Cancer consortium to continue

Germany’s GATC Biotech to carry on sequencing of pediatric brain tumors for the International Cancer Genome Consortium

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CONSTANCE, Germany—Targeted toward developing new diagnostic methods and treatments that reduce the side effects on child cancer patients, Germany's GATC Biotech PedBrainTumor Project recently announced that it will continue a pilot program of sequencing pediatric brain tumors for the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC), a group of 21 countries, each focused on fighting a deadly cancer.

The PedBrain Tumor consortium will receive $18.5 million from the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and German Cancer Aid (Deutsche Krebshilfe e.V.) over five years.

"Brain tumors are the main cause of cancer deaths in childhood," Peter Lichter, project leader and spokesman for the German ICGC group, announced May 18. "Therapies with few side effects are urgently required to make it easier for the children to bear the taxing treatment. The PedBrainTumor project will bring us a great deal further forward in the development of such therapies. GATC Biotech proved itself to be a reliable sequencing partner in the pilot phase of the project, and so we are now continuing that successful collaboration."

In 2007, as part of an alliance with international funding agencies in Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) co-founded the ICGC, one of the world's largest biomedical projects. The ICGC is designed to identify cancer-causing mutations involved in more than 25,000 tumors for over 50 types of cancer aimed at establishing a comprehensive catalogue of the genetic changes present in many types of cancer.

Germany joined the ICGC in December 2009 and started the PedBrain Tumor Research Project earlier this year.

"One of the purposes of the ICGC is to support the sharing of coded data with the international research community (which may include national and international researchers from academia, charitable organizations and private companies, such as drug companies) in order to achieve its goal of facilitating and accelerating research into the causes and control of cancer," Lichter says. "It is hoped that both novel preventive strategies, as well as new treatments with fewer undesirable side effects, may be developed from these discoveries."

New projects in Italy and the European Union will contribute to efforts already underway in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, he says. As of April 2010, projects in progress will examine more than 10,000 tumors for cancer types, including blood, brain, breast, colon, kidney, liver, lung, pancreas, stomach, oral cavity and ovary.

Studies of breast, liver, and pancreatic cancer have already generated datasets currently available at The genomic analyses of the tumors were conducted by ICGC members in the U.K. (breast cancer), Japan (liver cancer) and Australia and Canada (pancreatic cancer).

To maximize the public benefit from ICGC member research, data will be made rapidly available to qualified investigators, Lichter says, adding that all consortium participants will agree not to file any patent applications or make other intellectual property claims on primary data from ICGC projects.

"Large-scale sequencing of cancer genomes is fundamental to OICR's vision of personalized medicine," Lichter says. "The focus on mining the genome of a large number of pancreatic cancer tumor samples should help identify genetic alterations that may determine whether some of the currently approved targeted therapies will be beneficial for very well-defined subsets of pancreatic cancer patients or identify new targets amenable to new therapies … leading to improvements in the diagnosis and management of pancreatic cancer patients and longer term survival."

GATC Biotech is Europe's leading service provider of DNA sequencing and bioinformatics for industry and academic research, according to the company. For two decades, the company has been developing comprehensive solutions for DNA sequence analysis. With a total of 15 sequencing instruments (ABI 3730xl, Roche GSFLX, Illumina Genome Analyzer IIx and HiSeq 2000), GATC has the largest commercially available sequencing capacity in Europe with 10 terabases per year.

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