Noting that “children are not just small adults,” researchers at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Washington University have released the complete genomes of 260 St. Jude pediatric cancer patients — as well as the genomes of their tumors — for scientific study.
In a statement released Tuesday, the researchers said that the data “more than doubles the volume of … whole genome data from all human genome sources combined.”
The hope for this and other cancer genomics projects like the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Genome Atlas is to identify the mutations in genes that cause cancer — and, if possible, figure out how to find exactly the right intervention for a patient's specific tumor. Those goals may not be reached for many years, but assembling comprehensive data is a necessary early step, scientists say.
The St. Jude/Washington University collaboration focuses on hard-to-treat pediatric cancers separately, the scientists wrote in an article in Nature Genetics, because the cancers that arise in children differ substantially from those in adults. “A focused project to characterize the landscape of mutations in pediatric cancers is necessary to achieve the goal of advancing cures for pediatric cancers,” they wrote.