Farmington, Conn.—The Jackson Laboratory, in collaboration with Seoul National University, will receive a five-year, $7.5 million grant from the South Korean government for a large-scale cancer genomics project employing the latest sequencing technology and special JAX mouse models that can host human tumors.
"This is a wonderful example of the international collaborations that JAX is building to rapidly advance its research mission, in this case: individualized cancer diagnosis and treatment," said Charles Lee, Ph.D., director of The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine and leader of the JAX component of the project.
Lee, who is also a distinguished visiting professor at Seoul National University, will work with principal investigator Jong-Il Kim, M.D., Ph.D., of the Seoul National University College of Medicine and other academic collaborators in Seoul.
During the first phase of the grant (2013-15), Kim and colleagues will collect and store tumors from patients with gastric, breast, colon, lung and rare cancers, and sequence and determine the genomic signatures of those cancers.
Lee will lead the development of hundreds of new mouse model systems for gastric, breast and other cancers that will be made available to the worldwide scientific community. The so-called PDX models (for patient-derived xenograft) represent mice that carry human tumors, enabling detailed functional study of the cellular and genomic characteristics of specific cancers.
The research team will also build a publicly accessible library of anticancer drugs and establish a drug efficacy screening system using patient-derived primary cell lines and PDX mouse models.
Lee explains that the researchers expect to find genetic similarities among certain cancers. "If we look at 1,000 gastric cancers, their genetic signatures may group into, say, 20 clusters. We can then do preclinical testing on just a few tumors from each of those groups, testing different drugs or combinations of drugs to determine which therapies are most effective for treating those tumors with a given genetic signature."
During the grant's second phase (2016-17), the researchers will take the project to the clinic, developing a personalized anticancer drug screening system and establishing a clinical trial network for individualized medicinal screening.
"This grant from the South Korean government shows there’s international interest in The Jackson Laboratory's approach to cancer research using PDX models," Lee says.
The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and the new genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs more than 1,600 staff, and its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.