Jackson partners with UC Davis to make primary human tumors available for research

Jackson partners with UC Davis to make primary human tumors available for research
Date: April 14, 2010
Sacramento, Calif. -- Researchers developing new cancer therapies depend on access to primary human tumors. To meet this need, The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) has teamed up with the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), to form a new consortium aimed at building a publicly available library of primary human tumors for research and drug development.

Every cancer is as unique as the patient who has to live with it. That's why most cancer treatments, developed to address an "average" patient, are ineffective or toxic, and why nine out of 10 cancer drugs entering preclinical testing fail to gain FDA approval.

"The standard way of trying to discover new therapies for cancer relies on use of tumor cell lines that may be many years old, grown in tissue culture and then put into mice," explains UC Davis Cancer Center Director Ralph deVere White, M.D. "While this has proven fairly successful in telling us what does not work, it does not predictably prove when therapies do work. This standard drug development process is very costly both in terms of money spent and for patients, for whom the pace of discovery of successful treatments is slow."

One problem with the tumor cell-line approach is that as those cells divide and reproduce, genetic mutations naturally occur. Consequently, the cells may drift into a different genetic profile, and any treatments designed to target the original tumors won't work.

Mouse models that can accept newly resected human tumors offer a much more effective way to develop and test cancer therapies. In this way, mouse models of virtually any kind of cancer can be developed, providing a much more individualized approach to finding new treatments.

"The biomedical research community needs a common, readily accessible resource to support this vital effort," says JAX Vice President and COO Chuck Hewett, Ph.D.. "Jackson has all the necessary skills and infrastructure needed to create and distribute such a resource. No single cancer center has a sufficiently broad patient population to meet this need, so we must work together if we hope to compress the drug discovery timeline and ultimately save lives."

JAX launched the new consortium in early 2009 through its initial research partnership with UC Davis. Under a new agreement, UC Davis will supply JAX with solid human tumors, which will then be expanded in mice and made available for research nationally.

Located at The Jackson Laboratory's JAX--West facility in Sacramento, Calif., the Primary Human Tumors Consortium seeks to partner with other cancer centers to speed the development of this resource. "By joining the Consortium," Hewett says, "members will contribute to and share in a tumor library that will vastly exceed what any one institution could build on its own. This shared resource ultimately will greatly expand research capacity for all Consortium partners while preserving varied and valuable tumors for future research." Interested researchers and institutes should contact Susie Airhart, JAX senior director for strategic alliances.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution with more than 1,300 employees in Bar Harbor, Maine, and Sacramento, Calif. Its mission is to discover the genetic basis for preventing, treating and curing human diseases, and to enable research and education for the global biomedical community. Its 38 research groups investigate the genetic basis of cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, glaucoma, diabetes and many other human diseases and disorders, as well as normal development, reproduction and aging. A National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, the Laboratory is also the world's source for more than 5,000 strains of genetically defined mice, is home of the mouse genome database and is an international hub for scientific courses, conferences, training and education.

UC Davis Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its top specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 9,000 adults and children every year, and offer patients access to more than 150 clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program includes more than 280 scientists from UC Davis Health System in Sacramento, Calif.; the UC Davis campus in Davis, Calif.; and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. It was the first major cancer center to establish a formal research partnership with a national laboratory. With a focus on regional community outreach, the Cancer Care Network partners with a number of hospitals and clinical centers throughout the Central Valley and Northern California area to offer the latest cancer care services.

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Contact(s): Joyce Peterson, 207-288-6058

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