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Large DNA study for childhood cancer initiated

An extensive project on the DNA changes associated with pediatric oncology started last week. Aberrations in DNA can cause a cell to become cancerous. For the right diagnosis and treatment, it is crucial to know where these mutations occur on the DNA, says Frank Holstege, professor in Genomics at the Princess Máxima Center for pediatric oncology. 

The first DNA samples have been loaded on a machine that will read the entire sequence, the NovaSeq 6000 from Illumina. The DNA was isolated from tumor cells and from healthy cells of patients. The scientists can then compare the DNA sequences and see where they differ.

Tumors differ amongst types of cancer, but also amongst patients. Consequently, a treatment can be very effective for one patient, but inadequate for the next. Figuring out the DNA differences will help with diagnosing patients and selecting the best treatment.

First DNA samples are loaded into the NovaSeq 6000 by research technician Marc van Tuil
First DNA samples are loaded into the NovaSeq 6000 by research technician Marc van Tuil

The close collaboration between the genomics group, colleague Bastiaan Tops from molecular pathology and the group of Hans Kristian Ploos van Amstel, professor Genome Diagnostics at the UMC Utrecht demonstrates the multidisciplinary nature of the study. It brings together all aspects necessary to map the genetic diversity of pediatric tumors.

“With these first samples we have started the pilot experiment”, says Holstege. “Ultimately, we aim to analyze the DNA of every patient that registers at the Princess Máxima Center. Firstly, to diagnose the patient. Secondly, we would like to use the DNA – with consent of the parents and patients – to increase our knowledge about the diversity of tumors.”