Genomic data on cancer treatment released to public

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Johnathan Dwyer)
(Image: Getty/Johnathan Dwyer)

Related tags Genomics Sanger Institute Lilly Merck

New data on the genetic biomarkers impacting the development of cancer treatments has been released creating the largest publicly accessible dataset of its kind.

The data comes from the Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer project, which is funded by the Wellcome Sanger Institute, which has created an open-access data website​ for researchers and companies to utilize.

Sanger’s database contains information related to 453 cancer treatment compounds, 989 cancer cell lines, 494,973 genomic associations and 386,293 drug dose response curves. Accumulating the data took researchers four years and doubled the amount of data available from previous iterations of the study.

The project has been ongoing for 10 years aiming to provide freely available data for researchers to discover new therapeutic options by identifying biomarkers responsible for certain cancer treatments being more effective in certain individuals than others.

The data itself is gathered through combining hospital patients’ cancer cell lines with licensed and experimental cancer drugs from pharma companies. The patients’ reaction is then gathered at the genomic level to determine how a person’s DNA affects response to treatment.

“Our Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer database is the world’s largest repository for information on how a cancer’s underlying genomic landscape influences its response to cancer treatments. We hope it will provide new insights that will point to new ways to target, and treat individual tumors,”​ Mathew Garnett, co-lead of the Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer project, and group leader at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

This line of inquiry to develop new pharmaceutical treatments has been on the rise in recent years, with gene therapies and approvals based on biomarkers on the rise.

Eli Lilly began the year with an $8bn (€7.18bn) acquisition of Loxo Oncology​, a biotech which focuses on developing treatments for patients with single abnormalities. While fellow pharma giant, GSK has also seen the potential in focusing on genomics​ to allow for more targeted drug development.

Merck, known as MSD in North America, also gained the first approval for a biomarker-based indication​ for its treatment, Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

The Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer project has already seen success with its approach, with drug trials into PARP inhibitors​ instigated through the research carried out by the project – eventually leading to 70 research studies into the area.

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