In what has proved to be an invaluable database for scientists studying diseases of all kinds, the privately-funded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital-Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project has recently released a vast trove of human cancer genome data, which is available to researchers worldwide on request. Such a widespread release of data by a privately fund effort is unprecedented, and sets a new standard in the field.
The data, taken from pediatric cancer patients, more than doubles the amount of whole-genome data available from all sources, combined. It is being used to to pinpoint the causes of the most deadly childhood cancers, and has already produced a number of significant discoveries thus far in childhood cancers of the retina, brainstem and blood. “By sharing the information even before we analyze it ourselves, we’re hoping that other researchers can use this rich resource for insights into many other types of diseases in children and adults,” said James Downing, scientific director who leads the project at St. Jude.
The Pediatric Cancer Genome Project was launched in 2010, and is the world’s largest project devoted to understand the genetic origins of childhood cancers. Its $65 million budget is entirely funded by contributions from St. Jude and Kay Jewelers, a longtime partner of St. Jude.