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U-M researchers will support new ‘liquid biopsy’ Cancer Moonshot initiative

Government, academia, pharma partnership will create open dataset to stimulate translational research

ANN ARBOR, Michigan — As part of the Cancer Moonshot, representatives from government, academic, pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies are launching a new partnership in pursuit of creating an open database for liquid biopsies to potentially accelerate the development of safe and effective blood profiling diagnostic technologies for patient benefit.

The group of 20 stakeholders will launch a Blood Profiling Atlas pilot to aggregate, make freely available, and harmonize for further analysis, raw datasets from circulating tumor cells, circulating tumor DNA and other assays. The dataset will include relevant clinical data, such as diagnosis and treatment history. The project will also involve sharing of sample preparation and handling protocols from multiple different groups to create best practices and standards. 

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers will share data from patient blood samples that have been analyzed, including circulating tumor cell data and genetic sequencing of DNA and RNA.

In addition, the U-M team will share standard operating procedures for collecting and processing blood specimens in a way that stabilizes the DNA, making results more reliable and reproducible. U-M researchers are leaders in understanding this process.

The Blood Profiling Atlas will allow approved researchers access to raw unprocessed datasets in a scalable and reproducible manner. The data storage and analytics team will work with the Blood Profiling Atlas members and the research community to develop standards for data use, user authentication and authorization to ensure privacy and security, as well as data annotation and harmonization. Harmonization and data processing methods will be described using portable and reproducible methods to enable widespread adoption of standardized methods. 

The U-M team participating in this project includes Muneesh Tewari, M.D., Ph.D., Daniel F. Hayes, M.D., Scott Tomlins, M.D., Ph.D., and Todd Morgan, M.D.

“There have been some very exciting developments in the last few years using new types of blood tests to provide better monitoring and more individualized therapies for cancer patients. There’s a lot of potential opportunity for this to advance cancer care,” says Tewari, Ray and Ruth Anderson-Laurence M. Sprague Memorial Research Professor at the University of Michigan Medical School.

During his 2016 State of the Union Address, President Obama called on Vice President Biden to lead a new, national Cancer Moonshot, focused on making a decade's worth of progress in preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer in five years -  ultimately striving to end cancer as we know it.

“The Moonshot Blood Profiling Atlas will help accelerate this progress and the development of these new approaches. By sharing data and best practices, we can move the research forward faster,” Tewari says.

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