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NCI to Fund Research Into Small Cell Lung Cancer Detection, Prevention

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – As part of an effort to build a Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) Consortium, National Cancer Institute announced that it intends to fund research that will support the development of new molecular diagnostics and screening approaches for populations at high risk of developing the disease.

The agency said that approved projects may receive up to $450,000 in annual direct costs for up to five years, with the total number of awards depending on National Institutes of Health appropriations.

SCLC is a neuroendocrine malignancy that typically begins as a central tumor with no identifiable premalignant phase, according to the NCI. Metastases develop early and outcomes are poor even after intensive treatment with chemotherapy and radiation.

Notably, SCLC has one of the highest densities of mutations per tumor of any cancer, and significant progress has been made in understanding some of the cancer's molecular and cellular abnormalities, the agency noted. Still, such insights have not yielded better preventative or therapeutic strategies. 

"In fact, despite the well-established causal link between SCLC and heavy tobacco exposure, little is known about why most smokers do not develop SCLC … and what predisposing genetic and environmental factors lead to the development of this disease in a minority of individuals," the NCI said.

There are currently no effective screening approaches or validated biomarkers for detecting SCLC at an early curable stage, it added. "Thus, new approaches to early detection and prevention of SCLC are needed."

As such, the NCI is seeking applications for research projects focused on improving the understanding of the molecular changes in the lung that precede the development of SCLC and enabling the identification of individuals at particularly high risk for the disease.

Such studies should involve biospecimens such as blood, sputum, bronchoscopic biopsies or brushings, nasal brushings, or exhaled breath condensate, the agency said.

Areas of particular interest include studies of molecular changes in histologically normal lung epithelium in SCLC patients; assessments of molecular changes associated with SCLC in circulating tumor cells, exosomes, and other biospecimens; the identification of genetic and epigenetic risk factors for SCLC; and the identification and validation of biomarkers, molecular signatures, and imaging measures of risk and presence of the cancer.

Additional details about this funding opportunity can be found here

The NCI separately announced a funding opportunity around a coordinating center for the SCLC Consortium.

The coordinating center, the NCI said, will handle the administrative activities of the consortium; create and support databases of relevant data; oversee tissue banking of specimens submitted by consortium members; provide biostatistical, bioinformatic, and data-analysis support to consortium researchers; and coordinate inter-consortium communications. Additional information can be found here

The NCI also said that it intends to fund research around new SCLC therapeutics, as well as studies into how the disease develops resistance to drug and radiation treatment. Areas covered under this funding opportunity include the molecular basis of innate versus acquired therapy resistance; longitudinal molecular profiling of human SCLC tumors or circulating tumor cells before and after treatment; and the definition of new critical driver mutations in SCLC. 

Additional details can be found here.