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Silico Insights, University of Utah to Study Gene Expression of Melanoma

NEW YORK, March 11 - Silico Insights and the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah have launched a collaborative program to probe differential gene expression in melanoma and other cancers, the partners said on Monday.


The partnership will combine genealogical resources from the University of Utah with gene identification and annotation analysis from Silico Insights. The university's Huntsman Cancer Institute will provide the company with microarray data, and Silico Insights will analyze gene activity and protein characteristics in order to develop a reliable system to distinguish between benign, pre-cancerous, and malignant tissues.


This project will initially focus on melanoma, building upon research done with families with a  high incidence of this cancer at the institute's Tom C. Mathews Jr. Familial Melanoma Research Clinic.


Researchers there have been working to examine differential gene expression in melanoma to understand the disease's genetic mechanisms and progression.


Melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer that can quickly metastasize through the blood or through the lymph system, apparently has a genetic component since melanoma risk increases for an individual with blood relatives that have this form of cancer.


As part of this collaboration, Silico Insights will also conduct proteomic studies of the Huntsman Cancer Institute samples in order to investigate post-translational modifications. This combined data will allow the two partners to identify relevant biological targets in melanoma, jointly evaluate the research, and work to develop an early-detection mechanism for the disease.


The collaboration may be extended to other types of cancer.


The Huntsman Cancer Institute conducts research into the genetics of cancer with a database that includes information from more than 3 million people.


Silico Insights, based in Woburn, Mass., focuses on combining proteomics with informatics to investigate inflammatory diseases. Its technology platform characterizes the relationships between protein modifications and gene expressions in order to identify disease pathways, gene functions, and protein interactions.


The company recently announced a partnership with Genzyme Molecular Oncology to characterize disease pathways in breast cancer and find new drug targets for that disease.

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