Cancer Research Blog

Bringing You the Latest in the Search For a Cure

Month: December 2015

Cancer Informatics: Expanding Access to Cancer Genomics Data

On Tuesday, November 10, 2015 Dr. Louis M. Staudt, M.D., Ph.D., Director of NCI’s Center for Cancer Genomics, and Dr. Warren Kibbe, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology (CBIIT) held a live discussion moderated by Anthony Kerlavage, Ph.D., Chief of the CBIIT Center for Cancer Informatics Branch. In the Google Hangout on Air, titled “Cancer Informatics: Expanding Access to Data,” Drs. Staudt and Kibbe discuss the NCI’s major initiatives to improve both the accessibility and usability of cancer genomics data. Top among the NCI’s priorities are the Genomic Data Commons, a service that will bring together and harmonize cancer genomic data sets from NCI programs like TCGA and TARGET as well as from non-NCI data submitters, and the Cancer Genomics Cloud Pilots, cloud computing infrastructure that will co-locate secure data access with computational capacity and analysis tools to democratize access to genomic data for the cancer research community.

Watch the Google Hangout with Drs. Staudt and Kibbe to learn more about the NCI’s initiatives below:

Patient with Brain Tumor Responds Dramatically to Targeted Therapy

Researchers reported last year that most cases of a brain tumor known as papillary craniopharyngioma harbor a change in the BRAF gene called the V600E mutation. In a new case study, the researchers now say that a patient with this disease had a dramatic response to a targeted drug that inhibits the mutant BRAF protein.

The drug, dabrafenib (Tafinlar®), has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat BRAF-mutant advanced melanoma. The case study describing the patient’s experience appeared in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on October 23.

FDA Approves Trabectedin to Treat Two Types of Soft Tissue Sarcoma

On October 23, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved trabectedin (Yondelis®) for the treatment of two subtypes of soft tissue sarcomas: liposarcoma and leiomyosarcoma. The approval is for patients whose cancers are advanced or cannot be removed by surgery and who have already been treated with anthracycline-based chemotherapy.

The FDA based the approval on the results of a randomized clinical trial in which more than 500 patients with metastatic or recurrent liposarcoma or leiomyosarcoma were randomly assigned to receive trabectedin or the chemotherapy drug dacarbazine. Patients treated with trabectedin had longer progression-free survival than patients who received dacarbazine: 4.2 months versus 1.5 months. There was no difference in overall survival.

The Cancer Genome Atlas: More Than a Large Collection of Data

After collecting samples from more than 11,000 patients across 33 tumor types, and generating a vast, comprehensive data set to describe the molecular changes that occur in cancer, The Cancer Genome Atlas project is coming to a close. Tissue sample collection and data generation are completed. Eighteen integrative analyses of individual cancer types have been published and the analyses for another fifteen papers are underway.

However, though TCGA will wrap up in 2016, cancer genomics projects built upon the success of TCGA will continue to play a major part in the NCI’s mission to better understand and treat cancer in the years to come.

Study Sheds Light on Role of Inherited Mutations in Childhood Cancer

In the most comprehensive study of its kind conducted to date, more than 8 percent of children with cancer were found to have inherited genetic mutations associated with a predisposition to the disease.

In addition to providing the most accurate assessment yet available of the possible role of inherited, or germline, mutations in childhood cancers, the authors said, the study also suggests that several inherited genetic mutations typically associated with some adult cancers may play a role in pediatric cancer.

Precision Medicine Trials for Cancer: A New Era

The following is the latest in a series of posts from senior NCI scientists and leaders on NCI’s Annual Plan and Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2017, which was officially submitted to the President on September 17, 2015. The proposal provides an overview of NCI’s priorities and key initiatives and the institute’s funding request for the President to consider in formulating his own Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget proposal.

In this post, Jeff Abrams, M.D., and Nita Seibel, M.D., of NCI’s Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, discuss how precision medicine is influencing the design and conduct of NCI-supported clinical trials.

Two Small RNAs, Often Missing from Cancer Cells, May Suppress Tumors

Researchers have discovered an unexpected link between two small RNAs that are frequently missing from cancer cells and the family of RAS genes, which are commonly mutated in cancer.

The RNA molecules—small nucleolar RNAs, or snoRNAs—may help suppress tumors by inhibiting the cancer-promoting activities of RAS proteins, according to the researchers. In the absence of these snoRNAs, RAS proteins may become “hyperactive,” producing continuous signals that promote cell growth.

Returning to Vietnam – Building on Collaborations in Cancer Control and Research

I recently had the pleasure of returning to Vietnam for a little over a week. The focus of this trip was my attendance and presentation at the 9th US-Vietnam Joint Committee Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation (JCM), held in Ho Chi Minh City by the Ministry of Science and Technology, and at a national cancer stakeholder meeting in Hanoi, held by the Ministry of Health. I also had the pleasure of reconnecting with several dear colleagues, and planning future collaborations at side meetings in both cities.

At the JCM I participated on the Health Working Group, representing the US National Cancer Institute (NCI). The discussion was vigorous and the Vietnamese delegation was very much interested and invested in each of the topics we raised. The meeting presented us with high-level buy-in for upcoming programs and meetings. I gave two brief talks – one on cancer control/research and another on tobacco. Other presenters discussed collaboration on the Global Health Security Agenda, non-communicable diseases writ large, coastal medicine, and global health diplomacy.

FDA Approves Cobimetinib as Part of Drug Combination for Advanced Melanoma

On November 10, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of cobimetinib (Cotellic™) in combination with vemurafenib (Zelboraf®) to treat patients with metastatic melanoma.

Both drugs block targets that act at different steps in the same signaling pathway, the mitogen-activated protein kinase, or MAPK, pathway. Cobimetinib inhibits the activity of an enzyme known as MEK, and vemurafenib inhibits the enzyme BRAF.

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