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Stand Up to Cancer Launches $16.6M Effort for Early-Stage Cancer Detection, Treatment

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Non-profit fundraising organization Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) announced today the launch of four research projects that will use genetic and other technologies to detect and treat cancer at its earliest stages.

The projects are part of the SU2C Cancer Interception initiative and will specifically focus on lung and pancreatic cancer. They will be be funded with a total of $16.6 million provided by SU2C, the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, LUNGevity, and the American Lung Association.

In the first project, a team led by University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center scientists will receive $7 million to perform genetic screening on family members of 2,000 pancreatic cancer patients to identify carriers of disease-risk mutations. Positive mutation carriers will then undergo imaging testing, and those found to have precancerous lesions will be treated with a vaccine designed to trigger an immune response against the cancer. The researchers — who include collaborators from Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, San Diego — also aim to develop a blood test for pancreatic cancer for use in high-risk individuals.

The second project is being led by scientists at the Massachusetts General Hospital and NYU Langone, who will receive $2.6 million to evaluate new preoperative treatments for pancreatic cancer with the goal of complete resection and eradication of micrometastatic disease. They will also test various therapeutic regimens and the use of organoids in predicting patient drug responses.

Investigators from Boston University and the University of California, Los Angeles are leading the third project, which was awarded $5 million to develop diagnostic tools — such as nasal swabs, blood tests, and radiological imaging — to confirm whether lung abnormalities found on chest imaging are benign or malignant. The project will also develop blood tests to identify lung cancer patients at risk for disease recurrence.

In the final project, scientists from Mass General and Stanford University will use $2 million in funding to develop a blood-based assay that analyzes circulating tumor cells and circulating tumor DNA for early-stage lung cancer detection, which could be used in combination with low-dose CT scans.

"The development of cancers, like heart disease, can be intercepted with risk-reducing agents in the same way that cancers can be treated with drugs or that cardiovascular disease can be intercepted with antihypertensive agents, statins, and other risk-reducing drugs," Elizabeth Blackburn, president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Nobel Laureate, said in a statement. "This new commitment by SU2C and its collaborators is an important step in the development of cancer interception."