Search for Colon Cancer Markers Yields Unlikely Target
Researchers have identified a novel biological marker for colon cancer that can be detected in DNA from the stool of some patients with the disease. They used the marker to detect colon cancer in nearly half the DNA samples they analyzed, a result that compares favorably with two noninvasive colon cancer screening tests.
Dr. Sanford Markowitz and his colleagues at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals in Cleveland identified the marker, part of a gene called vimentin. They tested it in collaboration with Exact Sciences of Marlborough, Mass., which sells a stool-based DNA test that analyzes about 20 mutations associated with colon cancer.
Unlike those mutations, vimentin has no known role in colon cancer. In fact, the gene is not even active in the normal colon. But it makes a good marker because, in some patients, the gene undergoes a chemical change known as methylation, and this can be detected in DNA from stool. Read more
Creating Networks to Foster Progress
I recently wrote a column for a European news syndicate about our 2015 goal and NCI's global outreach. As I stated in the column, eliminating cancer as a cause of suffering and death is something that will involve a global effort from all disciplines and backgrounds working toward this common goal. Cancer is a global problem, and although its solution will involve a global effort, NCI has an opportunity to spearhead this effort.
For that to happen, though, it requires the appropriate infrastructure and networks to facilitate collaboration, and the sharing of information and resources. At NCI, we are strategically focused on building such an infrastructure that can be viewed, to borrow a phrase from HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, as a "network of networks." In other words, multiple channels through which researchers - in the United States and beyond our borders into Europe, Asia, and elsewhere - can acquire new tools and resources, and communicate and collaborate with others.
The cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG) offers an excellent example. Focusing initially on our own National Cancer Program, it is intended to connect cancer centers, Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPOREs), NCI's Clinical Trials Cooperative Groups, community clinicians, and others by providing tools for conducting research more effectively and efficiently. But caBIG will by no means be limited to participants in the United States. The National Cancer Act of 1971 called for NCI to pursue its mission both domestically and globally, and I expect that eventually there will be strong international participation in caBIG. Read more