Sunday, May 4, 2008

Canada to lead research on genetics of cancer

Canada to lead research on genetics of cancer

Updated Wed. Apr. 30 2008 12:27 PM ET News Staff

A Canadian cancer research centre will co-ordinate the work of a new, international team of researchers that will investigate the link between genes and cancer.

The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) will work with the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) to co-ordinate genetics and cancer research from around the world. The OICR will essentially work as a data centre for the ICGC, to catalogue research and disseminate it to teams within the consortium. The global partnership has a 10-year mandate.

Each member of the ICGC will conduct an analysis of genetic data for at least one type of cancer. Current member countries include Australia, China, France, Japan the United States and the United Kingdom.

The OICR will study pancreatic cancer, which has a very low survival rate, said Dr. Thomas Hudson, scientific director of the OICR. Other countries will study cancers that either correspond with their scientists' area of expertise or are prevalent among their citizens.

"The principle of these projects is as soon as we generate data we put it out there to the research community," Hudson told CTV's Canada AM.

"There's no doubt that this is the systematic approach to studying cancer. If we were to start a project today in cancer and we knew nothing about cancer, this is how we'd do it."

Hudson explained that cancer cells accumulate changes in their DNA that cause them to rapidly multiply, which spreads the disease. The hope is that by studying the DNA mutations of these cancer cells, new drugs can be developed that would target and kill only the cancer cells, without affecting cells in the rest of the body.

The Ontario government is investing $40 million in the initiative.

According to the ICGC, more than 12 million new cancer cases were diagnosed worldwide in 2007, while 7.5 million people died of the disease. Without new innovations in detection and treatment, the ICGC predicts that new worldwide cancer cases will rise to 27 million in 2050, with 17.5 million deaths.