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Fox Chase Cancer Center Part of State-wide Bioinformatics Initiative for Cancer Research; Funds Received from Tobacco Settlement

PHILADELPHIA - Pennsylvania's top six research institutes collectively have received more than $5 million for a three year project to create a state-wide database that will inventory biomarkers and tissue samples used for cancer research. This initiative is spearheaded by members of the Pennsylvania Cancer Alliance (PCA), which consists of the Fox Chase Cancer Center, the University of Pittsburgh, the Wistar Institute, University of Pennsylvania, Penn State University, and Thomas Jefferson University.

The initiative is funded by the state's tobacco settlement and will create a new and critical infrastructure that will enable researchers to investigate the clinical usefulness of a variety of molecular biomarkers for cancer, to assess patient prognosis, predict patient response to therapy, and predict the course of disease.

"This is the first initiative of its kind in the United States," says J. Robert Beck, MD, vice president of bioinformatics and Chief Information Officer at Fox Chase Cancer Center, the principal institution in Eastern Pennsylvania. "Scientists at all of these institutions are collaboratively working on identifying various biomarkers or indicators that reveal the presence or potential of cancer."

"We want to organize and catalog what these scientists are doing at their respective institutions in an effort to make the research available to everyone throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and set the standard for this type of initiative across the country. By sharing this information with other institutions, we will be able to help step-up the progress of research," says Beck.

The bioinformatics initiative has many facets. It will develop a statewide repository of serum and tissue samples, develop common data elements for clinical trials, create a data model for biomarker information storage, and develop a genomics/proteomics core facility. The technological achievements and the statewide informatics infrastructure that will be established by the group will enable unprecedented, robust and efficient studies of biomarkers and their relevance to the clinical course of cancer.

Studies resulting from the creation of this initiative may allow for better classification of cancer types, more accurate assessment of disease prognosis, a better ability to identify the most appropriate individuals for clinical trial participation, and better surrogate markers of disease progression and or response to therapy. Of significance, the biorepository created through these activities will be made available for use by researchers and institutions that are not part of the collaborative research effort. This will promote research among institutions throughout the Commonwealth.

"This is a huge step forward in terms of organizing research," says Beck. "The collaborative efforts of this group will benefit people throughout the state and help speed the pace of bench to bedside research," he concludes.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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