Cancer research coalition announced in Connecticut

Hartford, Conn.—Scientists from The Jackson Laboratory will partner with cancer specialists at Hartford Hospital and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to explore new approaches to cancer treatment for adults and children. Laboratory and hospital officials joined Gov. Dannel Malloy on Tuesday to announce the new genomic medicine collaboration.

Malloy, whose 2011 Bioscience Connecticut initiative brought the Laboratory to Connecticut, said the joint research effort will help to position Connecticut as a leader in the emerging field of genomic medicine, which aims to develop individualized therapies for cancer and other diseases.

"Today’s announcement is a great example of why we pursued The Jackson Laboratory during my first year in office," said Gov. Malloy. "I want to thank Laboratory President and CEO Ed Liu and the staff and boards at Hartford Hospital and the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center for the work they do. This partnership will advance the treatment of disease, position Connecticut as a leader in genomic medicine, and impact people living with disease in the most meaningful way."

The collaboration among the hospitals and The Jackson Laboratory's new JAX Genomic Medicine facility in Farmington, Conn., will bring cutting-edge science to the patient-care setting. The collaborative agreement provides the framework for joint research toward tailored cancer therapies.  

"We are establishing formal linkages with these distinguished Connecticut hospitals," said Edison T. Liu, M.D., Jackson’s president and CEO. "Together, we have the potential to diagnose and treat cancer based on the unique genomic profile of the patient and the tumor. This collaboration will create the capability for translational genomic medicine in Connecticut. Our goal is more effective cancer care at a lower cost to patients and to society." 

"We are thrilled to be partnering with the finest minds in the country to further research and win the war on cancer," said Andrew L. Salner, M.D., director of the Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center at Hartford Hospital. "Together, we can take the patient's own tumor cells, study their genomics and behavior in the lab, and ultimately translate those findings into a personalized and effective treatment approach. Doing this will be a giant leap forward in the development of safe and effective cancer therapies." 

"This collaboration brings with it the hope for discovery of new, more effective treatments for our children suffering with high-risk cancers for which effective treatments are not available," said Fernando Ferrer, M.D., surgeon-in-chief, executive vice president and director of the division of urology at Connecticut Children's Medical Center. "These efforts place our institutions and our state at the forefront of a new era of cancer treatment." 

JAX scientists and physicians from Hartford Hospital and Connecticut Children's Medical Center will use specialized research mice as stand-ins, or avatars, for human cancer patients. Researchers will transplant and grow patient tumor tissue in the mice, creating a cadre of patient-specific avatars. By testing a selection of therapies in the mouse avatars and correlating the results with the particular genetic makeup of the tumor tissue, scientists and clinicians will gain deeper understanding of the effectiveness of various therapies for specific cancers. 

The cancers to be studied are those with high risk of relapse or recurrence, including certain types of pediatric cancer and colon cancer in adults. Patient participation will be voluntary and guided by established federal regulations.  

Over time, the study will establish a far-reaching database that correlates cancer treatment results with the specific genomic variations observed in tumors. The Jackson Laboratory will make this information available to the global biomedical community.

About The Jackson Laboratory

Established in 1929 as an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution, The Jackson Laboratory has a distinguished history exploring the genetic basis of human diseases such as cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative illness and disorders associated with aging. With the founding in 2012 of JAX Genomic Medicine in Farmington, the Laboratory is moving to the forefront of the emerging revolution in genome-based medical care. The Laboratory employs a total staff of more than 1,450. Its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health. 

About Connecticut Children’s Medical Center

Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is a nationally recognized, 187-bed not-for-profit children’s hospital serving as the primary teaching hospital for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Named among the best in the nation for several of its pediatric specialties in the annual U.S. News & World Report “Best Children’s Hospitals” rankings, Connecticut Children’s is the only free-standing children’s hospital in Connecticut that offers comprehensive, world-class health care to children. Our pediatric services are available at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford and at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, with neonatal intensive care units at Hartford Hospital and the University of Connecticut Health Center, along with five specialty care centers and 10 other locations across the state. Connecticut Children’s has a medical staff of nearly 1,100 practicing in more than 30 specialties. For more information, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Hartford Hospital

Hartford Hospital, founded in 1854, is one of the largest teaching hospitals and tertiary care centers in New England, with one of the region's busiest surgery practices. It is annually ranked among America's Best Hospitals by US News & World Report and has been recognized nationally for the quality of many of its programs, including cardiology, cancer, stroke, and joint and spine care. The 867-bed regional referral center provides high-quality care in all clinical disciplines. Among its divisions is The Institute of Living, a 114-bed mental health facility with a national and international reputation of excellence. Jefferson House, a 104-bed long-term care facility, is also a special division of Hartford Hospital. The hospital’s major centers of clinical excellence include cardiology, oncology, emergency services and trauma, mental health, women’s health, orthopedics, bloodless surgery and advanced organ transplantation. Hartford Hospital owns and operates the state’s only air ambulance system, LIFE STAR.