Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), the Entertainment Industry Foundation's charitable initiative supporting groundbreaking research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients in an accelerated timeframe, has reached a significant milestone, awarding the first round of three-year grants - that total $73.6 million - to five multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional research Dream Teams. The majority of these funds were raised in connection with an SU2C telecast on September 5, 2008 that aired simultaneously on the ABC, CBS and NBC networks. Today's announcement comes on the one-year anniversary of the launch of Stand Up To Cancer. SU2C's next round of funding - Innovative Research Grants for individual investigators - will be announced later this year.
"Recent advancements in basic science and in technologies have placed us on the cusp of important discoveries that can revolutionize the fight against cancer," said Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and David H. Koch Institute at MIT. Sharp chairs the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) assembled by SU2C's scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), that reviewed Dream Team applications and made recommendations on funding to SU2C's Management Committee. "SU2C aims to capitalize on that progress and is pushing it forward at what will be an extraordinarily quick pace. The Dream Teams bring together leading laboratory scientists and physicians, collaborating in ways that are unprecedented with a laser-like focus on research that has enormous potential to help patients and save lives. The Stand Up To Cancer model could very well change the face of cancer."
Five SU2C Dream Team Grants
Each Dream Team's project, funded for three years pending satisfactory achievement of stated milestones, is "translational" in nature, geared toward moving science from "bench to bedside" where it can benefit patients as quickly as possible. SU2C's distinctive funding model was specifically designed to eliminate barriers that can inhibit creativity and collaboration, in part, by enabling scientists with different expertise from different institutions across the country - and in some cases, internationally - to work together. The five Dream Teams are comprised of 7 leaders, 4 co-leaders and 27 principal researchers from over 20 leading institutions, with more than 300 individuals participating in total. Each team will have at least two members from patient advocacy groups to ensure that the perspective of the patients and survivors they represent will be integrated into the research on an ongoing basis.
The teams are listed below in alphabetical order according to the name of the leaders, and they will pursue the following important topics (full list of team members can be found at www.su2c.org):
- "Bringing Epigenetic Therapy to the Forefront of Cancer Management" / Leader: Stephen B. Baylin, M.D., Deputy Director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins; Co-Leader: Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Urology and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Southern California;
- "Targeting the PI3K Pathway in Women's Cancers" / Leader: Lewis C. Cantley, Ph.D., Chief of the Division of Signal Transduction at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Co-Leaders: Charles L. Sawyers, M.D., Director of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Gordon B. Mills, M.D., Ph.D., Chair, Department of Systems Biology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center;
- "An Integrated Approach to Targeting Molecular Breast Cancer Molecular Subtypes and Their 'Resistance' Phenotypes" / Leaders: Joe W. Gray, Ph.D., Life Sciences Division Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Dennis J. Slamon, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Clinical/Translational Research at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center;
- "Bioengineering and Clinical Applications of Circulating Tumor Cells Chip" / Leader: Daniel A. Haber, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center; Co-Leader: Mehmet Toner, Ph.D., Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Harvard Medical School; and
- "Cutting off the Fuel Supply: A New Approach to the Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer" / Leaders: Craig B. Thompson, M.D., Director, Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and Daniel D. Von Hoff, M.D., Senior Investigator and Physician in Chief at the Translational Research Genomics Institute (TGen).
The projects address some of the most critical and promising areas of cancer research today. They will enable scientists to gain new understanding of the molecular pathways and genetic mutations that contribute to the causes of many cancers; to apply nanotechnology to isolate and analyze circulating tumor cells; to explore imaging approaches that could lead to "starving" tumors; to leverage the growing understanding of epigenetics to design targeted anticancer agents; and to explore new approaches to treating breast cancers, especially those resistant to current therapies. This unique translational research model focuses on the disease, drug targets and clinical development, combining research and clinical applications that have extraordinary potential for patients.
"For people struggling with this disease, or many of the 1.4 million Americans who will be diagnosed this year, scientific breakthroughs can literally be a matter of life or death," said Laura Ziskin, executive producer of the September 5th, 2008 broadcast, who is a cancer survivor and a member of the SU2C Executive Leadership Council (ELC). "Every single minute of every single day, we lose someone to cancer in this country. We urgently need more and better treatments, and we need everyone to support the scientists who are working so hard to develop more effective treatments. That, in a nutshell, is what Stand Up To Cancer is trying to facilitate."
Collectively, the research that will be done through the Dream Team projects could impact the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of cancers in adults and children across ethnicities including, but not limited to pancreatic, breast, ovarian, cervical, uterine, brain, lung, prostate, rectal and colon, which represent two thirds of all U.S. cancer deaths. (562,340 people are expected to die of cancer in the United States this year.) In the U.S. alone, one out of three women and one out of two men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. Worldwide, cancer kills almost eight million people annually.
The combined award of $73.6 million fulfills one of Stand Up To Cancer's key objectives: to assure that these translational research Dream Teams receive sufficient funding to see results within the three-year term of the grants.
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