UK researchers have launched an ambitious project to analyse samples from over 20,000 blood cancer patients to identify how differences in their cancer cells' DNA can influence the success of treatment.
The collaboration announced today (Tuesday 10 February) by scientists at the University of York, the NHS, and 14M Genomics (14MG), a business that is partnered with the Wellcome Sanger Institute, will search for patterns that can inform doctors and patients about prognosis.
The project is built around the Haematological Malignancy Research Network (HMRN), which is funded by the blood cancer charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research to provide real world data to inform clinical practice and research.
In partnership with NHS clinicians working across 14 hospitals and the Haematological Malignancy Diagnostic Service (HMDS) at St James's University Hospital in Leeds, HMRN researchers at the University of York compile and analyse clinical data from patients across Yorkshire with blood disorders and cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
Since its foundation in 2004, the group has compiled data on more than 20,000 patients; all of whom have full treatment, response and outcome data collected to clinical trial standards.
Samples from this unique patient cohort will be analysed using state-of-the-art DNA sequencing and bioinformatics tools by 14M Genomics, which was co-founded in 2014 by leaders of the Sanger Institute Cancer Genome Project. Tumour profiles will be analysed alongside patient treatment records to pinpoint which cancer genes can improve or impair an individual patient’s chances of survival.
14MG will produce a database of the findings, which will provide a resource for doctors and patients to use to determine the most appropriate treatments for newly diagnosed blood cancers.
Professor Chris Bunce, Research Director at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, said: “Some patients currently respond extremely well to standard treatment and yet others will become resistant. A database that can help doctors predict how a patient’s cancer will progress will be invaluable in guiding treatment decisions.
“This project is only possible thanks to the foresight shown by Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research to start funding the HMRN over a decade ago. It is now unrivalled worldwide as a source of blood cancer patient data for use in medical research.”
Andrew Sandham, Executive Chairman of 14MG, said: “Our partnership with HMRN provides a unique opportunity to correlate the genetic drivers of cancer with patient outcomes and therapeutic responses. These datasets will underpin the development of reference tools to inform diagnosis, prognosis and treatment decisions in haematological cancers. Going forward, we plan to expand this knowledge resource through further clinical genomic studies investigating new targeted treatments that are designed using knowledge of genetic variation, in partnership with pharmaceutical companies and academic research centres.”
Eve Roman, Professor of Epidemiology and Leader of HMRN, said: “HMRN has already contributed important insights, providing real-world generalisable data on patient outcomes to inform contemporary clinical practice and research. For patients with haematological cancers, the collaboration with 14MG will take our understanding to the next level, by unlocking the predictive potential of cancer genomics.”
Cathy Burton, Consultant Haematologist and Head of HMDS, added: “HMDS has a proven track record in the provision of accurate diagnosis and stratification for patients with haematological malignancy. New sequencing technologies, such as those employed by 14MG, offer a real opportunity to significantly refine and improve this process, towards an ultimate goal of patient-orientated precision medicine.”
Pictured: Members of the HMRN and HMDS teams