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Lustgarten Grants $1.6M for Cancer 'Omics

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Lustgarten Foundation, a private non-profit that raises funds for pancreatic cancer research, has issued $1.6 million in grants for 2009 to support 'omics-based studies aimed at developing diagnostics and treatments for the disease.

The foundation will give funding to projects that will seek genetic biomarkers and microRNAs, and will conduct high-throughput sequencing, to develop early-stage diagnostics for the disease and to understand how it progresses.

"Many of these grant recipients will build on the landmark work of The [Pancreatic Cancer] Genome Project, which decoded pancreatic cancer's complete genetic blueprint, while others are conducting research essential to our growing understanding of pancreatic cancer," the Foundation's Executive Director, Kerri Kaplan, said in a statement. "If successful, this research will move us another step closer toward the goal of making pancreatic cancer detection as easy as a routine blood test, and provide the framework for developing life-saving treatments."

This round of funding was awarded to:

• Nita Ahuja, an assistant professor of oncology and medicine at Johns Hopkins University, who will attempt to identify a biomarker for early detection for the disease;

• Joshua Mendell, an associate professor of pediatrics and molecular biology and genetics at JHU, will study how microRNAs may contribute to the development of pancreatic cancer;

• Bert Vogelstein, who is director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics and Therapeutics at the JHU Kimmel Cancer Center, will develop a blood test that could be used to screen for early, curable pancreatic tumors;

• Alison Klein, an assistant professor of oncology and pathology at the JHU's Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, will study use data from the Pancreatic Cancer Genome Project to identify pancreatic cancer genes;

• Chandan Kumar, an assistant research professor at the University of Michigan Medical School, will conduct high-throughput sequencing to identify gene fusions in pancreatic cancer cells, which could lead to effective diagnostic and therapeutic strategies;

• Thomas Schmittgen, an associate professor at the Ohio State University, will profile microRNAs in serum from pancreatic adenocarcinoma patients to develop an early detection test;

• Jeffrey Settleman, a professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, will attempt to identify genes that are active in Kras-dependent cells that could help reveal several novel potential therapeutic targets.

• Sunil Hingorani, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, will study whether inactivating a gene that is mutated in almost 100 percent of all human pancreatic cancer cases, will arrest, reverse, or stop the disease progression;

• Allan Balmain, a professor in cancer genetics at the University of California, San Francisco, will target pancreatic stem cell pathways to inhibit growth of pancreatic tumors.

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