National Cancer Institute NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
October 18, 2011 • Volume 8 / Number 20

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Cancer Center Profile

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

An aerial photo of the Purdue University campusAn aerial photo of the Purdue University campus

Director: Dr. Timothy L. Ratliff • 201 South University Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907
Phone: 765-494-9129 • Website:


With the aid of a planning grant from NCI, Purdue University established a University Cancer Research Committee in 1975. Three years later, the Purdue Center for Cancer Research was awarded an NCI Cancer Center Support Grant as a basic-science cancer center.

The center brings together 82 faculty members from 6 colleges and 16 departments across the university to share ideas, insights, and findings. More than 500 researchers, post-docs, and graduate and undergraduate students at Purdue University focus on cancer research.

The Center for Cancer Research links cutting-edge basic research, medicinal chemistry expertise, and engineering applications to further cancer research. Using the combined expertise of Purdue scientists, the center focuses on the discovery of biological processes, new technologies, and new chemical entities that lead to the development of innovative instrumentation, diagnostic tools, and novel cancer therapeutics.

Research Activities

The Purdue University Center for Cancer Research has four programs. Investigators in the Cell Identity and Signaling Program study the key molecules and processes that distinguish a cancer cell from a normal cell, whereas researchers in the Chemical and Structural Biology Program study the underlying mechanisms involved in cancer, identify biological targets for cancer chemotherapy, and develop potential chemical approaches to cancer treatment. The Medicinal Chemistry Program uses chemical, biochemical, cellular, and animal models to design and discover cancer drugs. And researchers in the Drug Delivery and Molecular Sensing Program bring together engineering and chemistry to improve drug delivery, imaging, and biomarker identification.

The center also has four Discovery Groups that focus on specific cancers: breast, prostate, bladder, and pancreatic. These groups conduct multidisciplinary studies on each disease.

The center coordinates a broad spectrum of collaborative research and fosters the application of new discoveries to cancer care. For example, the discovery of folate receptors, uniquely expressed molecules on the surface of cancer cells, led to the development of a new approach for treating cancer: targeted delivery of therapeutic drugs and imaging agents.

The drug discovery process within the Center for Cancer Research starts at the cellular level and ends with a viable human therapy that can reduce cancer morbidity and mortality. The center is enhancing its portfolio of novel and innovative drug candidates to treat cancer.

The center's research is also improving the understanding of drug targets for future drug therapies and detection technology that will aid clinicians in early diagnosis or monitoring of cancer therapies. 

Collectively, the center's researchers will use their scientific expertise and collaborations to discover solutions through drug design and delivery, detection technology, and target development for drug discovery.

Other Notable Programs

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research's Oncological Sciences Center (OSC) blends basic cancer research and engineering research to cultivate and support innovative, multi-investigator, interdisciplinary research teams comprised of Center for Cancer Research members and nonmembers hoping to initiate cancer-related research projects. The OSC provides an environment for cross-fertilization of ideas among faculty members in disparate disciplines; ideas from research fields outside biology and medicine may provide novel solutions to current research and development problems.  

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