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Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Awards $8 Million Grant For Center For Personalized Cancer Therapy


1/6/2014 10:02:11 AM

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Waltham, MA— The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Board of Directors has awarded an $8 million capital grant to support the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy (CPCT) on the University of Massachusetts Boston campus. The grant is the second round of funding for the project, building on a $2 million initial grant awarded in 2011.

The CPCT is a joint program of the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston) and Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) aimed at fostering and facilitating collaborative translational cancer research focused on human cancer diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and response to therapy. The CPCT seeks to translate laboratory-based discoveries into clinical practice that will identify and implement individualized therapeutic choices to successfully eliminate human tumor progression and recurrence.

The institutional partners share a determination to reduce cancer disparities and have been working together for more than five years on joint research, training and community outreach activities targeted to addressing cancer disparities among low-income, non-majority, and other inadequately served, diverse populations.

“Medicine is moving in the direction of customized treatment, and this investment keeps pace in our efforts to improve patient outcomes and create jobs,” said Governor Deval Patrick.

The CPCT will use the combined expertise of the UMass Boston and DF/HCC research communities, and of others in the region, to develop reliable and cost-effective tests to determine different sub-types of all common cancers to inform treatment decisions and provide early measures of tumor therapeutic response.

The $8 million grant will allow the center to complete a biomarker facility and vivarium to develop, validate, and implement biomarker assays that will distinguish different subtypes of cancer. These subtypes represent cancers that have different prognoses and will respond differently to treatment.

The center will drive basic research findings into clinically and socially useful products for the benefit of patients in Massachusetts and across the globe. The CPCT has begun to establish collaborations with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in order to develop and commercialize affordable clinical test kits for detailed sub-type analysis of individual patient tumors so that, ultimately, they can be used cost-effectively by practitioners in local community hospital settings. The CPCT is also committed to training and bringing diverse student talent to the life sciences industry in Massachusetts.

The Life Sciences Center had previously awarded the CPCT a $2 million capital grant to support its establishment in 2011. The Life Sciences Center funding will supplement $18 million in previously committed federal grant funding for the project. The CPCT began operations in UMass Boston’s Venture Development Center earlier this year. Jill Macoska, an Alton J. Brann Endowed Distinguished Professor in Science and Mathematics, was hired as the center’s director in January. A wet lab opened in March, a UMB Cancer Research Network was formed in May, and a biomarker facility was initiated in October. The CPCT will move into its permanent home in UMass Boston’s Integrated Sciences Complex in Fall 2014.

“This project will address the long-standing racial, ethnic and economic disparities that exist in cancer care as well as improve the quality of care for all cancer patients,” said Susan Windham-Bannister, Ph.D., President & CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. “This is an exciting collaboration between Massachusetts’ outstanding public university system, and our world-leading Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. This project will provide training opportunities for students, foster the growth of new companies, and advance scientific knowledge about personalized cancer prevention and treatment.”

“We thank the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center for their continued support of our partnership,” said UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley. "Through this partnership, we are in a unique position to support the academic and industry life science cluster in Massachusetts, and provide our students with the skills to become leaders in the biomedical industry. This is another milestone on a long road to address disparities in cancer care.”

“Personalized cancer therapy represents the future of cancer treatment – tailoring highly specific drugs to the particular genetic mutations and other abnormalities that drive a patient’s cancer,” said Edward J. Benz Jr., MD, director of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and president of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “This grant enables us to continue this important mission and improve research and training opportunities for our students and staff from diverse backgrounds.”

About the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) is an investment agency that supports life sciences innovation, research, development and commercialization. The MLSC is charged with implementing a 10-year, $1-billion, state-funded investment initiative. These investments create jobs and support advances that improve health and well-being. The MLSC offers the nation’s most comprehensive set of incentives and collaborative programs targeted to the life sciences ecosystem. These programs propel the growth that has made Massachusetts the global leader in life sciences. The MLSC creates new models for collaboration and partners with organizations, both public and private, around the world to promote innovation in the life sciences. For more information, visit www.masslifesciences.com.

About the University of Massachusetts Boston

Recognized for innovative research addressing complex issues, the University of Massachusetts Boston, metropolitan Boston’s only public university, offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s eleven colleges and graduate schools serve more than 16,000 students while engaging local, national, and international constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service activities. To learn more about UMass Boston, visit www.umb.edu.

About the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center

Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) is the largest comprehensive cancer center in the country, bringing together the cancer research efforts of seven Harvard or Harvard-affiliated institutions: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital Boston, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, and Massachusetts General Hospital. Funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute, DF/HCC consists of more than 1,000 researchers with a singular goal — to find new and innovative ways to combat cancer.

Contacts:

Massachusetts Life Sciences Center

Angus G. McQuilken, Vice President for Communications

Phone: 617-921-7749 Email: amcquilken@masslifesciences.com

Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center

Molly McHale, Associate Director of Media Relations

Phone: 617-632-5675 Email: molly_mchale@dfci.harvard.edu

UMass Boston

Crystal Valencia, Associate Director of Media Relations

Phone: 617-287-5383 Email: crystal.valencia@umb.edu

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