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Illumina to Conduct Large-Scale Genotyping for UK-Based Research Groups Studying Molecular Basis of Prostate Cancer

Study designed to understand genetic susceptibility, mechanisms of disease progression, and cancer therapy management; new agreement mirrors one signed in November

Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ: ILMN) announced today that it has signed a genotyping services agreement to support prostate cancer researchers funded by Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading independent charity dedicated to cancer research. Under the terms of the agreement, valued at nearly $7 million, Illumina’s service group will conduct whole-genome genotyping (>550,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, per sample) for at least 4,000 well-classified prostate patients and controls. A second phase will involve development of a custom, 12-sample BeadChip that will enable analysis of 24,000 SNPs per sample and be used to genotype at least 8,000 samples. Both phases will use Illumina’s Sentrix® BeadChips and Infinium™ Assay with the option to employ related assay methods.

This is the second large-scale genotyping agreement signed between the two organizations in the last six months. Its structure closely follows a November 2005 agreement under which Illumina is genotyping colorectal cancer samples and controls for Cancer Research UK.

Illumina’s genotyping services group will support work being driven scientifically by a collaboration comprising two Cancer Research UK-funded research groupings investigating the genetic basis of prostate cancer. One of the research groups is led by Dr Rosalind Eeles of the Translational Cancer Genetics Team at The Institute of Cancer Research, London. The second research group will be led by Professor Douglas Easton in Cancer Research UK’s Genetic Epidemiology Unit in the Strangeways Research Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. The aim of the work is to investigate the role of common genetic variation in the etiology of prostate cancer. From the work, it is hoped that it will be possible in the future to design and validate biomarkers associated with prostate cancer susceptibility and disease progression, as well as to facilitate development of improved therapeutic approaches.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men and it is a leading cause of cancer-related death among men. Little is known about the molecular mechanism of prostate cancer development. Complicating understanding is the fact that prostate cancer often causes few symptoms in its early stages, yet early diagnosis is extremely important for successful treatment. So there is significant incentive to understand the genetic basis of the disease with the aim of developing improved preventive strategies and diagnostic approaches to enable earlier intervention and optimized clinical outcomes.

Commenting on the latest agreement, Harpal Kumar, Chief Operating Officer of Cancer Research-UK, said, “We’re pleased to extend our relationship with Illumina to a second genotyping study, underscoring both our confidence in their data quality and our ongoing organizational imperative of conducting world-class research into the biology and causes of cancer. My colleagues and I believe firmly that this type of research will yield dramatically improved understanding of prostate cancer and thereby outcomes for cancer patients.”

Phase 1 of the project will include over 4,000 controls and prostate cancer patient samples. Each sample will be genotyped with the Sentrix® HumanHap550 BeadChip using Illumina’s Infinium™ assay. SNP content for the BeadChips is derived largely from high-value TagSNPs (see Note) identified in the recently completed HapMap Project. With comprehensive genomic coverage and industry-leading data quality, HumanHap BeadChips deliver superior performance for large-scale disease association studies.

In addition to identifying potential biomarkers, Cancer Research UK will evaluate the genotype data to detect and analyse chromosomal aberrations such as copy number changes and loss of heterozygosity – both of which may provide clues as to genetic mechanisms underlying cancer development.

“We’re very pleased to continue working with Cancer Research UK to help their research teams gain further insight into the genetic basis of cancer,” said Jay Flatley, Illumina President and CEO. “Cancer Research UK is pioneering cancer research with a series of bold programs that may well accelerate the identification of cancer-causing markers, genes and pathways, with broad global benefit.”

Notes to editors

  • TagSNPs deliver high statistical value to geneticists because they serve as “proxies” for larger groups of SNPs, called haplotypes, which are inherited together. Researchers can analyze human populations comprehensively and efficiently by examining between 250,000 and 500,000 tagSNPs instead of the entire set of more than 10 million SNPs – opening doors to genome-wide disease association studies such as those being conducted by Cancer Research UK. Sentrix HumanHap BeadChips are the only whole-genome genotyping arrays with tagSNP-centric content.
  • Illumina is also using its Sentrix HumanHap BeadChips to perform Infinium whole-genome genotyping on colorectal cancer samples and controls for Cancer Research-UK.
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