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January 08, 2016

Australia's and Canada's pancreatic project groups will be among the first to release initial data on the web, alongside the UK (breast cancer), China (gastric cancer) and Japan (liver cancer). The data release and web access is timed to coincide with the publication of the Nature paper.

There will be various tiers of access, with ethical guidelines and governance in place to regulate who can see what. The general public will be able to see general summaries, while members of the research community will be able to request detailed reports, depending on their needs.

Pancreatic cancer sequencing in Australia will be undertaken by Professor Sean Grimmond from the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience in Brisbane, co-leader of the Australian team with Professor Biankin. (See details of the Australian arm of the ICGC project below.)

"We've just done a handful of sequences - and already we know for sure that real cancer looks substantially different from the cell lines we've been using in the lab," said Biankin.

"We've hypothesised about that in the past, but having the evidence to prove the difference is exciting. Right from the outset we know everything there is to know about one person's tumour at the genomic, transcriptomic and epigenomic levels. We might not understand it, but we've got the data."

While not described in the paper, Biankin's group is using mice to host slices of human pancreatic tumour, effectively running pseudo clinical trials in the animals.

"It's great that we have the sequencing information as it allows us to run these parallel human-type trials in mice, testing a range of drugs against the specific molecular targets we know to exist in the tumour. It saves decades doing real clinical trials in people."

"While researchers have applied xenografts to mice in the past, they have not had the resources or information to run tests as speedily or systematically as this."

Source: Research Australia