A joint initiative between TCGA, Prashanti Cancer Care Mission, IISER Pune, Persistent Systems, CSIR-IGIB, ICR-UK and DBT-Wellcome Trust India Alliance. A collaborative effort between cancer scientists, researchers, clinicians, data scientists and technology providers to bring a paradigm shift in precision medicine and improve translational cancer research in India.

Centre for Translational Cancer Research (a joint initiative of Prashanti Cancer Care Mission and IISER Pune), Persistent Systems, TCGA, Institute of Cancer Research (UK), CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology and DBT-Wellcome Trust India Alliance jointly organizing the 2nd TCGA-themed virtual workshop and conference on December 3-5, 2020. This online conference was based on the theme ‘Towards Team Science for Multi-omics Cancer Research in South Asia’.

Conference website: https://tcga.ctcr.in

TCGA is a landmark cancer genomics program that molecularly characterized over 20,000 primary cancer and matched normal samples spanning 33 cancer types. This joint effort between the US National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute began in 2006, bringing together researchers from diverse disciplines and multiple institutions. Over the years, TCGA generated over 2.5 petabytes of genomic, epigenomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic data. The data, which has already led to improvements in the ability to diagnose, treat, and prevent cancer, will remain publicly available for anyone in the research community to use.

On similar lines, the establishment of an ‘Indian Cancer Genomics Atlas (ICGA)’ has been initiated by a consortium of key stakeholders in India led by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Government of India in which several government agencies, cancer hospitals, academic institutions, and private sector partners. A brief outline of the proposed Indian Cancer Genomics Atlas is appended below.

The TCGA 2020 conference was inaugurated at the auspicious hands of Prof Shekhar Mande ( Director General, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Government of India) and Dr. Jean Claude Zenklusen (Director, TCGA, US-NCI).

During the 3rd day online event, TCGA experts and key ICGA stakeholders deliberated on the vision, design, and plans of the ICGA project with regards to common SOPs, operations, logistics and governance models.

More importantly, conference sessions were planned around the central theme of building a culture of team science for undertaking mega-cancer research projects in India and neighboring countries. Global experts discussed technical aspects of data/ biospecimen/ multi-omics studies and applications of Precision Oncology in clinical cancer management.

In addition, eminent translational cancer scientists and onco-clinicians from India and abroad joined at the conference as speakers. Over 1000 delegates representing basic scientists, translational researchers, clinical researchers, genomics scientists, bioinformaticians, bio-statisticians, big-data experts from academia, clinical medicine, industry, and governmental agencies attend. The conference was open to everyone with prior registration.

Quotes

Prof Shekhar Mande
Director General, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Government of India
The establishment of an ‘Indian Cancer Genomics Atlas (ICGA)’ a pan India consortium involving multi-disciplinary teams is a much needed, important initiative and can transform cancer management in the country in the times to come. Cancer is an area where genomics offers tremendous promise and ICGA will enable the generation of harmonized Indian data that is critical for ‘personalized therapy’ for the Indian population.

Dr Jean Claude Zenklusen
Director, The Cancer Genomics Atlas, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, USA
I am glad to be able to help the researchers in India with launching the ICGA project. I am truly amazed at the speed and professionalism shown in launching this effort that can greatly benefit not only the Indian population but humanity as a whole.

Dr Anand Deshpande
Founder, Managing Director, and Chairman, Persistent Systems
Persistent Systems is pleased to jointly host the 2nd TCGA Conference and Workshop in India along with its partners. This conference brings together the cancer research community on a common platform to accelerate multi-disciplinary, collaborative, and nation-wide initiatives that are clinically impactful. The Center for Translational Cancer Research (CTCR) and Indian Cancer Genomics Atlas (ICGA) are allied initiatives aimed at tackling the understanding, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer in South Asia. At Persistent Systems, we have always believed in the transformational impact of technology on clinical research and bring our considerable technology expertise to this endeavor.

Prof Sunil Badve
Joshua Edwards Professor of Laboratory Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, USA
The ICGA, which started off as a dream, is now becoming a reality. As we execute this project, we need to constantly remind ourselves that the data generated needs to be comparable to international standards. This will enable comparisons and understanding of the similarities and differences between these populations. The results obtained will have an enormous impact on the people of Indian origin, whether they reside in India or they are NRIs like me.

