Duke University Medical Center is receiving
$3.5 million over the next 5 years to set up a collaborative research
effort to focus on discovering genetic links to cancer. The
three-institution center will be one of five nationwide that will
make up the National Cancer Institutes Cancer Genetics Network.
The center brings together researchers from Duke, the University of
North Carolina (UNC)-Chapel Hill and Emory University, according to
Dukes Dr. Dirk Iglehart, primary investigator for the new
Carolina-Georgia Genetics Center based at Duke. As a whole, the
network will serve as a resource to support collaborative research
into the genetic basis of cancer development.
This NCI network is going to be a chance for many different
academic medical centers to collaborate on cancer genetics. Its
a chance for sharing between institutions that hasnt existed
before in this field, Iglehart said.
Eight institutions will contribute research and patient genetics
information to the national database network.
It would be impossible for any one institution to draw enough
patients and families to do meaningful research into the genetic
aspects of cancer susceptibility, Iglehart said. By
collaborating first between three very prominent institutions in our
region, and then with others nationwide, we can more effectively
study the role of genetics in cancer.
Dr. Beth Newman of UNC-Chapel Hill and Dr. Bill Wood of Emory
University will lead the work in the other institutions collaborating
in the Carolina-Georgia Genetics Center. The first studies to be
undertaken at the Duke-based center likely will involve breast and
Both Old and New Susceptibility Genes to Be Studied
The bottom line is that the research objectives are long-term,
but the whole cancer genetics networklocal and nationalis
designed to facilitate not only identifying additional disease
susceptibility genes, but also to learn more about the genes
weve already identified, said Newman, an epidemiologist
with UNCs School of Public Health and the Lineberger
Comprehensive Cancer Center. We hope to learn about prognosis
for those who carry susceptibility genes, and to learn about the
environmental and behavorial factors that interact with the
susceptibility genes to increase risk of disease. Well also be
able to put together large enough numbers of individuals to be able
to make comparisons, to see if certain preventive interventions will
make a difference in peoples health and mortality.
While Duke and UNC researchers have worked together on some cancer
studies over the years, particularly in breast cancer, the
researchers said the formation of this center marks a major step in
collaboration between institutions that sometimes have been competitors.
From the patients perspective, this is a unique
opportunity for patients and families to have access to new research,
testing, education and clinical activities that are related to cancer
genetics, said Dr. Theresa Gillespie, director of clinical
research at Emorys Winship Cancer Center. This is
something that has not been available, or has been only on a limited
basis. Its a golden opportunity for patients and families to
benefit from this kind of research focus.
Study Participants Sought
Researchers expect to concentrate on setting up the infrastructure
for the center during the first year of the project, with research
beginning in the second year. Individuals at high risk of cancer
because of personal or family history of the disease will be asked to
participate in cancer genetics studies and to be added to a list of
potential participants for future studies. By building a broad pool
of possible participants, the network should be able to increase both
the number of studies able to be undertaken and the size of studies.
Centers in the network will not only collect and share data on
genetics, but also provide information on new findings to
participants and others.
The center will cover the southeast region of the country, Iglehart
said. Other centers to be established in the network will be based at
the University of California-Irvine, Johns Hopkins University,
Georgetown University, and the University of Utah.