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DCB Research Programs

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.

Cancer Systems Biology Consortium (CSBC)

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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.

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

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.

Molecular and Cellular Characterization of Screen-Detected Lesions

This program, sponsored by DCB and the Division of Cancer Prevention (DCP), 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, or CDMG (companion RFA CA-14-011), 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.

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. The Cancer TEC Research Program fosters collaborative, multidisciplinary projects that engage the fields of cancer research with regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, biomaterials, and bioengineering.

Funded projects will advance 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.

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.

Alliance of Glycobiologists for Cancer Research

The Division of Cancer Biology and the Division of Cancer Prevention in the National Cancer Institute 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.

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