U.K. starts enrolling cancer patients into the 100,000 Genomes Project

The United Kingdom has opened up another front of its 100,000 Genomes Project. Having started off sequencing the genomes of people with rare diseases, the team behind the initiative are now ready to take aim at their other big target: cancer.

Rare diseases and cancer have been the two targets for the massive sequencing project since early in its development, but it has taken time to get the infrastructure up and running. Another important piece came online this week when Oxford NHS Genomic Medicine Centre became the first of the 11 units of its ilk to start enrolling cancer patients. By the end of the project, the Oxford site expects to have sequenced more than 1,200 rare disease and cancer patients and their families. The Oxford unit is splitting its sequencing capacity pretty evenly between rare disease and cancer patients.

Having worked through some of the teething problems associated with bolting an industrial-scale sequencing operation onto a healthcare system, Genomics England is now looking to pass on some of what it has learned. The first step is the inking of an alliance with Genome British Columbia. "A measure of success of our mission will be whether we can convince similar healthcare systems around the world that the time is right to adopt approaches developed within the 100,000 Genomes Project," Genomics England Chief Scientist Mark Caulfield said in a statement.

At the same time, Caulfield and his colleagues are still figuring out how to achieve some of their objectives for the initiative. Speaking to Nature this week, John Bell, a researcher at the University of Oxford who sits on the board of Genomics England, said the end goal is to make whole genomes a standard part of health records in the U.K. In working toward this objective, Genomics England has teamed up with the companies it sees as being at the top of the data analysis game. Bell sees these collaborations having a transformative effect on the sector.

- read the cancer release
- here's the Genome BC news
- and Nature's feature