Researchers may soon be able to personalize medicine for cancer patients, according to a paper published in Nature (15 April 2010;464(7291):993-998).

“Given the tremendous potential for relatively low-cost genomic sequencing to reveal clinically useful information, we anticipate that in the not so distant future, partial or full cancer genomes will routinely be sequenced as part of the clinical evaluation of cancer patients,” said the members of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) and authors of the paper.

According to the press release announcing the statement, the ICGC will provide the research community with the tools they need for deciding how to select the next clinical trial. The consortium explains that whole genome sequencing allows researchers to pinpoint specific tumor aberrations, which in turn allows for personalized targeted drug therapies.

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“The consortium’s internet-based databanks will help us treat specific cancers with specific treatments,” the authors noted. “Not only that, the information will help us understand why some treatments work and others do not, and then design better drugs to target faulty elements or mechanisms.”

Among the first to release data on the Web will be Australia’s and Canada’s pancreatic project groups, along with the UK’s breast cancer project group, China’s gastric cancer project group, and Japan’s liver cancer project group. Additionally, various tiers of access will be implemented, with ethical guidelines and governance in place to regulate who has access to certain information. The general public’s access will be limited to general summaries, while researchers will be able to request detailed reports.

“If you approach the problem with new technologies, you can quickly match the drug with molecular aberrations in specific cancers, and narrow the trial phase done to a few months,” the authors said.