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A Comprehensive Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Special Projects and Programs

As we uncover the differences among the many forms of malignancies and delve into the molecular dynamics of normal and abnormal cell function, cancer research becomes increasingly more complex. Consequently, cancer breakthroughs are dependent upon the special expertise of researchers combined with state-of-the-art technologies. Much of today's research is accomplished through team efforts integrating the strengths and knowledge of diverse investigators, disciplines, and institutions. The UCCCC houses a number of large, targeted, cooperative research initiatives including:

Ludwig Center for Metastasis Research

Affiliated with the UCCCC, the Ludwig Center aims to further our understanding of metastasis and translate laboratory concepts into novel therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of metastasis. Established in 2006 by an endowment from the Ludwig Fund (providing $2.5 million per year), the center is housed in the Gwen and Jules Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery. The Ludwig Center is led by Ralph Weichselbaum, MD, chair of the Department of Radiation and Cellular Oncology (Clinical and Experimental Therapeutics Program), and Geoffrey Greene, PhD, vice-chair of The Ben May Department for Cancer Research and associate director for basic sciences for the UCCCC (Cell Signaling and Gene Regulation Program). Researchers from various disciplines, including molecular and cell biology, bioinformatics, chemistry, genetics, imaging, and medicine, collaborate to dissect the basic mechanisms of metastasis using sophisticated, state-of-the-art approaches.

Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology (IGSB)

The IGSB was established to further the advancement of technology development for genome analysis and accelerate the transition of basic discoveries in genome science into translational and clinical research. The IGSB, a collaboration between UChicago and Argonne National Laboratory, focuses on genomics and systems biology approaches to understand genome function evolution, uncover new diagnostic and therapeutic targets, and discover new strategies for complex human diseases with a major focus on cancer. The IGSB is organized into 10 areas of investigation, including proteomics and structural genomics, computational biology and informatics, microbial systems biology, evolutionary genomics and systems, biological engineering and technology development, cellular and genomic networks, chemical genomics, cancer, population genomics and complex diseases, and clinical genomics.

Kevin White, PhD (Cell Signaling and Gene Regulation Program), directs IGSB and draws on the expertise of investigators from Argonne National Laboratory and more than 20 different departments in the Biological Sciences and Physical Sciences Divisions at UChicago. More than 70 researchers, many of whom are members of the UCCCC, are performing research on complex biological systems from a wide variety of experimental, computational, and theoretical approaches.

Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Breast Cancer

The Breast Cancer SPORE brings together a multidisciplinary team of basic, clinical, and population science investigators to perform innovative research using a uniquely global strategy to eradicate breast cancer. Awarded by the National Cancer Institute, the program is one of only 11 Breast SPORES in the United States and the only one in Illinois. The SPORE is an integrated program that includes investigators from three UCCCC Programs. One of the pressing goals of the SPORE is to translate recent scientific advances to benefit all women who are at risk of developing the most aggressive form of breast cancer, which disproportionately affects African American women on the South Side of Chicago at a young age.

The Breast Cancer SPORE is led by Olufunmilayo Olopade, MD, FACP (Cancer Prevention and Control Program), along with co-leaders Gini Fleming, MD (Pharmacogenomics and Experimental Therapeutics Program), and Maryellen Giger, PhD (Advanced Imaging Program), and involves researchers in genetics, bioinformatics, molecular biology, biophysics, and structural biology.

Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Prostate

This SPORE is a combined effort of Northwestern University, UChicago, and its affiliate, Northshore University Health System. The program approaches prostate cancer from a variety of perspectives, including prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment. The SPORE's principal investigator Chung Lee, PhD, from Northwestern University, has gathered a diverse team of laboratory scientists, epidemiologists, urologists, oncologists, pathologists, and statisticians to meet the challenges of a program of such breadth.

Specialized Center of Research (SCOR)

Awarded by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, this initiative specifically aims to develop a comprehensive multidisciplinary program that will provide a platform for the identification and testing of novel cell-permeable peptides and small molecules for the treatment of hematological (blood) diseases. The SCOR represents collaboration among three institutions and is led by Michael Thirman, MD (Hematopoiesis and Hematological Malignancies Program). The program brings together a large group of scientists to form a highly interactive group of chemists, molecular biologists, and clinicians who might not otherwise have the opportunity to work together in a translational research program in leukemia and lymphoma. Specifically, the program encompasses a collaborative effort involving 11 UChicago senior researchers as well as two project leaders from two other cancer centers.

Systems Biology Approach for the Study of Therapy-Related Acute Myeloid Leukemia (t-AML)

In early 2009, the Cancer Research Foundation (CRF) provided UChicago with generous funding to catalyze a multidisciplinary systems biology and genomics approach to study t-AML. An interdisciplinary team of scientists has been assembled to use a comprehensive approach to identify individuals at risk for developing t-AML, identify genetic susceptibility factors that are involved, and design effective prevention and treatment strategies for this disease. t-AML is a direct result of mutational events that are induced by chemotherapy or radiotherapy used in the treatment of primary malignancies, such as breast and colon cancer. Approximately 8%-10% of all patients treated for cancer will develop the disease, an average of 5 years after receiving treatment, and have a median survival of 8 months. Patients who have received immunosuppressive agents for organ transplantation are also at risk for developing t-AML.

Members of the interactive team, led by Michelle Le Beau, PhD, director of the UCCCC and Cancer Cytogenetics Laboratory, represent the UCCCC and the Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology (IGSB). The team has extensive research expertise in clinical oncology, hematopathology, genetics, genomics, systems biology, computational modeling of molecular networks, and hematopoiesis. Using a systems approach, these investigators will integrate six research projects involving high-throughput screening, stem cell biology, pharmacogenetics, clinical trial design, and computation to understand the basic biology of t-AML. Taken together, these projects will help researchers identify the molecular basis of the disease and lead to improved therapies, earlier detection, and prevention strategies.