NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
June 12, 2007 • Volume 4 / Number 19 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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Cancer Center ProfileCancer Center Profile

Salk Institute for Biological Studies Cancer Center
Director: Dr. Walter Eckhart • 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037 • Phone: 858-453-4100 ext. 1386 • Web site:

Labs of the Salk Institute flank the open courtyard, which provides a view of the Pacific Ocean.In 1962, Dr. Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine, established the Salk Institute for Biological Studies as a collaborative research organization with seed money from the March of Dimes and a land grant from the City of San Diego. He and architect Louis Kahn designed a research campus on the Torrey Pines Mesa that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The Cancer Center at the Salk Institute took root in 1970 with core grant funding from NCI.

Today, Cancer Center investigations comprise approximately half of the research conducted by the Salk Institute and occupy more than 60,000 square feet of laboratory space within the original campus. This research supports 22 faculty members, 150 postdoctoral researchers, 45 graduate students, and 80 research assistants.

Research Activities
Over the past three decades, researchers in the Cancer Center have made important contributions to the understanding of cancer, including discovery of tyrosine phosphorylation and elaboration of its role in cell growth control; identification of nuclear hormone receptors and elucidation of their role in physiology and development; characterization of transcription factors that control gene expression and cell growth, differentiation, and patterning; and development of viral vectors for gene therapy.

The Salk Institute Cancer Center currently focuses on three research areas: molecular biology and genetics, growth control, and cell and developmental biology. Within these areas, scientists are studying signal transduction pathways using phosphorylation and ubiquitination that regulate cell size and cell proliferation in normal cells, cancer cells, and animal models; the functions of tumor suppressor proteins, including p53, LKB1, and APC; the response of cells to DNA damage and how this is perturbed in cancer cells; the involvement of telomere dysfunction in cancer; the connections between aging and cancer; and the role of stem cells in cancer.

Other Notable Programs
As a basic research facility, the Salk Institute does not conduct studies with human patients. However, the Salk Institute collaborates with outside clinical facilities, including the University of California, San Diego, and hospitals in the greater San Diego area.

Research underway in the Cancer Center is supported by competitively awarded grants of approximately $16 million. In addition, Cancer Center members have been working with The Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation to carry out genome-wide screens, and the Salk Institute is part of the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, which has plans to establish a facility that will serve the La Jolla mesa area, funded in part by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). Most recently, the Salk Institute received a $2.3 million facilities grant from CIRM to fund the development of shared laboratory space where investigators will conduct scientific research on human embryonic stem cells.

NCI recently designated two new Cancer Centers: Stanford Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine.