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DCB Research Programs

Acquired Resistance to Therapy Network (ARTNet)

ARTNet focuses on the mechanistic bases of acquired resistance to cancer therapies and disease recurrence. ARTNet’s central goal is to balance basic, pre-clinical, and translational research using an iterative team science structure that will enable hypothesis testing on the biological basis of resistance in clinically relevant model systems. Furthermore, another goal of ARTNet is to provide evidence along the shared tumor-tumor microenvironment (TME) continuum to inform new strategies that can be better translated into future clinical trials.

ARTNet research centers are focused on addressing significant challenges in acquired resistance and disease recurrence. Collectively, the network represent a range of treatment modalities (e.g., chemotherapy, radiation, targeted agents, immunotherapies, combined modalities) and cancer types in pursuit of addressing compelling questions and significant barriers in acquired therapy resistance research.

Alliance of Glycobiologists for Cancer Research

The NCI Division of Cancer Biology and the NCI Division of Cancer Prevention created the Alliance of Glycobiologists for Cancer Research.  The Program supports investigator-initiated, collaborative research to study the glycobiological mechanisms that drive cancer initiation and progression and discover glycomic-based biomarkers for cancer detection and risk assessment. The major goals of the Alliance are to advance our understanding of the role of complex sugar molecules, called glycans, in cancer and develop glycan-based biomarkers for the early detection of cancer. 

Multidisciplinary investigators of the Alliance collaborate to enhance the translation of basic glycan research to the clinic, advance the discovery of cancer biomarkers, and promote the development of glycan-related resources for the research community.

Learn more about the Alliance of Glycobiologists for Cancer Research.

Barrett's Esophagus Translational Research Network (BETRNet)

The Barrett’s Esophagus Translational Research Network (BETRNet) is a trans-NCI program established to address the rising incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma (EA) in the United States.  BETRNet objectives are to achieve a better understanding of EA biology, examine research opportunities associated with its precursor lesion Barrett’s Esophagus (BE), and improve prevention of EA.  BETRNet is collaboratively supported by the NCI Division of Cancer Biology and Division of Cancer Prevention.

The BETRNet program consists of multi-institutional and trans-disciplinary Research Centers, a Stem Cell Core Laboratory, and the Coordinating Center:

The Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, Mayo Clinic Research Center is investigating the role of stem cells in Barrett’s initiation and the effects of the tumor microenvironment on the early progression of esophageal carcinogenesis.

The University of Michigan, University of Washington, and Dana Farber Research Center is developing imaging methods to understand and visualize the spatial distribution of genetic mutations and cellular heterogeneity in BE and EA.

The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Research Center is determining genetic, genomic and epigenetic changes that influence the development of BE and EA for translation into clinical applications.

The University of Houston Stem Cell Core Laboratory is cloning stem cells from BE, dysplastic Barrett’s, and EA to enable investigation of key questions regarding the transformation from BE to EA and the functional heterogeneity of esophageal tumors.

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine BETRNET Coordinating Center is providing logistical and administrative support to the program and managing the BETRNet Patient Registry-Virtual Biorepository.

Cancer Systems Biology Consortium (CSBC)

Credit: iStock

The CSBC focuses on combining advanced experimental approaches with mathematical modeling and computational methodologies to advance cancer research. The initiative takes an integrative approach to cancer research to complement and expand our current understanding of tumor development and progression across many physical and time scales, with the ultimate goal of improving cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy.

This approach is especially important in the current climate of large multi-dimensional, multi-scale data sets and increased awareness of the complexity and inter-connectivity of cancer biology. The CSBC builds on past NCI efforts in cancer systems biology and is aligned with the goals of current NCI programs, such as CTD2, CPTAC, and PS-ON.

Learn more about the CSBC.

Cancer Tissue Engineering Collaborative (TEC)

The Cancer TEC Research Program supports targeted research efforts aimed at the development and characterization of state-of-the-art biomimetic tissue-engineered technologies that mimic tumor biology to elucidate specific cancer processes that are otherwise difficult to examine in vivo. It fosters collaborative, multidisciplinary projects that engage the fields of cancer research with regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, biomaterials, and bioengineering.

Cancer TEC projects are advancing innovative, well-characterized in vitro and ex vivo systems available for cancer research and explore cancer phenomena with biomimetic tissue-engineered systems.

