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Novartis, Broad Institute Partner on Cancer Genome Database

DNA strand (NSF)

(James. J. Caras, National Science Foundation)

The global pharmaceutical company Novartis and the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts have launched a compendium of genomic and molecular data on 947 cancer cell lines for drug research and development. The Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia is available to the public on the Broad Institute Web site and described online in the journal Nature (paid subscription required).

The Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia (CCLE) is a collaboration of researchers from the Broad Institute — affiliated with MIT and Harvard University — along with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Genomics Institute of the Novartis Foundation, and Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR). The database compiles gene expression, chromosomal copy number, and parallel sequencing data from 947 human cancer cell lines, malignant cells that have been removed from tumor tissue and cultured in the laboratory.

Novartis says the cell lines were acquired from commercial vendors in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Korea and include many subtypes of both common and rare forms of cancer, making it a diverse picture of the disease. Each of 947 cell lines was genetically characterized through a series of high-throughput analyses at the Broad Institute.

“One of the strengths of the CCLE lies in the number of cell lines it surveys,” says Nicolas Stransky, a computational biologist at the Broad Institute and one of the first authors of the Nature paper. “We can focus on rare cancer subtypes and still have sufficient statistical power for analyses.”

The project also included pharmacological profiles of 24 anti-cancer drugs tested on about half of these cell lines. In addition, algorithms were developed to predict drug responses based on the genetic and molecular makeup of the cancer cells.

The researchers emphasize that the project is still ongoing, but still offers a resource for developing personalized therapies to treat cancer. William Sellers, who leads NIBR’s oncology research says “The Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia will provide scientists with the ability to build predictive models of what types of patients will respond to a particular class of drugs.”

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