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NCI to Fund Consortium to Characterize Lesions at Molecular, Cellular Level

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Cancer Institute will provide up to $4.5 million next year to fund research teams performing omics studies to characterize tumor lesions discovered through screening, with the aim of better predicting which lesions are progressive and require interventions and which are indolent.

These multidisciplinary teams will use a range of omics approaches to characterize lesions at the molecular and cellular levels. They also will join together to form a consortium and establish a biospecimen repository to house screen-detected lesions and interval cancers.

NCI said it expects to fund a network of eight to 10 of these multi-institutional research teams, or Molecular Characterization Laboratories (MCLs).

To support these MCLs, NCI plans to award up to $500,000 next year to fund a coordinating center and data management group.

The research teams will address a "critical unmet need" for minimally invasive methods for predicting which lesions require interventions and which require only careful monitoring, NCI said in a funding announcement today. Their goal will be to develop comprehensive cellular and molecular characterizations of early lesions, including the tumor cell and its microenvironment, to find features that distinguish indolent lesions from aggressive ones.

The MCLs will include cancer biologists with expertise in molecular and cellular characterizations, clinicians, pathologists, imagers, statisticians, and epidemiologists. These scientists will use technologies such as genomics, epigenomics, proteomics, imaging, and single-cell analysis tools to determine the cellular and molecular phenotypes of stromal cells with the goal of assessing how early lesions found via screening will behave.

The MCL teams will share their results with other consortium members and will develop collaborative projects that use their combined expertise and technological capabilities.

The NCI plans to fund projects that compare recurrent and non-recurrent screen-detected lesions and interval cancers at the molecular level; use knowledge from genome-wide association studies and chromosomal instability to predict the progression from benign to malignant cancers and develop molecular tests to identify genes associated with risk progression in early lesions; use systems biology approaches to define the trajectories of different types of lesions and the corresponding risk of clinically significant malignancies; use whole-genome sequencing and somatic gene alterations to develop phylogenies to infer the genomic ancestry of lesions and to investigate premalignant conditions; and analyze tumor heterogeneity using single cell analyses.

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