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Precision Medicine News

UCSC Cancer Research Awarded $500,000 Precision Medicine Grant

UCSC’s Treehouse Initiative received a precision medicine grant to supplement their research into using big data to target childhood cancer.

UCSC awarded precision medicine grant

Source: Thinkstock

By Jessica Kent

- The California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine (CIAPM) has awarded a $500,000 state grant to the Treehouse Childhood Cancer Initiative of the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute.

Treehouse is the pediatric cancer research arm of the UCSC Genomics Institute, founded by David Haussler, the Scientific Director, and his former post-doctoral student, Dr. Olena Morozova.. Treehouse aims to use genomic data to identify better treatments for childhood cancer patients.

The grant will enhance Treehouse’s work on the California Kids Cancer Comparison (CKCC).

“CKCC was a pilot project with ambitious goals for evaluating whether our big data analysis at the Genomics Institute can help kids being treated for cancer right now," said Haussler. “We were able to make a convincing case that it works.”

This next stage of funding will allow the UCSC Treehouse team, “CKCC2,” to conduct a 24-month registry study in collaboration with oncologists from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and Stanford Medical Center.

The team will collect and analyze genomic data from tumors before presenting this information to the treating oncologists.

CKCC2 will evaluate the effectiveness of comparative RNA-seq analysis within the clinical process, including assessing the impact on clinical decision-making, gauging patient and family understanding of genomic analysis, and tracking patient outcomes.

“For the CKCC2 project, we expect to work closely with Stanford clinical research staff using rigorous data-handling processes, institutionally approved protocols and consent forms,” said Isabel Bjork, Director of Pediatric Programs at the Genomics Institute.

“We will have the ability to formally assess the clinical utility of genomic analysis within the clinical environment,” she continued.

All RNA-seq processed data and analysis will be publicly available to benefit researchers, keeping in line with Treehouse’s commitment to providing open access to data. Treehouse aims to advance the state of pediatric cancer research by maintaining open access and using open source software.

Although Treehouse is interested in finding whether molecular-level activity observed in the lab drives tumor growth, their ultimate goal is to discover whether genomic analysis provides a significant benefit to patients.

The team will define clinical benefit not only in terms of tumor response and symptom control, but also in terms of patient, family, and physician response and willingness to use genomic analysis in their decision-making.

This information will improve education and training as genomic-based precision medicine becomes more prevalent.

“At the end of the CKCC2 project, we will have a greater ability to evaluate whether Treehouse's approach to precision medicine added value to the journey of the patients, their families and physicians,” said Haussler.

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