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MD Anderson, Broad Institute Partner to Study Rare Cancers

NEW YORK – The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Broad Institute on Tuesday announced a joint initiative to molecularly and functionally characterize rare tumors and build models that enable development of more precise treatment strategies.

Within the collaboration, the cancer institutions will build models from MD Anderson patients with rare tumors who have contributed biological materials to the Broad's Cancer Cell Line Factory, an effort that turns tumor samples into organoids, cell lines, or spheroid models for research. The models will then be analyzed within the Broad's Cancer Dependency Map for genetic and pharmacologic vulnerabilities, including molecular signatures that can predict treatment response.

Rare cancers are those with less than 40,000 cases annually, and more than 5,000 patients with some of the rarest tumor types seek treatment at MD Anderson each year. In 2019, the center started the Rare Tumor Initiative to improve the characterization of these patients' cancers. According to MD Anderson, this collaboration with the Broad expands on its earlier commitment.

"Treatments for rare cancers have lagged behind common tumors in large part because we as a community lack the tools to study and understand their unique biology in the laboratory," William Sellers, director of the Broad's Cancer Program, said in a statement. "This initiative represents a significant opportunity to close that gap and to start identifying new treatment options for patients with rare cancers."