Comprehensive map of cancer genomes

A collaborative global scientific effort, which includes a group of researchers from the University of Glasgow, has completed the most comprehensive study of whole cancer genomes to date. The work will significantly improve the fundamental understanding of cancer, signposting new directions for its diagnosis and treatment.

The Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes Project (PCAWG), or the Pan-Cancer Project, has discovered causes of previously unexplained cancers, pinpointed cancer-causing events, and zeroed in on mechanisms of development. The results from the Pan-Cancer Project appear in 23 peer-reviewed scientific papers, published simultaneously recently in Nature and its affiliated journals.


The ICGC Pan-Cancer Project – a collaboration involving more than 1300 scientists and clinicians from 37 countries – analysed more than 2600 genomes of 38 different tumour types, creating a huge resource of primary cancer genomes. This was then used as the launch-point for 16 working groups studying multiple aspects of cancer development, causation, progression and classification. 


University of Glasgow scientists contributed data to the projects, playing key roles in various working groups within the Pan-Cancer Project, particularly how this knowledge may impact on cancer treatment and outcomes. Their contribution formed the foundation for the ICGC’s new initiative ARGO, which aims to take the next step.


Previous studies focused on the 1% of the genome that codes for proteins, analogous to mapping the coasts of the continents. The Pan-Cancer Project explored, in considerably greater detail, the remaining 99% of the genome, including key regions that control switching genes on and off.


The Pan-Cancer Project has made available a comprehensive resource for cancer genomics research, including the raw genome sequencing data, software for cancer genome analysis, and multiple interactive websites exploring various aspects of the Pan-Cancer Project data.