01 October 2016

Two research bodies are joining forces in a transatlantic effort to understand genetic mutations in paediatric cancers.

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, based in Cambridge, England, is combining COSMIC, its large-scale cancer genetics database, with the ProteinPaint data mining and visualisation system at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis TN, USA, to further their investigations.

The agreement will see both organisations providing regular updates and exchanging cancer mutation data to support research in all areas of childhood cancer. The data will be freely available to researchers.

St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the leading US institute for researching the genetic basis of paediatric forms of blood, brain and bone cancers, sequences the DNA from hundreds of childhood tumours.

ProteinPaint explores the data and is designed to provide simple ways of visualising and understanding large quantities of information.


One of the main challenges of the research is identifying which genetic variations play an active role in cancer development and which are there by chance.

To enable such large-scale comparison, the Sanger Institute developed COSMIC - the Catalogue of Somatic Mutations In Cancer – a database that contains data on more than four million mutations.

Dr Simon Forbes, head of COSMIC at the Sanger Institute, said: “It's very exciting to be working with St Jude to help characterise the causes of childhood cancer. Many of our users are supporting diagnostic and pharmaceutical discovery and in this way we hope to support future improvements for these young patients.”

Dr Jinghui Zhang, chair of St Jude’s department of computational biology, added: “We want this to be the definitive resource for genomic information for the paediatric cancer community. This collaboration will allow us to share data across two institutions to better understand, using our combined knowledge, what causes cancer.”



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