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NCI to Fund Prognostic Biomarker Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – In order to address what it describes as a need for more biomarker-based products aimed at predicting cancer and its advancement and predicting patient response, the National Cancer Institute has put out a new grants program to fund biomarker development.

The program, Developmental Research in Cancer Prognosis and Prediction, funds both R21 and R33 grants aimed at developing new biomarkers from initial observations into assays or test systems for use in clinical trials.

The R21 grants will award up to $275,000 over a two-year period, and the R33 program will be held to a three-year period and will have a budget that is "appropriate for the science proposed."

The goal of the R21 program is to continue development of novel prognostic and predictive biomarkers towards laboratory assays and test systems that can be used in clinical trials or in larger studies.

The R33 program aims to develop biomarkers into assays or test systems for cancer in clinical trials or other types of confirmatory clinical research studies.

"Despite strong interest in biomarkers and a growing body of knowledge, the number of clinical laboratory assays currently in routine use in oncology remains very small," NCI explained in a funding announcement. NCI said that although the R21 grants will fund "rapid appraisal of new candidate prognostic and predictive markers."

NCI said that although there is an increasing number of new molecules and new patterns of gene expression that are correlated with prognostic factors, "very few biomarkers progress beyond the stage of an initial promising result. Studies to move the development of a new diagnostic test beyond the exploratory stage require both large numbers of patient samples with associated clinical data, robust, efficient assays/techniques, and substantial statistical input," said the institute in the funding announcement.

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