Genomics England to evaluate Oxford Nanopore’s real-time, high-throughput DNA sequencing technology for rapid genomic analysis of cancer

Genomics England will sequence thousands of human genomes using Oxford Nanopore’s PromethION 48 sequencing device, in a project that will evaluate its potential to provide rapid, rich insights in cancer genomics.

The project was announced as part of the renewed commitment by the UK Government to fund the ground breaking work of Genomics England. It will build on the significant nanopore sequencing expertise developed within Genomics England — who have already established a pipeline to analyse whole human genomes using PromethION, as part of a programme to examine potential genetic origins of variable severity COVID-19 infection.

This project is part of a range of cancer genomics projects from Genomics England, designed to explore the potential impact of a range of new technologies and methods to improve cancer outcomes, including the use of long read and methylation technologies.

Building a comprehensive picture

Cancer is a disease of the genome, caused by changes to DNA. Information gleaned from sequencing a cancer patient’s tumour and healthy cells can improve diagnosis and help clinicians select the treatments most likely to be effective in each individual case. Whole genome sequencing can also show which patients are not likely to benefit from a specific treatment, which can save unnecessary treatments and toxic side effects.

The impact of insights from genome sequencing on routine care for cancer patients to date has been limited. This is because existing technologies have been unable to detect a range of important types of genetic changes in the tumour fast enough to impact treatment.

Using Oxford Nanopore’s high-throughput sequencing devices it is possible to detect these changes, which may include large rearrangements of genetic material or ‘epigenetic’ modifications, in real time.

This new research study will investigate the potential for nanopore sequencing devices to produce a truly comprehensive picture of the tumour genome, rapidly enough for the results to be translated into actionable insights for clinicians and their patients.

Gordon Sanghera, CEO of Oxford Nanopore Technologies, said:

“This research project will investigate important aspects of sequencing of cancer samples.  Rapid turnaround of these analyses is desired for ensuring the best treatment outcomes. Our real-time devices enable that quick analysis, whilst also providing a wealth of information in the form of rich data. We’re delighted to be working with the experts at Genomics England to understand the potential impact PromethION could have.”

PromethION is Oxford Nanopore’s highest throughput device. It provides scientists with ability to analyse human genomes using long reads and methylation analysis, for the delivery of richer data. Using PromethION, it's possible to scale up to terabases of data, to meet the demands of the experiment.

Find out more about PromethION.

Find out more about nanopore technology for cancer genomics.