The 24 questions, the product of several open-ended national meetings of prominent scientists, are divided into four groups: cancer prevention and risk; mechanisms of tumor development or recurrence; tumor detection, diagnosis and prognosis; and cancer therapy and outcomes. Most address global themes in cancer research and clinical care, rather than focusing on any one type of cancer or class of molecule. They include questions such as: How does obesity contribute to cancer risk? How can we more clearly communicate the concept of risky behaviors like smoking in such a way that people alter their lifestyles? Why are some types of cancers cured by chemotherapy and others are not? Why do some previously dormant tumors eventually become aggressively malignant?
Stanford's Dean Felsher, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and of pathology, is one of five Bay Area recipients of new five-year grants; Felsher will receive about $545,000 during the first year (funding levels for the additional years will be dependent on future federal allocations) to study why some tumors die when the cancer-causing genes called oncogenes are turned off. The concept is one called oncogene addiction, and Felsher's been studying it for years.
"Why do these cancers just go away?" said Felsher. "This grant will help us to answer this question. Stanford has a world-class molecular imaging program, run by Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD, professor and chair of radiology, and Christopher Contag, PhD, professor of pediatrics and of microbiology and immunology, that will allow us to see in real time what happens in tumors when we turn off the oncogene. And the Center for Cancer Systems Biology, headed by Sylvia Plevritis, PhD, associate professor of radiology, will help us track down and identify genes that are critical to this process. Finally, we'll work to take our animal models of this phenomenon and translate them into measuring and understanding this process in humans."
"Due to recent technological advances in many fields, especially in genomics, molecular biology and computational sciences, there has never been a better time for doing cancer research," reads the National Cancer Institute website about the endeavor. "We have made large leaps in our basic knowledge about cancers — especially about the genetic and biochemical mechanisms by which they arise. Now we have an opportunity to take a step back from the momentum of these discoveries and make sure we have left no stone unturned and no important but perhaps non-obvious question left unexplored.
"The new leaders at the NCI are eager to influence the state of cancer research by attempting to define more potentially game-changing scientific questions that could influence the directions taken by NCI-sponsored research in the future," the NCI website states.
Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at http://mednews.stanford.edu/.
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