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Back To Vidyya The NCI Awards $18 Million In First-Year Funding For The Early Detection Research Network

Network Seeks New Screening Tests for Common Cancers

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded $18 million in first-year funding for the Early Detection Research Network, which brings together dozens of institutions to search for and evaluate new ways of testing for early cancer and for cancer risk. Thirteen new grants are being awarded to three of the network's four components: Clinical and Epidemiological Centers, Biomarker Validation Laboratories, and a Data Management and Coordinating Center.

In addition, 18 Biomarker Developmental Laboratories received $8 million in grants last fall. Two million dollars in core funding will be used for the network's Steering Committee to manage collaborative activities.

Advances in cancer research, including programs such as the Cancer Genome Anatomy Project, have uncovered a variety of molecules, proteins, genes, and other biological substances that may be the earliest warning signs that normal cells are turning cancerous. The Early Detection Research Network will translate these discoveries into methods for detecting cancer at its earliest stages and for identifying people at risk of cancer before they develop the disease.

The nine Clinical and Epidemiological Centers will focus on providing the network with blood, tissue, other biological samples, and medical information on families with histories of cancer. These libraries will serve as vital resources for the large-scale evaluation of cancer biomarkers.

"Advances in cancer genetics, protein analysis, and other fields offer potential new biomarkers that one day may reduce the burden of cancer," said Sudhir Srivastava, Ph.D., M.P.H., chief of the Cancer Biomarkers Research Group in NCI's Division of Cancer Prevention. "But before they can move from the lab to the clinic, these biomarkers need to be tested systematically. Pooling resources and expertise is vital to this kind of validation."

One key challenge of biomarkers research is maintaining an adequate supply of samples from cancer patients, high-risk individuals, and healthy control populations. The Clinical and Epidemiological Centers have extensive experience enrolling volunteers in cancer monitoring studies, and will continue to bank tissue samples to meet the needs of the network.

The three Biomarker Validation Laboratories will serve as crucial intermediaries between the Biomarker Developmental Laboratories and general clinical settings. The validation laboratories will first standardize tests and assure reproducibility, then they will scale up production and ready the best biomarker tests for clinical trials.

The Data Management and Coordination Center will develop standards for data reporting and research new statistical methods for analyzing biomarkers.

The 18 Biomarker Development Laboratories, funded in late 1999, are searching for potential biomarkers by sifting through thousands of samples of breast, prostate, ovarian, lung, bladder, and other cancers. When the labs identify promising biomarker leads, the network's Steering Committee will decide which to advance to the validation laboratories.

"The Early Detection Research Network is truly collaborative. It is investigator led and investigator managed," said Srivastava. "This network is not about NCI telling our grantees what research to do, it's about the researchers deciding for themselves."

The Early Detection Research Network Web site is at

Early Detection Research Network Grantees, Listed Alphabetically by State

Clinical and Epidemiology Centers

Principal Investigator
Grant Number
First Year Award
Focus of Grant Number of Volunteers Available; Type of Samples
Elizabeth Unger, M.D., Ph.D.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Atlanta, Ga.
Cervical: Develop infrastructure to study biomarkers in high-risk women. Will collect tissue samples for EDRN.
Kathy Helzlsouer, M.D.
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Md.
Breast: Study three promising biomarkers; collect epidemiological information from residents of Washington County, Md. 98,000; mostly blood, some tissue.
Alan Partin, M.D., Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Md.
Prostate: Continue long-standing work on prostate-specific antigen for early detection and staging. 1,500; blood and tissue.
Dan Cramer, M.D.
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Boston, Mass.
Ovary:Comparing normal, high risk, and ovarian cancer populations; identify potential biomarkers with proteomic techniques 4,200; blood and tissue.
Dean Brenner, M.D.
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Colon: Study biomarkers in precancerous polyps; evaluate five potential blood biomarkers and one stool biomarker. 1,575; blood and tissue.
Henry Lynch, M.D.
Creighton University
Omaha, Neb.
CA 86389
Hereditary Cancers: Recruiting volunteers with family history of cancer and specific cancer-related genetic mutations. 200; blood and tissue.
William Rom, M.D.
New York University School of Medicine
New York, N.Y.
Lung: Identify pre-cancer and early cancer markers in smokers and workers in the construction trades. 2,500; blood and tissue.
Margaret Spitz, M.D.
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas
Upper Aerodigestive Tract: Study genetic changes in precancerous and cancerous tissue; validate microarrays for biomarker development. 2,000; blood and tissue.
Ian Thompson, M.D.
University of Texas Health Sciences Center
San Antonio, Texas
Prostate: Evaluation of PSA and new biomarkers in largely African American and Spanish-speaking populations. 29,563; blood and tissue.

Biomarker Validation Laboratories

Principal Investigator
Grant Number
First Year Award
Focus of Grant
David Chia, Ph.D.
University of California
Los Angeles, Calif.
Provides a range of support, including tissue analysis, molecular pathology, immunoassays, cellular analysis.
William Grizzle, M.D.
University of Alabama at Birmingham, Ala.
Developing high-throughput methods for biomarker evaluation in prostate, breast, lung, colon, and other tumors.
Peter Baker, Ph.D.
National Institutes of Standards and Technology
Gaithersburg, Md.
Will help evaluate and standardize promising biomarker tests. Housed in NIST's DNA Technologies Group.

Data Management and Coordination Center

Principal Investigator
Grant Number
First Year Award
Focus of Grant
Ziding Feng, Ph.D.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Seattle, Wash.
Manage flow of information across EDRN; establish biomarkers database; develop new statistical and analytical techniques.

For more information about cancer, visit NCI's Web site at

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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