The NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) has selected Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, as flagship data-production “Genome Characterization” centers for a five-year project intended to characterize the genomic changes found in tumors studied in multiple ongoing NCI programs.

Broad Institute said its Genomics Platform will provide whole genome, whole exome, and RNA sequencing data from the tumors of patients: “Together with the NCI, we will provide the cancer research community the resources needed to apply the latest genomic characterization technologies to important NCI studies that will ultimately combine genomic and clinical information within patient cohorts,” Stacey Gabriel, Ph.D., senior director of the Broad Institute Genomics Platform and its principal investigator on the project, said in a statement.

MD Anderson said its Genome Characterization Center will be led by Gordon Mills, M.D., Ph.D., chair of systems biology; and Rehan Akbani, Ph.D., assistant professor of bioinformatics & computational biology.

“The MD Anderson GCC will perform extensive genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic analysis of patients’ samples collected through multiple programs at NCI,” stated Jean C. ZenKlusen, Ph.D., director of NCI's The Cancer Genome Atlas.

Both institutions said their work will support three main NCI projects:

  • The Exceptional Responders Initiative, aimed at discovering and understanding the molecular events involved in extraordinary individual responses to otherwise unsuccessful targeted experimental cancer therapies


  • The Adjuvant Lung Cancer Enrichment Marker Identification and Sequencing Trials (ALCHEMIST) Project, intended to provide molecular data to support biomarker classification and genomic characterization of lung cancer patients enrolled in clinical trials


  • The Cancer Driver Discovery Project, designed to provide additional statistical power to discover driver mutations in lung, colon, and ovarian cancer

MD Anderson said its center will also support efforts from NCI’s Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, the Cancer Trials Support Unit, and the Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program. The efforts could “encompass as many as 25,000 patient samples,” Dr. Mills stated.

Funding for the genome characterization centers comes via a research subcontract with Leidos Biomedical Research, the operations and technical support contractor for NCI's Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research. Leidos provides operations and technical support for the Frederick National Lab under prime contract HHSN261200800001E.

MD Anderson said its funding will be provided through its Functional Proteomics Reverse Phase Protein Array Core, which provides services to perform the assays.

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