Cancer research to be accelerated by Arizona State University and Mayo leading MAC5 attack

Scottsdale 20 February 2006In terms of a medical diagnosis, nothing is more devastating than hearing the "C" word - cancer. But now, Arizona State University (ASU) and Mayo Clinic are hoping that five different C's will become the best arsenal against the big C. The organisations have teamed up to introduce a new research entity called MAC5. MAC5 is short for the Mayo Clinic - ASU Center for Cancer-related Convergence, Co-operation and Collaboration. The new effort will leverage the distinct roles of basic science, technology and clinical medicine to translate discoveries into clinical advances.


"We have been working for the past couple of years with the leaders at Mayo Clinic to build and enhance a relationship between their doctors, who are at the forefront of health care, and ASU's scientists and engineers", stated ASU President Michael M. Crow. "We find that the collaborative potential between Mayo and ASU is very high. The openness and intellectual fusion of our educational, scientific, and cultural linkages are at the early stages of what we hope to be a significant and profound relationship to improve health care", Michael Crow stated.

"Part of our heritage at Mayo Clinic has been the teamwork demonstrated to bring different disciplines together for the benefit of patients", stated Victor Trastek, M.D., CEO of Mayo Clinic in Arizona. "With ASU, we are now just scratching the surface of a great opportunity to work together with scientists, clinicians and patients. This type of collaborative effort is the future in caring for patients and developing the new types of science, devices and therapeutics to advance medicine."

"The alignment in vision and teamwork at the interface between basic science and clinical medicine builds on the complementary strengths of both institutions with a critical goal of bringing value to health care and our patients", stated Laurence Miller, M.D., and director for research at Mayo Clinic.

Cancer remains the leading cause of death in the United States, with over a half-million deaths in 2003. The four most common cancers: lung, breast, prostate and colorectal, together account for 51 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States.

"The goal of this agreement is ambitious: to revolutionize medical practices for cancer-related diseases. We want to shift medicine toward an earlier, preventative, and individualized approach to medical care", stated George Poste, director of the Biodesign Institute.

Also assuming leadership roles in creating the centre were Keith Frey, M.D., chair of the Information Systems Steering Committee at Mayo Clinic, and Michael Tracy, director of the Center for Cancer Research and Office for Strategy and Research Alliances at the Biodesign Institute.

"Our scientists will work with the Mayo Clinic to provide the patients of Phoenix with the best medicine possible including superior ways to diagnose and detect diseases earlier, and to treat patients with more sophisticated and effective medicines", stated Michael Tracy.

MAC5 represents the largest collaborative effort to date between Mayo Clinic and ASU. It builds on the historical research teamwork of ASU and Mayo Clinic that has grown in recent years to include a pilot research seed grants, joint faculty appointments, and shared educational programmes.

The agreement establishes a physical space on Mayo's Scottsdale campus, in the Mayo Clinic Collaborative Research Building. This 110.000 square foot facility will include a new home for MAC5, with approximately 9000 square feet of space for MAC5 personnel. Several staff members will have joint appoints at Mayo Clinic and ASU. MAC5 will combine the efforts of Mayo Clinic physicians with the capabilities of several ASU programmes. This includes the new School of Computing and Informatics and the Department of Biomedical Informatics and Department of Computer Science and Engineering, led by Sethuraman Panchanathan, and three centres at the Biodesign Institute: the Center for Applied NanoBioscience, directed by Frederic Zenhausern; the Center for Cancer Research, directed by Mike Tracy; and the Center for Innovations in Medicine, directed by Stephen A. Johnston.

The building is the first of its kind for Mayo Clinic and adds to the list of multiple strategic partners housed under one roof, including the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). The work supports the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, one of only 38 United States medical centres named a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"For physicians with clinical responsibilities, the centre's research efforts will no longer separate them from their patients for long periods of time. Rather, the centre is designed as a functional interface where Mayo physicians can streamline the infusion of new ideas and research into their primary clinical responsibilities", stated Dr. Miller.

Mayo physicians will work closely with their MAC5 colleagues to identify clinical research opportunities to address patient needs. This direct interaction with Mayo clinicians and ASU scientists and engineers is designed to help foster interaction and communication to develop new bench to bedside opportunities in discovery.

MAC5 builds on the strong track records core team of experts with strong track records in life science product development. The first occupants will be CLIMDx, the Mayo Clinic research component of the ASU Department of Biomedical Informatics; a cancer vaccine initiative; and a cancer drug development and validation effort linking with the medicinal chemistry group to develop personalized medicine drugs and therapeutics.

Four emergent fields of science are converging to allow for advances in diagnosing and treating cancer. These include biomedical informatics, medical informatics, genomics and proteomics, and miniaturization and integration, often at the nanoscale.

The cancer vaccines programme's goal is to identify and validate targets useful to aid in the prevention, diagnosis, localization, staging and treatment of cancer. "By combining clinical expertise in vaccine development from both institutions, our ultimate goal would be to create a universal vaccine, a single prophylactic that can treat all cancers", stated Stephen A. Johnston, director of the Center for Innovations in Medicine at the Biodesign Institute.

The drug discovery facet will serve as the primary pipeline for cancer drug target discovery. "The backbone of our approach is a medicinal and computational chemistry focus that takes full advantage of the burgeoning data sets being generated from genomic and proteomic analyses", stated Michael Tracy, director of the Center for Cancer Research and Office for Strategy and Research Alliances at the Biodesign Institute at ASU. "Biomarkers and genetic and protein analysis from the scientist's lab bench to the patient provide a continuous interchange and is essential for developing the most advanced levels of medical treatment and care."

The goal of the biomedical informatics programme is to create an integrated informatics foundation for individualized health care of the future. The group will be involved in the design of a computational framework that will make possible the goal of personalized medicine. "We will be partnering with Mayo Clinic in leading the efforts towards a digital health care environment through a number of innovations including modelling, simulation and mining of multidimensional data; intelligent analysis and integration of biological and medical information; secure and reliable access to stored medical data; interactive visualization of biomedical information and cognitively inspired design of human computer interfaces", stated Sethuraman Panchanathan, interim director of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at ASU.

More news on cancer research at Mayo Clinic can be found in the VMW May 2005 article Mayo Clinic study shows advanced prostate cancer previously considered inoperable may be operable and curable.

Leslie Versweyveld

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