New Awards in NCI’s Cancer Systems Biology Consortium
The National Cancer Institute has awarded seven new grants in the Cancer Systems Biology Consortium (CSBC), including five Institutions that will serve as CSBC Research Centers and two Institutions that support CSBC Research Projects. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oregon Health & Science University, University of California at San Francisco, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and the University of Utah will join four previously awarded Research Centers at Columbia University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, Stanford University and Yale University. The two Research Project grants, awarded to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Vanderbilt University, focus on emerging topics in cancer systems biology and are the first Research Projects awarded within the CSBC.
The overall research themes of the CSBC Research Centers address important questions in basic cancer research, including the role of tumor heterogeneity and evolution in the drug resistant cancers, the mechanisms underlying cancer metastasis, and the role of the immune system in cancer progression and treatment. Research conducted at the Research Center and Research Project sites will focus on the analysis of cancer as a complex biological system. The highly interdisciplinary investigators of the CSBC integrate experimental biology with mathematical and computational modeling to gain insight into processes relevant to cancer initiation, progression, and treatment options.
The CSBC brings together clinical and basic cancer researchers with physical scientists, engineers, mathematicians and computer scientists to tackle key questions in cancer biology from a novel point of view. “Cancer is a complex disease and it challenges our traditional approaches, making it hard to predict tumor growth and drug response,” said Daniel Gallahan, Ph.D., deputy director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Biology. “Cancer systems biologists embrace that complexity and use many different types of data to build mathematical models that allow us to make predictions about whether a tumor will metastasize or what drug combinations will be effective.”
In addition to applying systems biology approaches to gain important insight into cancer, each CSBC Research Center supports an outreach program to promote training in interdisciplinary science, disseminate important research findings to the community, and to engage the public in cancer systems biology research. In 2016, NCI awarded a grant to Sage Bionetworks in Seattle to serve as the CSBC Coordinating Center for data and resource sharing and facilitating collaborative scientific activities and systems biology-oriented outreach. More information on the consortium is available on the Coordinating Center’s website.
“The CSBC program encourages team science and promotes a multi-disciplinary approach to studying cancer,” said Shannon Hughes, Ph.D., program director for the CSBC. “These approaches are critical to our ultimate goal of improving the lives of cancer patients.”