Yesterday afternoon was the kickoff party launching WashU’s Cancer Genomics Initiative (CGI), better known as our goal to sequence 150 cancer genomes in the coming year.
Cancer Sequencing Ramps Up
Under the leadership of Wilson, Ley, and Elaine Mardis, our group sequenced the first cancer genome, from a woman who had died of AML (M1), and published the results in Nature last fall. Three weeks ago came the sequel. In the New England Journal of Medicine, we published the complete genome of another M1 leukemia, this time from a man who’s been treated and remains in full remission. In less than a year, the number of Illumina runs required to sequence a tumor genome dropped by over 80%, from 98 runs in AML1 to just 16.5 runs in AML2.
It’s not just the sequencing throughput that makes WUCGI a realistic effort. Many groups have Illumina sequencers, some even more than we do. Some of the most critical advances have taken place behind the scenes – for example, the variant detection pipelines developed by David Larson, Ken Chen, Chris Harris, and others. Sequencing on this scale would not be possible without the IT and informatics infrastructure, built under the leadership of David Dooling and Gary Stiehr, that gives us the computational firepower to run whole-genome analyses.
Two Genomes Down, 150 To Go
With two genomes published, the center leadership has set an ambitious goal: To sequence 150 cancer genomes in the coming year. Obviously, these will include more AML samples, hopefully some with therapy-related changes or abnormal cytogenetics. In collaboration with Matt Ellis and others at the Siteman Cancer Center, we’ll be tackling breast cancer as well. No doubt we’ll be revisiting lung cancer, for which we sequenced candidate genes as part of the Tumor Sequencing Project (TSP) consortium. As part of the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) consortium, we’re working on glioblastoma multiforme (brain cancer) and ovarian cancer. Also, intriguingly, I hear rumors that there will be some sequencing of less common, largely unexplored cancers like multiple myeloma.
As Tim Ley said yesterday, it’s thrilling to be a part of this. We truly are entering the golden age of cancer genomics.