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TGen Receives $10M for Genomics Research into Glioblastoma

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) –The Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation has awarded the Translational Genomics Research Institute $10 million to conduct genomics research into glioblastoma, TGen announced today.

The funding will support two five-year, $5 million projects: one looking into why some glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) patients survive beyond the average survival time, the other investigating new drugs that might extend the survival of GBM patients.

The project called "Outliers in glioblastoma outcome: Moving the curve forward," seeks to uncover the reasons why two percent of GBM patients survive beyond the average survival period of 18 months. TGen researchers will perform whole genome sequencing to identify the molecular building blocks of each patient's DNA in the hopes of discovering the genetic differences between those who survive only a few months and those who survive longer as their brain cancer develops more slowly.

GBM is the most common and aggressive form of malignant primary brain tumor, with 98 percent of patients living less than 18 months.

Based on the genetic targets, TGen researchers will identify patients mostly likely to benefit from the current standard of care and those most likely to benefit from newer experimental treatments, TGen said.

"If we can identify patients who will likely only survive a few months on current standard of care regimens, we can then prioritize those patients for personalized clinical trials," David Craig, TGen's deputy director of bioinformatics and one of the project's principal investigators, said in a statement.

Another multi-part study, called "Genomics enabled medicine in glioblastoma trial," will test promising new drugs that may be able to extend the lives of GBM patients.

The study, which will be conducted in clinics across the country and at TGen laboratories, will begin with the whole genome sequencing of 15 patients in a pilot study of their tumor samples to determine the best method of treatment. TGen will also examine genomic data from at least 536 past cases of glioblastoma as well as tumor samples from new cases in order to develop tools that can provide insights into how glioblastoma tumors grow and survive.

TGen also is conducting a series of lab tests to measure cell-by-cell responses to certain drugs.

The study will include a feasibility component involving up to 30 patients followed by Phase II clinical trials with as many as 70 patients, in order to get new treatments to patients rapidly. TGen will team with the Ivy Early Phase Clinical Trials Consortium, which includes the University of California, San Francisco; the University of California, Los Angeles, the MD Anderson Cancer Center; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; the University of Utah; and the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.

"Working with physicians, the project will aim to get new drugs to patients faster, deliver combinations of drugs that might be more effective than using a single drug, quickly identify which therapies don't work, and accelerate discovery of ones that might prove promising for future development," said John Carpten, TGen's deputy director of basic science, director of TGen's Integrated Cancer Genomics Division, and another of the project's principal investigators.

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