Learn more about the components of The Cancer Genome Atlas and how it works through this interactive tool. Select a vertical tab to read more about a specific topic or let the slides change automatically.

Tissue Processing

Tissue Processing

  • Doctor with Patient Cancer patients were asked to donate a portion of tumor tissue that has been removed as part of their cancer treatment along with a sample of normal tissue, usually blood. Tissue and fluid used for analysis are called biospecimens.
  • Biospecimen samples used for genomic research need to meet a stringent set of criteria so that the genetic material (DNA and RNA) removed from them can be used by advanced genomic analysis and sequencing technologies.
  • The TCGA Biospecimen Core Resource laboratory processed samples to ensure they met the TCGA biospecimen criteria and prepare them for analysis. Part of the process included coding the biospecimens to remove any information that might connect a sample with a patient's private information
Sequencing and Analysis

Sequencing And Analysis

TCGA researchers analyze tumor and normal tissue from hundreds of patients for each cancer selected for study. This provides the statistical power needed to produce a complete genomic profile of each cancer, which is crucial to identifying those genomic changes that offer the greatest opportunities for therapeutic development.

  • Hand holding a test tube

    TCGA Genome Characterization Centers analyzed many of the genetic changes involved in cancer including how the genome is rearranged or how gene expression changes in tumors compared to normal cells.

  • Researcher looking in microscope

    High-throughput TCGA Genome Sequencing Centers identified the changes in DNA sequence associated with specific types of cancer. New sequencing technologies were incorporated into the TCGA DNA sequencing efforts as these technologies advanced.

  • DNA

    Immense amounts of data from characterization and sequencing platforms were integrated across thousands of samples. The TCGA Genome Data Analysis Centers provided new information-processing, analysis and visualization tools to the entire research community to facilitate broader use of TCGA data.

Data Sharing

Data Sharing

data visualization

  • The information generated by the TCGA Research Network is publically available in the NCI Genomic Data Commons (GDC), an expandable knowledgebase for cancer genomic and clinical data.
  • Scientists search, download and analyze datasets generated by the TCGA Research Network through the GDC Data Portal. Essentially, the Data Portal contains the genetic profiles of specific cancer types.
Community Research and Discovery

Community Research and Discovery

A patient

  • The TCGA Analysis Working Groups (AWGs) are teams of scientific and clinical experts that use TCGA data to better understand every type of cancer that TCGA characterized. A complete list of the TCGA Research Network's peer-reviewed publications about each cancer type can be found on the TCGA Publications Page.
  • TCGA's comprehensive and robust data are enabling research by the broad cancer community that could not be possible without it. TCGA data will continue to have a multiplier effect on the scope and quality of research.
  • The ultimate goal of TCGA is to enable the cancer community to find new ways to better care for patients and significantly reduce the suffering and death due to cancer.


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