What if we could give cancer researchers the support they need to do their work so they don’t have to spend time applying for grants? That was the idea that inspired donors to support the Knight Cancer Challenge. Now, the Knight Cancer Institute is making its own grants to projects that show promise for early cancer detection.
In June, the Knight Cancer Institute’s Cancer Early Detection Advanced Research Center awarded its first round of seed grants of up to $120,000. But the process doesn’t work like a traditional grant. That’s because CEDAR was designed to foster collaboration between young investigators and senior scientists and experts from multiple disciplines, to eliminate silos and hierarchies that can get in the way of outstanding translational research.
Who is eligible to apply for CEDAR grants? Any OHSU employee regardless of rank, including graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, staff scientists and faculty. Priority is given to multi-disciplinary teams exploring new areas and ideas with high potential for impact in patient care. That vision comes from CEDAR director Sadik Esener, Ph.D., who aims to bring mathematicians, engineers, physicians, biochemists and biologists together to work toward a common goal: detecting cancer before it gains a foothold in the body.
The first five grants are focused on areas as diverse as melanoma, pancreatic cancer, and blood cancers. One is aimed at gaining a better understanding of mutations in blood cells that are strongly linked to blood cancers, heart disease and strokes. Another is focused on ways to identify which melanomas will metastasize and which will not.
Blood Cancers, Heart Disease and Stroke
Genetic characterization of clonal hematopoiesis in a large cohort of older women
Kim-Hien Dao, Rachel Cook, Maros Ferencik, Motomi Mori, Jeffrey Tyner, Zhenzhen Zhang
Approximately 10-30% of older people acquire a mutation in their blood cells that are strongly linked to blood cancers, heart disease, and strokes. To gain a more robust understanding of the genetic, biologic, and health consequences of these mutations, this team has developed a large study to evaluate this new disease entity over time in thousands of older women.
Target and biomarker identification through mapping of signaling networks that control the evolution of premalignant epithelial lesions
John L. Muschler, Emek Demir
Researchers have identified several regulatory pathways that control the evolution of pre-cancerous lesions. This team will work to map the critical signaling networks controlling pre-malignant lesions to identify areas that can be targeted for early intervention. This project will bring together experts in cancer cell biology, computer-based bioinformatics and computational network mapping.
Risk Stratification of Early Melanomas by Deep Histopathological Analysis
Vessy Korcheva, Tracy Pawlitschek, Sancy Leachman, Kevin White, Eric Smith, Young Hwan Chang, Guillaume Thibault, Erik Burlingame, Elliot Gray
Determining the likelihood that a melanoma will metastasize is central to the design of a treatment plan; more aggressive cancer needs more aggressive treatment. This study will apply sophisticated machine learning tools to the analysis of images of melanoma biopsies, in an effort to find features that can be used to separate cancers that are likely to metastasize from those that are not. If successful, this technology could be applied to existing biopsy samples at diagnosis, improving treatment with minimal additional cost.
Defining early determinants of inflammation-driven pancreatic tumorigenesis
Mara Sherman, Andrew Adey, Ellen Langer, Brittany Allen-Petersen, Meghan Joly, Rosalie Sears
In this project, researchers aim to understand whether inflammation can turn a premalignant pancreatic lesion, which is remarkably common and increases in frequency with age, into a malignant cancer. The scientists propose to assess the changes at the single cell level to discover factors critical for this process.
Harnessing Circulating Hybrid Cell Biology and Ultrasensitive Single Cell Imaging Technology for Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer
Young H. Chang, Summer Gibbs, Brett Sheppard, Tania Vu, Melissa Wong
This study seeks a way to identify pancreatic cancer at the earliest stages using a kind of tumor cell. The cell would serve as a non-invasive biomarker that would help to detect pancreatic cancer and monitor its progression from early stages to late stage.