Genetic alterations in tumors are predictors of response or resistance to targeted therapies, and their identification is mandatory for molecular diagnosis and therapeutic decisions. Technological advances in experimental and informatics methodologies over the past 10 years have made possible the characterization of cancer genomes. OGC is the supportive infrastructure for all genomic studies, including transcriptional, mutational and gene copy number analyses of cells, tissues and liquid biopsies. Dedicated personnel and instrumentation are devoted to provide services for qRT-PCR studies, Sanger and Next Generation Sequencing experiments, Gene Expression Array analyses and BEAMing tests.
Modern research in cancer biology implies the collection of extensive data from experimental models concerning specific genetic lesions that drive cancer initiation and progression. Such data will include, for example, large sets of expression transcript profiling, comparative genomic hybridization profiling, whole genome sequencing, immunohistochemical data, and morphologic data that will be peculiar to each specific tumor. Thus, a bioinformatics platform for integrated data tracking and normalization is critical to the successful realization of this endeavor. BIC comprises a web-based bioinformatics platform (Laboratory Assistant Suite, LAS; http://devircc.polito.it/wordpress/)that assists biomedical researchers in multiple activities, which range from tracking data generation and execution of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to management of multidimensional molecular profiles and complex data analysis and integration, by managing multiple independent databases that are linked together in an interconnected network ('oncogrid').
Basic research in disciplines such as cell biology, molecular genetics and developmental biology has provided invaluable insights into the regulatory circuits that govern cancer onset and progression. Within this context, we postulate that imaging studies in cell lines and tissues will parallel genomic analyses and in vivo experimentation, constituting an integrative platform for rapid testing of emerging research directions.
OIC technologies include comprehensive microscopic imaging systems, such as confocal microscopes, live-cell devices for real-time monitoring of cellular behaviors, and high-throughput platforms for functional screens.
Increasing evidence shows that tumors are structured in a hierarchical form, with a majority of cells undergoing aberrant differentiation but retaining a proliferative capacity limited over time, and a tiny fraction of cancer stem cells (CSCs) or cancer-initiating cells (CICs) that are able to self-renew and continuously regenerate or add to the tumor. FLOCC enables researchers to take advantage of state-of-the-art FACS (fluorescence-activated cell sorter) technologies and dedicated personnel with highly specialized technical skills in order to tackle these issues, by allowing analysis and prospective isolation of individual cancer cells within highly heterogeneous populations.
Immortalized cancer cells exhibit a genetic drift, a biological compliance and phenotypic features different from original cancers in patients. Another drawback of such an approach is that the catalogue of currently available cell lines is inevitably finite, and possibly poor for some tumour types. Therefore, experiments with cell lines cannot recapitulate the wide heterogeneity of human malignancy that occurs among individuals on a population basis. One way to tackle this issue is to perform population-based in vivo studies by using large series of human cancer specimens directly transplanted into mice ("xenopatients"). XEBB provides researchers with a collection of more than 300 liver metastases from colorectal cancer that have been systematically transplanted in immunocompromised mice to obtain more than 200 stable tumor lines (xenopatients), which are available for any kind of in vivo/ex vivo study.