• National Cancer Institute
  • National Human Genome Research Institute

Quick Facts


The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) is a comprehensive, collaborative effort led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to map the genomic changes that occur in major types and subtypes of cancer. Researchers across the nation are using various genome analysis technologies, including high-throughput DNA sequencing, to carry out this effort.

A pilot project initiated in 2006 established the scientific infrastructure and demonstrated the "proof of concept" needed to mount a large-scale, cancer genome mapping project. Based on this success, TCGA announced in September 2009 that it will map the genomes of at least 20 cancers over the next five years.

TCGA makes its data swiftly available to the worldwide research community for use in developing better ways of diagnosing, treating and preventing cancer.

To learn more about TCGA, go to http://cancergenome.nih.gov/


Funding Institutions: National Cancer Institute (NCI) and National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), both part of NIH.

Funding: $175 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, plus $50 million each in appropriated funds from NCI and NHGRI, over two years. Funding for the remaining three years has not yet been finalized.

Pilot Funding: The pilot effort was funded by $50 million each from NCI and NHGRI for three years.

Types of Cancer: The pilot effort achieved comprehensive genomic characterization of brain (glioblastoma) and ovarian (serous cystadenocarcinoma) cancers and has since expanded to characterize the genomes of more than 20 cancers. To learn more about the cancers chosen for study in TCGA, go to: http://cancergenome.nih.gov/cancersselected.

Number of Samples per Cancer: Up to 500 samples of both tumor and matched normal tissues.

TCGA Research Network

Number of Researchers: More than 150

Number of Institutions: More than two dozen nationwide

Major Research Centers:

  • Biospecimen Core Resource
    • The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio
  • Genome Characterization Centers
    • Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
    • Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.
    • British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
    • Broad Institute, Cambridge, Mass.
    • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C.
    • University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.
  • Genome Sequencing Centers
    • Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
    • Broad Institute, Cambridge, Mass.
    • Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Mo.
  • Genome Data Analysis Centers
    • Broad Institute, Cambridge, Mass.
    • Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, Wash.
    • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif.
    • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, N.Y.
    • University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.
    • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, N.C.
    • University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
  • Data Coordinating Center
    • NCI Center for Bioinformatics, Bethesda, Md.

To learn more about the participating institutions, go to http://cancergenome.nih.gov/newsevents/multimedialibrary/interactives/howitworks.

Data Access

All data generated by the TCGA Research Network are made rapidly available to the research community through the TCGA Data Portal.

There are two tiers of data:

  • Open Access – Data that cannot be aggregated to generate a data set unique to an individual. User certification is not required for accessing such data.
  • Controlled Access – Clinical data and other individually unique information. This tier of data requires user certification for access.

To reach the TCGA Data Portal and to learn more about its access policies, go to http://tcga-data.nci.nih.gov/tcga/.


  • Identification of a CpG island methylator phenotype that defines a distinct subgroup of glioma. Cancer Cell. 17(5):510-522.
  • Integrated genomic analysis identifies clinically relevant subtypes of glioblastoma characterized by abnormalities in PDGFRA, IDH1, EGFR, and NF1. Cancer Cell. 17(1):98-110.
  • Comprehensive Genomic Characterization Defines Human Glioblastoma Genes and Core Pathways. Nature 455(7216): 1061-1068.

For a list of additional publications that have utilized TCGA data, go to http://cancergenome.nih.gov/publications.