The Big Book of Cancer Cells

Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia profiles genetic abnormalities

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) At its core, cancer starts when things go wrong at the genetic level. Cells that have been removed from tumors and cultured in the lab become cultured cell lines, which are essential to research.

In an important public-private collaboration, comprehensive data on the world's cancer cell lines is now publicly available.

In an effort to help researchers design clinical trials and advance cancer research, Novartis and the Broad Institute have produced the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia (CCLE) that catalogs the genetic and molecular profiles of nearly 1,000 human cancer cell lines.

"Find out if you qualify for a clinical trial; ask your oncologist."

"Cell lines reflect the genetic disturbances that drive cancers. Probing cell lines with medicines targeted at specific pathways, as done for the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia, provides a powerful tool for design of cancer treatment," said Mark Fishman, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR).

Fishman goes on to say that the intent of this partnership is for scientists and industry to use this data "to discover new drug targets, to evaluate current therapies, and to facilitate treatment for their patients with cancer."

This massive undertaking was published in the journal Nature and released in advance online March 31, 2012.

“We hope that the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia will be a preclinical resource that could guide clinical trials,” said Levi A. Garraway, a senior associate member of the Broad Institute, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and a co-corresponding author of the paper.

Novartis spokesperson, Mariellen Gallagher, explains what that means. "The success of a personalized medicine approach using targeted therapies ultimately depends on being able to identify the patients who will benefit the most from any given drug.

"Increasingly, there is both a greater acceptance and ability to genetically profile cancers from individual patients in order to direct clinicians to drugs that may most effectively kill off those cancer cells," Gallagher told dailyRx in an email.

"So developing sound strategies to select the correct patient populations pre-clinically, prior to the onset of a clinical trial is the key to the Nature paper. "

"Without access to a systematically collected set of molecular data, researchers can't match experiments from cell lines with patient tumors when new medicines become available," said William Sellers, Global Head of Oncology, NIBR. "The Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia will provide scientists with the ability to build predictive models of what types of patients will respond to a particular class of drugs."

The Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia project funded by a grant from the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. Additional support was provided by the National Cancer Institute, the Starr Cancer Consortium, and the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 5, 2012
Last Updated:
April 5, 2012