Adj/A/Prof Nik Zeps discusses the International Cancer Genome Consortium project published in Nature

Adj/A/Prof Nik Zeps discusses the International Cancer Genome Consortium project published in Nature

My area of interest is been in cancer, specifically
looking at the biologic (so the pathology of cancer). This project we have done on pancreatic
cancer is consistent with that approach were we look at the pathology of the tumors themselves,
but now we are also able to look at the molecular biology of the tumor. The next generation
sequencing the very rapid ability to sequence the genome and RNA molecules that transcript
home and look at all the various changes that occur in tumors. The work that was published
is a large scale project which is under the international cancer genome consortium which
is a number of countries – 22 that have got together. Each country around the world had
decided to sequence the entire genome to at least 500 cancers of a particular type. In
West Australia we have been working very much on establishing biobanks and we set up the
networks necessary to ask patients for their consent to go into theater to collect their
tumor material as it is taken out of the person during surgery to work closely with the pathology
laboratories, and then the material that we collected was sent to the Garvin Institute
for processing in Sydney and the molecular sequencing was done through the Garvin Institute
and the Institute for Molecular Bio Science at the University of Queensland. The very
interesting part of that is that we treat tumors, cancers often as though in the past
as one entity, so there was such a thing as pancreatic cancer, but in fact there are 4
sub types that were defined through the molecular analysis. One of them was very unstable, was
associated with an inability of the genome to be edited and to be repaired. Ironically
that means that those tumors might be more susceptible to particular types of chemotherapy
that target unstable genomes and target the ability to kill the cells that can’t repair
themselves readily. Its one of those interesting things where the reason that you get the cancer
also allows you to treat the cancer. Most recently that work has been extended even
further and another Nature paper has just come out this week which is talking about
a further analyse of 457 of the tumors and it further subgroups them in 4 types, very
clearly telling us that when we do clinical trials in the future we need to take very
careful note of the tumor type and not treat them as one single homogeneous entity.

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