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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Last modified: Thursday, June 10, 2010

IU-OSU center gets $9 million more for cancer epigenetics

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June 10, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University and the Ohio State University will receive $9 million from the National Cancer Institute to continue studying cancer genes and the sometimes-unnatural agents that mask the genes' expression, a phenomenon called epigenetics.

The National Cancer Institute is a division of the National Institutes of Health.

OSU School of Medicine cancer geneticist Timothy Huang and IU School of Medicine cancer biologist Kenneth Nephew co-administer the OSU-IU Center for Cancer Systems Biology and its project, "Interrogating Epigenetic Changes in Cancer Genomes," which began in 2004 with about $8 million in NCI support. Ten other centers received funding or continued funding this year as part of the NCI's Integrative Cancer Biology Program.

"Our group uses integrated computational and experimental approaches to study epigenetic mechanisms that control signaling networks in prostate, breast, and ovarian cancers," said Nephew, a member of the IU School of Medicine's Bloomington faculty. "During the initial funding period, we focused on epigenetic processes associated with neoplastic transformation of normal cells into cancer cells. We demonstrated that disruption of key networks contribute to the development of breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer, and we developed mathematical models based on our experimental data."

Over the next five years, Nephew said the OSU/IU-led team will study epigenetic changes in prostate, breast, and ovarian cancer cells that cause resistance to hormonal therapy or traditional chemotherapy. Nephew said a major objective is to identify a panel of epigenetic biomarkers for predicting responsiveness to anti-hormone treatments and chemotherapies in cancer patients.

"These centers represent a unique multidisciplinary union of outstanding scientists and clinicians who will work to unravel the complexities of cancer through the novel application of technology and mathematical modeling," said Dan Gallahan, NCI Integrative Cancer Biology Program director. "Their discoveries and models will be critical to our continued success in understanding and treating this disease."

The OSU-IU center also has an "Education Core," which is training young scientists to conduct integrated cancer research. During the initial funding period, the OSU-IU center hosted 14 summer programs and co-organized two systems biology meetings. Center staff trained 137 undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students and supported the activities of more than a dozen short- and long-term visitors.

To speak with Nephew, please contact David Bricker, University Communications, at 812-856-9035 or

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