Cancer drug data release set to power next wave of therapeutic discovery


The freely available data set includes a comparison of almost 1,000 cancer cell lines’ responses to 453 licensed and experimental drugs

The Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer project has released the results of four years of data gathering and exploration set to power genetic research into cancer treatment worldwide.

The freely available data set includes a comparison of almost 1,000 cancer cell lines’ responses to 453 licensed and experimental drugs.

The project, led by researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute (UK) and Massachusetts General Hospital (US), builds on the previous six years’ study and practically doubles the volume of new data available on the website—the largest public dataset of its kind in the world.

Project co-lead and group leader at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Mathew Garnett, commented: “We are delighted that we have been able to create, and release, this valuable data to the global cancer research community. Our Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer database is the world’s largest repository for information on how the underlying genomic landscape in a cancer influences its response to treatments. We hope it will provide new insights that will point to new ways to target and treat individual tumours.”


This new data release brings the amount of freely available, open-access data on the website to 453 cancer treatment compounds, 989 cancer cell lines, 494,973 genomic associations tested and 386,293 drug dose-response curves.

The previous study has already enabled discoveries that led to drug trials of PARP inhibitors in childhood bone cancer, directly contributed to drug development in the pharmaceutical industry and powered 70 research studies across the globe.

The datasets are accessed by more than 350 users each day, and this is set to increase with the new data release. The project team hope that this enhanced resource will help to power discoveries and therapeutic options for many years to come.

The perfect biomarker

The Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer project is a pioneering public-private partnership funded by Wellcome. The project combines samples of hospital patients’ cancer cell lines with licensed and experimental cancer drugs from pharmaceutical companies and applies in-depth observation and genetic analysis to identify how the underlying changes in a person’s DNA affect how they will respond to treatment.

The ultimate goal is to identify biomarkers that could be used in the clinic to determine which drugs will work best to treat a patient’s cancer, based on the tumour’s genetic profile.

Working together, the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the Center for Molecular Therapeutics have investigated samples from 30 different adult and paediatric cancers. The tumour types include blood cancers and solid tumours, primary and metastatic, common and rare.

New therapeutics

The novel data offers a rich resource with opportunities for cancer scientists to discover more about how cancer cells work, how they respond to treatment, and generate new therapeutics and drug combinations.

Now part of the Cancer Dependency Map (Cancer DepMap) project, the dataset is available on the website.

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The team have further data releases planned for the near future.