Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative

Update, September 2013

The Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative (APGI) is a member of the International Genome Consortium (ICGC), a worldwide collaborative effort to comprehensively catalogue the genomic and epigenomic abnormalities in over 50 major human cancers. The APGI brings together the expertise of Pancreatic Cancer scientists and healthcare professionals across Australia, and is dedicated to improving outcomes for pancreatic patients and their families.

Due to the active involvement of the 15 member sites across Australia, the APGI has excelled in patient recruitment and sample collection. They have recruited 644 patients to date and analysed over 250 patient genomes. As of June 2013, they have shipped over 2,000 DNA and RNA samples for comprehensive genomic analysis. Over 200 of the patient genomes analysed have been deposited into the ICGC public database, as a freely available resource for the research community and public. The samples and data available to the research community are of the very highest quality, and this resource has already been accessed and utilised in over 12 international studies, further building on the APGI’s findings. As a result of this the scientific understanding of the molecular roots of Pancreatic Cancer is improving daily.

The information gained in the first 250 genome sequences has confirmed the importance of some known cancer causing changes in Pancreatic Cancer DNA. It has also revealed valuable information about Pancreatic Cancer development and the extreme complexity of the disease and, from a genetic standpoint is proving to be unique for each patient.

This recent APGI research is giving scientists the power to identify key genetic “targets” within Pancreatic Cancer cells and in the future to create therapeutics designed to pinpoint those targets. This stratified approach will assist treating clinical teams decide what the most appropriate treatment regime may be for a patient, based on their unique genetic make-up.

The APGI is also driving a recently launched clinical trial called the IMPaCT Trial (Individualised Molecular Pancreatic Cancer Therapy) which is a clinical trial assessing standard chemotherapy treatment called Gemcitabine versus personalised treatment based on specific tumour characteristics in patients with recurrent or metastatic Pancreatic Cancer. Potential patients will be screened for specific genetic characteristics based on their biological material analysed as part of the APGI study. This is an exciting initiative that is using information gained in the APGI to move us closer to personalising treatment for Pancreatic Cancer patients.

The APGI continues to work towards fulfilment of its promise to the cancer research community- to provide the highest quality cancer genomics data as a community resource to aid in improving outcomes for Pancreatic Cancer patients in this country.

The APGI have published several studies in prominent scientific journals, along with numerous media articles, which demonstrates the success of the collaborative research of the APGI. You can view these articles at: http://www.pancreaticcancer.net.au/research/publications-1

We are well on our way to achieving our targets in this landmark research study. We thank the Avner Foundation for its ongoing and unwavering support of our research. We look forward to continuing our partnership and translating this important work into advances in real time for patients.

Professor Andrew Biankin
Professor and Head Pancreatic Cancer Research, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Chairman, the Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative

Avner’s Foundation passionately believes in the merits of this groundbreaking research and has contributed more than $530,000. We look forward to continuing our partnership in the hope of translating this important work into advances in real time for patients.

Want to learn what sequencing means? Click here.