International Cancer Genome Consortium launched

16 May 2008

A new international collaboration, the International Cancer Genome Consortium, has been launched with the aim of coordinating efforts to catalogue the genomic changes in about 50 different cancer types and subtypes (see press release). It is hoped that this information will lead to new approaches to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer.

Each member of the consortium will take responsibility for at least one type or subtype of cancer, analysing tumour specimens from about 500 patients. The project is expected to take up to 10 years. The role of the ICGC is to draw up an agreed list of cancers for study, to develop common standards for data collection and ethical oversight, and to facilitate information exchange among consortium members to avoid duplication of effort. Cancer types will be chosen for study on the basis of their impact on morbidity and mortality, the availability of therapies, and the feasibility of collecting sufficient high-quality tumour samples. Participating organisations must meet standards of comprehensiveness (detecting all cancer-related genomic changes occurring in at least 3% of tumour samples), resolution (analysis to the level of individual DNA base changes) quality (adhering to common standards of pathology and technology), and controls (comparisons with matched, non-tumour tissue).

All data will be made freely available to qualified researchers, and ICGC members must pledge not to patent or make other intellectual property claims on any of their primary data. The policies and guidelines developed so far are available from the consortium’s website.

Current ICGC membership includes research organisations from Canada, China, France, India, Japan, Singapore, the UK and the US, while the European Commission and Australia’s National Health and Medical Reserach Council have observer status. All research organisations that accept the policies and guidelines of the ICGC are invited to join the consortium. Funding Members pledge to provide at least $20 million over 5 years to fund a project. Research Members must be nominated by Funding Members that have agreed to provide financial support for their participation.

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