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NCI Announces Six Awards for the Strategic Partnering to Evaluate Cancer Signatures Program


The National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, announced today that it has awarded six grants to collaborative research groups to explore how information derived from comprehensive molecular analyses can be used to impact the care of cancer patients and ultimately improve outcomes. These grants are part of NCIís Strategic Partnering to Evaluate Cancer Signatures (SPECS) program. The molecular signatures of a cell ó identifiable characteristics such as levels or activities of genes, proteins, or other molecular features ó can change as a cell becomes cancerous, signaling the presence of cancer as well as revealing important information about the features of a tumor. The newly funded SPECS grants support multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary research teams that leverage NCIís investment in cancer clinical trials, cancer centers, NCI intramural program, and the SPOREs (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) program. They also support collaborations with biotechnology companies, community hospitals, the national laboratories, and academic institutions in the United States, Canada and Europe.

NCI has a great interest in the development of new molecular markers that can aid cancer patients and their physicians in the process of clinical decision making. These markers include prognostic markers, which indicate the likelihood of disease outcome regardless of treatment method, and predictive markers, which indicate the likelihood of a patientís response to a specific therapy.

The newly funded SPECS projects are designed to bridge the gap between the discovery and application of molecular profiles by confirming, refining, and evaluating molecular signatures that previously have been demonstrated to be clinically useful. These projects will also focus on developing robust, reproducible assays for specific molecular signatures that will then be tested in clinical trials. The grants, which total $10 million for the first year of funding, were awarded to six multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary teams:

Childrenís Hospital, Los Angeles, Calif.
Principal Investigator: Timothy J. Triche, M.D., Ph.D.
This project will refine and validate molecular signatures that provide a more accurate diagnosis and more accurately predict clinical behavior of common childhood sarcomas.

University of California, Irvine, Calif.
Principal Investigator: Dan Mercola, M.D., Ph.D.
This project will refine and validate molecular signatures that predict relapse in prostate cancer patients and distinguish indolent disease from disease that will progress.

University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Neb.
Principal Investigator: Wing C. Chan, M.D.
This project will refine and validate diagnostic and prognostic molecular signatures for the major subclasses of non-Hodgkinís lymphoma using the LymphDX chip that was developed for the project by the Affymetrix company.

University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M.
Principal Investigator: Cheryl L. Willman, M.D., Ph.D.
This project will refine and confirm molecular signatures that improve risk classification, outcome prediction, therapeutic response, and risk of relapse in pediatric and adult acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville, Tenn.
Principal Investigator: David P. Carbone, M.D., Ph.D.
This project will refine and evaluate molecular signatures in lung cancer, including serum proteomic signatures that differentiate patients with cancer from those without disease, and provide signatures that predict risk of recurrence following surgery.

Washington University, Department of Medicine, St. Louis, Mo.
Principal Investigator: Matthew J. Ellis, M.D., Ph.D.
This project will refine and validate molecular signatures that identify five subtypes of breast tumors using the technology, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, to measure signatures in fixed tissues.
For additional information about SPECS and NCIís Cancer Diagnosis Program, please visit:

For more information about cancer, visit the NCI Web site at, or call NCIís Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) ó The Nationís Medical Research Agency ó includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit


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