To speed progress against cancer and other diseases, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital-Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project has announced the largest release to date of comprehensive human cancer genome data for free access by the global scientific community.
The amount of information released more than doubles the volume of high-coverage, whole-genome data currently available from all human genome sources combined. This information is valuable not just to cancer researchers, but also to scientists studying almost any disease.
The release of this data was announced as a part of a perspective published online May 29 in Nature Genetics.
The 520 genome sequences released are matched sets of normal and tumor tissue samples from 260 pediatric cancer patients. The St. Jude and Washington University researchers are analyzing the genomic sequences to determine the differences between each child’s normal and cancerous cells to pinpoint the causes of more than a half-dozen of the most deadly childhood cancers, an effort which has already produced a number of key discoveries reported in top scientific journals.
Launched in early 2010, the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project is the world’s largest effort and investment to date to understand the genetic origins of childhood cancers. The three-year project will cost an estimated $65 million. St. Jude is covering $55 million of the cost, including a $20 million commitment from Kay Jewelers, a long-standing partner of St. Jude. This is the first major privately funded human genome sequencing project to share its data as soon as it becomes available.
“This approach has been more valuable than anyone could have predicted,” says Richard K. Wilson, PhD, director of The Genome Institute. “We have identified unusual, ‘cryptic’ changes in many patients’ cancer cells that we would not have found using other methods. We are pleased to be able to share this data with the research community in hopes that others can build upon our initial discoveries.”