizing' cancer treatment," Daniel Haber, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School Cancer Center, added in a statement.

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