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Research Briefs

Annual Report - Winter 2011

Grant will help generate molecular portraits of cancer

When it comes to understanding the tortured genetics of human cancers, modern technology assures that there is no lack of data to analyze. Channeling that tsunami into meaningful information is another matter.

The National Institutes of Health Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) is funding an approach by MD Anderson scientists to put new computational tools to work parsing the genetic pathways that fuel more than 20 types of cancer. 

Generating molecular portraits of cancer will make it easier to improve risk assessment, make diagnoses earlier, customize treatment and assess the likelihood of recurrence. The grant establishes the research team as a Genome Data Analysis Center of the TCGA.

Principal investigator John Weinstein, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.

Study BATTLEs late-stage lung cancer

With advanced lung cancer often resistant to second-line chemotherapy, researchers involved in the Biomarker-integrated Approaches of Targeted Therapy for Lung Cancer Elimination (BATTLE) study used an innovative statistical model to match four drugs to specific biomarkers in the tumors of previously treated, stage IV non-small cell lung cancer patients. 

Overall 46% of patients had disease control at eight weeks, compared with a historical experience of 30%. Median overall survival was nine months, and 38% survived one year. Future trials will test drug combinations and single agents in other lung cancer settings.

Principal investigator Edward Kim, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology. Reported in April at the 2010 American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting.

Drug development process helps lock out cancer

Picture a door that, left ajar, would have lethal consequences. Closing and locking it requires the right key from an enormous pile. Then that key soon melts in the house’s key-recycling system.

A drug development process crafted by MD Anderson researchers screens millions of peptide keys to find one that locks down a troublesome protein and then makes a new key from tougher material. 

This approach employed in mouse experiments produced drugs that block two receptor proteins, one fueling cell growth and one supplying blood to tumors. Up next: early stage clinical trials of new drugs.

Wadih Arap , M.D., Ph.D., and Renata Pasqualini, Ph.D., of the David H. Koch Center for Applied Research of Genitourinary Cancers. Reported in March 2010 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center