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More Comparing & Contrasting "Bank On A Cure" and "Multiple Myeloma Genomcs Initiative"

Posted on November 20 2009 by Pat Killingsworth | 597 views

I have made some phone calls trying to contrast and compare the IMF sponsored Bank On A Cure and the MMRF sponsored Multiple Myeloma Genomics Initiative. The phone calls haven’t helped much. A friend is meeting with Dr. Brian Van Ness next week and he has promised ask the good doctor for his opinion about the Genomics Initiative. In the meantime, the helpful IMF staff referred me to several different persons they thought might be able to help. Both were out of the country until Tuesday at a conference. Fair enough. Wednesday I ran a background summary the Bank On A Cure program. Here is a similar summary piece I found on the MMRC Website.(the “C” stands for consortium—a branch of the MMRF) about their Genomics Initiative:

Multiple Myeloma Genomics Initiative

The ability to accelerate drug discovery in myeloma is highly dependent on an improved understanding of the disease on a molecular level. Until recently, a lack of patient tissue samples has rendered this task impossible. With a critical mass of myeloma patient tissue samples now accrued into the MMRC Tissue Bank under Good Laboratory Practices (GLP), researchers are now in a position to initiate strong genomic science. As such, the MMRC has partnered with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and The Translational Genomics Research Institute to launch the Multiple Myeloma Genomic Initiative. This multidisciplinary team brings together world-renowned expertise in genomics technology and computation and clinical and biological aspects of multiple myeloma into a research program that is truly on the cutting edge of scientific novelty and significance.

Project Description
The goal of this flagship genomics program is to catalyze world-wide multiple myeloma research efforts by rapidly generating a critical mass of genomic information (and subsequent analyses) and putting that information into the public domain. By studying large numbers of multiple myeloma patient samples in great detail, we will build a molecular taxonomy of the disease that will dramatically improve diagnostics, drive the selection of patients for clinical trials based on the molecular characterization of their disease, and identify previously unrecognized new therapeutic targets. This novel effort takes a systematic approach to the genomic characterization of myeloma, ranging from basic studies of the molecular anatomy of myeloma, to the systematic identification of genes required for myeloma cell survival.

Over a period of three years, the MMRC will coordinate the initiation of several related discovery efforts that truly span the spectrum of genomic research, including:
Establishment of a reference collection of high-quality multiple myeloma patient samples accrued under Good Laboratory Practices: This will serve as the common set of samples that are analyzed molecularly as part of this program and will also serve as a resource for the entire scientific community for future experiments.
Gene expression profiling: Genome-wide expression profiling is increasingly valuable as a source of molecular sub-classification of cancers, biological exploration, and interrogation of candidate therapeutic targets. Importantly, microarray-based expression profiling has become technically straightforward and costs have dropped dramatically. Genome-wide (~30,000 gene) Affymetrix expression profiling of the reference samples will therefore be performed.

Genome copy number & loss of heterozygosity (LOH) analysis: New array-based methods have made it feasible to perform rapid, high resolution maps of cancer genome deletion, amplification, and allelic imbalance to pinpoint candidate tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes. These learnings provide insight into the pathogenesis of multiple myeloma and will also aid in the development of a molecular taxonomy of the disease.

Exon re-sequencing: It is now clear that candidate gene resequencing can identify biologically and clinically important mutations in cancer. Because whole genome resequencing is not yet feasible, we will focus on a class of genes (i.e. the protein kinases) that have proven to be frequently mutated in cancer, and which represent excellent targets for drug development.
Achilles Heels: The genes essential for multiple myeloma cell survival represent potential therapeutic targets for the disease. While systematic functional determination of such “Achilles Heels” has not been previously feasible, the recent development of genome-scale RNA interference (RNAi) methods for the ablation of expression of genes of interest makes such studies possible. This project will determine which of two approaches – transfection of double-stranded RNAs (siRNA) or infection with short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) – is optimal for multiple myeloma screening.

Multiple Myeloma Portal: The projects described above will generate a wealth of genomic data and computational analyses. To be most useful to the community, however, these data must be easily accessible and myeloma researchers must be able to interact with the data in a biologically meaningful way. To these ends, we will create a multiple myeloma portal that will serve as a website through which genomic data of relevance to the disease will be aggregated and annotated, and through which researchers can perform a series of analytical approaches through a simple, biologist-oriented interface. The Multiple Myeloma Portal was launched in August 2007and can be found at
The Multiple Myeloma Genomic Initiative program portfolio has undergone three-rounds of extensive peer-review by both genomics and bioinformatics experts. Each program adheres to concrete deliverables and timelines.

I’m not a scientist or researcher, but I can’t see much difference, can you? Both programs established data banks full of tissue (DNA) samples from myeloma patients. Both are looking for genetic similarities and weaknesses in myeloma as well as the patient. Is it a bad thing these two, important and expensive research programs are out there, working independently? Probably not. Maybe they end-up following research threads which take them in totally different directions. But maybe, just maybe, money and time could be saved if they worked together. As Payton Manning says in his TV ads (I must not be a researcher if I am quoting an NFL quarterback!) “I’m just saying!”
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat

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