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Eric Schoch
IU School of Medicine

Last modified: Thursday, April 3, 2008

School of Medicine to track clues to cancer with $750,000 grant

April 3, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana University School of Medicine scientists will search for molecular clues to enable better detection and treatment of multiple myeloma, a blood-borne cancer, with a $750,000 award from the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

IU was one of three institutions selected nationally -- along with the University of Arkansas and the University of Michigan -- by the foundation to use the powerful tools of proteomics to find biomarkers for the disease. Mu Wang, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and director of the Protein Analysis and Resource Center (PARC), and Attaya Suvannasankha, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, will lead the three-year initiative at IU.

Also participating in the initiative will be Fred Regnier, John H. Law Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Purdue University, and Xiang Zhang, associate professor of analytical chemistry at the University of Louisville.

About 15,000 new cases of multiple myeloma are diagnosed in the United States annually. Thus far the disease has resisted researchers' efforts to find a cure or successfully predict which patients will benefit from available treatment alternatives, said Suvannasankha.

Researchers will analyze the differences in proteins found in multiple myeloma cells versus healthy cells. They also will study the protein patterns of bone marrow cells that provide "support" for the cancerous cells, searching for proteins that could serve as biomarkers for doctors and scientists. In addition, they will study the cells' protein patterns before and after treatment with various chemotherapy regimens.

"It would be good to know that if a patient has protein expression pattern A, the patient should receive drug regimen A," said Suvannasankha, a member of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. "That's the kind of thing we're hoping to better understand by understanding the cancer cells and their surrounding cells that support the growth of the cancer cells."

To attack such problems, IU will be able to combine its clinical care and basic science research expertise in multiple myeloma with the resources in one of the nation's most advanced proteomics facilities, said Wang, the project's principal investigator. Proteomics technologies enable scientists to study the universe of proteins that exist in cells at a given time.

The Protein Analysis Research Center (PARC), which provides proteomics analysis to academic researchers, is part of Monarch LifeSciences, an Indianapolis firm that provides contract research services focusing on biomarker discovery and validation. PARC serves as the IU School of Medicine's proteomics core, which was created with funding by the Indiana Genomics Initiative (INGEN).