Los Angeles — Oct. 4, 2005 — Fueled by a three-year, $9 million award from the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) and its Women's Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), a new consortium of internationally recognized scientists at seven leading biomedical-research institutions is embarking upon an intensive quest to pinpoint breast-cancer biomarkers — unique proteins in the blood that may signal the presence of cancer at its earliest stages, when survival rates are highest.
Known as the EIF/WCRF Breast Cancer Biomarker Discovery Project, the effort brings together researchers in the fields of proteomics, informatics and clinical breast-cancer care to share research methodologies, critical data, and tissue and blood samples from human subjects to speed the discovery of biomarkers that may lead to a blood test for early detection of breast cancer.
Under the scientific leadership of Nobel laureate Lee Hartwell, Ph.D.; Human Genome Project principal Eric Lander, Ph.D.; and Gabriel N. Hortobagyi, M.D., president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the consortium unites internationally recognized scientists from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, University of Southern California/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital, the Institute for Systems Biology, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
"We're assembling some of the best scientists and the best minds in the world. If we are successful in this collaboration, we could not only improve outcomes for breast-cancer patients but also for those who suffer from many other diseases," said Hartwell, president and director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
The Entertainment Industry Foundation, or EIF, the philanthropic arm of the entertainment industry, hopes that by funding the consortium it will improve breast-cancer survival rates and reduce the terrible toll exacted by one of the most common and dreaded cancers in women.
"We all know the prognosis is best for patients diagnosed in the earliest stages of cancer," said Rita Wilson, EIF's WCRF honorary co-chair. "However, because many cases aren't caught early, most of the efforts to date have focused on improving and extending the lives of patients with advanced disease."
"By creating this consortium, EIF aims to fast-track the development of blood tests for screening purposes, which in turn could help dramatically improve cancer-survival rates," added Kate Capshaw, EIF's WCRF honorary co-chair.
The five-year survival rate for breast-cancer patients with early stage disease is 85 percent to 95 percent, but the survival rate is only 22 percent in patients whose cancer has spread to distant organs.
EIF/WCRF Breast Cancer Biomarker Discovery Project will work to isolate the proteins that herald early stage breast cancer when detected in blood serum. The resulting knowledge could change the emphasis of cancer care away from treatment of advanced disease and toward prevention of full-blown cancer in persons known to be susceptible or just starting to develop the disease.
EIF/WCRF Breast Cancer Biomarker Discovery Project is a component of the Hutchinson Center's Early Detection and Intervention Initiative, which is focused on the discovery of biomarkers and the development of new technologies to identify these proteins in body fluids. Consortium researchers will provide expertise in the areas of whole-protein analysis, bioinformatics, proteomics-technology assessment, marker discovery and antibody technology.
Other participating institutions in the Breast Cancer Biomarker Discovery Project:
The Institute for Systems Biology and its co-founder, Ruedi Aebersold, Ph.D., are world leaders in the field of proteomics. The Aebersold group, under the direction of Hui Zhang, Ph.D., will contribute expertise in molecular and cellular biology, high-throughput technologies, cancer markers and glycosolated proteins/peptides.
The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard's Steven Carr, Ph.D., director of the Proteomics Platform, are leaders in the identification and pre-clinical validation of a robust, reproducible panel of candidate protein biomarkers that will be useful for early detection of breast cancer.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and chief scientist Richard Smith, Ph.D., are renowned for engineering ultra-sensitive instrumentation for liquid chromatographic separation and mass spectrometry, as well as expertise in quantitative proteomics, stable-isotope labeling and protein function and regulation.
The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center provides clinical expertise to the project through Gabriel N. Hortobagyi, M.D., who directs M. D. Anderson's Breast Cancer Research Program and is one of the world's leading authorities on the use of chemotherapy against breast cancer.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will contribute pilot-study efforts led by Ron DePinho, M.D., professor of medicine and genetics and the American Cancer Society Research Professor at Dana-Farber and Harvard Medical School, who has developed a program to understand the role of telomerase, an enzyme active in cancer cells.
USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital will participate through the pilot study efforts of Peter Laird, Ph.D., a biochemist and molecular biologist who will investigate the performance of methylated DNA as a biomarker for breast cancer.
Christi Ball Loso
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit www.fhcrc.org.
The EIF/WCRF Breast Cancer Biomarker Discovery Project
The Breast Cancer Biomarker Discovery Project receives funding through the Women's Cancer Research Fund, an Entertainment Industry Foundation program that supports innovative research, education and outreach directed to the development of more effective approaches to the early diagnosis, treatment and prevention of all women's cancers. WCRF was established by honorary chairs Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg, along with founders Kelly Chapman Meyer, Quinn Ezralow, Marion Laurie and Jamie Tisch.
A philanthropic leader of the entertainment industry, the Entertainment Industry Foundation has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars — and provided countless volunteer hours — to support charitable initiatives addressing some of the most critical issues facing society today. For more information, visit www.eifoundation.org.