Quantcast

NU gets $13.6M for cancer research

Northwestern University has been awarded a $13.6 million five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute to establish an interdisciplinary research center for the study of genes and their role in cancer.

Northwestern University has been awarded a $13.6 million five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute to establish an interdisciplinary research center for the study of genes and their role in cancer.

“Our center will be studying the regulation and expression of genes in both normal health and development and in cancer,” said principal investigator Jonathan Widom, the William Deering Professor in Biological Sciences in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “We need to understand healthy cells to understand and control cancer.”

Northwestern’s Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, one of 12 established nationwide by the NCI, brings together physical scientists and cancer biologists to use non-traditional, physical-sciences based approaches to understand and control cancer.

“By bringing a fresh set of eyes to the study of cancer, these new centers have great potential to advance, and sometimes challenge, accepted theories about cancer and its supportive microenvironment,” said NCI Director John E. Niederhuber, M.D. “Physical scientists think in terms of time, space, pressure, heat, and evolution in ways that we hope will lead to new understandings of the multitude of forces that govern cancer — and with that understanding, we hope to develop new and innovative methods of arresting tumor growth and metastasis.”

The Northwestern center is the result of a joint effort between the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

Its focus is on the molecular mechanisms by which genetic and epigenetic information is encoded and decoded in cancer cells. By combining diverse approaches from the physical sciences, including nano- and atomic-scale investigation, advanced optics, high-level computational power and mathematical modeling, the center’s investigators hope to gain new insights into fundamental processes of the cell.

Jonathan Licht, the Johanna Dobe Professor in Hematology/Oncology in the Feinberg School of Medicine and associate director of clinical science research at the Lurie Cancer Center, is senior co-investigator of the Northwestern group.

Cross-disciplinary teams are at the heart of the new center. The Chemistry of Life Processes Institute will support the center’s mission by bringing together a range of physical sciences researchers. The Lurie Cancer Center will link the fundamental inquiries of the physical scientists with the pressing needs of clinical oncologists and cancer patients.

The Northwestern center draws scientists — theoretical physicists, mathematicians, molecular biologists, chemists, engineers and endocrinologists — from Weinberg, Feinberg and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. Other investigators are from the University of Chicago, Children’s Memorial Hospital, the California Institute of Technology and the Weizmann Institute.

The Northwestern center consists of five project areas, each focused on different aspects of the storage and expression of genetic information. Each project integrates methods and ideas of experimental molecular and cell biology with experimental methods and theoretical ideas from the physical sciences.

The grant also will fund multidisciplinary workshops, seminars and specialized programs for training the next generation of interdisciplinary physical scientists and clinicians.

Editors’ Picks