Grant creates cancer research dream team

May 27, 2009 5:13:07 PM PDT
Last year people around the country donated millions to cancer research through the Stand Up to Cancer campaign by the entertainment industry. Some of that money is coming to Houston's Texas Medical Center. MD Anderson scientists will share a $15 million grant that could lead to faster treatments, starting with women's cancers.

MD Anderson scientists will be a big recipient of the funding. They're a part of what's being called a dream team of scientists made up of MD Anderson, New York's Sloan Kettering Cancer researchers and Harvard.

"This will bring together a team that has never been together before," said Gordon Mills, MD, PhD and co-leader of the MD Anderson "Dream Team."

Scientists at Vanderbilt and in Spain will help with basic science research. How is this program different from other cancer research projects? They'll start by analyzing the genes in the tumors of 10,000 patients.

"By knowing for those 10,000 patients what the genetic changes are, we're going to be able to do smarter, faster and more efficient trials so that we get the best drugs to patients much quicker than we do today," Dr. Mills said.

Combining scientists in Houston, New York and Boston they say will speed results from five to ten years to two to three years. What abnormalities are they looking for? They explain it this way. A third to a half of all cancer tumors have something in common. They communicate through a wrong pathway. That pathway controls growth and survival. And it also makes a good target.

"If we can just gum up one piece of that particular pathway and the right piece we think we're going to turn it off," Dr. Mills said.

The first studies will be done in women's cancers starting with endometrial, breast and ovarian cancers.

"They are particularly dependent on these pathways and abnormalities," Dr. Mills said. "We will then from what we learn in women's cancers apply this across all cancer types."

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter

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