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NCI Creates Network of Clinical Proteomic Technology Centers for Cancer Research

  • Posted: September 27, 2006

The National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced funding for a major component of its $104 million, five-year Clinical Proteomic Technologies Initiative for Cancer (CPTI). Awards totaling $35.5 million over five years will establish a collaborative network of five Clinical Proteomic Technology Assessment for Cancer (CPTAC) teams. Each of these teams will bring complementary expertise to assess the full spectrum of measurement technologies for proteins and peptides relevant to clinical cancer research and practice. Proteomics is the study of the structure and function of proteins, including the way they work and interact with each other inside cells; a peptide is any compound consisting of two or more amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins.

CPTAC will guide and provide resources to the broader cancer research community. The network's collaborative efforts will enable researchers conducting cancer-related protein research at different laboratories, to use proteomic technologies and methodologies to directly compare and analyze their work. In current cancer proteomic research, standardized technologies and methodologies are critically needed in order to more effectively discover and validate proteins and peptides relevant to cancer, or "biomarkers." This should lead in turn to improved diagnostics, therapies and even prevention.

"Emerging proteomic technologies have potential to improve cancer diagnostics and treatment, but we must carefully, consistently, and systematically examine them at every major step in the measurement process, in order to realize their full potential," said NCI Director John E. Niederhuber, M.D.

CPTAC awardees were chosen based, in part, on the broad expertise of their proteomic research teams and their familiarity with and regular use of a wide range of proteomic technologies. These five CPTAC teams define a cross-institutional and multidisciplinary network of assessment centers that will rigorously evaluate and compare different commercially-available proteomic platforms and analysis software packages in the context of their potential applicability to cancer. They will also work together to develop a comprehensive approach to assess intra-platform and inter-laboratory variability in these measurement technologies.

Awardees include (in alphabetical order by the investigator leading the institutional team):

  • Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Mass.
    Steven A. Carr, Ph.D.
  • University of California, San Francisco/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory/Buck Institute
    Susan J. Fisher, Ph.D.
  • Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tenn.
    Daniel C. Liebler, Ph.D.
  • Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.
    Fred E. Regnier, Ph.D.
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY.
    Paul Tempst, Ph.D.

"This program is a critical component of NCI's strategy for leveraging the diagnostic and therapeutic potential of proteomics for cancer patients," said NCI Deputy Director Anna D. Barker, Ph.D. "I am confident that the complementary proteomic expertise of the awardees, and their commitment to inter-institutional collaboration and real-time data sharing, will enable the development of biomarkers to contribute to a new generation of molecularly-based interventions to diagnose, treat, and prevent cancer."

The multidisciplinary teams will conduct rigorous assessment of two major technologies currently used to analyze proteins and peptides -- mass spectrometry and affinity capture platforms. Specific objectives of the CPTAC program teams include:

  • Evaluating the performance of proteomic technology platforms and standardizing approaches to developing applications of these platforms
  • Assessing proteomic platforms for their ability to analyze cancer-relevant proteomic changes in human clinical specimens
  • Establishing systematic ways to standardize proteomic protocols and data analysis among different laboratories
  • Developing and implementing uniform algorithms for sharing bioinformatics and proteomic data and analytical/data mining tools
  • Developing well-characterized material and bioinformatics resources for the entire cancer research community.

"With this far-sighted program, NCI is taking on one of the most challenging tasks facing researchers in the proteomics field," said Lee Hartwell, Ph.D., president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash. "This effort is absolutely essential if we are to accelerate the advancement of proteomics into clinical practice."

CPTAC is one of three major CPTI program components, all of which were developed over the past 2 years with input from the research community. The other components include:

  • Advanced Proteomic Platforms and Computational Sciences
    This program will support the development of innovative tools and enabling technologies for protein and peptide measurement and support algorithm development and computational methods to interrogate emerging pre-processed data sets. Awards will be announced later this year.
  • Clinical Proteomic Reagents Resource
    This program will serve as a central (virtual) source for reagents (chemical substances of sufficient purity for use in chemical analysis) for the scientific community. The Resource will develop standard reagents, perform characterization, provide an interactive resource catalog through the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid™ (caBIG™), and expedite acquisition and distribution of reagents and data on reagent performance. Awards and application process will be announced this year.

The three CPTI program components (CPTAC, Advanced Proteomic Platforms and Computational Sciences, and the Clinical Proteomic Reagents Resource) are integrated efforts by NCI to address the fundamental scientific requirements that must be met in order to realize the promise of proteomics for cancer diagnosis and therapy. Together they will provide the entire scientific community with a rigorous assessment of current proteomic technologies, the development and assessment of novel technologies and computational methods, and a central repository of the resources needed to productively use these proteomic tools.

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For more information on the Clinical Proteomic Technologies Initiative for Cancer and the Clinical Proteomic Technologies Assessment for Cancer awards, please visit http://proteomics.cancer.gov.

For more information about cancer or the National Cancer Institute, please visit the NCI Web site at http://www.cancer.gov or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4 CANCER (1-800-422-6237).