Launch of a research challenge to advance our understanding of breast cancer

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Flavia Schlegel, Assistant Director General of Natural Sciences at UNESCO, speaking at the Breast Cancer (BRCA) Challenge meeting on 12 June 2015 in Paris, France.
© UNESCO/P. Chiang-Joo

The Breast Cancer (BRCA) Challenge, which aims to advance understanding of the genetic basis of breast cancer and related cancers, was officially launched at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France on 12 June 2015. It is a joint-initiative of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) and the Human Variome Project (HVP), an NGO that works in partnership with UNESCO.

The aim of the BRCA Challenge is to advance understanding of the genetic basis of breast cancer and related cancers by pooling data on BRCA genetic variants from around the world, bringing together information on sequence variation and clinical features in diverse populations. Improved understanding of genetic variation in these genes has the potential to improve patient diagnoses and prevention of disease. This will provide a model for management of variation across the human genome.

The BRCA Challenge was launched during a two-day meeting that brought together leading scientists in the field of genetics, genomics, and cancer research, and health-care professionals to examine issues surrounding data collection and curation and variant interpretation of the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. The meeting also laid the foundation for an international network that would focus on BRCA studies on a global scale, especially in developing countries.

The Human Variome Project (HVP) is an international consortium of scientists and health professionals working to improve global health through the free and open sharing of genetic variation information. This NGO is an official UNESCO partner. Through its network of Category 2 Centers in the basic and applied sciences and other partners in the scientific community and industry, UNESCO has been able to provide HVP with the opportunity to expand its network of research communities and HVP country nodes, national focal points for genomic data-sharing activities. UNESCO and HVP share the view that sharing scientific knowledge through international collaboration across disciplines and cultures will produce better and cheaper results for patients with genetic diseases.

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