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Building Bridges to Conquer Cancer Genomics- Report from ASCO 2013

Naomi O'Grady
| May 31, 2013

chicago bridgeThe theme for the 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago is "Building Bridges to Conquer Cancer Genomics".  A fitting theme for this exciting time in oncology where genomics implementation is helping to pave the way for a better understanding of inherited cancer risk, therapeutic resistance and response, and disease prognosis. I’m excited to hear about how genomics will lead to tools for monitoring and earlier detection. 

Yesterday’s highlight was an exciting pre-annual meeting seminar entitled “Genetics and Genomics for the Practicing Clinician” where about two hundred professionals gathered to learn about how genomics is being enlisted in the war on cancer. Thought leaders lectured on the best practices, lessons learned, and outstanding challenges in the field with an aim to demystify cancer genomics. This information will enable practicing clinicians to leverage more comprehensive sequencing-based tests to evaluate and diagnose inherited predisposition and to evaluate tumor genomics for informing therapeutic strategies. In this session, Michael Berger of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center presented basics of nucleic acid interrogation platforms, which provided a technology overview from PCR to next-generation sequencing (NGS) and how these technologies can be applied. There were several talks on inherited disease risk, a topic that has captured the recent media spotlight with Angelina Jolie's public disclosure of prophylactic double mastectomy after finding she carried a BRCA gene variant. Tumor biology was another key area of emphasis, with speakers discussing the challenges of sequencing and analyzing tumor genomes, computational analysis of NGS data, and discussions on which tumor specimen to examine. 

Today the seminar continued, featuring talks on clinical applications. William Pao from the Vanderbilt Cancer Center discussed their innovative decision support tools, which help a clinician choose which tests to order appropriate for the patient and their disease progression, enabling personalized medicine.  Jeffery Trent of TGen discussed their experience with molecular tumor boards in the application of tumor genomic testing for therapeutic selection. The session closed with a review of cases from Massachusetts General Hospital and Vanderbilt University, where genomics has been applied in lung cancers and melanoma, as well as a discussion of a case at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on how to handle incidental findings. 

The 2013 ASCO meeting will convene with just over twenty-five thousand oncology professionals and forty-five hundred exhibitors. As the exhibit hall opens on June 1st, Illumina is offering sessions from 11:00 AM to 12:30 each day where meeting participants can engage in discussion to learn more about the tools available to explore genomic variation, structural variation, expression and methylation. Collaboration is a key value at Illumina, and we hope we can "Connect to Empower". Please join the conversation and visit us in booth #18123.