COSMIC database matches drugs to cancer mutations

The world’s largest database of cancer mutations can now be used to link mutations with drug treatments in what promises to be a step forward in precision oncology

The COSMIC (Catalogue of Somatic Mutations in Cancer) database, operated by the Wellcome Sanger Institute, grew out of the work of the Cancer Genome Project and has been gathering data on mutations associated with specific cancers for almost 17 years.

Spanning 37 million mutations across 1,500 types of cancer, COSMIC has become a huge resource for cancer researchers around the world, including drug developers, who now have another powerful tool at their disposal.

The new functionality – called Actionability – will allow users to search drugs that target somatic mutations at all stages of drug development, including those still in development, in clinical trials or that have been repurposed, according to the Institute.

More than 20,000 researchers, bioinformaticians, and clinicians worldwide are already using COSMIC.

“In this field, we first need to know which mutations drive cancer, and secondly what we can do about those mutations,” according to Dr Zbyslaw Sondka, science team leader at COSMIC.

“While COSMIC is a key resource for mutation analysis, Actionability will help us to answer the second question and support development across the full patient journey, from analysis to therapy,” she added.

Knowing which mutations a tumour needs to survive, and which drugs can target those mutations, is the key to precision oncology, which matches treatment to the genetic profile of a patient’s cancer.

COSMIC isn’t the only database trying to provide these links between mutations and drugs, but is one of the few with a dedicated, full-time team of scientists keeping it updated, according to Steve Jupe, who heads the Actionability team at Wellcome Sanger.

Others tend to be maintained by volunteers in the cancer research community, he pointed out, while Actionability “will be constantly updated with information about new trials, trial results and new genes”.

Earlier this year, Qiagen acquired the exclusive rights to license and distribute the COSMIC database for commercial use.

Other precision oncology databases used by researchers include The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) run by the US National Cancer Institute (NCI), and OncoKB at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, and community project CIViC.

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