NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research NewsNCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
February 1, 2005 • Volume 2 / Number 5 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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Dr. Mary-Claire King Lectures on Breast Cancer Genetics
Dr. Mary-Claire King, credited with the first discovery of a hereditary breast cancer link, BRCA1, in 1990, spoke at the NIH Director's Wednesday Afternoon Lecture series on January 26. Her seminar covered the nuances in BRCA1 and 2 gene sequence that lend themselves to the disease, the New York Breast Cancer Study, and an approach her lab is using to identify new breast cancer genes. Dr. King's lecture focused, in part, on recent controversial data from her work showing that among the relatives of women who developed breast cancer due to BRCA1 mutations, those who also carry the mutation have as much as an 80 percent risk of developing the disease by the age of 80. Now she is looking for possible risk modifiers by working with families devoid of breast cancer, despite carrying the associated mutations. Her lecture is available on the NIH VideoCasting Web site at

Chang Discusses Tumor-Targeting Nanodelivery Systems
Dr. Esther Chang, professor of oncology and otolaryngology at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, gave the inaugural talk in NCI's new Nanotechnology Seminar Series on January 27. Dr. Chang discussed the use of targeted nanoscale liposomes to deliver genes, siRNA, and imaging contrast agents to both primary and metastatic tumors.

Dr. Chang, who also serves on NCI's Board of Scientific Advisors, highlighted 10 years of preclinical work in which her laboratory successfully demonstrated that cationic liposomes smaller than 100 nanometers in diameter could safely and selectively deliver therapeutic genes, such as tumor suppressor genes, to tumor cells. One such preparation, which uses transferrin to target tumor cells and the p53 gene, is slated to begin phase I clinical trials in head and neck cancer this spring.

Other work in Dr. Chang's laboratory is focusing on using cationic liposomes to deliver siRNA constructs capable of down-regulating various oncogenes that are overexpressed in prostate and pancreatic cancers.

Future presentations in the series are scheduled for February 24 and March 8. Visit for more information.

"NCI Listens and Learns" on the Web
On January 26, NCI and the Director's Consumer Liaison Group (DCLG) launched a new pilot Web site - - to enhance communication and collaboration between NCI and the cancer advocacy community. The site serves as an online forum for discussing issues related to NCI's strategic plans and initiatives. Advocacy groups can register at the site to participate in this online process; more than 90 groups have registered to date.

Through DCLG, NCI will pose monthly questions to the advocacy community and the public. Groups and individuals can post their comments on the Web site. Following the comment period, NCI will summarize comments made by the advocacy community and provide an official response. For more information on "NCI Listens and Learns," call 301-594-3194.

President's Cancer Panel Meets in New York
The President's Cancer Panel held its fourth and final meeting on translating research to reduce the burden of cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. A call was issued to make financing for all aspects of translational research - discovery, development, and delivery - a top national priority in order to reduce suffering and death due to cancer. It was emphasized that delivering current cancer information to the American people would have an immediate impact on cancer survival.

To help narrow the gap between discovery and delivery, it was recommended that geographic areas of excess mortality be targeted. "There are hundreds of 'silent tsunamis' across the United States at any given time, where people are dying at high rates," remarked one speaker. While funding for scientific discovery remains strong, additional financial support is needed to "commercialize" and move discoveries from the laboratories to physicians and patients. "Discoveries are rendered useless if they do not reach the people who need them," reflected panel member Dr. Margaret Kripke.

Strategies for improving our current system of translational research were discussed at length. Participants touched on many issues similar to those discussed at prior meetings, but with different emphases. The need for "team science," review of unintended consequences of current regulations (e.g., the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), examination of intellectual property and patent barriers, and better integration of communities into research and dissemination efforts are some of the major themes that surfaced throughout this series of meetings and will be addressed by the panel in its final report to the President.