Boston University School of Medicine awarded grants to improve early detection of lung cancer

December 14, 2010

(Boston)- Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have been awarded a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Early Detection Research Network (EDRN), as well as a four-year, $1.3 million grant from the Department of Defense (DOD). These grants will allow the scientists to develop novel and complementary procedures for early detection of lung cancer in high-risk patients.

The grant from NCI will support collaboration between the University of California-Los Angeles and Boston University to form a Lung Cancer Biomarker Development Laboratory (UCLA-BU BDL) as part of the NCI EDRN program. The focus of the Boston University portion of this research program is designed to develop new tests for diagnosing lung cancer based on subtle cancer-related differences in cells from the nose or mouth.

"The idea is that even though these cells aren't cancerous, they act differently in patients with cancer and we can use these differences to diagnose disease," said Marc Lenburg, PhD, one of the principal investigators on the grant and an associate professor of medicine and pathology at BUSM.

The Boston University researchers will use sophisticated genomic approaches that measure the activity of each gene to detect the differences between patients with and without cancer. By drawing from the vast academic and clinical resources at the two institutions, the UCLA-BU BDL will advance new discoveries and transform them into early detection tools for lung cancer.

The DOD grant will fund collaborative research involving researchers at Boston University, UCLA, MD Anderson, and Vanderbilt University. This project also focuses on novel tests for the early detection of lung cancer, and will study veterans. Veterans are 75 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than civilian adults and also more likely to die from the disease.

The researchers will collect cells from the airways of veterans that have been damaged by smoking and develop a test that can detect differences in the healing of these injuries that might be related to lung cancer. This could ultimately allow for the detection of early signs of lung cancer in cells from the mouth, nose and throat that can be easily collected from smokers at risk for developing the disease. The work will further research into how lung cancer develops and on novel cancer therapies that target this process.

"The challenge is to develop lung cancer detection methods that are effective during this early window of opportunity to increase the rate of early detection and thereby spur early treatment and improve lung cancer patient outcomes," said Avrum Spira, MD, principal investigator on both grants and an associate professor of medicine and pathology at BUSM.
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About Boston University School of Medicine

Originally established in 1848 as the New England Female Medical College, and incorporated into Boston University in 1873, Boston University School of Medicine today is a leading academic medical center with an enrollment of more than 700 medical students and more than 800 masters and PhD students. Its 1,246 full and part-time faculty members generated more than $335 million in funding in the 2009-2010 academic year for research in amyloidosis, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, infectious disease, pulmonary disease and dermatology among others. The School is affiliated with Boston Medical Center, its principal teaching hospital, the Boston and Bedford Veterans Administration Medical Centers and 16 other regional hospitals as well as the Boston HealthNet.

Boston University Medical Center

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