Genome Study Takes Targeted Approach to Cancer
News Dec 31, 2008
The quest for personalized cancer treatments is given a boost by the announcement of an £8.5 million ($13 million) UK-US alliance, funded by the Wellcome Trust, to find the best treatments for cancers.
Scientists will use high-throughput research to test the sensitivity of 1000 cancer cell samples to hundreds of known and novel molecular anticancer treatments. They will correlate these responses to the genes known to be driving the cancers, yielding a catalogue of the most promising treatments or combinations of treatments for each of the cancer types based on the specific genetic alterations in these cancers.
The five-year project, funded by a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award, is co-led by Professor Mike Stratton FRS and Dr Andy Futreal of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Professors Jeff Settleman, PhD and Daniel Haber, MD, PhD of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, USA.
The teams will make extensive use of the genetic information being produced by the Sanger Institute Cancer Genome Project to draw the important correlations between anti-cancer agent response and the catalogue of genetic abnormalities known in each sample.
“Cancer remains a disease that affects directly one in three of the world’s population,” explains Professor Stratton. “But we have new tools that we can bring to bear. Our emerging understanding of cancer mutations allied to our abilities to carry out large-scale research means we can develop screening techniques to find the most effective treatments for a whole variety of cancers.
“This exciting project builds on the complementary skills of the two institutions and demonstrates how knowledge of the abnormal human genome in cancer cells can now be used on a large scale to explore and predict responses to novel and conventional anticancer drugs.”
Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "The pace of research in human genetics is breathtaking. The human genome project has enabled the identification of the mutations that cause certain cancers. Following the work of Professor Stratton at the Sanger Institute and others, an International Cancer Genome Project is underway that will identify the mutations that cause the 50 commonest types of cancer around the world. The challenge is to use new genetic knowledge about the causes of cancer to find new treatments and this project aims to do just that."
Experimental work will be split equally between the two collaborating institutions but will harness the previous experience in experimental exposure of cells to molecular treatments at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and the skills in large-scale genomics, sequencing and informatics at the Sanger Institute.