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Northwestern to Start $13.6M NCI Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Northwestern University has won a $13.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to establish a center that will study the roles genes play in cancer, Northwestern said Tuesday.

The five years of funding will go to start the Northwestern Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (PS-OC), one of twelve centers around the country that bring together biology and the physical sciences in an effort to develop therapies and diagnostics for cancer.

"Our center will be studying the regulation and expression of genes in both normal health and development and in cancer," Northwestern Professor and Principal Investigator Jonathan Widom said in a statement.

The interdisciplinary PS-OC is a joint effort between the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern.

The research will focus on how genetic and epigenetic information is encoded and decoded in cancer cells, and will involve nanoscale and atomic scale studies, computational biology, mathematical modeling, and other disciplines.

"By bringing a fresh set of eyes to the study of cancer, these new centers have great potential to advance, and sometimes challenge, accepted theories about cancer and its supportive microenvironment," NCI Director John Niederhuber said.

"Physical scientists think in terms of time, space, pressure, heat, and evolution in ways that we hope will lead to new understandings of the multitude of forces that govern cancer — and with that understanding, we hope to develop new and innovative methods of arresting tumor growth and metastasis," he added.

The center also will involve collaborators at the University of Chicago, Children's Memorial Hospital, The California Institute of Technology, and the Weizmann Institute.

The PS-OC will include five project areas, with each focusing on different aspects of the storage and expression of genetic information, and each project will integrate molecular and cell biology methods with ideas from the physical sciences.

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