Award targets brain tumour research

Phoenix 09 October 2009SAIC-Frederick Inc., under its prime contract with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), has named the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) as one of five national centres selected to conduct cancer experiments using advanced computer simulations. The award of the "In Silico Research Centers of Excellence" contract partners TGen with 5AM Solutions, a Virginia-based life science software development firm. The award of $691.930 for the first 12-months includes two 12-month option periods that if executed amount to an additional $1.373.582 for a total of $2.065.512 over three years. The Center of Excellence will use computer tools developed as part of the NCI Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG), which is a data-sharing network for researchers, physicians and patients. The caBIG programme is designed to accelerate methods for detecting, diagnosing, treating and preventing cancer.


"At TGen, we will use this unique opportunity to focus with our collaborators on new ways to quickly and more effectively treat patients with brain cancer", stated John Pearson, the project's Principal Investigator and Head of TGen's Bioinformatics Research Lab.

William FitzHugh, Chief Science Officer for 5AM Solutions, will handle the Center's operational direction. "We're thrilled to be given the opportunity to apply powerful computational techniques to analyze the data available on the caBIG network", stated William FitzHugh. "In combination with significant new data developed by TGen, we will use informatics to further the goal of personalized medicine, creating specific treatments for individual patients."

TGen researchers will use in silico research in a programme called "Test to Best". It will use comprehensive genomic data involving 40 brain tumour models and 20 proven types of targeted therapies to create treatment programmes for brain-tumour patients. "This will be a very unique data set, representing the largest collection of patient brain tumour models and the widest variety of therapies applied in a controlled setting", stated Dr. Michael Berens, Head of TGen's Brain Tumour Research Lab.

"Now that you have this data, how can you best exploit it for the next patient who walks into the neuro-oncologist's office?" Dr. Berens asked. The answer should be revealed through analytical tools developed by the TGen and 5AM Solutions team through the in silico research project, he said. "We hope to create a process where a patient's tumour would align with one of these models, and we would know which of the 20 treatments was the best one against that tumour. It's a path to evidence-based personalized therapy."

The tumour models and therapies have been developed through the Ivy Genomics Based Medicine (Ivy GBM) Project; a programme directed by Dr. Berens at TGen and funded through a $3 million grant from the California-based Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation. The Ivy GBM Project is a nine-institution consortium, led by TGen, working to categorize tumours by molecular profiling and to test each tumour against a wide spectrum of treatments to match differences in response with the profiles.

"We see data sharing among researchers and medical institutions as an essential part of the Ivy GBM Project, as well as a vital component to moving the field of patient-focused research forward", stated Catherine Ivy, founder of the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation.

According to the NCI, the Centers of Excellence also are envisioned as ways to promote investigator-initiated in silico research projects, leveraging caBIG tools and data along with a broad range of other tools and data available to the bioinformatics, medical informatics and cancer research communities: "The primary goal of the In Silico Research Centers of Excellence (ISRCE) will be to add scientific value to the large-scale datasets developed as part of the caBIG programme, and currently accessible through the caGrid."

Besides TGen, the other four centres are at Columbia University, Emory University, Georgetown University and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Solicitation for the contracts was open to academic or commercial organisations with "expertise in computational biology, informatics analysis, statistics, genomics, proteomics, or image analysis". The NCI Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology and SAIC-Frederick, an NCI contractor, announced the contracts. This project has been funded with federal funds from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health under Contract no. HHSN261200800001E.

5AM Solutions develops innovative software solutions for academic, government, commercial, and non-profit life sciences organisations. The company helps evolve the way biomedical researchers work and collaborate by using software to reveal new insights hidden in vast amounts of data, facilitate translational research, and solve work flow challenges. The company's solutions can overcome IT-based roadblocks to discovery and accelerate progress toward the ultimate goal of better health and improved patient outcomes.

The Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation is the United States' largest foundation dedicated to funding patient-focused research on gliomas leading to the development of better diagnostics and treatment that offer long-term survival and a high-quality of life for patients with brain tumours. In its inception year, 2008, the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation awarded $10,4 million to patient-focused research on brain tumours.

The Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation is committed to funding research projects, which embody the concept of Patient-Focused Research. Patient-Focused Research (PFR) keeps the patient and relevant clinical issues at the centre of every research project and encompasses three main components:

  • Exchange: Fosters collaboration between institutions and disciplines and creates an ongoing, back and forth dialogue between the lab and the clinic.
  • Urgency: Each Ivy Foundation project expedites processes to get results focused on improving the lives of patients.
  • Personalization: PFR also addresses the genetic differences among tumours with the aim of improving diagnostics and treatments for each patient diagnosed with a brain tumour.

caBIG stands for the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid. It is an open-source, open-access, voluntary information network that will enable cancer researchers to share tools, standards, data, applications, and technologies according to agreed-upon common standards and needs. caBIG is dedicated to enabling the development of an informatics infrastructure that will link teams of cancer and biomedical researchers as part of a collaborative network, or Grid.

SAIC-Frederick, a wholly owned subsidiary of SAIC, is speeding the delivery of new technologies and treatments to patients with cancer and AIDS. SAIC-Frederick operates the laboratories at the National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick) under the largest contract awarded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The staff of more than 1700 scientific, technical, and support professionals conducts basic and applied research in cancer and AIDS, operates and manages the federal government's only vaccine manufacturing facilities (VPP, BDP), operates the high-performance Advanced Biomedical Computing Center, and supports more than 300 clinical trials treating patients in the United States and around the world.

The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organisation dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on helping patients with diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes. TGen is on the cutting edge of translational research where investigators are able to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities, TGen believes it can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. TGen is affiliated with the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. More company news is available in the VMW December 2008 article Light-speed computer connection will slash genetic data transfer time between TGen and Arizona State University.

Source: The Translational Genomics Research Institute

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