As part of an ongoing effort to facilitate swifter progress in the fight against cancer and other related diseases, the St. Jude Children's Hospital-Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project has released a vast amount of human cancer genome data, which is now available to scientists globally. The volume of information offered amounts to more than double the data previously open to scientists from all the other human genome sources combined.
The Pediatric Cancer Genome Project was launched in 2010 and represents the world’s most significant investment in attempting to understand the genetic origins of various forms of childhood cancers. The US$65 million price tag for the research has been met by private funding but unlike most other non-government research efforts, the data gained by the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project is offered for free, an example which the project’s leaders hope will be followed in the future.
“Setting this precedent reflects a commitment to freely sharing information that has been a hallmark of St. Jude since we opened our doors 50 years ago,” said Dr. William E. Evans, St. Jude director and CEO.“The Pediatric Cancer Genome Project is a one-of-a-kind effort, so the information has the potential to accelerate disease research worldwide.”
While most cancer genome projects focus on genes alone, the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project's team has successfully sequenced the entire genome in each patient's tumor, resulting in findings which may well have remained undetected otherwise.
For example, project researchers recently identified a gene mutation associated with a chronic and often fatal form of neuroblastoma, a type of cancer usually found in children under the age of ten. This knowledge then provided a starting point for scientists to learn more about the genetic basis of the long-recognized but little-understood link between the age of diagnosis and eventual treatment outcome.