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National Cancer Institute, The Jackson Laboratory Collaborate on New Technologies for Better Testing of Targeted Cancer Therapies

11/4/2013 1:25:20 PM

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April 14, 2010 BAR HARBOR, Maine -- The U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) and The Jackson Laboratory (Jackson) have agreed to collaborate on new technologies for faster, more accurate preclinical testing of targeted cancer therapies.

These technologies include genetically engineered mice designed to develop cancers similar to those in humans; state-of-the-art genomics and imaging technologies to predict cancer biomarkers and therapeutic responses; and laboratory mice into which human tumors have been transplanted. NCI brings expertise in engineered models, and Jackson in human transplant models.

The agreement focuses on lung cancer, but will reach much farther. Materials and data will be shared with the general scientific community to improve clinical trial design and to develop more effective treatments.

"There is an urgent need for more predictive models of human cancer for drug discovery," said Rick Woychik, Ph.D., Jackson president and CEO. "Unfortunately, nine out of 10 cancer drugs entering preclinical testing fail to gain FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval. This comes at great cost to the pharmaceutical industry and to patients."

"Knowledge of the genetic basis of human cancers can be combined with genetic engineering techniques to produce lab animals that mimic the diseases in humans more accurately than existing laboratory mice," said Terry Van Dyke, Ph.D., director of NCI's Center for Advanced Preclinical Research. "Transplantation of human tissue into lab animals provides another feasible preclinical model.

"The ability to transplant tumor tissue from a human patient into a laboratory animal, target a drug to that particular tumor, and then see if it works -- this will give us a true picture of whether a drug holds promise and should enter human clinical trials," she said.

The agreement is part of NCI's Advanced Technology Partnerships Initiative, which aims to speed up the translation of laboratory research into effective technologies and treatments for patients with cancer and AIDS.

Under the collaboration, researchers will evaluate candidate lung cancer therapies that target multiple signaling pathways involved in the tumors. The scientists will also explore methods to collect tumor specimens from lung cancer patients, rapidly obtain genetic profiles from the specimens, and cryopreserve them for ongoing studies. Medical specimens such as these are vital for next-generation, personalized cancer therapies.

The partners will validate these mouse models for use in screening a broad range of new therapies for lung tumors. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and the partners will start with the most prevalent form, non-small cell type.

As the research progresses, Jackson will develop tumor libraries to make malignant tissue and tumor-bearing mice that were developed under the agreement widely available to researchers. These resources will be scaled up at Jackson's JAX--West facility in Sacramento, Calif., under the direction of Neal Goodwin, Ph.D., program director of JAX Cancer Services, for use by the pharmaceutical industry.

NCI's work under the agreement will be conducted at the Center for Advanced Preclinical Research in Frederick, Md. NCI-Frederick is a government-owned, contract-operated national laboratory with SAIC-Frederick, Inc., as prime contractor.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, and an NCI-designated Cancer Center. Its mission is to discover the genetic basis for preventing, treating and curing human diseases, and to enable research and education for the global biomedical community. In May, the Laboratory expanded its footprint in California, moving to an 85,000-square-foot facility in Sacramento that is twice the size of its former location in West Sacramento. The JAX--West facility supports researchers in western North America with scientific services including mouse breeding and compound efficacy testing, and provides many popular JAX® Mice strains more expediently and with reduced shipping costs.

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