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Largest ever cancer gene database open to all researchers

22 July 2013

By Maren Urner

Appeared in BioNews 714

The world's largest database of cancer-related genetic variations to date has been made available by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), US.

It is hoped that the extensive database will help scientists to understand how genetics and cancer are related, stimulating research into effective treatments to fight different cancers.

Dr Yves Pommier, chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology at the NCI, emphasised the significance of the database: 'Opening this extensive data set to researchers will expand our knowledge and understanding of tumorigenesis [the process by which normal cells are transformed into cancer], as more and more cancer-related gene aberrations are discovered'.

'This comes at a great time, because genomic medicine is becoming a reality, and I am very hopeful this valuable information will change the way we use drugs for precision medicine', Dr Pommier added.

Researchers conducted whole-exome sequencing on a set of 60 human cancer cell lines known as the NCI-60. From this, they collected six billion data points from nine different tissue types including breast, prostate, colon and lung cells, providing comprehensive information about cancer-specific gene defects. The database will help to enhance the understanding of the relationships between specific cancer-related genetic variations and drug responses, facilitating the drug development process, and will be available via the CellMiner and Ingenuity websites.

Dr Pommier told the LA Times that new drugs could be discovered using the vast wealth of information now available: 'With a database of 20,000 compounds, there are many that are still up for grabs. A smart person [can] find new things'.

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