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With $7.8M NIH Grant, LLNL Applying Accelerator Mass Spec to Cancer Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Funded by a five-year, $7.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are applying accelerator mass spectrometry to cancer research.

Among the projects is a collaboration with researchers from the University California, Davis, using the method to predict patient response to chemotherapy.

LLNL and UCD researchers are using AMS in a 50-subject human trial investigating patient response to the chemotherapeutic agent carboplatin, using it to measure the level of binding of the drug to DNA.

"A high degree of binding indicates that you have a high probability of a favorable response to the drug," LLNL researcher Mike Malfatti said in a statement. "Conversely, a low degree of binding means it is likely the person's body won't respond to the treatment. If we can identify which people will respond to which chemotherapeutic drug, we can tailor the treatment to the individual."

Biological AMS uses carbon-14 tagging to label molecules of interest, allowing for highly sensitive assays. The technique has traditionally required laborious sample prep, but over the last two years LLNL researchers have managed to bring the assay time down from a matter of days to minutes, allowing for less expensive and higher throughput experiments.

In addition to the carboplatin work, LLNL researchers are also using the technique to study the formation of metastases.