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Revisiting The Cancer Genome Atlas’s GBM Project

When The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) launched in 2006, it was a huge moment for cancer research. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) had come together to deliver researchers a better understanding of the molecular basis of cancer through the application of genome analysis and sequencing technologies.

The brain cancer community fought hard to make sure glioblastoma multiforme (GBM for short) was chosen as the first cancer type to be sequenced and analyzed by this massive effort.

The first finding from this exhaustive effort were published in 2008, and provided the brain cancer research community with a vast amount of new information and data on what drives GBM tumors.

Now five-years later, the TCGA GBM Analysis Working Group revisited glioblastoma. Armed with improved technology, sequencing techniques, and many more samples, 58 researchers from 39 prestigious institutions including, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, published the updated findings in the October issue of Cell.

The new analysis produced what an official press release termed, “a broader, deeper picture of the drivers – and potential therapeutic targets of the disease” to “completely characterize the landscape of genomic alterations “ in GBM.

Some of the findings include:

  • Confirming the significantly mutated genes discovered in the first study
  • Identified 61 new mutated genes
  • Confirmed and further characterized the four subgroups of GBM

These findings will continue to be a critical resource for brain cancer researchers, and will support the aims of many projects in the years ahead. Specifically, the new information (as well as the validated information) presents important opportunities, including:

  • The development of biomarkers to help guide potential targeted therapies
  • The repurposing of existing drugs to treat GBM
    • Two of the new mutations found (BRAF and FGFR) exist in other cancers and already have drugs that address the variation

As we move forward with many of our initiatives, including our Defeat GBM Research Collaborative, these finding will provide a valuable backbone of information on this complex and highly aggressive form of brain cancer.

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