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.
The overall purpose of Polyethnic-1000 is to study the genomic landscapes of cancer in the ethnically diverse New York City population. The project is envisioned to occur in three stages.
The first stage entails a relatively small retrospective genomic study of about one hundred available tissue samples with the objectives to:
- Develop the required infrastructure for a prospective study with strong connections between academic centers, partner hospitals, and the NYGC.
- Document an effective pipeline to sequence and analyze tumor DNA and RNA at the NYGC.
The second stage will consist of a prospective study of moderate size to test the established pipeline and infrastructure, specifically, aiming to:
- Define whether the established framework developed in Stage I is adequate for prospective sample collection with sequencing and processing of germline and somatic DNA, as well as tumor RNA.
- Develop a database of information about ethnically diverse populations that can serve as a starting point for developing hypotheses.
- Expand the study population to reach our goal of a minimum of 1000 ethnically diverse patients with germline and tumor genomic data and pre-defined clinical data.
In the third stage, the research infrastructure firmly established in the first two stages will be used to support selected studies with adequate statistical power to answer specific research questions about cancer in ethnically diverse populations. The aims of stage III are to:
- Investigate specific research questions from selected research proposals, with a variety of current or newly developed genomic methods (whole-exome, whole-genome, single-cell RNAseq, or others).
- Integrate polyethnic genomic information with established cancer genome projects that are being conducted in the US and at international sites that are committed to data sharing.