Cancer Genomics – The Next Level « Charlie Teo Foundation

Cancer Genomics – The Next Level

Researcher name: Prof Powell
Institution: Garvan Institute of Medical Research, AUS
Grant Name: More Data Grant
Grant amount (AUD): $1.2M
Grant Awarded: 2019
Status: Complete

Meet the Researcher

Prof Joseph Powell is a pioneer and entrepreneur. He leads an international team of top scientists to study our genetic code and how it causes disease. He’s also developed cutting-edge technologies that can diagnose lung disease in patients non-invasively. 

Cancer Genomics – The Next Level is a world-first large scale study that will organise the billion million bytes of genetic data from Australian brain cancer patients and make it universally accessible and useful. This project is also a prime example of how we’re working to break down silos, bringing together experts in genetics and data to tackle brain cancer.    

This work could change how we currently diagnose and treat brain cancer. Targeted therapies are powerful, but brain cancer is a target with many bullseyes that shift position whenever struck. Understanding how tumours become seething masses of varied cells, all with their own unique mutations will allow us to continue to strike the deadliest parts of the tumour until we hit the bullseye.

A world-first, large scale study of high-grade brain tumours to identify intra-tumoural cellular heterogeneity using the single cell sequencing technique

Over the last century, insufficient progress has been made in the management of brain cancer, therefore, a better understanding of its underlying biology is needed. Glioblastomas, the deadliest form of brain cancer, are intricate ecosystems composed of diverse malignant cells and non-malignant cells, whose behaviour as a whole determines response to therapies and patient outcome.

While it is critical to precisely measure all cellular elements in brain cancers, standard genomic and transcriptomic methods profile these complex entities as bulk samples, measuring only the average signal and masking the inherent cellular diversity. Bulk transcriptomic expression profiles have been instrumental in our initial understanding of brain biology and cancer but provide limited insight into tumour differences and identification of rare cellular subtypes that may be the cause of the cancer.

Single-cell analysis techniques (scRNA-seq) provide an opportunity to access information about cellular biology at unprecedented resolution. This advanced technique allows us to analyse the transcriptome from individual cells. scRNA-seq has revealed complex tumour differences and expanded our understanding of cancer initiating cells and tumour microenvironment interactions. A better understanding of the molecular features of brain tumours through scRNA-seq will aid in the development of novel treatment strategies.

At our first ever Rebel Ball in 2019, we officially announced the brain cancer collaboration between the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Charlie Teo Foundation.

We brought together two teams with unique genomics expertise and data resources to tackle brain cancer. Our aim was to generate high-quality data from Dr Teo’s consenting patients with high-grade brain tumours, collected from the Charlie Teo Foundation Brain Tumour Bank. We succeeded!

The team generated single-cell (RNA and DNA) sequencing and spatial transcriptomics on over 100 brain cancer tissue samples. Bioinformatics experts analysed the data to detect patterns and trends. What they found means we can now predict how cell states transform into lethal brain cancer cells.

Read more about this Brain Cancer Collaboration.