Amber Johns (APGI Project Manager)
06 February 2020
A ‘biobank’ of pancreatic tumour samples, administered by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, has contributed to the most comprehensive database of cancer genomes in the world to date.
The Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative (APGI) contributed 175 genomes to the Pan-Cancer Project, a global effort that has created a resource of over 2600 cancer genomes of 38 different tumour types, published today in a special series in the journal Nature.
Researchers from Garvan, and across the globe, will use the database to study pancreatic and other cancers, bringing better diagnosis and treatments within reach.
“The Pan-Cancer Project delivered detailed genomic and clinical data from 37 countries to the fingertips of researchers globally,” says Amber Johns, Project Manager of the APGI at the Garvan Institute. “We’re proud to have contributed to such an extensive body of work.”
Australia’s initiative to ‘map’ pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal forms of cancers, with a five-year survival rate of ~9%, but like many cancers is also vastly complex. By analysing the DNA of different pancreatic tumours samples, valuable insights into how pancreatic cancers develop, and what ‘targets’ could pave the way to better diagnostics and personalised treatments for the disease.
The APGI is a world-leading initiative and resource of pancreatic cancer samples and data, which is making this research possible. The Initiative is administered by the Garvan Institute, where patient recruitment and active research projects are conducted, and where over 4000 samples donated by pancreatic cancer patients are stored.
To date, the APGI has already provided valuable samples and data to over 150 research studies, many of which have resulted in high-impact publications.
“To see these samples contribute to the Pan-Cancer Project really pays homage to the patients who generously donated pancreatic cancer tissue samples for research,” says Amber Johns. “Without them, none of this would have been possible.”
Local data with global connection
Established in 2009, the APGI is a research enterprise of over 100 scientists, clinicians and allied health professionals involved in pancreatic cancer research and care, and forms Australia’s contribution to the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC).
Contributing the APGI’s genomic data to the Pan-Cancer Project will now allow more researchers to uncover similarities in the genetics that underpin different cancers, says Professor David Thomas, Garvan Cancer Research Theme Leader and Director of The Kinghorn Cancer Centre.
“The cross-overs and relationships we continue to discover between all cancers is making it clear that we cannot ‘pigeonhole’ cancer research into different cancer types,” says Professor Thomas. “Better access to cancer genome data, such as through the Pan-Cancer Project, will advance research and ultimately accelerate development of treatments. We look forward to contributing to this global progress through the scope of our research projects.”
The APGI is supported in part by the Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation.
Meet one of the contributors to this research:
Gary donated a tumour sample to the APGI in 2011, which now forms part of the Pan-Cancer Project.