The ICGC ARGO Project aims to analyze biospecimens from at least 100,000 cancer patients with high quality clinical data to address current key outstanding questions that are vital to our quest to defeat cancer.

The ICGC was the first step to broadly and comprehensively map the structural aberrations of genomes and begin to understand the molecular basis of cancer. It was appropriately focused on cancer that had not yet been treated, and on the tumour at its origin (primary cancer). It achieved these goals with over 20,000 primary cancers of many organs already available, and the remainder sequenced and in process for upload and sharing. The ICGC also extended beyond its initial mandate into the transcriptome and the epigenome. Data generated through the ICGC has transformed research strategies in academia and industry alike, with hundreds of seminal works published directly using ICGC data, with landmark articles in the world's elite scientific journals. No therapeutic is developed today without, in some way, applying the knowledge that ICGC has provided the world. Although the ICGC has achieved much, there is a long way to go. Pivotal outstanding challenges remain to be addressed; unanswered questions that are vital in our quest to defeat cancer.

The ICGC has evolved significantly since its inception in 2007. At its heart, ICGC is a consortium of experts in genomics and informatics. Its initial project was to define the genomes of 25,000 primary untreated cancers (the 25K Project); the second ICGC project, the Pan Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (The PCAWG Project), commenced in 2013 and continues to analyse ~3,000 of the highest quality whole cancer genomes of multiple cancer types. In 2015, the ICGC, in response to the realization of the potential of genomics in healthcare, released a position "white paper" on the evolution of ICGC into more directly impacting on human health. Emanating from the ICGC for Medicine (ICGCmed) white paper is ICGC's next project which aims to Accelerate Research in Genomic Oncology (The ARGO Project), where key clinical questions and patient clinical data drive the interrogation of cancer genomes.

The ARGO Project (Accelerating Research in Genomic Oncology)

The ICGC for Medicine white paper identified central needs and challenges in Genomic Health for Cancer and defined the strategic direction for the ICGC for advancing genomics towards the clinic to improve outcomes for people affected by cancer. The pivotal outstanding questions in cancer molecular pathology discovery that were defined, and that the ICGC aims to address through The ARGO Project are:

1. How do we use current treatments better?
2. How does a cancer change with time and treatment?
3. How do we practically implement these approaches in healthcare and drug development?
4. How do we advance early detection and ultimately prevent cancer?

The ICGC and its membership have established global networks, capacity and expertise in genomics. Tens of thousands of scientists, clinicians, technologists, patients and people at large have built the methodologies and mechanisms to advance genomic health. This expertise, governance, ethical understanding, communication; and importantly the ability to analyze, compile, interpret and share genomic data across the globe are significant. The ICGC forms a strong foundation to build on and advance cancer research through integrating the expertise and capacity of the ICGC with clinical research and cancer care to accelerate research in genomic oncology through The ARGO Project.

ICGC-ARGO will link genomic data that is already amassed, new genomic data generated through the 10 years of ARGO, to clinical and health information. This will include information concerning lifestyle, co-morbidity, diagnostics, toxicity and response to therapy and survival. Using this large-scale integrated data, researchers, scientists, policymakers and clinicians will be able to work with patients, health care providers, industry, and others to advance therapeutic development with interventions based on matching the patient's disease molecular subtype with the most effective treatment; develop preventative strategies; markers for early detection of disease; and more specific criteria and methods for diagnosis and prognostication.

As a worldwide consortium, ICGC has the research and organizational expertise to implement the ambitious goal of analyzing the genomes of more than 100,000 participants by 2028, and linking these data to high-quality clinical information including treatment and outcome.

The ARGO Project leverages the enormous learnings and infrastructure of ICGC to pursue key aspects of cancer that are required to improve outcomes. The inescapable core of ARGO, which is detailed clinical and treatment annotation, together with cutting edge molecular analyses, will aim to inform:

  1. Therapeutic development
    1. Current treatment selection for standard of care therapies
    2. Understanding lethal cancers versus those that are curable
    3. Treatment induced tumour evolution
    4. Pharmacogenomics
    5. Mechanisms that integrate with contemporary drug development
    6. "Real World" therapeutic testing
  2. Technology and systems
    1. Liquid Biopsies
    2. Data-sharing knowledge banks
    3. Innovative analytics (eg: AI)
  3. Early detection and prevention
    1. Germ line predisposition and contribution to carcinogenesis
    2. Characterisation of precursor lesions

Numerous platforms and for various cancers have already been established, and more are emerging to address these vital questions in many countries around the world. Whilst these build on our knowledge base, there are currently no mechanisms to standardize the complex analyses that are used, or efficient mechanisms for data sharing for cancer that will enable composite and pooled analyses of accumulated data from around the world. Based on the 10-year ICGC experience and resultant infrastructure, ARGO stands poised to accelerate cancer research for the international community through its established infrastructure, expertise and workflows.

The sources of cohorts of patients that would constitute ICGC-ARGO projects may include:

  • Biospecimens from participants enrolled in active clinical trials;
  • Analyses of banked samples from past clinical trials;
  • Analyses of samples from clinically well-annotated cohorts that satisfy ICGC-ARGO clinical data requirements.
  • Longitudinal cohort studies.
  • Autopsy studies with detailed clinical data

Membership and Associate Membership of ICGC-ARGO offers:

  1. Standardised, uniform and evolving genomic analyses - built on the foundation of ICGC 25K Genomes and the PCAWG (Pan Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes) Projects.
  2. Data co-ordination and distribution under appropriate ethical and legal frameworks.
  3. Equitable and fair data sharing arrangements.
  4. Opportunities for pooled data analyses.
  5. Network of NGS laboratory partnerships facilitated through ICGC-ARGO for clinical consortia to enable advanced molecular analyses.
  6. Knowledge exchange through the ICGC-ARGO community with regular meetings, teleconferences and opportunities to contribute to leadership and Working Groups.
  7. Support for project development (open to non-members as well).

Last updated: April 2018