Cancer is a complex disease that impacts lives of millions across the globe. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC),

1 in 5 people develop cancer during their lifetime, and 1 in 8 men and 1 in 11 women die from the disease,

making it the major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The disease is compounded by issues such as rapid urbanization, ageing population, inactive and unhealthy lifestyles, indoor and outdoor air pollution, majorly impacting the middle-to-low socio-economic countries including India.  

In 2006, the National Institute of Health (NIH) launched The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) to explore the entire spectrum of genomic changes involved in human cancer.  The project molecularly characterized over 20,000 primary cancer and matched normal samples from 33 cancer types. 


In this public health effort, high quality meta-data of cancer patients and biospecimens (blood, cancer tissues) representing various clinical scenarios are being ethically collected from various geographical regions of India. Big data generated after multi-omics profiling will be curated and analyzed for correlation with clinicopathological profiles. Such curated databases will be then open sourced to the Indian and global cancer research communities. 

ICGA Ecosystem

Given the multi-disciplinary nature of the project, domain experts from several inter-linked biomedical research domains are actively engaged in ICGA project.


The successful creation and quality of the proposed open-source multi-omics database of Indian cancers is entirely dependent on the uniformity, sanctity, and integrity of the meta-data and biospecimens collected from various geographical locations. Hence, a pan-India consortium of partners is being established, which operates as a ‘hub-and-spoke’ model. The work plan comprises of 5 major representative domains: 

  • Primary data and sample collection centers in regional cancer hospitals/clinics (based on a pan-India consortium) 
  • Central biobank and sample processing unit 
  • Database and analytics center 
  • Multi-omics data-generation center 
  • Capacity building: short courses and hands-on training workshops on all aspects of the project and more importantly, on effective and timely use of the meta-data collected as above for patient care

Operational Model

Journey so far

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Potential Impact of ICGA on Cancer Research in India

  • Generation of high-quality multi-omics data about Indian cancers 
  • Facilitating integration of local-context specific molecular oncology principles into clinical cancer management in near future 
  • Capacity building for long-term translational cancer research in India 
  • Boosting of precision oncology eco-system by focus on innovation and indigenous development of solutions to Indian problems
  • Significant contribution to global cancer knowledge databases 
  • Fostering long-term international collaborations with focus on multi-omics research in South Asian cancers 
  • Generate important data that will impact cancer practices for global Indian diaspora