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Translational and Basic Science Research in Early Lesions (TBEL)

Image of a mouse model of pancreatic cancer shows multi-color lineage tracing.

The overarching goal of the TBEL Program (supported by DCB and the NCI Division of Cancer Prevention through RFA-CA-21-054/ RFA-CA-21-055) is to understand the biological and pathophysiological mechanisms driving or restraining pre-cancers and early cancers, as well as 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 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 models, and diverse targets to identify unique and/or common pathways 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.


New grants for TBEL were awarded in Fall 2022.

The Cedars-Sinai TBEL Center, led by Drs. Keith Syson Chan and Dan Theodorescu, is investigating the stromal microenvironment as a co-organizer of bladder cancer development and progression. It is elucidating mechanisms that promote and suppress the progression of early lesions in the bladder and identifying biomarkers of aggressive bladder cancer. 

Dr. Angelo De Marzo, Dr. Srinivasan Yegnasubramanian, et al. with the Johns Hopkins TBEL Center are studying the role of inflammation and immune evasion in the development of prostate cancer. They are working to identify new ways to prevent and intercept the growth of aggressive tumors.

The Fred Hutch TBEL Center, led by Drs. William Grady, Neelendu Dey, and Richard Halberg, is determining mechanisms involved in the formation of early precancerous lesions in the colon (i.e., adenomas). It is focusing on the interplay among the microenvironment, cellular factors, and the gut microbiome in adenoma progression to identify hallmark features of high-risk lesions.

Dr. Anirban Maitra, Dr. Marina Pasca Di Magliano, et al. with the Tri-State Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma (Tri-PACT) TBEL Center are investigating the biology of precursor lesions, including their interactions with the microenvironment and metabolic reprogramming, that drive progression to pancreatic cancer. Through basic and translational research approaches, they are advancing the understanding of pancreatic cancer and informing the development of early detection strategies.

The Vanderbilt University Medical Center TBEL Center, led by Drs. Martha Shrubsole and Ken Lau, is identifying gut microbial, stem cell, and cell-cell communication mechanisms that promote pre-malignant lesion progression. By advancing the understanding of how and which pre-cancers have the potential to progress to colorectal cancer, this center aims to enable improvements in cancer risk stratification and precision prevention. 

The TBEL Coordinating and Data Management Center, led by Drs. Ying Yuan and Liang Li, supports critical administrative, regulatory, logistical, computational, and data sharing functions of the TBEL Program.

DCB Contacts for TBEL

For additional information about TBEL, please contact Dr. Elizabeth Woodhouse or Dr. Rihab Yassin

Funded Projects

TBEL Research Projects (U54s)

Institution Principal Investigator(s) Center Title
Houston Methodist Research Institute Keith Syson Chan, Dan Theodorescu The stromal microenvironment as a co-organizer of bladder carcinogenesis and progression
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center  William M. Grady, Neelendu Dey, Richard B.Halberg Understanding adenoma progression: Interplay among tissue microenvironment, clonal architecture, and gut microbiome
John Hopkins University   Angelo M. De Marzo, Srinivasan Yegnasubramanian  Prostate inflammatory lesions as a proving ground for development of aggressive prostate cancer
MD Anderson Cancer Center   Anirban Maitra, Marina Pasca Di Magliano Tumor microenvironment crosstalk drives early lesions in pancreatic cancer  
Vanderbilt University Medical Center Martha J. Shrubsole, Ken S. Lau

Shaping of the microenvironment in colonic pre-cancer by epithelia and microbiota 

TBEL Coordinating and Data Management Center (U24)

Institution Principal Investigator(s) Center Title
MD Anderson Cancer Center Ying Yuan, Liang Li Coordinating and Data Management Center for Translational and Basic Science Research in Early Lesions 
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