After more than a decade of planning, preparation, research, and discoveries, the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), the flagship effort of the National Institutes of Health, concludes its formal efforts with a flurry of nearly 27 reports in top-tier medical journals this month, including eight reports in the journal Cell.
This explosion of new scientific knowledge into the genetics of over 30 different cancer types and 11,000 cancer patients concludes one of the largest team science efforts ever undertaken in the field of cancer. In addition to the final reports from TCGA issued this month, the consortium has published dozens of other high-impact reports in individual cancer types, such as lung cancer, breast cancer, and brain cancer. Through it all, including the work reported this month,D. Neil Hayes, MD, MPH, the scientific director of the UT/West Institute for Cancer Research has played one of only a handful of leadership roles.
As the principal investigator, along with collaborators Dr. Chuck Perou and Dr. Katie Hoadley of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Hayes directed one of a half-dozen centers with primary responsibility for data production and analysis. The team led by Dr. Hayes and colleagues generated data on over 11,000 patients using a revolutionary technology called “Next generation sequencing,” focusing primarily on the part of the genome called RNA, the molecule through which DNA exerts its action in cells.
This new platform has made possible hundreds of new scientific discoveries in cancer reported by Dr. Hayes’ team and other colleagues involved in the TCGA, and more importantly, generated an enormous public data repository for thousands of researchers around the world. TCGA’s impact on cancer research cannot be overstated, and includes such specific impacts as redefining the way clinicians classify and treat cancer based on molecular patterns. “Dr. Hayes’ expertise in genomic analysis is further reinforced by this remarkable feat of multiple high-impact publications which dramatically enhance our understanding of cancer biology,” said Lee Schwartzberg, MD, FACP, Executive Director of West Cancer Center.
Dr. Hayes is the Van Vleet Endowed Professor in Medical Oncology in the Department of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC). He holds secondary appointments in the Department of Genetics, Genomics and Informatics, and the Department of Preventive Medicine in the College of Medicine. Dr. Hayes is in his 11th year as the leader in efforts surrounding The Cancer Genome Atlas and has played a significant role not only in the recent 30 publications, but also across the dozens of reports in top journals Cell, Science, Nature and The New England Journal of Medicine. His most-cited work from the project includes efforts reported on the cover of Cancer Cell and Nature in brain cancer and aerodigestive cancer, which have been referenced thousands of times in recent years by researchers around the world.
Prior to joining West Cancer Center and UTHSC, Dr. Hayes was the co-leader of the North Carolina (UNC) Lineberger Clinical Research Program, professor in the Division of Hematology/Oncology and the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Cancer Surgery, and Director of Clinical Bioinformatics at UNC. “I stand proudly behind my record in cancer genomics, and my goal is to move genomic paradigms to clinical decision making to advance precision/personalized medicine for cancer patients in the city of Memphis, the state of Tennessee, and beyond, he said. “The same excitement that fueled the last generation of cancer genetics research is what I hope to bring to the team at UTHSC / West. We will offer the best of cancer research to patients, right here in the region” Dr. Hayes said.