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More Comparing & Contrasting "Bank On A Cure" With The Newer "Genomics Initiative"

Posted on December 15 2009 by Pat Killingsworth | 661 views

I ran a series of articles in mid-November about two genetic research programs, the IMF’s supported “Bank On A Cure,” and MMRF’s “Genomics Initiative.” I was a bit confused by what seemed to be a duplication of research. Why did the MMRF see the need to start a similar research project? What about the cost? Shouldn’t the two groups be working together, sharing data and expenses?

While at ASH, I met with Daniel Auclair, PhD, one of the lead researchers for the “Genomics Initiative.” He explained that, in his opinion, these were very different studies. And while he didn’t directly dismiss the relevance or importance of “Bank On A Cure,” he was quick to point out how different the two programs were. This area is by far my weakest–genes and chromosomes and biotechnology–just not happening for me! So as he drew me a diagram–literally on the back of a napkin and business card–depicting gene mapping. It didn’t take me long to realize I would not be able to accurately convey that information to you here on my blog. Bottom line: Dr. Auclair feels the “Genomics Initiative” is far more comprehensive than “Bank On A Cure. Here is a copy of the e-mail I received after ASH from Dr. Auclair:

After our discussion yesterday I was curious and went checking your blogs. Very interesting what you are doing. Many thanks for describing our MMRC Genomics Initiative as “exciting.”… I believe I promised you some additional material, so here are a few links below:

WEDNESDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) — The sequencing of the first three multiple myeloma whole genomes has been completed by U.S. scientists, who said this success will lead to a better understanding of this form of blood cancer and advance efforts to develop new therapies.

The analysis of DNA from more than 50 patient samples was conducted as part of the Multiple Myeloma Genomics Initiative. Overall, more than 250 patient samples have been collected and additional multiple myeloma genomes are being sequenced, according to a news release from The Broad Institute.

The first three complete genomes should be available online to researchers within the next several months, the news release stated.

The data from this research “will play an important role in developing better treatment options for individuals who derive little benefit from existing therapies and may ultimately help provide multiple myeloma patients with the most appropriate treatment for his or her disease. Furthermore, knowledge from this effort could also benefit patients with other types of cancer,” Louise Perkins, chief scientific officer of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) and the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC), said in a news release from the Broad Institute.

This research initiative “has created an unprecedented opportunity to examine an extraordinary breadth of genomic information to pinpoint the most important genes and cellular processes driving the disease,” added Jeffrey Trent, co-principal investigator on the Multiple Myeloma Genomics Initiative. “Such a remarkable dataset exists for very few other cancers; it will no doubt pave the way toward personalized medicine for multiple myeloma patients.”

Here is a second article Dr. Auclair forwarded to me about his presentation at ASH:

Source: PharmaLive.com] – The Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC), presented two abstracts during the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research, including one that was selected for oral presentation, based on data from the MMRC Multiple Myeloma Genomics Initiative.

In an oral session, Daniel Auclair, PhD, manager of the Initiative for the MMRC, presented “Clues from the MMRC Genomics Initiative about the Multiple Myeloma Druggable Genome”. The clues emerge from a preliminary analysis of an initial set of 100 patient tissue samples using high-resolution array-based comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) and gene expression profiling (GEP) technologies. An analysis of these tissue samples, collected through the MMRC Tissue Bank, highlight novel genetic abnormalities and identify potential new druggable targets and pathways in multiple myeloma. This updated dataset is freely available to the scientific community through the Multiple Myeloma Genomics Portal, the world’s only myeloma-specific repository of genomic data.

In addition, details were provided about the multiple myeloma genome re-sequencing project planned to be performed in collaboration with the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard on 250 patient tumor samples and matched peripheral blood. The sequencing of all the genes expressed in myeloma tumor cells (~10,000 genes) will be done on state-of-the-art next generation single molecule sequencing instruments. These instruments represent the newest, most accurate and cost effective technology available today for genome re-sequencing.

“The expanded sequencing project is perfect in its timing. The project has the potential to yield specific findings for myeloma and help set the standard for cancer genome sequencing in other diseases,” said Todd R. Golub, MD, Director of the Cancer Program at the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, physician at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and co-Principal Investigator of the MMRC Genomics Initiative. ?Coupled with the breadth of the data from the entire Initiative, these sequencing results will play a pivotal role in identifying new targets and approaches for treating patients with myeloma.”

In a second presentation, “Validation of NF-kB pathway mutations in myeloma using data from the MMRC Genomics Initiative”, Angela Baker, PhD, Translational Genomics Research Institute, disclosed that by using data from the Initiative and by correlating changes in gene expression and DNA copy number, her group identified several genes involved in the NF-kB pathway in myeloma. The results of this study aid in the validation of previous findings on this pathway and may ultimately lead to new targets for the treatment of multiple myeloma.

“The Multiple Myeloma Genomics Initiative is critical in generating data that will help MMRC researchers make significant progress in identifying new therapeutic targets for more effective therapies,” states MMRF and MMRC Founder and CEO, Kathy Giusti, who is also a myeloma patient.

There were several other links, but these two, the first as an introduction to the program and the second a review of Dr. Auclair’s abstract presentations at ASH, seemed most instructive.

I spoke briefly with Dr. Brian Van Ness, founder of “Bank On A Cure,” at the press reception for Carfilzomib. He promised to provide me with additional information about “Bank On A Cure” in the near future.

After all of this–four articles about the two programs in November and this article today–I’m not prepared to make a judgement call. It seems clear both research projects are providing clinicians with valuable information for their anti-myeloma research. Is one truly more important or valuable than another? I don’t know. Are both programs necessary? Probably.

I will tell you one thing: it is easier to “feel good and keep smiling,” knowing there are ongoing, well funded research programs like “Bank On A Cure” and the Genomics Initiative” working to help cure multiple myeloma! Pat

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Pedalhead Says:

    Hi Pat,

    I noticed your blog after starting a literature search for a project we are finishing. As a central member in the MMRC genomic initiative and a good friend of Brian Van Ness I might be able to help clear up the issue of the two projects. First and foremost they are asking two polar opposite questions. In the case of "Bank on a Cure" the goal is to identify genetic diffences that predispose an individual to myeloma. In this case they are looking a normal cells from patients with myeloma and control individual without myeloma to see if a genetic variant is common in the myeloma patients. This type of work is identical to the the studys you see in the news about the gene that causes heart disease or diabetes with the goal of identifying something akin to the breast cancer gene you hear so much about in the news. In the case of the MMRC genomics initiative, we are looking at the tumor cells directly asking the question of what is different in the tumor compared to normal cells. With the goal of identifing genes that are present in higher copy number, normal cells have two copies of each gene, or lower copy number, or are mutated. In short one project is asking what predisposes an individual to myeloma while the other is asking what are common genenetic events that cause myeloma.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Jonathan Keats

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