BETHESDA, Md--The National Cancer Institute has begun funding the
Cancer Genetics Network to support collaborative investigations into
the genetic basis of cancer susceptibility. The Institute will spend
$6 million for the first year of operation, much of which will go to
planning and establishing the complex infrastructure needed to
support the project.
The network, which NCI calls a "unique national resource,"
will enable participating research groups to carry out multicenter
studies intended to decipher the role of genes in cancer and
integrate the findings into the clinical setting. The network will
also aid researchers addressing the psychosocial, ethical, legal, and
public health issues associated with an inherited predisposition to cancer.
"The aim is to create a multicenter and interdisciplinary
collaborative structure that will enable the participating
institutions to draw upon each other and to have access to research
resources, information, and expertise beyond the scope of any single
institution," said Barbara Rimer, DrPH, director of NCIs
Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences. Her division will
manage the operations of the new network.
NCI predicts the Cancer Genetics Network will enhance the quest to
answer questions of pressing relevance to scientists and clinicians.
What is the prevalence of germ-line mutations of familial
cancer-susceptibility genes in different populations?
What environmental exposures interact with genes to cause cancer?
How can genetic discoveries be translated into cancer prevention
strategies and more effective treatments for those with an inherited
susceptibility to cancer?
What ethical and psychosocial issues affect healthy individuals who
carry genes that predispose them to malignancies, and their families?
Hopkins Picked for Mid-Atlantic
Participating institutions are being chosen from among those who
submitted proposals to NCI in 1997 for peer review. One of those
selected is The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, in
collaboration with the Hopkins Oncology Center, which has received a
5-year, $3.8 million grant to establish a Mid-Atlantic cancer
genetics network. Other selections to date include the University of
California at Irvine, Duke Univesity, Georgetown University Lombardi
Cancer Center, and the University of Utah.
Once NCI awards cooperative agreements to the selected institutions
and the infrastructure is set up, the collaborating centers will
invite people with a high risk of developing cancer--based on a
family or personal history--and an interest in taking part in cancer
genetics studies to join a roster of potential study participants.
Neither genetic testing nor biospe-cimen collection will be required
for enrollment. However, they are likely to be needed from patients
who agree to participate in studies.
A Readily Available Pool
The network will offer researchers the advantage of having a readily
available pool of interested individuals, which will quicken the pace
at which studies can be initiated. This should speed the research,
and the ability to pool volunteers from the networks various
institutions will enable researchers to recruit sufficient numbers of
study participants to provide definitive answers to questions.
"The Cancer Genetics Network will develop scientific resources
and provide access to study populations not currently available to
most individual cancer genetics programs," said NCI director
Richard D. Klausner, MD. "The new research infrastructure will
position us to capitalize on the remarkable advances taking place in
understanding hereditary susceptibility to cancer."
A key to the networks smooth functioning lies with NCIs
Informatics and Information Technology Group. The group will develop
and maintain the central data management system, provide education
and data management support to network members, and develop
information systems that facilitate the exchange of information and resources.