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National Institutes of Health Embarks on a 3-Year, $100 Million Pilot Exploration Of Cancer Genomics

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The National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute recently announced plans for a 3-year, $100 million pilot study that will serve as a starting point for a larger effort, The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), designed to gain critical insight into the molecular basis of cancer through the use of genome analysis technologies.

The completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, and the subsequent development of informatics and technology, places such an atlas of genetic changes in cancer within reach. It is anticipated that such a database may make it possible to associate specific alterations in the human genome with individual cancers. It is believed that the detailed views of the molecular changes occurring in different cancer types that will be obtained in the course of TCGA will provide opportunities to detect, treat, and prevent cancer. The initial $100 million pilot study will explore the possibility of a full-scale effort to investigate the genomic changes present in all types of human cancer by first examining a few types of cancers, although the process for determining which types of cancers will be studied has yet to be finalized.

During the initial 3-year pilot project of TCGA, a human cancer biospecimen core resource will collect, process, and distribute cancer and healthy control tissue samples to cancer genome characterization centers and genome sequencing centers. Within these facilities, the specific genes and other genomic targets will be sequenced using methods pioneered in the course of the Human Genome Project. These investigations will seek to identify mutations in genes relevant to the type of cancer being sequenced and larger-scale alterations, such as changes in the gene copy number or chromosomal translocations. TCGA will also play a role in the further development of cost-effective, high-throughput methods to facilitate cancer genome sequencing. The data …

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