Kleberg Center for Molecular Markers

Director: Gordon B. Mills, M.D., Ph.D.

Early Diagnosis and Personalized Treatment

The overall research objective of the center will be to identify the molecular markers that will allow a cancer specialist to diagnose cancer early and predict response to a particular treatment. The plan is to eventually be able to create a personalized treatment for each individual patient.

Analysis of the DNA, RNA and Proteins of Tumors

A major focus of the research will be to characterize the molecular changes in cancer patients’ tumors by analyzing DNA, RNA and proteins in the tumors and also in the blood. Molecular markers will help identify those at risk for cancer and provide information for screening and prevention measures. Doctors will also use the markers to select the best treatment with the fewest side effects for each patient.

Applications for All Cancers

“What we learn about molecular markers in lung cancer may be translated to breast cancer. This program is not disease-site specific. In fact, we believe the research can impact a variety of cancers,” says Gordon B. Mills, M.D., Ph.D., director of the program.

What's Already Happening

A research team led by Dr. Mills found a potential new protein marker of the prognosis of breast and ovarian cancers. Tumor cells with an abundance of the protein Rab25, the researchers found, are more aggressive and associated with poorer outcome. Thus, Rab25 could become a target for cancer treatment.

2008 Update

Dr. Gordon Mills, director of the Kleberg Center for Molecular Markers, says that since there is no “one size fits all” cancer drug, personalized cancer medicine must be based on a study of the patient and the tumor. “Let the patient teach us what is important.” Using high-volume, low-cost technologies, they identify and evaluate changes in DNA, RNA and proteins to find out if and how those changes impact the effectiveness of a cancer treatment. Very few other places in the nation use this approach. Kleberg Center technology and resources also have helped MD Anderson researchers obtain more than $20 million in grants, and more than $10 million of sponsored research is underway.