Collaborative institute to focus on genetics of cancer patients

Joint Center for Cancer Precision Medicine to be headquartered at Dana-Farber

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BOSTON—Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have announced the creation of the Joint Center for Cancer Precision Medicine, a collaborative undertaking that will create “precision medicine treatment pathways” for patients with advanced-stage cancers and accelerate the development of personalized therapies.
“This center will allow us to be optimally positioned to answer the big questions in cancer genetics, especially as they affect clinical decision-making,” said Levi Garraway, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at Dana-Farber and the new center’s director. “We seek to understand which genetic and other molecular alterations predict how tumors will respond to targeted drugs, why some patients become resistant to drugs, and what that means about the treatments that should be tried next.”
One of the major components of the new center, which will be based at Dana-Farber, will be a program that will gather and characterize new biopsies of patients’ tumors during treatment, enabling the study of the DNA, RNA and protein in the samples for better understanding of how cancers respond to or develop resistance to different treatments.
Some of the new center’s work will also include scientists partnering with leaders of the Profile cancer genetics research project, which sequences DNA in 305 cancer-related genes of participating cancer patients—both children and adults—at Dana-Farber, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital. In addition, the study CanSeq, led by Garraway, will become one of the key facets of the new Joint Center. CanSeq sequences the entirety of the “exome,” with the pilot study currently sequencing the exomes of 50 lung and colon cancer patients, and the new center will study the value of whole-exome sequencing in cancer care.
“This is an extraordinary moment in biomedicine,” Eric Lander, Ph.D., president and director of the Broad Institute, said in a press release. “By learning from genomic information obtained in the course of clinical care of patients, this remarkable new center will be poised to make critical discoveries, and to ensure that those discoveries get translated back to the clinic.”
“This center will allow us to learn which genetic changes are driving each patient’s cancers, how the changes occur, and when in the course of each patient's cancer care these genetic changes exert their effects,” added Neal Lindeman, M.D., director of the Center for Advanced Molecular Diagnostics laboratory in the BWH Department of Pathology. “All of this information can be used to design treatments that are more effective from the beginning and can be used to anticipate the changes each cancer will make during treatment, in the hopes of staying ‘one step ahead’ of the disease over time.”
In conjunction with the work, the Joint Center will establish a computational biology group working at Dana-Farber, the Broad Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to process and interpret the sequencing data.
“This exciting collaboration will allow the life-giving breakthrough of advanced genetic analysis of cancer to be translated into clinical care,” Betsy Nabel, M.D., president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, commented in a statement. “Patients will benefit from having the latest genetic discoveries applied to an individual treatment plan that will make a difference in their care.”
SOURCE: Dana-Farber press release

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