BETHESDA, Maryland-The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) will begin with a $100 million pilot project aimed at determining the feasibility of undertaking a full-scale, comprehensive effort to systematically identify and characterize the genetic mutations and other genomic changes associated with cancer. The initials of the project's name, TCGA, represent the four letters of the genetic code.
The envisioned atlas is a collaborative effort of the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), each of which will contribute $50 million over 3 years to finance the investigational study.
Researchers in the initial investigation will develop and test the complex science and technology needed to map cancer genes and mutations. They will focus on a few types of cancer, which are currently being selected on the basis of their value in helping determine the likely success of a large-scale program.
The project's goal is to identify genetic mutations in the DNA code specifically associated with the type of cancer being sequenced. NCI and NHGRI expect the venture to build on the data and technologies developed by other genomic projects, particularly the international Human Genome Project completed in 2003, which provided a reference DNA sequence of the human genome. More recently, the International HapMap consortium produced a comprehensive map of human genetic variations (haplotypes).
The project's five key elements are:
- A Human Cancer Biospecimen Core Resource will support the collection, processing, quality assurance, and distribution of biomolecules from cancerous as well as healthy control tissue samples.
- Cancer Genome Characterization Centers will apply genome analysis techniques to identify potential candidate mutations and other genomic targets.
- Genome Sequencing Centers will use high throughput technologies to re-sequence the targeted DNA.
- A Technology Development Program will focus on devising new genome analysis techniques.
- A Bioinformatics Core Resource will develop tools needed to integrate and deploy the project's findings.
Sites for the centers will be announced later in 2006. Researchers in the project will deposit their data in public databases supported by NCI's cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG) and by the National Library of Medicine's National Center for Biotechnology Information.