Polyethnic-1000 Vision

In a new collaborative effort organized by the New York Genome Center (NYGC), leaders of the New York City cancer research community have joined together to advance cancer genomics and its practice in clinical care by leveraging the City’s famously large and diverse population. The vision of this project, called Polyethnic-1000, is to deepen our understanding of the contributions ethnicities make to the incidence and behavior of cancers, thereby improving outcomes for many patients, especially those who currently lack access to the most recent advances in medical science. This will be achieved by bringing genomic innovation to patient populations generally under-represented in research and hence deprived of the benefits of scientific progress.


Recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies have revolutionized approaches to the prevention, risk assessment, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancers. However, many ethnic groups, especially non-European minorities, have been significantly under-represented in cancer research, including clinical trials, and have not received equal benefits in clinical practice. As a result, our current knowledge about tumor biology, cancer risk, and response to treatment has primarily been derived from patients of European descent. These inequities limit our understanding of the many types of cancer and may exacerbate health disparities in the United States. In this proposal, we address both the scientific and social issues by creating a dynamic research platform within the greater New York area that promises to enhance the ways in which cancer is prevented, diagnosed, and treated. Polyethnic-1000 will establish a framework to enhance interactions among our region’s academic and health centers to advance cancer genomics. These efforts should improve and widen the use of genomics for all, especially currently underserved ethnic minority populations.

Collaborative Cancer Genomics Research Projects Focused on Underserved Populations Launched

P-1000 has awarded grants to support seven new research projects that will study a wide array of cancers in minority patients: bladder, pancreatic, breast, prostate, colon, endometrial and lung cancers.

These projects follow the first phase of P-1000, in which a multi-institutional network of collaborators was developed throughout New York City, including scientists, pathologists, local Institutional Review Boards and administrators; a scientific leadership steering committee and review board were established; a centralized, secure system for data management, sharing, analysis and quality controls was created; and a data sharing platform, including visualization tools, was developed.

For this next phase of P-1000, a request for proposals was distributed to the members of the P-1000 community with the aim of identifying projects that would provide the greatest benefit to under-represented ethnic populations. An external review board composed of six esteemed scientists and physicians, all experts in cancer biology and cancer health disparities, reviewed the proposals and selected the projects. Chaired by Dr. Deborah Schrag (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute), the board also included Dr. Otis Brawley (Johns Hopkins), Dr. Funmi Olopade (University of Chicago), Dr. Susan Domchek (University of Pennsylvania), Dr. Stephen Chanock (NCI), and Dr. David Beer (University of Michigan). The awardees were selected based on relevance, innovation, experimental design, achievability, and most effective use of the P-1000 network.

These new research grants have been made possible by generous gifts from NYGC Board member Weslie Janeway, the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Family Foundation, The New York Community Trust, Donna and Ben Rosen, and with support from Illumina Inc. Funding of the first phase of the project was provided by The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research.

The award-winning cancer research projects include:

