In January 2009, the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute of the United Kingdom began a newalliance in cancer genome research. The $13 million, five-year project aims to provide novel insights into genetic features of individual tumors that may determine their response to drug treatment.
Nearly two years later, thecollaborationis producing a large volume of shared data that will help researchers and clinicians make cancer treatment decisions based on genomic information. More than a thousand tumor cell lines are being used to test promising compounds in the hope of identifying which drugs best match each tumor’s molecular profile. This approach has already been used to back up physician-scientists’ hypotheses about the way certain targeted therapies are attacking particular tumor weaknesses. This supporting data helps clinicians identify which patients will benefit from each new targeted therapy.
Cyril Benes, PhD, Director of theCenter for Molecular Therapeuticsat the Cancer Center, hopes the cross-Atlantic collaboration will eventually be able to inform the set-up of new clinical trials. “In the future, we would like to test compounds on our thousands of cell lines to identify promising patient/therapy matches before the clinical trial stage,” explains Benes. “The hope is that, with the combined knowledge of the Cancer Center and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, we can test a wider range of compounds on a larger sample size of tumors much more rapidly than would be possible in the clinical setting. The ultimate goal is to match the right patients with the right therapies as soon as possible.”
Cyril Benes, PhD, explains the benefit of this collaboration: