The Cancer Genome Atlas is a landmark research program supported by the National Cancer Institute and National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health. TCGA researchers will identify the genomic changes in more than 20 different types of human cancer.
By comparing the DNA in samples of normal tissue and cancer tissue taken from the same patient, researchers can identify changes specific to that particular cancer.
TCGA is analyzing hundreds of samples for each type of cancer. By looking at many samples from many different patients, researchers will gain a better understanding of what makes one cancer different from another cancer. This is important because even two patients with the same type of cancer may experience very different outcomes or respond very differently to treatments. By connecting specific genomic changes with specific outcomes, researchers will be able to develop more effective, individualized ways of helping each cancer patient.
What is TCGA Trying to Find?
TCGA will help us to understand what turns a normal cell into a cancer cell. By comparing DNA from normal and cancer tissue, we have already learned that:
There are certain areas of the genome commonly affected in several types of cancers. Often, these changes affect genes that control pathways in cells that cause cells to divide and survive when they normally would die.
Specific changes – also called signatures – allow us to tell one type of cancer from another. These signatures help doctors identify specific types
of cancer, which may respond differently to various treatments or have a different prognosis.