The Cancer Genome Atlas Project


Cancer is now understood to include more than 200 different diseases. In all forms of cancer, genomic changes cause disruptions within cellular pathways that result in uncontrolled cell growth. One in three people in the Western world develops cancer. One in five will die of the disease. Cancer is, therefore, the most common genetic disease. The Cancer Genome Atlas Pilot Project seeks to explore the entire spectrum of genomic change in cancer through the application of genome analysis technologies, including large-scale genome sequencing.

The Cancer Genome Atlas Project (TCGA), was initiated in 2006 to identify important genetic changes involved in lung, brain, and ovarian cancers. The project will enable new discoveries and tools that will provide the basis for new cancer therapies, diagnostics, and preventive strategies.

The overall began in 2006 with a technical demonstration project, known as the Tumor Sequencing Project (TSP), to determine the feasibility of a full-scale program to systematically explore the universe of genomic changes involved in human lung cancer.

As in the Human Genome Project, TCGA data are made available to the worldwide research community without restriction. These data will provide researchers and clinicians with an early glimpse of an unprecedented, comprehensive "atlas" of information describing the genomes of all cancers. This atlas will enable the research community to reach the long-range objective of understanding cancer at the molecular level and will help transform the bench-to-bedside research paradigm with prevention, early diagnosis, targeted treatment and cure.

All DNA specimens used in TCGA have been anonymized along with their phenotypic data so that an investigator cannot link an individual specimen with a patient identity. The coding and naming that is visible in the public databases will not allow the traces from multiple amplicons from the same DNA sample to be associated.

The goal of studying the human genome has always been to improve human health. TCGA represents another step in that direction.

Additional Resources

Learn more about The Cancer Genome Atlas Project

Related Publications

Chen F, Zhang Y, Varambally S, Creighton CJ. Molecular Correlates of Metastasis by Systematic Pan-Cancer Analysis Across The Cancer Genome Atlas. Mol Cancer Res. 2019 ;17(2):476-487.

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Zhang Y, Yang L, Kucherlapati M, Chen F, Hadjipanayis A, Pantazi A, et al. A Pan-Cancer Compendium of Genes Deregulated by Somatic Genomic Rearrangement across More Than 1,400 Cases. Cell Rep. 2018 ;24(2):515-527.

Berger AC, Korkut A, Kanchi RS, Hegde AM, Lenoir W, Liu W, et al. A Comprehensive Pan-Cancer Molecular Study of Gynecologic and Breast Cancers. Cancer Cell. 2018 ;33(4):690-705.e9.

Ding L, Bailey MH, Porta-Pardo E, Thorsson V, Colaprico A, Bertrand D, et al. Perspective on Oncogenic Processes at the End of the Beginning of Cancer Genomics. Cell. 2018 ;173(2):305-320.e10.

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Ellrott K, Bailey MH, Saksena G, Covington KR, Kandoth C, Stewart C, et al. Scalable Open Science Approach for Mutation Calling of Tumor Exomes Using Multiple Genomic Pipelines. Cell Syst. 2018 ;6(3):271-281.e7.

Chen F, Zhang Y, Gibbons DL, Deneen B, Kwiatkowski DJ, Ittmann M, et al. Pan-Cancer Molecular Classes Transcending Tumor Lineage Across 32 Cancer Types, Multiple Data Platforms, and over 10,000 Cases. Clin Cancer Res. 2018 ;24(9):2182-2193.

Grasso CS, Giannakis M, Wells DK, Hamada T, Mu XJasmine, Quist M, et al. Genetic mechanisms of immune evasion in colorectal cancer. Cancer Discov. 2018 ;.