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Scientists help redefine how cancer is categorized

Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) announced that the work of its scientists is featured in 27 papers focused on the output of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA).

The findings are the result of a global scientific collaboration and mark the culmination of TCGA, a multi-institutional, joint effort between the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) to develop a comprehensive scientific resource for better categorizing cancer. The more than decade-long initiative is the most in-depth undertaking of its kind, spanning 10,000 tumours across 33 cancer types.

“TCGA’s findings have greatly deepened our molecular understanding of the major cancer types,” said Peter W. Laird, Ph.D., a professor at VARI who led the DNA methylation analysis for TCGA Research Network and who is senior author on two of today’s papers. “It is our hope that these publications will serve as a guide for scientists who plan to harness TCGA’s robust data to develop new, more personalized methods of patient care.”

This research, which represents the project’s capstone, joins dozens of other papers that have been published since TCGA’s inception in 2005. Collectively, they provide a highly detailed description of molecular changes occurring in all major human cancers. The use of this molecular atlas is rapidly expanding, with more than 1,000 publications citing TCGA data in 2017 alone.

TCGA data may be accessed through the National Cancer Institute’s Genomic Data Commons Data Portal (portal.gdc.cancer.gov).

Along with Laird, VARI Assistant Professor Hui Shen, Ph.D., contributed to many of today’s papers, summaries of which may be found below. Shen also is one of six experts who authored retrospectives on TCGA’s legacy, which also were published.

A full list of papers may be found at www.cell.com/consortium/pancanceratlas.

Van Andel Institute