UC Santa Cruz Cancer Research Awarded Precision Medicine Grant

Jan. 10, 2018
The California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine (CIAPM) has awarded a state grant to the Treehouse Childhood Cancer Initiative of the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute for continued childhood cancer research.

The California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine (CIAPM) has awarded a state grant to the Treehouse Childhood Cancer Initiative of the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute for continued childhood cancer research.

The grant, worth $500,000, has been granted as a supplement to Treehouse's work on the California Kids Cancer Comparison (CKCC) and focuses on a collaboration with Stanford University and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

Treehouse, the pediatric cancer research arm of the UCSC Genomics Institute, has a mission to change the story for childhood cancer patients by employing genomic data and computational approaches that could identify less toxic and more effective treatments. Treehouse analyzes a child's cancer data against both childhood and adult patient cohorts across all types of cancer. This "pan-cancer" analysis of adult and pediatric tumors may identify situations where an adult drug is predicted to work on a subset of pediatric patients.

"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,” UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute scientific director David Haussler said in a statement. “We were able to make a convincing case that it works.”

In this next stage of funding CKCC2, the UCSC Treehouse team will conduct a 24-month registry study in collaboration with oncologists from Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and Stanford Medical Center. This type of study collects and analyzes genomic data from a child's cancer tumor, and presents this information to the treating clinical oncologist teams. CKCC2 will evaluate the effectiveness of comparative RNA-seq analysis within the clinical process, including assessing the impact on clinical decision-making, the patient and family understanding and engagement with genomic analysis, and tracking patient outcomes.

In line with Treehouse's commitment to providing open access to data, all software Treehouse uses is open source. This means that all RNA-seq processed data and accompanying analysis will be made publicly available to benefit researchers, according to a press release about the grant award.

“While Treehouse wants to know whether molecular-level tumor activity it has identified in the lab drives tumor growth, the team is ultimately concerned with whether genomic analysis could provide a measurable benefit to patients,” the organization said in the press release. “Significantly, Treehouse proposes to measure "clinical benefit" not only in terms of tumor response and symptom control, but also in terms of how patients, their families and their physicians respond to this tool and use it into their decision-making.” Information regarding acceptance of the genomic analysis will be useful in improving educational and training during widespread use of genomic-based precision medicine, the organization said.

“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,” Haussler said.

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