At the Festival of Genomics London 2017, The Institute of Cancer Research asked three key people working in cancer research why genomics is important. 

A New Challenge for Research

Professor Paul Workman, ICR Chief Executive:

“Genomics is very critical for cancer treatment right now because you can target particular oncology patients and those patients are benefitting as part of routine care. So it’s a part of a here and now therapy”.Now the new challenge for research is that we recognise that the drug resistance powered by revolutionary biology of cancers is the key challenge that we face, and we absolutely need genomics to define what’s going on genetically in a cancer and develop adaptive therapies, combination therapies in order to overcome this major problem. In that way we can increase survival and increase the high proportion of cures five to ten years from now”.

100,000 Genomes Project

Dr Clare Turnbull from the ICR and Genomics England:

“The 100,000 genomes project is all about amassing genomic data, but putting it next to clinical data, and it’s only then that we would be able to understand all of these complex genomic changes that we’re seeing in the tumour when we align them against the data that tell us how that patient’s tumour behaved, how it responded to treatment, whether is metastasized and what the outcomes were. So we have many, many challenges as we try and understand the genomics of cancer, because we’re trying to impose the principles that we’ve learnt about large studies, evidence based medicine and epidemiology, on what is essentially genomically unique, individual, n of 1 tumours. So lots and lots of challenges ahead, but very exciting times.”

Dr. Clare Turnbull is the Clinical Lead for the 100,000 Genomes Project.

Cancer – A Disease of the Genome

Dr. Bissan Al-Lazikani, Head of Data Science at the ICR:

“Cancer is really a disease of the genome, and mutations happen in our genomes, alterations cause our normal cells to start behaving abnormally, growing out of control. And the most important thing to remember is once the cells start behaving that way they become essentially autonomous. They’re individual cells, they’re growing at random, mutating at random, doing their own thing at random. So not only can genomics explain to us what were the common causes at the start of that cancer, but also, they can allow us track and map the changes of that cancer population over time as it grows and alter in response to the treatments that we are giving them.”


Thank you to the ICR London for the videos.