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Picture This: Center for Targeted Therapy

Conquest - Spring 2012

Center takes aim at new 
cancer targets


By David Berkowitz

As MD Anderson accelerates the delivery of new cancer drug therapies from concept to patients in the clinic, the Center for Targeted Therapy is playing a critical role.

The center, directed by Garth Powis, D.Phil., allows MD Anderson researchers and clinicians to coordinate all stages of the drug discovery and development process. The goal is to design more effective and targeted drugs with less toxicity.

Pictured here is the Small Interference RNA (siRNA) Screening Service, one of several core programs within the center that’s available to all MD Anderson investigators.

Directed by Geoffrey Bartholomeusz, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics, the service provides automated, high-throughput screening of cells using an siRNA library targeting more than 21,000 human genes.

This technology enables investigators to identify previously unknown modulators of cancer-inducing genes and signaling pathways that may be targeted to halt cancer’s development and progression.

Our photographer captured the service during a particularly busy day:

The Small Interference RNA Screening Service, a core program within the Center 
for Targeted Therapy. (Note: click on the image to view a larger version.)
Photo: F. Carter Smith

1. Garth Powis, D.Phil.: In addition to his role as director of the Center for Targeted Therapy, he is professor and chair of the Department of Experimental Therapeutics, which administers the center.

2. Fluostar Omega microplate reader: Lakesla Iles, research assistant, operates this device, which determines absorbance, luminescence and fluorescence — three methods to verify results of a cell screen.

3. Biomek 3000: This robotic system accurately dispenses all controls into test plates for an assay.

4. Johnathon Rose: The research assistant works at the Biotek liquid dispenser, which allots small volumes of media, lipid reagents and cell suspensions into each well of an assay plate.

5. Heather Charron and Justin Jacob: The research assistants analyze data generated from an assay development plate.

6. Liconic incubators: This automated equipment enables incubation of cell cultures in very small volumes, with minimal evaporation in the outer wells of the media plate.

7. Semiconductor sequencing chip: The desktop Ion Torrent personal genome sequencer uses this chip and a hydrogen ion sensor to provide DNA sequencing of multiple genes in cancer pathways, whole gene sequencing and much more — within just a few hours. This is part of the center’s Sequencing and Non-Coding RNA (ncRNA) Program.

8. Genetic Analysis System: This device, which also is part of the Sequencing and ncRNA Program, is an ultra-throughput DNA sequencing platform. The vents above the system help exhaust a tremendous amount of heat generated by the computer cluster/processors during a data collection run.

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