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NCI to Fund Biomarker Studies Based on Unique Cancer Biorepository

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Cancer Institute intends to fund investigators who will use samples and data from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening (PLCO) trial to study the etiology of cancer and develop early detection biomarkers.

In a funding announcement posted this week, NCI said it will support a wide range of research efforts that use samples, clinical data, tumor tissue microarrays, and information about patients' diets and lifestyles from the PLCO Biorepository.

The PLCO was a randomized controlled cancer screening trial of 155,000 participants that evaluated the effectiveness of four screening programs in reducing cancer-specific mortality. Those screening programs included digital rectal exams and PSA tests for prostate cancer, chest X-rays for lung cancer, flexible sigmoidoscopy for colorectal cancer, and the tumor marker CA125 in combination with transvaginal ultrasound for ovarian cancer.

Allthough the trial's main phase wrapped up in May and the mortality outcomes have been published, the PLCO participants are still being followed and data is still being collected. So far, the PLCO biospecimens have been used in 118 research projects, resulting in over 150 publications, which can be found on the PLCO website.

NCI said it will fund research involving a number of approaches and disciplines, such as efforts to identify biomarkers of genetic, environmental, and biochemical risk factors for cancer; to validate early detection blood biomarkers; to develop early detection or risk prediction models; to identify blood biomarkers that correlate with clinical behavior of tumors to differentiate between aggressive and indolent cancers; to correlate blood and tissue biomarkers; and to discover biomarkers in pre-diagnostic samples using proven high-throughput technologies.

The wide range of PLCO specimens includes pre-diagnostic serum, plasma, and lymphocyte DNA samples; serial blood samples collected over a six-year period; detailed demographic, dietary, lifestyle, and clinical data; tissue microarrays of FFPE tumor samples for a subset of cancer cases, with matching blood or DNA samples; and genotype data from genome-wide association studies on certain cancer types.

NCI said it will fund projects for up to five years, but it has not set budgets for the projects.

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