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Investigators at the forefront of international efforts to decode the human genome and translate the findings into tools to better understand, find, treat and prevent cancer are scheduled to be at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for the Sixth Annual Biomedical Research Symposium Friday, October 1.
The meeting comes a decade after the first working draft of the human genome was completed and almost a year into the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project (PCGP), the St. Jude-Washington University collaboration to sequence the genetic codes of more than 600 young cancer patients.
“Genomics is such a rapidly evolving field that it is difficult to keep up with the advances both in the technology and in translating the knowledge to diseases like cancer. This will be a terrific opportunity to be updated about the potential of applying genomics to cancer and gain insight into where the field is heading,” said Mary Relling, Pharm.D., Pharmaceutical Sciences chair. She and Richard Gilbertson, M.D., Ph.D., co-leader of the Brain Tumor Program, organized the conference.
Gilbertson said the symposium speakers will provide an overview of genomics and cancer, offer fresh insight into the biology driving cancer and highlight advances in understanding the genetic alterations at work in specific diseases, including neuroblastoma and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
He said the day-long event should help investigators throughout St. Jude draw new connections between genetics and genomics and their own research. The result will likely be new collaborations inside and outside the institution, Gilbertson said.
The speakers include Timothy Ley, M.D., Washington University, who is scheduled to discuss the AML genome. Ley is helping direct that institution’s participation in the PCGP. James Downing, M.D., scientific director, said the project is on track to achieve its first-year goal of sequencing the entire genome of both the normal and the cancer cells of 50 pediatric cancer patients. Work so far has yielded very promising results, he said. Downing, Relling and Gilbertson all serve on the committee overseeing the hospital’s participation in the three-year, $65 million effort.
Other speakers include Deborah Nickerson, Ph.D., University of Washington, a leader in using next-generation sequencing technology to discover inherited variations causing disease. Her talk is titled “Next Generation Genetics.”
Michael Stratton, M.D., Institute of Cancer Research, London, is a leader in the European cancer genomics research effort. His talk is titled “Evolution of the Cancer Genome.”
John Maris, M.D., Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is pioneering efforts to understand the genetic alterations driving neuroblastoma. His talk is titled “Neuroblastoma Genetics: A Tale of Two Genomes.”
Nazneen Rahman, Ph.D., also of London’s Institute of Cancer Research, is studying how genomics affect risk of adult and childhood cancers. Rahman’s talk is titled “Genetic Predisposition to Cancer – New Technologies, New Insight.”
Gilean McVean, Ph.D., University of Oxford, is scheduled to discuss the 1,000 Genomes Project, an international effort to generate a more complete picture of genetic variation by sequencing the genomes of more than 1,000 individuals from around the world.
Ronald DePinho, M.D., Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, is recognized for his work to understand the role certain genes and pathways play in driving both cancer and the patient’s treatment response. His talk is titled “Axes of Aging and Cancer.”
Todd Golub, M.D., Broad Institute and Dana-Farber, is a founding member of the Broad Institute and serves as director of its Cancer Program. His talk is titled “Genomic Information and Cancer.”
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering research and treatment of children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Ranked the No. 1 pediatric cancer hospital by Parents magazine and the No. 1 children’s cancer hospital by U.S. News & World Report, St. Jude is the first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. St. Jude has treated children from all 50 states and from around the world, serving as a trusted resource for physicians and researchers. St. Jude has developed research protocols that helped push overall survival rates for childhood cancer from less than 20 percent when the hospital opened to almost 80 percent today. St. Jude is the national coordinating center for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium and the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. In addition to pediatric cancer research, St. Jude is also a leader in sickle cell disease research and is a globally prominent research center for influenza.
Founded in 1962 by the late entertainer Danny Thomas, St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world, publishing more research articles than any other pediatric cancer research center in the United States. St. Jude treats more than 5,700 patients each year and is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance. St. Jude is financially supported by thousands of individual donors, organizations and corporations without which the hospital’s work would not be possible. In 2010, St. Jude was ranked the most trusted charity in the nation in a public survey conducted by Harris Interactive, a highly respected international polling and research firm.