International Cancer Genome Consortium

The International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) is one of the most ambitious biomedical research efforts since the Human Genome Project. The project will map the genetic faults in 50 of the most important cancer types. All the information from the 25,000 cancer samples studied will be made freely available to cancer researchers around the world. The project will also ensure that the data gathered is complete, standardised and accessible, so that it can be used to its fullest potential.

The aims of this project

The aim of ICGC is to identify all the genetic faults in large numbers of individual cancers. The next step will be to work out which of these faults are driving the growth of the cancer and which are just 'passengers' that have no effect on the disease.

ICGC data will be used to develop tests to detect specific genetic changes in each tumour. It will help scientists to discover 'targeted' drugs that can be matched to faults in an individual patient's cancer. This project is a key component of a wider effort that is already leading to more personalised treatments for cancer.

Our role

Cancer Research UK is leading the ICGC oesophageal cancer project, and jointly leading the prostate cancer project alongside cancer research organisations in Canada (the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research and Prostate Cancer Canada).

Together prostate cancer and oesophageal cancer are responsible for over 17,000 deaths each year in the UK. Understanding the genetic faults that drive these cancers will give clues for new, more targeted ways to treat patients and improve survival rates.

Oesophageal cancer has one of the fastest rising incidence rates in the Western world, and it is also one of the hardest cancers to treat. The data from ICGC will help us to understand how oesophageal cancer develops, giving vital clues for new ways to prevent and treat it.

One of the biggest challenges in prostate cancer is that the disease is extremely variable. Some tumours are aggressive and need immediate treatment, while others are very slow-growing and unlikely to cause any problems.

The ICGC will help to personalise treatment for prostate cancer by shedding light on the biology of the disease, and in the future it should help us to predict which men need immediate treatment and which can safely avoid it.

Why now?

Projects on the scale of ICGC have only recently become possible because of advances in genetic sequencing technology.

Today's machines are up to 1 million times faster than those used in the Human Genome Project ten years ago. Sequencing an entire genome can cost as little as around $5,000 and take just a few weeks.

This means it is now feasible for scientists to decode entire cancer genomes to identify and catalogue the genetic faults in different types of cancer.


Visit the ICGC site


Achieving more through working in partnership

Working in partnership

In Pioneering Research, our annual research publication, we look at how we create mutually beneficial partnerships that support our own research objectives and those of our partners.

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