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NIH to Give Post-GWAS Cancer Studies $24M per Year

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The National Cancer Institute will give up to $96 million over four years to support multicenter collaborations that will use data from genome-wide association studies to identify regions in the human genome that are associated with cancer susceptibility.

The program, “Transdisciplinary Cancer Genomics Research: Post-Genome Wide Association Initiative,” will spend as much as $24 million per year to support between five and eight awards.

NCI said in a funding announcement that it wants the project to "provide a rigorous knowledge base that would enable clinical translation and public health dissemination of the GWAS findings."

The institute specifically wants to fund transdisciplinary research projects that will take advantage of the existing genome-wide association studies of cancer by exploiting previously generated GWAS data, and those that will accelerate and coordinate integrative post-GWAS discovery research. Each application should include two or three sub-projects that are “closely pertinent to a single unifying research theme,” NCI said.

NCI wants researchers to focus on using data from GWA studies because they are "a powerful method" for detecting effects of high-frequency genetic variants linked to cancer susceptibility. But using GWAS-derived information for genetic testing could lead to confusion and harm, NCI said, so "it is imperative to accelerate the post-GWAS research phase" from discovery to replication studies and on to validation of GWAS findings.

All of the programs funded under this program "must be focused on the post-GWAS research on the significance of genomic variants in specific cancer types."

Of primary interest are projects that study variations in cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, pancreas, lung, melanoma, and bladder, said NIH. Some research components are required, NCI said, and each applicant is "strongly encouraged" to propose sub-projects that address three main areas.

They should involve "discovery expansion and replication," which would include finding new associations through pooled or meta-analyses, independent replication studies, and fine mapping of association signals. The research should involve biological studies that will identify risk-enhancing genetic variants, examine the functional consequence of a genetic variant, and determine biological mechanisms of risk enhancement. These studies also should include epidemiologic studies, such as those that evaluate gene-gene and gene-environment interactions, assess penetrance and populations of attributable risk, develop complex risk models, and evaluate clinical and analytic validity of risk models in observational studies.

Researchers receiving funding under these programs also must agree to data-sharing requirements.

More information about the NCI program is available here.

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