International Genomics Consortium, TGen to lead Biospecimen Core for Cancer Atlas pilot project

Phoenix AZ, September 13, 2006 -- The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), both part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today announced the selection of the International Genomics Consortium (IGC) in collaboration with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to lead the Human Cancer Biospecimen Core Resource (BCR) component of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) pilot project.

The Human Genome Project was completed in 2003. Earlier this year, NIH announced the launch of TCGA, a comprehensive effort to accelerate our understanding of the molecular basis of cancer through the application of genome analysis technologies, especially large-scale genome sequencing.

Cancer is now understood to include more than 200 different diseases. In all forms of cancer, genomic changes--often specific to a particular type or stage of cancer--cause disruptions within cellular pathways that result in uncontrolled cell growth. TCGA will delve more deeply into the genetic origins leading to this complex set of diseases by collecting and cataloguing a variety of individuals' cancer specimens as well as information on their specific disease. In doing so, TCGA will accelerate new discoveries and tools that will provide the basis for a new generation of cancer therapies, diagnostics, and preventive strategies.

TCGA is a 3-year pilot project to determine the feasibility of cataloging the genomic changes associated with a set of human cancers. The pilot will involve cancers that will be chosen for their value in helping to determine the feasibility of a possible larger-scale project.

"The faculty of IGC and TGen are uniquely qualified to direct this component of the TCGA and their participation and leadership will be crucial to TCGA's success," said Dr. Bert Vogelstein, Director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics and Therapeutics at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "The results of the study they envision will undoubtedly change how we look at cancer and are likely to move cancer research in entirely new and productive directions." TCGA is comprised of four components:

  1. The Human Cancer Biospecimen Core Resource (BCR)--Led by IGC and TGen, the BRC will collect tissue samples that will be carefully cataloged, processed, checked for quality and stored, complete with important medical information about the patient.
  2. The Cancer Genome Characterization Centers--Several genome characterization technologies will be used to analyze the genetic changes involved in cancer onset and progression. The genetic changes that scientists believe are the most significant will be further studied by the genome sequencing centers.
  3. The Genome Sequencing Centers--Building on the technologies that were used to complete the Human Genome Project, high-throughput genome sequencing centers will identify the changes in DNA sequences associated with specific types of cancer.
  4. The Data Management, Bioinformatics and Computational Analysis Core--The information generated by TCGA will be centrally managed and entered into public databases as it becomes available, allowing scientists access to the information during the course of the project.

"The Cancer Genome Atlas project is a significant undertaking that can create a scientific milestone that can benefit the personalization of medicine," said Dr. George Poste, Director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University

Collectively, genomic and clinical data generated by all the components of the pilot project will provide the initial contributions to a comprehensive Web-based resource describing the genomic "fingerprints" of specific cancer types for use by the cancer research community. This information should provide powerful advances in cancer clinical research and disease management.

While the pilot project focuses on only a limited number of tumor types, its outcomes will allow the NIH to assess the feasibility of conducting a comprehensive analysis of associated genomic alterations in the future for all cancer types.

Robert Penny, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Medical and Operating Officer and Executive Director of expO will serve as the Principal Investigator for the BCR.

"Our selection to lead the BCR validates our ability to collect and curate cancer biospecimens and importantly, link them with the clinical outcomes and gene expression," said Dr. Penny. " Our mission is to accelerate personalized medicine for patients through earlier diagnosis, targeted and more rational treatments and effective prevention."

"As evidenced by the Human Genome Project, the value of public databases supported by quality science is a concept of tremendous value to both the public and private sector," said Jeffrey Trent, PhD, TGen President and Scientific Director. "Our selection is a credit to the systems, people and the innovation occurring within the biosciences throughout Arizona."

TGen's core competencies in high-throughput genomic analysis will be leveraged to assist with the analyte preparation component of the BCR. These analytes will be utilized by the sequencing centers that the NCI will select soon as the next step in the Atlas project.

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This project will be funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute, both part of the National Institutes of Health, under Contract No. N01-CO-12400.

About IGC

The International Genomics Consortium (IGC) is a non-profit medical research foundation established to expand upon the discoveries of the Human Genome Project and other systematic sequencing efforts by combining world-class genomic research, bioinformatics, and diagnostic technologies in the fight against cancer and other complex genetic diseases. IGC serves numerous common, unmet needs including: the standardization of the collection of properly consented tissues of interest, the molecular characterization of these tissues, and standardization in the representation of these results. IGC facilitates the transition of genomic discoveries to improve patient care and increase the speed in which new diagnostic, prognostic and predictive testing, and new drug and treatment regimens are developed. Founding support for IGC was provided by the City of Phoenix and from Maricopa County.

About expO

The Expression Project for Oncology (expO) integrates longitudinal clinical annotation of biospecimens collected with the assistance of AmeriPath and US Oncology with gene expression data for a unique and powerful portrait of human malignancies, providing a remarkable resource available to accelerate the development of diagnostic markers, prognostic indicators, and therapeutic advances. Follow-on studies generate an evolving database of cancer that accommodates complimentary assessments of the disease. ExpO releases clinically annotated gene expression profiles for tumor specimens through the National Center for Biotechnology Information web site at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo/. The principal support for expO comes from major sponsors including AmeriPath, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, and Wyeth.

About TGen

The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments. Translational genomics research is a relatively new field employing innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project and applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases. TGen's research is based on personalized medicine. The institute plans to accomplish its goals through robust and disease-focused research.


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