A subsidiary of global sequencing giant BGI said today it will provide next-generation, high-throughput genomic sequencing to identify mutations associated with specific cancers as part of its collaboration with South Texas Accelerated Research Therapeutics (START) on the San Antonio 1000 Cancer Genome Project (SA1kCGP).

BGI Tech Solutions and START, a global Phase I research organization, are partnering on SA1kCGP, a cancer genome study designed to link genetic alterations that underlie different cancers to detailed clinical outcomes. START last year launched SA1kCGP, for which it will conduct patient recruitment, acquire tumor samples, and collect clinical patient data using its electronic medical records and Clinical Synchrony™ software technology.

Unlike past studies that based sample preservation on formaldehyde, researchers involved in SA1kCGP are using fresh tissue. START said it has surmounted the logistical hurdle of obtaining fresh tissue by targeting community treatment centers where 90% of cancer care occurs. The focus on community centers minimizes referral bias and maximizes the size of data sets for analysis, the partners said.

Samples will also be available for further research in RNA and protein analysis intended to complement the genomics research. All SA1kCGP data will be made public and will be free to researchers and others worldwide, BGI Tech and START said.

SA1kCGP is conducting whole-genome sequencing of cancerous and normal tissue and blood samples from patients with one of 10 cancers, and has already exceeded its initial goal of collecting samples from 1,000 patients, the partners said. A total 1,200 patients have agreed to have their tumor tissues sampled and transplanted to mouse models, with the goal of targeting genetic mutations for drug selection and development.

SA1kCGP plans to sequence the cancer genomes of 10,000 patients with a budget of $5 million for the first 1,000 samples, compared with more than $375 million spent for NIH’s Cancer Genome Atlas, set to end next year after nearly a decade. The San Antonio effort says it has raised about $1 million to date exclusively through community contributions.

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