Cancer is a complex disease that arises from a variety of genome-based abnormalities. Comprehensive and systematic analyses of these alterations across all tumor types will enable a deeper understanding of cancer biology and promise to revolutionize how cancers are classified, diagnosed, and treated.
At the Broad Institute, several projects are underway to catalogue the molecular abnormalities encoded in tumor genomes. One such effort is The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), encompassing a three-year pilot study funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute to study lung, brain and ovarian cancers.
The Broad’s efforts in cancer genome research, including TCGA, are unified by a common set of core goals. These include:
- targeted DNA sequencing of all protein-coding genes in tumors
- identifying tumors’ genomic gains and losses
- elucidating patterns of gene expression in tumors for both protein-coding and non-coding genes.
Achieving these goals hinges on the development of enhanced laboratory and analytical techniques, including methods for analyzing patient biopsies, often a mixture of both tumor and normal cells, and ways of handling formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples. FFPE is the standard method used in clinical settings to preserve patient tissue.
Researchers across several Broad programs and platforms participate in TCGA as well as other cancer genome-based research. Project leaders include associate members Matthew Meyerson and Levi Garraway as well as Broad computational biologist Gaddy Getz.