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BU to Lead $3.3M Cancer Dx Studies

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Boston University will use funding from two grants totaling $3.3 million from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense to partner with other universities and hospitals to develop new lung cancer diagnostic technologies.

According to BU, it will use a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute's Early Detection Research Network program to collaborate with the University of California, Los Angeles, to form a Lung Cancer Biomarker Development Laboratory. As part of this collaboration, Boston University School of Medicine will study gene activity in cells from the nose or mouth to develop new tests for diagnosing lung cancer.

"The idea is that even though these cells aren't cancerous, they act differently in patients with cancer and we can use these differences to diagnose disease," Marc Lenburg, an associate professor of medicine and pathology at BUSM, said in a statement.

According to BU, the researchers will use "sophisticated genomic approaches that measure the activity of each gene to detect the differences between patients with and without cancer."

The DOD grant will support a four-year collaboration between BU, UCLA, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Vanderbilt University. This effort will seek to develop novel tests for early lung cancer detection in veterans, a group that is 75 percent more likely to develop lung cancer and more likely to die from the disease, according to BU.

The researchers will collect cells from the airways of veterans that have smoking-related damage to develop a test that detects differences in how these injuries heal. Such a test potentially could enable doctors to detect early signs of lung cancer in cells from the mouth, nose, and throat, which could be collected more easily than current diagnostic methods.

"The challenge is to develop lung cancer detection methods that are effective during this early window of opportunity to increase the rate of early detection and thereby spur early treatment and improve lung cancer patient outcomes," explained Avrum Spira, an associate professor of medicine and pathology at BUSM.

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