Despite having first-class research facilities and world leading experience in DNA sequencing, B.C. cancer researchers will not be among an international effort to map cancer genomes without further government funding.

Yesterday, researchers from around the world, including Toronto, announced the launch of an International Cancer Genome Consortium — a massive research collaboration to map the genetic mutations of 50 different types and subtypes of cancer.

“It’s quite logical, in fact necessary, that Canadians be represented in the consortium,” said Marco Marra, a director with the Michael Smith Genome Science Centre, who worked on the International Human Genome Project.

Each member of the consortium will take responsibility for a different type of cancer, taking samples from 500 patients and comparing the genetic code of cancerous cells with those of healthy cells.

“These genetic changes may identify mutations in genes and these genes become candidates for new therapies.”

In B.C., Marra said similar work is being done on lymphoma, breast, ovarian, prostate and colon cancers and researchers are eager to scale up the work to join the consortium.

“We have a very large group of interconnected individuals at the B.C. Cancer Agency working on exactly these problems that the consortium is hoping to solve.”

However, to cement their involvement in the consortium, members need to be able to provide a minimum, per project, of $20 million over five years.

It’s money, Marra said, that will need to come from the provincial or federal governments.

Linda Bartz, a spokeswoman for Genome B.C., said the consortium announcement is exciting, but that at this point there are no plans to join.

“It’s conceivable that somewhere down the line we may support it. But it’s very early days.”

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