Research to create lung-cancer blood tests receives $3.4M in Pennsylvania tobacco settlement funds

March 12, 2004

(PHILADELPHIA - Thursday, March 11, 2004) - A team of researchers from The Wistar Institute, Fox Chase Cancer Center, and the University of Pennsylvania has been awarded $3.4 million to pursue development of blood tests for lung cancer. The need for such tests is great - lung cancer kills more Americans by far than any other form of cancer, according to statistics compiled by the American Cancer Society.

As with most cancers, treatment for lung cancer is much more effective when the cancer is detected at an early stage. The Wistar-led research team will use a systems-biology approach - primarily applying the recently developed tools of proteomics and genomics - to find proteins and genes in the blood that indicate the presence of early lung cancer. They will then develop blood tests based on this information that could aid many people by detecting their cancers at an earlier stage than is currently possible.

"This funding allows us to bring together an expert team of basic scientists and clinicians to tackle a critical medical problem," said David W. Speicher, Ph.D., professor and co-leader of the molecular and cellular oncogenesis program at The Wistar Institute and principal investigator on the lung-cancer project. "Our aim is to develop powerful new diagnostic tools that should help save lives through earlier cancer detection."

The announcement of the grant was made today by Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Calvin Johnson on behalf of Governor Edward G. Rendell. The grant was one of five health research grants totaling $22.5 million funded from Pennsylvania's share of the national tobacco settlement.

These non-formula grants - competitive grants based on research priorities and not dictated by a formula - will develop Centers of Excellence to reduce disparities in lung disease and pregnancy outcomes. "Center of Excellence" is a special designation given to medical or educational institutions conducting concentrated, specialized research.

"Our urban and rural populations suffer disproportionately from both poor pregnancy outcomes and the frequency and severity of lung disease," Secretary Johnson said. "This research makes sense because it will test prevention and treatment approaches for eliminating disparities and improving outcomes in these populations, and continues Governor Rendell's commitment to using tobacco settlement dollars on research that will improve public health."

Secretary Johnson said that the Department of Health will distribute an additional $58.7 million in tobacco-settlement funds through formula grants later this fiscal year. The law specifies that 13.6 percent of the tobacco settlement funds be distributed by a pre-determined formula to institutions that already receive funds from the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute.

The tobacco master settlement law, Act 77 of 2001, says that each year settlement dollars will go toward addressing research priorities that are established and reviewed annually by a statewide Health Research Advisory Committee, which is chaired by the Secretary of Health.

In addition to the Wistar-led team's award, four additional grants were also announced today:
-end-
More information on the use of tobacco settlement monies can be found at the PA PowerPort at http://www.state.pa.us, PA Keyword: "Health Research Grants."

The Wistar Institute is an independent nonprofit biomedical research institution dedicated to discovering the causes and cures for major diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, and infectious diseases. Founded in 1892 as the first institution of its kind in the nation, The Wistar Institute today is a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center - one of only eight focused on basic research. Discoveries at Wistar have led to the development of vaccines for such diseases as rabies and rubella, the identification of genes associated with breast, lung, and prostate cancer, and the development of monoclonal antibodies and other significant research technologies and tools.

News releases from The Wistar Institute are available to reporters by direct e-mail or fax upon request. They are also posted electronically to Wistar's home page (http://www.wistar.upenn.edu), to EurekAlert! (http://www.eurekalert.org), an Internet resource sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and to the public interest newswire AScribe (http://www.ascribe.org).

The Wistar Institute

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