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International Consortium Will Hunt Down Genetics of Cancer

Genomic data will be made available for free to researchers around the world

TUESDAY, April 29, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- The launch of the International Cancer Genome Consortium was announced Tuesday by research organizations from around the world.

The consortium was created to produce high-quality genomic data on up to 50 types of cancer.

Each consortium member plans to conduct a comprehensive, high-resolution analysis of the full range of genomic changes in at least one specific type or subtype of cancer. Each project is expected to involve specimens from at least 500 patients and to have an estimated cost of $20 million.

The consortium will make its data available for free to the global research community and invites organizations in all nations to participate.

"Cancer's complexity poses an enormous challenge. NIH [National Institutes of Health] is highly encouraged that the worldwide scientific community is joining to meet this challenge, and we are pleased to be a member of this ambitious international endeavor," NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni said in a prepared statement.

"The consortium's commitment to making its data rapidly available in public databases will serve to accelerate research into the causes and control of cancer in the United States and throughout the world," Zerhouni said.

Worldwide, more than 7.5 million people die of cancer, and more than 12 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2007. Unless more is done to understand and control cancer, it's expected there will be 17.5 million deaths and 27 million new cases in 2050.

"Clearly, there is an urgent need to reduce cancer's terrible toll. To help meet that need, the consortium will use new genome analysis technologies to produce comprehensive catalogs of the genetic mutations involved in the world's major types of cancer," Dr. Thomas Hudson, of the consortium Secretariat, which is based at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research in Toronto, said in a prepared statement. "Such catalogs will be valuable resources for all researchers working to develop new and better ways of diagnosing, treating and preventing cancer."

Cancer was once thought of as a single disease, but it's now recognized as a large number of different conditions. However, in nearly all forms of cancer, the disease changes the genetic blueprint of cells and causes disruptions within normal biological pathways, resulting in uncontrolled cell growth. Mapping the genomic changes associated with each type of cancer could help lead to new therapies, diagnostics and prevention methods.

Current consortium members include organizations in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, India, Japan, Singapore and the United States.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer.

SOURCE: U.S. National Institutes of Health, news release, April 29, 2008
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