  • “Immunogenomic Determinants of Ethnic Disparities in Clinical Outcomes for Urothelial Cancer Patients,” a Weill Cornell Medicine study to determine how ethnic diversity affects the clinical outcomes of bladder cancer. The multi-disciplinary team will be led by Drs. Bishoy Faltas and Olivier Elemento, Weill Cornell Medicine.
  • “Molecular Determinants of Increased Vulnerability to Pancreatic Cancer Among African Americans,” a multi-institutional study to understand why this patient population has higher incidences and lower survival rates after diagnosis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma in comparison to other populations. Lead investigators include: Drs. Alexander Krasnitz, David Tuveson, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Drs. Jeff Boyd, Matthew Weiss, James Crawford, Noah Kauff, Northwell Health; Laura Martello-Rooney, Shivakumar Vignesh, Evan Grossman, Francesco Serafini, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University and Kings County Medical Center.
  • “Ethnic-based Differences Between East Asian and Caucasian Patients in Genomic, Transcriptomic and Immune Profiles of Pre-invasive and Invasive Adenocarcinoma of the Lung,” a study that aims to identify the somatic alterations in non-solid lung nodules in East Asian and Caucasian patients that explain the significant demographic, clinical and biological differences between these two groups. The multi-disciplinary research team includes Drs. Nasser Altorki, Alain Borczuk, Timothy McGraw, Giuseppe Giacconi, Olivier Elemento, Weill Cornell Medicine.
  • “Molecular Links between Ancestry and Outcome Disparity in Breast and Prostate Cancer Patients Across the African Diaspora in New York City,” a study to identify molecular links between African ancestry and aggressive forms of breast and prostate cancer and investigate these as a source of racial disparities in cancer outcomes. Co-PIs include: Drs. Olivier Elemento, Cora Sternberg, Juan Miguel Mosquera, Melissa Davis, Weill Cornell Medicine; Dr. Marcin Imielinski, New York Genome Center; Dr. Paz Polak, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Dr. Lisa Newman, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
  • “Uncovering the Mechanisms of Colorectal Cancer Disparities in African Americans,” a study by researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. The project aims to employ a multipronged approach to interrogate the genetic and non-genetic factors that can improve understanding of colorectal cancer in African American patient populations. Co-PIs include: Drs. Semir Beyaz, Hannah Meyer, Richard McCombie, Fieke Froeling, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Drs. Laura Martello-Rooney, Mohammad Almeqdadi, Henry Talus, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.
  • “Mechanisms of Endometrial Cancer Disparities in African Americans,” a collaborative study by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, and Northwell Health. The aim is to establish an annotated biobank and create the necessary clinical and experimental frameworks to gain new insights about the endometrial cancer disparities in African Americans. Lead investigators include: Drs. Semir Beyaz, Hannah Meyer, Richard McCombie, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Drs. Onyinye Balogun, Hani Ashamalla, Tan Ince, Margaux Kanis, Constantine Gorelick, NewYork-Presbyterian/Brooklyn Methodist; Dr. Wen Shen, Weill Cornell Medicine; Drs. Gary Goldberg, Marina Frimer, Aaron Nizam, Northwell Health.
  • Multiple Myeloma in African Americans, a collaborative project with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and New York University, focused on the key genomic and immunological mechanisms responsible for racial disparities in multiple myeloma. Co-PIs include Drs. Francesco Maura (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center), Gareth Morgan (NYU). and Ola Landgren (formerly at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; now at the Sylvester Cancer Center in Miami).

Over the course of the next two years, the funded researchers will work with academic health centers and community hospitals throughout the New York City region to recruit patients, perform whole-genome and RNA sequencing with cancers and normal tissues to identify differences between ethnicities that may account for disparities in occurrence, response to treatment, and survival for the cancer types under study.

Findings from the projects will be shared with the research community. Data will be stored in a repository maintained by the NYGC that will serve as a global resource for efforts to understand  the roles of ethnic diversity in cancer.

About The New York Genome Cancer Center Group and the NYGC

The Genome Center Cancer Group (GCCG) is composed of clinicians and cancer researchers representing most of the NYGC member institutions, including all of New York City’s NCI-Designated Cancer Centers and other renowned academic and medical institutions and industries. It meets monthly and is chaired by Drs. Harold Varmus and Charles Sawyers. Polyethnic-1000 will build on the extensive expertise available at the NYGC, with its well-established sequencing and analysis pipelines, to expand these services to the wider NY community. Hospitals serving large populations of ethnic minority patients have been and will be approached to join Polyethnic-1000; these institutions include hospitals affiliated with NYGC’s Institutional Founding Members (IFMs) and unaffiliated hospitals, as well as major academic health centers.

For more information on the NYGC and a full list of member institutions, please visit https://www.nygenome.org.

Contact information:

Nicolas Robine, PhD
Director, Computational Biology
New York Genome Center
101 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10013
Office: (646) 977-7406, Cell: (917) 753-5471