Dr LS Shashidhara
Dean (R&D), Ashoka University and Professor, IISER Pune
President, International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS)
ICGA consortium brought together diverse expertise working on different aspects of cancer. Collectively, it will develop all protocols and ethical guidelines and get them validated and share with the entire consortium so that all of us generate data in the same way. As meta-analysis of all cancer data generated in India will be easier, more effective, and relevant, this makes cancer research more cost-effective and accelerates bench-to-bedside translation reducing the overall cancer burden in the country.

Dr CB Koppiker
Medical Director, Prashanti Cancer Care Mission, Pune
In my 30 years of onco-surgery practice, personalized cancer treatment has been a guiding principle. I am excited to see the significant strides in Molecular-Oncology that are enabling more effective cancer management globally. Cancers in India are uniquely different than the rest of the world with respect to epidemiology, clinico-pathology, and treatment response. Hence, large scale, co-ordinated national cancer genomics programs such as the Indian Cancer Genome Atlas (ICGA) are timely and pertinent for our nation. This high impact multidisciplinary project which has tremendous benefits to cancer patients can be successful only if all stakeholders work as one team over a long period of time. To realize its full potential, Prashanti Cancer Care Mission is happy to be at the forefront of this effort along with like minded premier cancer hospitals across the country.

Way forward

InnoHEALTH magazine team personally interacted with some of the organizing committee members (Dr Santosh Dixit, Dr Anamika Krishanpal, Disha Singh & Srikant Verma) to know their experiences and thoughts on the event organized.

1. Why do you organize the TCGA conference?

We see TCGA as an ideal team science project that can be referenced to create similar projects in India. By organizing TCGA conferences, we offer a platform where the Indian researchers can learn directly from the expert TCGA faculty members through knowledge/experience. This event is also a great place to network for collaborations, job opportunities, idea exchange, and community building.

2. What was different this year from last year?

Last year the primary objective was to learn about the TCGA project from the expert faculty members through multiple modes of learnings: plenary talks, keynote lectures, and panel discussions. But this year, the conference was aimed to deliberate on the vision, design, and plans of the Indian version of TCGA – Indian Cancer Genome Atlas (ICGA) with regards to common SOPs, operations, logistics, and governance models. Also, the number of collaborating partners increased with premier institutes from India (CSIR-IGIB) and UK (ICR) coming on board.

3. What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?

This year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were about to cancel the 2nd TCGA conference in India. However, we realised that there is a possibility to conduct such a mega event even through virtual means. We reached out to professional resources which could help us achieve our goal of conducting an online event.

4. What impact do you expect the 2nd TCGA conference to create?

This conference will help build a culture of team science for undertaking mega-cancer research projects in India.

5. What do you look forward to post the 2nd TCGA conference?

The ICGA project will get into action mode based on the deliberations in the conference. Several themes, topics, and teams from this conference will be the driving forces of ICGA plans.

5. What are some key takeaways from the 2nd TCGA conference? [time-stamps of YouTube links added for reference]

  • ‘Team Science’ is the key for conducting large scale studies [Day 2: Session 1 – 20:16]
  • Why do we need to set up a consortium similar to TCGA in India? – because our DNA and genetics are quite different from the world [Day 2: Session 1 – 10:34]
  • Ethics and laboratory protocols are going to be the foundation for Indian Cancer Genome Atlas (ICGA) [Day 2: Session 7 – 13:20]
  • Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) – one of the most aggressive cancer and commonly observed in young women – could be the first cancer type to be studied as part of Indian Cancer Genome Atlas (ICGA) [Day 2: Session 7 – 06:20]
  • The success of ICGA – a citizen science initiative, will depend on how we can engage citizens in the project. Thus, communicating the findings to the citizens on regular basis is very important [Day 2: Session 6 – 54:43]
    • how the developed India specific cancer database might help to diagnose, treat and prevent cancer
    • how the project will make cancer treatment affordable

YouTube links for reference:

Day 2: Session 1: Towards Establishment of Multi-Omics Cancer Research Projects in South Asia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7WHxoMXbQk
Day 2: Session 6: ICGA for Society, Society for ICGA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdbYmtmfcEQ
Day 2: Session 7: Panel Discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOXuZn1khUY

InnoHEALTH magazine digital team

Author InnoHEALTH magazine digital team

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