Gift Puts Genomic Research into High Gear

annual-report-2013-genomic-researchFor more than a decade, the cure rate for pediatric cancer has been stalled at about 80 percent. A multidisciplinary team of specialists at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s is working to find cures for the other 20 percent—and won’t stop until they do.

Thanks to a gift in 2011 of $10 million from Hyundai Motor America, the largest corporate gift in CHOC’s history, Leonard Sender, M.D., medical director of the Cancer Institute, and his team are conducting cutting-edge genomic research to better understand cancers that occur in children and teenagers.

Whole genome (DNA) sequencing of both tumors and healthy tissue and transcriptome (RNA) sequencing of tumors is being conducted to identify the molecular profile of cancers occurring in patients, according to Dr. Sender. The goal is to identify genetic mutations that may be responsible for a child’s cancer, and to determine how cancer cells differ from cells that have mutated but are noncancerous.

Once whole genome and transcriptome sequencing procedures are performed, the data is analyzed by oncologists, cancer epidemiologists, cancer biologists and bioinformaticists. Their aim is to identify treatments and available medications that may be beneficial for the patient based on the molecular profile of the cancer.

“Even if we are unable to identify a treatment that is available now, the information learned may be used to help us better understand what causes cancer and how it may be treated or prevented in the future,” Dr. Sender said.

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