NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research NewsNCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
December 13, 2005 • Volume 2 / Number 48 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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The Cancer Genome Atlas Begins with 3-Year, $100 Million Pilot

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Leaders from NCI and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) today launched the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Pilot Project, a comprehensive effort to accelerate understanding of the molecular basis of cancer.

The TCGA Pilot Project will be monitored using specific milestones for certain components of the project and the overall project will be evaluated on the basis of key success factors. A pilot project is required to establish processes and determine feasibility; a decision to scale up TCGA at the completion of this 3-year period will be based on achieving these success factors. At a news conference in Washington, D.C., NCI and NHGRI each pledged $50 million over 3 years to the pilot.

NCI Deputy Director Dr. Anna Barker said, "TCGA is a revolutionary program which capitalizes on so much of what we've accomplished in the last 30-plus years of biomedical and cancer research. The Human Genome Project produced an amazing product, and we are now positioned to leverage the human genome sequence for TCGA. This is the first attempt to use large-scale gene sequencing for human health - and I am glad that cancer patients and their families will be the beneficiaries. The project will enable a new generation of discovery and empower translational and clinical research across all sectors. Our intent is that all of the data move quickly into the public domain for everyone's use."

Cancer includes more than 200 different diseases, each with a set of genetic changes that results in uncontrolled cell growth. The TCGA Pilot Project will develop and test the science and technology needed to systematically identify the genetic changes in a small number of cancers.

Such an exploration of the genetic origins of the many diseases called cancer would not have been possible a decade ago. But new technologies and genome analysis tools, especially large-scale genome sequencing, have led scientists to a better understanding of how and why genetic changes cause cancer.

Many of these insights and technologies evolved during the Human Genome Project (HGP), an international effort led in the United States by NHGRI and the Department of Energy, and completed in April 2003, which provided a reference DNA sequence of the human genome. Just as HGP enhanced the availability of genomic tools, TCGA is expected to lead to new technologies for high-throughput, cost-effective analysis of the cancer genomes.

The TCGA Pilot Project will consist of: a Core Human Biospecimen Resource to collect, quality-assure, and distribute biomolecules from the samples; Genome Characterization Centers that will employ genome analysis technologies to identify key genomic and epigenomic changes; Genome Sequencing Centers to resequence candidate genes identified through data integration from all program components; a Bioinformatics Core Resource which will develop the bioinformatics and analysis tools needed to integrate and deploy TCGA's database through NCI's cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid™ and NIH's Center for Bioinformatics; and a Technology Development Program that will focus on driving new genome analysis technologies through individual investigator grants and NCI's SBIR program. For more information, go to