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NCI Renews Funding Opportunity for Studies Involving Unique Cancer Biorepository

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Cancer Institute this month said that it has renewed a program under which it will fund the use of biosamples obtained through the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening (PLCO) trial in order to advance research into the etiology and early detection of cancer.

The NCI said it will support a wide range of cancer research including biochemical and genetic analyses of cancer risk, as well as discovery and validation of early detection biomarkers.

The PLCO trial was designed to determine whether four screening exams could reduce mortality from prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancer. As part of the study, biosamples including serum, plasma, buffy coat, whole blood, and red blood cells were collected from 155,000 individuals between 1993 and 2001. Additionally, buccal cells were collected from participants in the study's trial arm and tissue microarrays of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumor tissues were created for a subset of cases for select cancers.

While the main portion of the trial was completed in May 2012 and mortality outcomes have been published, the NCI noted that the PLCO biorepository still holds "high-quality, pre-diagnostic, serial blood samples ideal for investigation of the causes and the natural history of various cancers, and for pivotal validation of promising blood-based early detection biomarkers."

In late 2012, the NCI first announced that it was seeking applications for new research projects that would use the samples to investigate cancer etiology and early detection. With that funding opportunity expiring last month, the agency said it is once again looking to fund investigators who would take advantage of the biorepository.

According to the NCI, funded research should not only involve PLCO specimens and data, but also take advantage of their unique characteristics by focusing on areas that cannot be addressed with clinical samples.

PLCO samples, the agency added, include DNA samples collected months to years before cancer diagnosis and serial blood samples collected over periods up to six years. They also feature detailed demographic, dietary, lifestyle, and clinical data; genotype data from genome-wide association studies on a subset of prostate, lung, bladder, pancreatic, and kidney cancers; and an average-risk population.

Specific areas of research of interest to the NCI include, but are not limited to, the identification of biomarkers of various environmental, biochemical, and genetic risk factors of cancer; the pivotal validation of early-detection biomarkers in pre-diagnostic samples; the development of early-detection or risk-prediction models based on longitudinal patterns of the biomarkers; and the correlation of blood biomarkers to tissue biomarkers, histological and molecular subtypes, and clinical behaviors.

The NCI said that it would fund projects for up to five years, but it has not set budgets for the projects.

Additional details about the funding opportunity can be found here.