Nationwide Children's Hospital was awarded $11.5 million from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) late last year to continue its role as one of two Biospecimen Core Resources (BCR) for The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Contract awards to Nationwide Children's could total up to $49.2 million over six years.
TCGA is a signature program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The goal of the project is to perform cutting-edge genetic testing of tumors from more than 10,000 patients with one of 20 different cancers, thereby improving the ability to diagnose, treat and prevent the disease. Nationwide Children's was awarded an initial $7.7 million contract starting in November 2009 to begin operating in this role.
As a BCR for TCGA, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's is central to the process of acquiring both tumor and normal tissue samples and their accompanying clinical information from contributing medical and research centers. BCR functions include analyzing all specimens to ensure they meet rigorous quality standards for each tumor type and ensuring that the clinical information for each sample is available. Once the optimal specimens are examined and processed, the BCR distributes the DNA and RNA extracted from the specimens to researchers throughout the national TCGA research network.
"TCGA has already yielded scientific discoveries that are now being used in clinical trials. We are excited to contribute to future research into breast, endometrial, melanoma, and other cancers," said Dr. Julie Gastier-Foster, PhD, principal investigator of the BCR.
"Maintaining a key leadership position within TCGA continues Nationwide Children's rising role in the cancer research community. This selection was in recognition of our more than 20 years of expertise in banking tumor specimens and genetic testing of pediatric cancers," explained John Barnard, MD, president, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "It is a clear example of the trust and satisfaction the NCI has placed in our capabilities."
The BCR contract extends the previous tissue processing and banking work performed at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Since 1989, pediatric tumor specimens from all pediatric institutions in the Children's Cancer Study Group (now part of the Children's Oncology Group, or COG) have been banked at Nationwide Children's Biopathology Center. Because of this expertise and experience, in 1993 Nationwide Children's began working with the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) serving as a biorepository for gynecologic cancer specimens, thus housing two of the NIH's 11 national biospecimen banks.
Today, the Biopathology Center stores more than one million specimens with clinical annotations for use in cancer research, making the hospital one of the largest biorepositories in North America, with expertise in both pediatric and adult tissue specimens. In addition, the Biopathology Center serves as a national reference laboratory for several pediatric cancers, performing genetic testing used to assign patients to tailored therapy. Significant use of the banks by COG and GOG has led to numerous studies and peer-reviewed publications.
"The additional funding from the NCI highlights our initial success as a BCR and expands our opportunity to have a significant national impact on cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as an immediate impact on our local economy," stated Steve Allen, MD, CEO of Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Since establishing the BCR at Nationwide Children's, more than 40 full-time jobs have been created in areas such informatics, laboratory technology, and clinical trials development. An additional 15 jobs are expected to be added.