National Functional Genomics Center at the UMCCC
A Center for Genetic Origins of CancerIn 2001, the U.S. Congress, establishing a National Functional Genomics Center (NFGC, Public Law 107-117). The purpose of the NFGC is to bridge the gap between promising research science and patient care, allowing the rapid development of translational research technologies. These technologies will usher in a new era in molecular medicine which may significantly advance early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancers.
In October 2008, a NFGC was established at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center with a five year $12.5M award of the Department of Defense's (DOD) US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC at Ft. Detrick, MD) to principal investigator Max Wicha, director of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. This award, administered through the Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), established the University as one of the premier cancer genomics centers in the United States.
In addition to Dr. Wicha, Eric R. Fearon, M.D., Ph.D., associate director for basic science research and Arul Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Cancer Bioinformatics will lead the research efforts of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center NFGC.
Significance of Functional Genomic ApproachesThe current standard for classifying tumors is based chiefly on the tissue in which they arise and is not an adequate predictor for how these malignancies will respond to chemotherapy. Functional genomics offers an opportunity to characterize the molecular signature of a given tumor. Functional genomics is derived from the many successes of the Human Genome Project which, under the direction of Dr. Francis S. Collins (a former UM faculty member), mapped and sequenced genes leading to development of microarray techniques. Microarray technology allows for the simultaneous analysis of thousands of genes thereby facilitating tumor characterization. The identification of molecular signatures and new drug targets through genomic approaches will allow diagnosis of cancer tumors, provide greater validation for prognosis of cancer and develop targeted, rapid response therapies through personalized medicine. Characterizing the molecular changes that give rise to a given cancer, rather than just considering where the cancer started will provide better insight into the origin of the cancer and shed light on better, less toxic treatment options. With knowledge of functional genomics doctors will be able to tell their patients based upon their gene profiles which chemotherapies will be effective and which stem cell approaches could prove therapeutic. Patients whose cancers are not likely to respond to available chemotherapies could then be directed toward novel therapeutics.
Public BenefitThe NFGC at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center is poised to benefit the several million active and reserve military personnel, as many as 700,000 DOD employees, as well as the millions of former military personnel and civilians that will equire cancer treatment during their lifetime. As such, the NFGC can rightly be viewed as the bridge that produces benefits that are directly applicable to the military and hence a homeland security agenda while at the same time advancing the war on cancer, currently a leading cause of premature death in America.