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In addition, 18 Biomarker Developmental Laboratories received $8 million in grants last fall. Two million dollars in core funding will be used for the network's Steering Committee to manage collaborative activities.
Advances in cancer research, including programs such as the Cancer Genome Anatomy Project, have uncovered a variety of molecules, proteins, genes, and other biological substances that may be the earliest warning signs that normal cells are turning cancerous. The Early Detection Research Network will translate these discoveries into methods for detecting cancer at its earliest stages and for identifying people at risk of cancer before they develop the disease.
The nine Clinical and Epidemiological Centers will focus on providing the network with blood, tissue, other biological samples, and medical information on families with histories of cancer. These libraries will serve as vital resources for the large-scale evaluation of cancer biomarkers.
"Advances in cancer genetics, protein analysis, and other fields offer potential new biomarkers that one day may reduce the burden of cancer," said Sudhir Srivastava, Ph.D., M.P.H., chief of the Cancer Biomarkers Research Group in NCI's Division of Cancer Prevention. "But before they can move from the lab to the clinic, these biomarkers need to be tested systematically. Pooling resources and expertise is vital to this kind of validation."
One key challenge of biomarkers research is maintaining an adequate supply of samples from cancer patients, high-risk individuals, and healthy control populations. The Clinical and Epidemiological Centers have extensive experience enrolling volunteers in cancer monitoring studies, and will continue to bank tissue samples to meet the needs of the network.
The three Biomarker Validation Laboratories will serve as crucial intermediaries between the Biomarker Developmental Laboratories and general clinical settings. The validation laboratories will first standardize tests and assure reproducibility, then they will scale up production and ready the best biomarker tests for clinical trials.
The Data Management and Coordination Center will develop standards for data reporting and research new statistical methods for analyzing biomarkers.
The 18 Biomarker Development Laboratories, funded in late 1999, are searching for potential biomarkers by sifting through thousands of samples of breast, prostate, ovarian, lung, bladder, and other cancers. When the labs identify promising biomarker leads, the network's Steering Committee will decide which to advance to the validation laboratories.
"The Early Detection Research Network is truly collaborative. It is investigator led and investigator managed," said Srivastava. "This network is not about NCI telling our grantees what research to do, it's about the researchers deciding for themselves."
The Early Detection Research Network Web site is at http://edrn.nci.nih.gov/.
Clinical and Epidemiology Centers
Biomarker Validation Laboratories
Data Management and Coordination Center
For more information about cancer, visit NCI's Web site at http://www.cancer.gov.