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Sanger Institute and Horizon Collaboration to Advance the Frontiers of Translational Genomics


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Two Cambridge-based organizations, the Wellcome Trust’s Sanger Institute and Horizon Discovery (Horizon), will collaborate to translate the abundance of new information on human genetic variation into more effective treatments for cancer.

Horizon will make available to the Sanger Institute’s Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer project its unique resource of 200+ genetically-defined ‘X-MAN’ in vitro human cancer models that harbour known cancer causing mutations, for sensitivity profiling against a panel of clinical and pre-clinical cancer drugs.

The next big challenge in cancer therapeutics is to convert our understanding of cancer genetics into improved patient care. By developing detailed ‘road maps’ of the genetic features which cause cancer, and understanding how these effect therapeutic responses in patients, cancer specialists will be able to target the underlying genetic causes of cancer and improve treatment regimens.

The era of personalized cancer medicine is emerging but more research is needed because the genetic features that determine response to therapy are frequently unknown. To address this immediate need, the Cancer Genome Project at the Sanger Institute has partnered with Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center to establish the Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer project. This initiative is ‘profiling’ clinical and pre-clinical anti-cancer drugs for their activity on a large collection of human cancer cell lines to identify genetic markers of drug sensitivity. This information could be used to improve patient care by directing treatment towards subsets of patients most likely to benefit.

Building on a shared aim of improving cancer treatments, Horizon will augment the Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer project’s panel of cancer cell lines that harbor diverse and complex genetic backgrounds with Horizon’s suite of precisely-matched and genetically-defined X-MAN cell lines, so that drug responses can be more effectively linked to specific genetic features.

Dr. Mathew Garnett of the Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer project says, “We aim to understand how cancer-associated genetic changes effect drug response so that this information can be used to inform clinical decisions. This will be an important next step on a long and challenging path towards improving treatment for patients.”

Dr Chris Torrance, CEO of Horizon Discovery Ltd says “Translating the cancer genome into new personalized treatments is the founding principle and aim of our company. Our company’s commercial success has been driven by the ability of our technologies to both rationalize Biotech and Pharma pipelines and enable important academic research that has the potential to rapidly discover new cancer therapies from existing drug libraries”.

The relationship began in July 2010 and will continue for a period of three years.
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