Through tireless support and investment from patient families, advocates, and foundations, the Children’s Brain Tumor Network (CBTN) has transformed the landscape of pediatric brain tumor research across the globe. By donating precious tissue and data, more than 4,200 patient families have built the world’s largest collection of resources to study brain cancer in children – available free-of-charge to researchers everywhere and housed within the state-of-the-art biorepository at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). And through philanthropy and advocacy, foundations have grown CBTN from a partnership of just four US-based children’s hospitals in 2011 to a network of nearly 30 top pediatric research centers across four continents today.
Though less than a quarter of all CBTN patient participants have had their tumor tissue molecularly sequenced, more than 250 new biospecimen and data projects have been supported by CBTN resources in just the past 10 years.
This incredible progress has resulted in unprecedented support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI)’s Childhood Cancer Data Initiative (CCDI).
Through their X01 Resource Access Program structure the NIH and NCI have announced they will sequence the remaining collection of tumor specimens from CBTN’s cohort. This support will effectively quadruple the size of the CBTN’s Pediatric Brain Tumor Atlas dataset.
Now begins a new era in childhood brain cancer research. Now begins PROJECT ACCELERATE.
On Monday, January 31, this new and exciting collaborative effort took a critical step forward with the shipment of approximately 600 samples to the Broad Institute for multi-omics sequencing. Over the next two months, CBTN’s remaining samples, from more than 3,800 patients, will also be shipped.
With its Operations Center team based out of CHOP’s Center for Data Driven Discovery in Biomedicine (D3b), CBTN research coordinators and technicians obtain only the highest quality tissue specimens collected from patients at each participating member site. In preparation for this new sequencing effort, tissue will be carefully processed and quality controlled before shipment to the Broad Institute.
D3b data engineers are now preparing for the next great leap forward in CBTN’s Project Accelerate, when the Broad Institute returns the sequencing data back to the CBTN team from processing.
In order for this windfall of new resources to be useful for scientific discovery, it must be organized and integrated within the CBTN’s Pediatric Brain Tumor Atlas (PBTN). D3b/CBTN data experts are currently working to drastically expand cloud-based computational capacity within the data analysis platform CAVATICA to help speed up this data harmonization process, so that these priceless data can be placed into the hands of childhood brain tumor researchers as quickly as possible.
CBTN will also collaborate with the Gabriella Miller Kids First Data Resource Center to leverage a new Variant Warehouse tool which will soon launch within the Kids First Data Resource Portal. This tool will enable the rapid analysis of “germline” samples, which include healthy tissue donated by patient parents, and could give insights into the inherited genetic traits passed on through families that play a role in triggering tumor growth in some patients.
This bold initiative from the CBTN will channel significant investment into data processing and bioinformatics, to ensure this monumental collection of genomic data can be made available for analysis by researchers all over the globe as quickly as possible.
Together – with research partners, patients, foundations, and community members – we will super-charge the refinement of this massive dataset and optimize it to be completely searchable by investigators at any institution, at any career level, in any research discipline. Through collaboration, we will deliver the key to defeating childhood brain cancer, to find better treatments for today’s patients.