Coalition of cancer scientists create global initiative to evaluate genetic mutations

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Cancer scientists from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the Human Technopole in Milan, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard are calling on cancer researchers to join a global initiative to systematically evaluate the effect of every genetic mutation and every drug on every cancer.

Researchers from the organizations published a perspective on the subject in Nature.

These collaborators plan to create the Cancer Dependency Map, an approach that has shown great promise in pilot studies to help develop new cancer treatments. The goal is to make precision cancer medicine a reality for every patient.

A dependency is a gene, protein, or other molecular feature that a tumor depends on for growth. These dependencies are also vulnerabilities, which can be targeted to kill a cancer. Such vulnerabilities can inspire new drugs or ways to repurpose existing drugs, even ones that have not been considered for cancer treatment before.

To build this map, the authors think it will be necessary to perturb 20,000 genes and assess 10,000 drugs in 20,000 laboratory cancer models. Doing that will take a coordinated global effort similar in scale to the Human Cell Atlas, drawing on the expertise of specialists in genome editing, machine learning, cancer biology, cancer modeling, and high-throughput drug screening.

Authors Mathew Garnett and Jesse Boehm will be giving a news briefing at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting on Feb. 8.

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