As you all will recall, since most of you directly participated, we successfully organized the 1st TCGA (The Cancer Genome Atlas)-themed conference in Pune in September 2019, Over 350 delegates comprising of onco-clinicians, basic researchers, bioinformaticians, geneticists, translational researchers, big-data scientists, bioethicists and regulatory experts attended the event.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, even though initially planned, it is not possible to organize a 2nd TCGA-themed conference in Pune in 2020. However, considering the strong interest and several requests from participants and stakeholders alike, Centre for Translational Cancer Research (CTCR, a joint initiative of IISER Pune and Prashanti Cancer Care Mission, Pune ) , Persistent Systems  and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)- Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology are jointly organizing the 2nd TCGA-themed virtual workshop and conference on December 3-5, 2020. This online conference will be based on the theme ‘Towards Team Science for Multi-omics Cancer Research in South Asia’.

Dr. Jean Claude Zenklusen (Director, TCGA) would lead the team of TCGA domain experts at the 2020 workshop and conference. Many of you and other reputed cancer researchers from India and abroad have already consented to take part in this event. Please mark your calendar and also disseminate the information to others interested to attend the conference. 

Recently, TCGA received the prestigious 2020 American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) ‘Team Science Award.’ Meanwhile, Department of Biotechnology (DBT), GoI has initiated ‘GenomeIndia Project’ aimed at sequencing 10,000 healthy individuals. India is already a  partner in the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC), with a special focus on gingivo-buccal cancer. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), GoI has expressed commitment towards establishing Cancer Consortia to generate genomics data on Indian cancer patients.  More such initiatives/projects are expected to be rolled out in the coming years from various Governmental and non-Governmental agencies. These positive developments make it imperative that a collaborative structure is needed in India to help share big data for performing meta-analyses on the lines of TCGA. 

Therefore, based on the consensus between the attendees of the TCGA 2019 conference, the establishment of an ‘Indian Cancer Genomics Atlas (ICGA)’ has been proposed. During the upcoming 2nd TCGA-themed conference, in collaboration with TCGA and key ICGA stakeholders, we will deliberate on the vision, design and plans of the ICGA project with regards to common SOPs, operations, logistics and governance models.

More importantly, conference sessions will be planned around the central theme of building a culture of team science for undertaking mega-cancer research projects in India and neighboring countries.  Global experts will discuss technical aspects of data/biospecimen/multi-omics studies and applications of Precision Oncology in clinical cancer management. A brief outline of the proposed Indian Cancer Genomics Atlas is appended below.

We thank you for your continuous support to develop a comprehensive multi-omics database on Indian cancers along the lines of TCGA. We look forward to your active participation in the virtual workshop and conference on December 3-5, 2020.  Please spread the word about this event in your networks.

 Workshop and Conference participation is open to all with prior registration. Only registered participants can watch online workshop and conference proceedings via a dedicated link 

Conference Website : http://tcga.ctcr.in
The TCGA 2020 Conference Organizing Committee

A Brief Outline of the Proposed Indian Cancer Genomics Atlas (ICGA)

We would like to take this opportunity to update you the progress we have made since September 2019 towards building strong collaborations to establish Indian equivalent of the TCGA. More than 30 clinical, research, funding/philanthropic, industrial and academic organizations from across the country have committed to this collaborative endeavor. 

1. Mission Statement

To create an indigenously developed, open-source, comprehensive database of molecular profiles of all cancers prevalent in Indian populations. Specifically, the goal is to characterize the genomic, transcriptomic, epigenetic and proteomic features of Indian cancers using advanced, next-generation multi-omics technologies.

In this public health effort, high quality meta-data of cancer patients and biospecimens (blood, cancer tissues) representing various clinical scenarios will be ethically collected from various geographical regions of India. Big data generated after multi-omics profiling will be curated and analyzed for correlation with clinico-pathological profiles. Such curated databases will be then open-sourced to the Indian and global cancer research communities.

2. Strategy:

The successful creation and quality of the proposed open-source multi-omics database of Indian cancers will be entirely dependent on the uniformity, sanctity and integrity of the meta-data and biospecimens collected from various geographical locations. Hence, a pan-India consortium of partners will be established, which will operate as a ‘hub-and-spoke’ model. The work plan comprises of 5 major representative domains such as:
(a) Primary data and sample collection centres in regional cancer hospitals/clinics (based on a pan-India consortium)
(b) Central biobank and sample processing unit
(c) Database and analytics centre
(d) Multi-omics data-generation centre
(e) Capacity building: short courses and hands-on training workshops on all aspects of the project and more importantly, on effective and timely use of the meta-data collected as above for patient care.

3. For all 5 aforementioned domains, US-NCI-TCGA has agreed and committed in writing to serve as a knowledge partner and will provide technical know-how, operational expertise, troubleshooting and quality standards.

4. Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), UK has committed in writing to help generate and analyze data on Indian patients and also continuously share in real-time the data that they generate in their country.

5. Bangladesh Medical Research Council has also written to us indicating their interests to generate similar data for the cancer patients of their country (Bangladesh Cancer Genome Project-BCGP).

Efforts are underway to consolidate the aforementioned activities by seeking inputs from many domain experts. We request you to share your comments, insights, and suggestions with us on the topic of ICGA.