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John Wayne Cancer Institute Receives $1M Grant from Abraxis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Abraxis BioScience has awarded the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., a $1 million grant to search for genes and proteins that can serve as biomarkers for solid-tumor cancers.

The funding was awarded to John Wayne's Department of Molecular Oncology, directed by Dave Hoon. The research is designed to help develop new biomarker-specific blood tests for detecting cancer, the cancer institute said in a statement Tuesday.

In the initial phase of work, researchers will seek potential protein biomarkers in tumors linked with breast cancer and prostate cancer, then identify the same protein biomarkers in the blood.

"Hopefully, this will lead us to specific biomarker-based blood tests that would be ideal for all phases of cancer, including screening, staging, and monitoring the success or failure of a particular treatment strategy," Hoon said in a statement.

The grant will also help fund the search for new epigenetic biomarkers capable of helping detect pancreatic cancer and liver cancer. The liver cancer research will be carried out in collaboration with Steven Colquhoun, surgical director for liver transplantation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Abraxis executive chairman and CEO Patrick Soon-Shiong, and his wife, actress Michele Chan, have been key benefactors of the cancer institute and the health center. Last October, they pledged $55 million toward research at John Wayne and joint research programs with other institutions — as well as another $10 million toward recruiting physicians and scientists for the institute.

In 2007, Soon-Shiong and Chan agreed to donate $25 million toward completion of the Chan Soon-Shiong Center for Life Sciences, a four-story inpatient center, as part of Saint John's Challenge to Lead Campaign. The family also designated an additional $10 million grant toward development of a master plan for the South Campus of Saint John's Health Center and the Chan Soon-Shiong Center for Translational Sciences.

The institute, previously known as the John Wayne Cancer Clinic at UCLA, is named for the 20th century movie legend who died of stomach cancer in 1979.