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NCI, Canary Seek Non-smoking Lung Cancer Causes

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Cancer Institute and the Canary Foundation are partnering to fund a number of studies aimed at understanding the genetic causes of lung cancer in non-smokers and developing early-stage diagnostics.

NCI's Early Detection Research Network and the Canary Foundation will give $1 million each to a number of studies that will involve genomic and RNA analysis, protein and tumor biomarker discovery, transcriptomics, cellular alterations, and other research areas. The partners did not say how much in total funding they intend to disburse under the collaboration.

There is a need for such research because as many as 25 percent of lung cancers cases are not attributable to smoking, but the disease in non-smokers can be missed in its early stages, according to the National Institutes of Health. The disease in non-smokers also differs in many ways than it does in cases involving smoking.

"Efforts to study the disease in never-smokers have been limited, and no screening tests or approaches for identifying individuals at increased risk are available today," Samir Hanash, a team leader for the Canary Foundation's projects and a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, said in an NIH statement. "This inability to recognize non-smokers who are at risk often leads to delays in diagnosis and results in cancer identification at an advanced stage, and this problem is what we're tackling with this new study."

"This project is extremely important, both in its approach toward lung cancer detection and in its structure as a multi-institutional, transdisciplinary project funded through a public-private partnership," NCI Director John Niederhuber, added. "Identification of biomarkers, which tell us who is at risk for cancer and help diagnose cancer at the earliest possible stages, is an important priority in cancer prevention research and a key component in efforts to reduce the burden of this disease."

As reported last week by GenomeWeb Daily News, NCI researcher Curtis Harris presented research at the recent American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Denver that showed that a microRNA, called miR-21, is often over-expressed in lung cancer tumors from never smokers, suggesting these patients may eventually benefit from treatments targeting the miRNA or other components of the same pathway.

Under the partnership with the Canary Foundation, NCI will fund several research programs for the initiative on non-smokers with lung cancer including proteomic analysis of plasmas from lung cancer subjects; mining the genome and transcriptome from non-smokers with lung cancer; mitochondrial mutations in lung cancer; and genomic analysis of current and never smokers.

The Canary Foundation will support projects including proteomic analysis of lung cancer cell lines; biomarker discovery for lung cancer in non-smokers; genomic studies of lung cancer cell lines in current smokers and never smokers; microRNA profiles of a lung cancer cell line; and genome-wide DNA methylation profiling of lung cancer adenocarcinomas from never smokers and non-smokers.

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