NCI planning to look far and (genome) wide

Agency plans to award up to $96 million for multicenter genome-wide association studies

Jeffrey Bouley
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BETHESDA, Md.—The National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health recently announced it intends to award up to $96 million over four years to support multicenter collaborations that will use data from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to pinpoint regions in the human genome associated with susceptibility to cancer.

Current plans call for the program—known as the Transdisciplinary Cancer Genomics Research: Post-Genome Wide Association Initiative—to spend up to $24 million, each year, for between five and eight different projects.

NCI is keen on funding transdisciplinary research projects that take advantage of existing genome-wide association studies of cancer and previously generated GWAS data, and the institute wants each application to ideally include two or three subprojects that are "closely pertinent to a single unifying research theme."

The NCI's goal, it noted in the funding announcement, is to "provide a rigorous knowledge base that would enable clinical translation and public health dissemination of the GWAS findings."

"Progressing from genome-wide association studies to the development of therapies and enhanced diagnostic techniques based on those findings will require continued, sustained effort from laboratory researchers who will unite our newfound knowledge of the genome with the study of cancer biology," says Dr. John E. Niederhuber, NCI's director.

Genome-wide association studies have already proven fruitful for NCI-funded efforts. For example, a study published in June 2007 in Nature found that five novel independent loci exhibited strong and consistent evidence of association with breast cancer. This is important because known susceptibility genes account for less than a quarter of the familial risk of breast cancer, and "the residual genetic variance is likely to be due to variants conferring more moderate risks," noted the study's authors.

In the area of prostate cancer, a genome-wide association study published in May in Nature Genetics built on recently discovered associations between common variants on human chromosome 8q24 and prostate cancer risk by discovering a new association at 8q24 with an independent effect on prostate cancer susceptibility. DDN

Jeffrey Bouley

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