Personalized cancer therapy: two significant data sets made public

Good news for personalized medicine, especially as relates to cancer treatment – two research teams just released data on over 1,000 cell lines and anticancer drugs that were tested on them.

One team identified biological markers of drug sensitivity to a broad range of cancer drugs:

“Our research has taken us down unknown paths to find associations that are completely novel,” says Cyril Benes, PhD, senior author from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center. “We have identified hundreds of associations, many of which we still don’t fully understand. We identified a novel indication for the use of PARP inhibitors – anticancer drugs currently used to treat breast and ovarian cancers – for the treatment of Ewing’s sarcoma.”


Abstract, published in Nature on March 29 2012 (page includes links to supplemental data):

Clinical responses to anticancer therapies are often restricted to a subset of patients. In some cases, mutated cancer genes are potent biomarkers for responses to targeted agents. Here, to uncover new biomarkers of sensitivity and resistance to cancer therapeutics, we screened a panel of several hundred cancer cell lines—which represent much of the tissue-type and genetic diversity of human cancers—with 130 drugs under clinical and preclinical investigation. In aggregate, we found that mutated cancer genes were associated with cellular response to most currently available cancer drugs. Classic oncogene addiction paradigms were modified by additional tissue-specific or expression biomarkers, and some frequently mutated genes were associated with sensitivity to a broad range of therapeutic agents. Unexpected relationships were revealed, including the marked sensitivity of Ewing’s sarcoma cells harbouring the EWS (also known as EWSR1)-FLI1 gene translocation to poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors. By linking drug activity to the functional complexity of cancer genomes, systematic pharmacogenomic profiling in cancer cell lines provides a powerful biomarker discovery platform to guide rational cancer therapeutic strategies.



The other team, led by the Broad Institute and the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research and its Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, puiblished data on approximately 1,000 cell lines. The database is available on the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia (CCLE) website (according to an announcement posted on the site, it’s currently experiencing heavy load):

The CCLE provides public access analysis and visualization of DNA copy number, mRNA expression and mutation data.



by Michael Alatortsev

Technologist, parallel entrepreneur. Interests: travel, photography, big data, analytics, predictive modeling.

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