An expert consortium pursuing the homogeneous analysis, management and exchange of genomic-driven oncology data to advance precision medicine against cancer – the European-Canadian Cancer Network (EUCANCan) – kicked-off earlier this month and was hosted by lead partner, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC).

EUCANCan, a four-year project coordinated by  David Torrents, ICREA Professor and Head of Computational Genomics at BSC, is jointly fueled by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). As a federated network comprised of interoperable infrastructures in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Spain, it has been established to swiftly apply and exchange genomic-generated intelligence and discovery.

A total of 18 partners with aligned strategies have joined forces as a carefully pieced model to provide a functional platform for federated genome analysis systems towards efficiently analyzing, managing, sharing and reusing mass genomic data at a global level.

The participating reference nodes — renowned for research of excellence and clinical programs in genomic oncology — seek to process, store and share between 30-35 thousand patient samples spanning various tumor types. The consortium also promises to drive discovery into robust and clinically-relevant patterns of genomic variation in cancer, including predictive biomarkers.

The project’s recent launch welcomed leading experts in oncogenomics and cancer data science, who will work together to synergize protocols for computational oncology research, generate common standards, implement interoperability protocols for data storage, indexing and exchange, and establish a more ‘workable’ ethico-legal framework.

Core activities have been organized across five technical work packages with Rodrigo Dienstmann, Principal Investigator of VHIO’s Oncology Data Science (ODysSey) Group, Elena Garralda, Director of our Research Unit for Molecular Therapy of Cancer (UITM) – “la Caixa”, also PI of Early Clinical Drug Development, and VHIO’s Director, Josep Tabernero, collaborating with colleagues from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and University of Heidelberg, Germany, to standardize clinical-genomics datasets for precision oncology and create webtools that will expand patient access to biomarker-driven trials in Europe.

Work Package 5: Standardized clinical reporting across sites, is co-directed by VHIO’s Rodrigo Dienstmann and Jürgen Eils, Heidelberg University Hospital (UKL) – German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). It focuses on implementing the technologies and standards that have been developed and integrated by other project work packages in real clinical cases by defining common data formats, standards and terminologies for the analysis of real world data from patients participating in molecular prescreening programs. The main task is to define a standardized summary report of genomic variants to more precisely guide therapeutic decision making in clinical practice.

Using existing and newly generated genomic and clinical insights within the consortium, the feasibility of EUCANCan infrastructures and their interoperability will be tried and tested. This analysis will be carried out in partnership with some of the most active centers throughout Europe and Canada in genomic oncology, also EUCANCan partners, across locally selected sites.

As an example, in addition to lead project partner, BSC, VHIO will be working locally on WP5 in collaboration with colleagues from the August Pi I Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO), and the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG).

Counting on the shared expertise from co-lead UKL-DKFZ, as well as the participation of researchers and clinical investigators at Charité – Universitätsmedizin (Germany), National Research Center for Scientific Research (France), Institut Curie (France), and Hartwig Medical Foundation (The Netherlands), they will ultimately provide clinicians with novel data on emerging biomarkers for diagnosis, risk stratification and anticancer drug response.

Reflecting on this month’s launch, VHIO’s Rodrigo Dienstmann and EUCANCan work package co-lead observed, “As an indicator of both the quality and promise of our project, this week’s meeting also celebrated the announcement by the prestigious Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH), that it had selected EUCANCan as one among seven world leading genomic data initiatives as its new Driver Projects for 2019.”

Reviewed externally and approved by the GA4GH Executive Committee the seven projects receiving this important recognition were chosen according to a trio of criteria: global representation, scientific merit, and capacity to contribute in-kind resources to GA4GH development efforts.

To discover more about EUCANCan, its partners and workpackages please visit: www.eucancan.com.

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