Learn more about the Cancer TEC Research Program.

Cellular Cancer Biology Imaging Research (CCBIR)

The CCBIR Centers will develop and test enabling imaging technologies at the cellular and organ scales driven by specific fundamental questions in cancer biology. The goal of the CCBIR program is to facilitate innovation in advanced imaging technologies that could be applied to fundamental basic and pre-clinical research problems in cancer biology.

CCBIR Centers are structured to operate collaboratively between technology developers and cancer biologists at the forefront of their respective fields. Ultimately, the Centers will produce a suite of state-of-the-art imaging technologies with transformative potential to study cancer biology processes. The CCBIR Centers will form a consortium that will engage with the broader cancer research community.

Metastasis Research Network (MetNet)

MetNet encourages scientifically diverse teams of investigators to derive a comprehensive and cohesive picture of metastasis by studying its processes as a whole-body, systems-level challenge encompassing chronological progression and biological scales. Drawing from fields of bioengineering, bioinformatics, cancer biology and metastasis, computational modeling, genetics, immunology, neurobiology, and systems biology to incorporate advanced robust mouse and patient-derived model systems, technologies, and analyses, these integrated efforts ask mechanistic questions into the intrinsic and extrinsic pressures that influence how cancer cells evolve, disseminate and colonize distant organs.  

Through the study of distinct primary and metastatic sites, these approaches will help define the non-linear, dynamic, and emergent processes of metastasis. This knowledge will generate a solid foundation for developing ways to inhibit or interfere with metastatic processes. 

The MetNet goals are aligned with other NCI efforts, including those of the CSBC, PS-ON, and CCBIR programs.

Learn more about MetNet.

Molecular and Cellular Characterization of Screen-Detected Lesions

This program, sponsored by the NCI Division of Cancer Biology and the NCI Division of Cancer Prevention, promotes research on the comprehensive cellular and molecular characterization of early lesions, including the tumor cell and its microenvironment. The primary goal is to establish Molecular Characterization Laboratories (MCLs) to identify features that distinguish indolent from aggressive and/or progressive lesions, to increase the ability to predict the ultimate fate of early lesions.

Seven MCLs focusing on breast, prostate, pancreas, and lung cancers form the collaborative consortium.

A second goal of the program is to develop reagents, tools and technologies, and experimental models to enhance the pace of research in this area. The findings of the consortium will help clinicians avoid overtreatment in cases where tumors are destined to remain indolent, and will indicate when earlier aggressive therapeutic intervention is warranted.

The Coordinating and Data Management Group (CDMG) provides critical support for the consortium. The CDMG support includes network coordination, data management, specimen tracking, and study evaluation, in addition to development of statistical methodologies and computational tools.

Onco-Aging Consortium (OAC)

The OAC is a joint NCI and National Institute on Aging (NIA) program. It was established to support research addressing key questions regarding how hallmarks of aging lead to impaired cellular activities and alterations in the microenvironment that contribute to the development and outgrowth of cancer-initiating cells (CICs) (see RFA-20-040).

The OAC supports interdisciplinary teams that combine aging and cancer expertise with approaches to decipher the biological pathways during aging that contribute to cancer initiation.

Oncology Models Forum

Mammalian models and their derivatives are integral components of basic cancer research. The Oncology Models Forum encourages incorporating data from intelligent, informed use of animal and cell models into strategies for translational and clinical research. The Forum’s premise is that realizing the impact of basic research on translational research requires that the oncology community have full access to the breadth of available models, deep information about what each animal or other model represent vis-à-vis, and collaborative opportunities through the Forum environment.

The program, administered through an R01 granting mechanism, encourages validation and credentialing of animal models for translational research across the cancer spectrum (prevention, early detection, progression, metastasis, treatment, epidemiology, and systemic effects). The Oncology Models Forum supports development of mammalian models that overcome translational deficiencies of current mammalian oncology models or define new uses of mammalian models, or their genetics, for unexplored translational challenges (see PAR-20-131).

Members of the Oncology Models Forum characterize mammalian models that advance standard practices for translational use, test approaches to validate and credential models, or challenge current practices for how models are used translationally. A core tenet of the Oncology Models Forum is that models are robust representations of human biology that test questions of clinical importance to provide advances in cancer understanding for clinical research and patient benefit. 

Learn more about the Oncology Models Forum.

Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDAC) Stromal Reprogramming Consortium (PSRC)

The overarching goal of the PSRC is to develop a multidisciplinary community of PDAC researchers that will expand upon traditional tumor-centric studies and ongoing immuno-oncology efforts by emphasizing the identification, integration, and mechanistic evaluation of additional tumor microenvironment (TME) elements driving PDAC progression and response to therapy.

The intent is to bridge basic/mechanistic biology with preclinical/translational research and to adopt a comprehensive “Tumor-TME Co-Organizer” research model in the pursuit of novel biology-backed targets involved in modulating multi-directional tumor-microenvironment dynamics. This expansion is designed to expose new vulnerabilities that will inform the design and testing of more effective combinatorial approaches in pre-clinical platforms and near future clinical evaluation in either NCI-based early phase networks (such as the NCI Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network), industry, and/or cancer centers.

Patient-Derived Models of Cancer (PDMC)

The PDMC program is an interdisciplinary community of researchers who develop and utilize patient-derived models to examine the basic biological mechanisms that drive cancer phenotype and response to perturbations. A key feature of the PDMC is comparative hypothesis testing of two or more model types or approaches on specimens derived from a set of common patient samples (see PAR 16-344). In this manner, compelling fundamental cancer biology questions that require an understanding of patient intrinsic factors versus extrinsic selection pressures (e.g., microenvironment, therapeutics) can be approached experimentally in a systematic fashion.

The goal of the PDMC is to improve patient-derived model applications across the NCI to aid in the discovery of basic cancer biology mechanisms, improve cancer detection and diagnosis, and enhance screening for therapeutic strategies to overcome resistance.

Learn more about the PDMC.

Physical Sciences - Oncology Network (PS-ON)

The PS-ON funds research projects that bring together cancer biologists and oncologists with scientists from the fields of physics, mathematics, chemistry, and engineering to address some of the major questions and barriers in cancer research.

The network facilitates innovative ideas and new fields of study by combining approaches of physical sciences and engineering with cancer biology and clinical oncology. The supported research originates and tests novel, non-traditional physical-sciences and engineering-based approaches to understanding and controlling cancer; generates orthogonal sets of physical measurements and integrates them with existing knowledge of cancer; and develops and evaluates theoretical physical sciences and engineering approaches to provide a comprehensive and dynamic picture of cancer.

Learn more about the PS-ON.

Program on the Origins of Gastroesophageal Cancers

This NCI program aims to define how gastric and gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) adenocarcinomas initially evolve at the cellular level. The program builds on recent molecular classifications of gastroesophageal cancers, significant understanding of their cancer genomics, and advances in stem cell research to discover, compare and contrast the contributions of tumor-initiating cells and their fundamental mechanisms in cancers of the stomach and GEJ regions. The objective is to outline the earliest steps in transformation that precede any histological manifestations or neoplasia.

An important goal of the program is to addresses the biological mechanisms underlying increased prevalence of gastric and GEJ cancers in certain ethnic, racial, and gender populations.

The program consists of trans-disciplinary R01 research projects and a Coordinating Center (which is responsible for coordinating program collaborations,  enabling the resolution of technical challenges, sharing models/resources, and advancing technologies). This research network is envisioned to foster robust, collaborative and interactive research dedicated to the common objective of deciphering the evolution of gastric and GEJ cancers and to serve as an important platform for training new and early-stage investigators entering this research field.

Translational and Basic Science Research in Early Lesions (TBEL)

The overarching goal of the TBEL Program is to understand the biological and pathophysiological mechanisms driving or restraining pre-cancers and early cancers and to facilitate biology-backed precision prevention approaches. Towards this goal, TBEL supports multi-disciplinary research centers that pursue studies integrating basic and translational research in an iterative manner to investigate the causal relationships and interactions of an early lesion, its microenvironment, and host-systemic factors as “co-organizers” of tumor initiation (or suppression) and malignant progression in conjunction with the clinical characteristics.

The TBEL Program spans a broad range of tumor sites (with associated clinical samples), biological/pre-clinical models, and diverse pathways/targets to identify unique and/or common pathways and determinants of indolence or aggressiveness. Collectively, TBEL seeks to promote a deeper understanding of early lesions, their microenvironments, and reciprocal interactions that drive early lesion fate and clinical outcomes.

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