BIDMC and JAX Cancer Centers launch pilot cancer genomics grant program

Bar Harbor, Maine -- As part of a comprehensive relationship to advance cancer research and accelerate personalized genomic medicine, The Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) have launched seven joint research projects to study a variety of cancer types, including multiple myeloma, lung, breast, prostate and brain cancers.

The projects bring together 28 scientists – 14 from each institution – to lead investigations ranging from basic science to the development of clinical therapies.

In September 2014, the two institutions established a comprehensive relationship in the areas of research and medical education as well as in the creation of new diagnostic and therapeutic services, including the co-development of services based on pioneering mouse model systems.

“These new research projects represent a major step forward in the affiliation between BIDMC and JAX,” said Pier Paolo Pandolfi, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the BIDMC Cancer Center. “This pilot grant initiative brings together the clinical expertise of BIDMC researchers, the computational and genomics expertise of JAX investigators and the expertise of cancer biologists from both institutions.”

A number of these projects will take advantage of the two groups’ sophisticated platforms to model human cancers and test therapeutic outcomes. The pioneering JAX mouse model, PDX (patient-derived xenograft), provides a platform for studying the genomic profiles of individual cancers through molecular diagnostic testing. BIDMC’s “Mouse Hospital,” developed by Dr. Pandolfi, uses genetically altered mice to replicate human cancers and enables investigators to conduct human clinical trials in parallel with animal studies. Co-principal investigators from both institutions will lead each of the seven projects.

“These grants bring together an amazing group of scientists with highly complementary expertise and tools to enhance our understanding of cancer mutations and mechanisms,” said JAX President and CEO Edison Liu, M.D. “This joint research program is the first of many collaborative endeavors between BIDMC and JAX that promise to accelerate the application of genomics to cancer care – and speed the development of personalized cancer treatments.”

“Do immune checkpoint inhibitors change the T-cell repertoire in clinically useful ways?” This pilot study, co-led by Ramy Arnaout, M.D., D.Phil., of BIDMC and Jacques Banchereau, Ph.D., of JAX, will investigate the role of T-cells and the immune system in cancers. Other investigators on this project include Joseph Kaplinsky, Ph.D., from BIDMC and JAX investigators James Keck, Ph.D. and Karolina Palucka, M.D., Ph.D.

“Vaccine-elicited patient-specific T-cell response in myeloma.”  Led by David Avigan, M.D., of BIDMC and Karolina Palucka, M.D., Ph.D., of JAX, this project will address the need for more effective cancer vaccine therapies for multiple myeloma. Other team members include BIDMC’s Jacalyn Rosenblatt, M.D., and Dina Stroopinsky, Ph.D., and JAX investigators, Jacques Banchereau, Ph.D., Kathleen Adams, Ph.D., Krishna Karuturi, Ph.D., and Joshy George, Ph.D.

“Development of brain tumor-targeted theragnostic agents for clinical translation.” Co-principal investigators Hak Soo Choi, Ph.D., of BIDMC, and Kyuson Yun, Ph.D., of JAX, will test the use of near-infrared fluorophores targeted to brain tumor cells to guide brain tumor surgery with sensitive and specific imaging. Other team members include Kai Bao, Ph.D., and Hideyuki Wada, M.D., of BIDMC.

“Defining the mechanism for the tandem duplicator phenotype formation in triple negative breast cancer and its relationship with cisplatin sensitivity.” This project, co-led by Ralph Scully, Ph.D., of BIDMC and JAX President and CEO Edison Liu, M.D., will investigate a unique genomic feature that develops in some therapy-resistant breast cancers and will test whether it can be used to predict sensitivity to cisplatin chemotherapy. Team members also include Nicholas Willis, Ph.D., of BIDMC and JAX investigators Francesca Menghi, Ph.D., and Pooja Kumar, Ph.D.

“Targeting the Skp2 oncoprotein as a novel anti-prostate cancer therapy.” The project will test a new target for prostate cancer therapy and is co-led by Wenyi Wei, Ph.D., of BIDMC and Chengkai Dai, Ph.D., of JAX.

“Evaluation of a novel anti-BMI1 therapy for lung cancer in patient derived xenograft models.” Elena Levantini, Ph.D., of BIDMC and James Keck, Ph.D., of JAX, will co-lead this project to test a novel therapeutic agent for non-small-cell and small lung cancer. Other team members include BIDMC’s Daniel Costa, M.D. and JAX investigators Zhengqing Ouyang, Ph.D., and Carol Bult, Ph.D.

“MicroRNAs as personalized therapeutics for lung cancer.” A team led by Frank Slack, Ph.D., Director of the Institute for RNA Medicine in the Cancer Center at BIDMC and Carol Bult, Ph.D., of JAX will test microRNA molecules as a personalized therapy to treat lung cancer. JAX investigator Julie Wells, Ph.D., is the team’s third member.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding.

The Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a clinical, research and educational center. Multidisciplinary teams of physicians collaborate to design and deliver an individual care plan for each patient. With a faculty of more than 160 and research grants of $72 million in 2014, the Cancer Center is committed to advancing the frontiers of compassionate care and cancer science. BIDMC is in the community with Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth, Anna Jaques Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Healthcare, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare, Community Care Alliance and Atrius Health. BIDMC is also clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and Hebrew Rehabilitation Center and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and The Jackson Laboratory. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit

The Jackson Laboratory is home to a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center complemented by institutional education, resource and service initiatives that support cancer research worldwide. The JAX Cancer Center comprises approximately 50 members with multidisciplinary expertise who are united in research aimed at understanding and targeting the genomic complexity of cancer. With a grants funding base of nearly $47 million, the JAX Cancer Center operates across the three campuses of The Jackson Laboratory: JAX Mammalian Genetics in Bar Harbor, Maine; JAX Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Conn.; and The Jackson Laboratory in Sacramento, Calif.