|Scientists Form International Cancer Genome
Research organizations from around the world announced today they
are launching the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC),
a collaboration designed to generate high-quality genomic data
on up to 50 types of cancer through efforts projected to take up
to a decade.
The ICGC will make its data rapidly and freely available to the
global research community. It invites research organizations in
all nations to participate.
"Cancer's complexity poses an enormous challenge. NIH 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," said Elias A. Zerhouni,
M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, which is the
U.S. research organization taking part in the ICGC. "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."
Each ICGC member intends to conduct a comprehensive, high-resolution
analysis of the full range of genomic changes in at least one specific
type or subtype of cancer, with studies built around common standards
of data collection and analysis. Each project is expected to involve
specimens from approximately 500 patients and have an estimated
cost of $20 million.
As part of its coordination efforts, the ICGC will generate a
list of approximately 50 cancer types and subtypes that are of
clinical significance around the globe. ICGC members plan to assume
responsibility for specific cancers, and one of the ICGC's roles
should be to facilitate the exchange of information so participants'
efforts do not duplicate each other.
Current ICGC members include:
- Australia: National Health and Medical Research
Council (Observer Status)
- Canada: Genome Canada; Ontario Institute for
- China: Chinese Cancer Genome Consortium
- Europe: European Commission (Observer Status)
- France: Institute National du Cancer
- India: Department of Biotechnology, Ministry
of Science & Technology
- Japan: RIKEN; National Cancer Center
- Singapore: Genome Institute of Singapore
- United Kingdom: The Wellcome Trust; Wellcome
Trust Sanger Institute
- United States: NIH
"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," said
Thomas Hudson, M.D., of the ICGC Secretariat, which is based at
the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research in Toronto. "Such
catalogs will be valuable resources for all researchers working
to develop new and better ways of diagnosing, treating and preventing
Worldwide, more than 7.5 million people died of cancer and more
than 12 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2007. Unless
progress is made in understanding and controlling cancer, those
numbers are expected to rise to 17.5 million deaths and 27 million
new cases in 2050.
Once thought of as a single disease, cancer is now understood
to consist of a large number of different conditions. In almost
all forms, however, cancer changes the genetic blueprint, or genomes,
of cells, and causes disruptions within normal biological pathways,
leading to uncontrolled cell growth. Because genomic changes are
often specific to a particular type or stage of cancer, systematically
mapping the changes that occur in each cancer could provide the
foundation for research to identify new therapies, diagnostics
and preventive strategies.
The ICGC's main criteria for prioritizing cancer types include:
impact, including incidence and mortality rates, availability of
therapies and age of onset; scientific interest; and feasibility,
which includes the ability to obtain enough high-quality samples
to conduct a large-scale project.
To facilitate comparisons among different types of cancer, the
ICGC guidelines list key factors for its members to consider in
the production of genomic catalogs. Those factors include comprehensiveness,
which involves detecting all cancer-related genetic mutations that
occur in at least 3 percent of tumor samples; resolution, which
involves generating data at the level of individual DNA bases;
quality, which involves monitoring based on common standards for
pathology and technology; and controls, which involves comparisons
of data from matched, non-tumor tissue.
ICGC member nations plan to agree to common standards for informed
consent and ethical oversight. While the informed consent process
will necessarily differ according to each member country's requirements,
the consortium's policies state that cancer patients enrolled in
an ICGC-related study should be informed that their participation
is voluntary, that their clinical care will not be affected by
their participation and that data obtained from analyses using
their samples will be made available to the international research
community. ICGC members also should take steps to ensure that all
samples will be coded and stored in ways that protect the identities
of the participants in the study.
To maximize the public benefit from ICGC member research, data
will be made rapidly available to qualified investigators. In addition,
all consortium participants intend not to file any patent applications
or make other intellectual property claims on primary data from
The ICGC is open to all entities that accept its policies and
guidelines. A white paper detailing those policies and guidelines
is available on the consortium's Web site at www.icgc.org.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.