First volume of cancer encyclopedia is published

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The first volume of an encyclopedia of cancer, which outlines how different strains of the disease react to various anti-cancer medications, has been p...

The first volume of an encyclopedia of cancer, which outlines how different strains of the disease react to various anti-cancer medications, has been published in the journal Nature.

US researchers worked in conjunction with pharmaceutical company Novartis to produce the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia (CCLE), which is also appearing in an online format.

It is hoped the CCLE will speed up the progress of developing personalised cancer treatments for patients.

There is also the potential for the encyclopedia to aid the development of new cancer treatments.

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The research team, which consisted of scientists from Novartis and the Broad Institute, catalogued the genetic profiles of 1,000 human cancer lines.

Meanwhile another group of researchers in the US and the UK – based at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK and the Massachusetts General Hospital in the US – identified the drug sensitivity of 600 cancer cell lines.

The findings of both studies are appearing in the current issue of Nature.

“This is the largest study of its kind linking drug response with genetic markers,” Dr Mathew Garnett from the Sanger Institute told BBC News.

“You need these very large studies to identify small subsets of cells that are sensitive to drugs.”

Also commenting on the publication of the encyclopedia, Dr Levi Garraway from The Broad Institute, said to BBC News: “Developing this large cell-line resource with all the associated genetic details is another piece in the pie to get us to our goal of personalised cancer medicine.

“We're trying to get smarter about understanding what the right drug is using the genetic information in each tumour.

“This is a stepping stone along the way."

The CCLE was also described as an “invaluable resource” by Professor Charles Swanton from Cancer Research UK.

He said that it would provide “extremely useful intelligence to cancer researchers and those working in cancer drug development.

“They're the product of a huge amount of work, and will be extremely useful in helping researchers firm up their ideas before testing drugs in the clinic,” he said.

 “For example, part of my team's work involves trying to find ways to target cancers that contain certain genetic abnormalities.”

Explaining how the encyclopedia would benefit him, Swanton added: “Data from these papers could help us identify new routes to achieve this, by looking for cell lines with these abnormalities and their drug sensitivities.

“This new resource will help speed up cancer research and may well begin to guide further developments in stratified cancer medicine.”

The Healthcare Global magazine is now available on the iPad. Click here to download it.

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