BGI and Big Pharma probe trigger of liver cancer

DNA sequencing and analysis has shed more light on the role of hepatitis B virus in causing liver cancer. In a major collaboration involving three Big Pharma outfits and BGI, the genomic sequencing and bioinformatics provider, researchers found that the virus integrated into cancer genomes more often than those healthy cells in a large sampling of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer.  

As Bio-IT World reports, hepatitis B integration into a genome is believed to be a major trigger of liver cancer. Yet previous efforts to understand this mechanism fell short because of technological barriers and too few patients in studies, according to the researchers, who published their findings in Nature Genetics. In the study that sequenced and analyzed the genomes of Chinese patients, HBV integration was found in 86.4% of tumor genomes, compared with 30.7% of the time in normal liver tissue, according to China-based BGI.

BGI researchers contributed to the study as part of the non-profit Asian Cancer Research Group, formed in 2010 with the three charter pharma backers: Eli Lilly ($LLY), Merck ($MRK) and Pfizer ($PFE). The group strives to learn about cancers that impact patients in Asia and share the data with the research community. Other contributors to the study included the University of Hong Kong, National University of Singapore, National University Health System in Singapore and the Genome Institute of Singapore, according to Bio-IT World.

According to the World Health Organization, hepatocellular carcinoma killed 695,000 people in 2008. And hepatitis B infections are associated with greater than 100-fold increase in risk of developing the liver cancer.

- here's the release
- see Bio-IT World's article