Scotland to play key role in worldwide genome consortium

Published: 18 April 2016

Scotland is set to become a key player in a global effort to further the advancement of genomics in healthcare.

Scotland is set to become a key player in a global effort to further the advancement of genomics in healthcare. The International Cancer Genome Consortium for Medicine (ICGCmed) has launched in New Orleans, marking a new phase in the Consortium’s evolution that will link genomics to clinical information and health.Sign outside the Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre

Announced by the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC), the collaborative project will build upon the vast database of genomic discoveries of the ICGC, which, since its launch in 2007, has been mapping 25,000 different cancer genomes in 50 different tumour types and making this data freely available to qualified researchers around the world.

By linking the ICGC data with clinical information, ICGCmed aims to accelerate the movement of this information into the clinic to guide prevention, early detection, diagnosis and prognosis, and provide the information needed to match patients’ disease to the most effective combinations of therapy. ICGCmed research will apply to a broad spectrum of cancers, from early cancers through to metastases.

Scotland will be a key member of this consortium and will contribute through leadership and strategy. The University of Glasgow’s Professor Andrew Biankin, Director of the Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre, will lead the country’s efforts as Scotland contributes to this large scale global initiative through the recently-launched Scottish Genomes Partnership, the University of Glasgow-led Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre ((SMS-IC) and other major activities that constitute the Precision Medicine Ecosystem in Scotland, which was also recently launched with a £4m Scottish Government investment.

The latter aims to further develop personalised medicine for complex diseases and cancers through programmes like PRECISION-Panc, where pancreatic cancer patients are offered a personalised approach to their care by using cutting-edge technologies to find the right treatment for an individual, initially through offering clinical trials of the latest therapies and, in the longer term, from routine care.

Speaking about the consortium, Professor Biankin said: “ICGCmed is taking the next step of helping translate scientific discovery into clinical practice and this move will be warmly received by patients across the World.

“The International Cancer Genome Consortium mapped the genomic events that underpin cancer, and now it is time to bring these discoveries to patients.”

David Sibbald, close industry partner and Executive Chairman of Aridhia Informatics, added: "Scotland is both pleased and proud to be part of ICGCmed and will contribute to this global initiative through the recently-formed Precision Medicine Ecosystem for Scotland.

Dr Fabien Calvo, Chief Scientific Officer, Cancer Core Europe and the lead author of the ICGCmed white paper said: “ICGC was a major advance in cataloguing a large number of gene alterations from different types of cancers.

“By collecting clinical information from large cohorts of patients that were classified as having the same types of cancer coupled with extensive genomic information, ICGCmed will allow us to determine genetic elements of the efficacy of treatment, and root out the causes of resistance to therapy. Ultimately, this will allow patients to receive the right treatment and for their treatment to be adapted effectively.”

The consortium includes members from around the globe, including Ontario, Germany, Korea and others.

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First published: 18 April 2016

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