Think how the gene patent issue might play out in the scientific, business and legal worlds if the aims of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) reach fruition in the development of a number of new cancer diagnostic tests and therapies? How might ownership quarrels around individual genes impede progress with tests based on multi-gene or partial/full genome sequencing? Think about that as you read this update on ICGC progress.
The ICGC consists of leading cancer researchers (> 200) from all over the world. Since 2008, the group has been working to sequence the 50 most common types of cancer, generating 500 sequences for each type from 25,000 different patients. The plan is to make these sequences freely available on the internet to aid cancer researchers across the globe.
As reported in The Medical News, datasets of breast, liver and pancreatic cancers have already been posted to the ICGC website. Sir Paul Nurse, 2001 Nobel Laureate, states that "the plans for data release will facilitate efficient deployment of resourcesand ensure that all cancer researchers can use the data in a timely manner" - i.e. this is a so-called open source collaboration. Professor Eric Lander, President and director of the Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT, further states "We are moving into an era where the prescription for cancer treatment should be based on the genetics of each patients tumor."
Ed note: I would submit that doesn't sound too compatible with the idea of companies or academic institutions owning individual gene sequences. The tests coming out of this project might be really Sweet.
Gene sequencing technology has progressed to the point where is will likely be feasible to do partial or even full sequencing of a cancer patient's tumor for approximately $1000. Factoid: The original human genome project sequenced half a dozen individuals at a cost of $1.5-2 B and took 15 yrs. We can now do that in 1 week at a small fraction of the cost.
A paper describing the ICGC study will appear in today's publication of Nature, and individual study teams will be presenting their progress at the AACR meeting in Washington, DC next week (April 17th-21st).
Posted by Bruce Lehr April 15th 2010.