September 29, 2006

VICC taking part in bold cancer detection initiative

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Daniel Liebler, Ph.D.

VICC taking part in bold cancer detection initiative

The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center will participate in a major nationwide initiative to standardize proteomic technologies aimed at improving the detection and treatment of cancer.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) announced Wednesday that it will provide $35.5 million over five years to a collaborative network of “teams” to conduct Clinical Proteomic Technology Assessment for Cancer (CPTAC).

The other participating centers are: the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City; Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.; and the University of California, San Francisco, in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The Vanderbilt team, which will receive about $7.6 million over the five-year period, is led by Daniel Liebler, Ph.D., director of the Proteomics Laboratory in the Vanderbilt Mass Spectrometry Research Center, and director of the Jim Ayers Institute for Precancer Detection and Diagnosis.

Gordon Mills, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Center for Molecular Markers at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, is collaborating with the Vanderbilt team.

“Proteomic technologies measure proteins that are found in tissues and blood,” Liebler explained.

“These complex mixtures of proteins are affected by the development of cancer, so the ability to detect protein combinations characteristic of disease could be a powerful means to detect cancer and monitor therapy.”

Currently, however, there is a lack of standardization of techniques used to analyze proteins.

As a result, he said, “the overall reliability of the approach is not currently sufficient to apply it directly to clinical research.”

Using blood samples collected from patients with breast cancer, the consortium will “carefully compare, improve and standardize procedures and methods for proteomic analysis, and create specimen collections that can be used to test the performance of proteomics analysis tools in multiple laboratories,” Liebler said.

The ability to identify, in a reliable way, patterns of proteins that could serve as candidate “biomarkers” for breast cancer will translate directly to efforts to improve the detection and treatment of other malignancies.

“The research made possible through this grant will help us move forward vital infrastructure and technology that is needed to evaluate key markers, ultimately use the findings to detect cancers as early as possible, choose the best course of individualized therapy and monitor the effectiveness of that therapy,” Mills said.

“This mirrors the technology approaches we're developing and implementing for colon cancer in the Ayers Institute,” Liebler added. The institute was launched last year with a $10 million gift from West Tennessee businessman Jim Ayers.

In addition to Mills, participants in the Vanderbilt CPTAC team include:

• Team co-director Richard Caprioli, Ph.D., who directs the Mass Spectrometry Research Center and who has helped pioneer the technology used to identify and analyze protein biomarkers in tissue samples;

• Carlos Arteaga, M.D., Vice Chancellor's Chair in Breast Cancer Research and director of the Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Breast Cancer;

• Anuradha (Bapsi) Chakravarthy, M.D., principal investigator of the breast tissue repository, and co-investigator in the breast cancer SPORE;

• Dean Billheimer, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biostatistics;

• Constantin Aliferis, M.D., Ph.D., and David Tabb, Ph.D., assistant professors of Biomedical Informatics; and

• Douglas Hardin, Ph.D., professor of Mathematics.

For more information about Vanderbilt's proteomics programs, go to: and research/donor/ayers.php.

For more on the federal initiative, go to: