Membership in Project GENIE spotlights Providence’s innovative genomics program

Authors: Brady Bernard, Ph.D., director, bioinformatics, Providence Cancer Institute
Carlo Bifulco, M.D., chief medical officer, Providence Genomics, Providence Cancer Institute

When Providence Cancer Institute of Oregon and Swedish Cancer Institute were invited in May 2018 to join the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Genomics Evidence Neoplasia Information Exchange, or Project GENIE, we knew this would provide an excellent opportunity to support advanced research and personalized cancer care for our patients.

Now, five years later the consortium is a success – adding new data types as well as institutions and cancer centers in underrepresented communities and geographic areas.

What is Project GENIE?
Project GENIE, an international data-sharing consortium of leading cancer centers, is designed to boost oncology research by making high quality, de-identified genomic sequencing data and clinical outcomes from cancer patients accessible to the global cancer research community.

Providence Cancer Institute and Swedish Cancer Institute work collaboratively within the consortium to provide data to the GENIE registry. The Providence team is led by led by Walter J. Urba, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer, Providence Cancer Institute, and the Swedish team is led by Philip J. Gold, M.D., medical oncologist, director of clinical research and the program leader for the gastrointestinal oncology program at Swedish Cancer Institute.

More data accelerates cancer research
Over the past decade, advances in genomic sequencing have contributed to more data about cancer cells and mutations that drive cancers. But researchers need large populations of patients to draw conclusions about the role mutations play in the development of cancers and how the disease responds to treatment.

Project GENIE helps by providing greater scale of cancer types and driver mutations from a large population of patients. Currently, the repository contains genomic data from more than 148,000 people from six countries and more than 167,000 tumors. Non-small cell lung cancer, breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancers, glioma and melanoma make up the top 50% of all cancer types in the repository. The large sample of cancer types is a powerful tool in improving clinical trial matching and targeted therapies for patients.

Providing a high standard of data
Creating high-quality genomic data for Project GENIE requires the expertise of the bioinformatics team at Providence Cancer Institute and the Molecular Genomics Laboratory, one of the largest sequencing facilities on the West Coast. The lab performs comprehensive genomic profiling (CGP) via next-generation sequencing of both DNA and RNA from tumor samples.

Changes in genetic code are assessed in this process, giving scientists a roadmap for tracing genetic mutations caused by environmental factors, family history or both. The information informs oncologists’ ability to personalize a patient’s cancer care and treatments.

In the past, people with cancer were matched to clinical trials and treatments based on their type of cancer. Taking a more targeted approach – also referred to as precision medicine – means treatment or a clinical trial can be recommended to patients based on specific genetic changes to their tumor, not only their type of cancer. 

The data gathered via CGP is analyzed by Providence’s bioinformatics team using advanced algorithms and computational approaches. The team then establishes infrastructure to help our researchers store, integrate and access these large amounts of biological data and related information.

GENIE will adapt and grow
One of GENIE’s initial goals was to prove that with a limited budget the consortium could establish a workflow and an ecosystem for clinical genomic data sharing. So far, GENIE has been a success.

But that is only the tip of the iceberg. As Project GENIE expands to include new data types such as cell-free DNA sequencing, pathology and imaging, the population pool will expand to reflect the diverse global population. The consortium recognizes the need to improve the data pool and is expanding the next open call to include institutions and cancer centers in underrepresented communities and geographic areas. 

Participating in the GENIE consortium is important to the growth of both Providence and Swedish research arms and our contributions to pioneering cancer treatments. We are in the unique position to quickly translate this work from the lab to the clinic, greatly helping our patients now and in the future.

Learn more

Brady Bernard, Ph.D., is director, bioinformatics, Providence Cancer Institute, assistant member, Computational Immuno-Oncology Laboratory, Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, a division of Providence Cancer Institute

Carlo Bifulco, M.D., is chief medical officer, Providence Genomics, director, translational molecular pathology, Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, a division of Providence Cancer Institute

About the Author

The inScope content team focuses on bringing you the latest in clinical news from our team of world-class medical providers and physician leaders.

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