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News Release

For immediate use

Oct. 16, 2006 -- No. 483

UNC named genome analysis center
for Federal Cancer Genome Atlas project

CHAPEL HILL - A team of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists will take part in the Cancer Genome Atlas project, a national effort to characterize and chart the molecular changes in specific types of cancer.

UNC's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, based in the UNC School of Medicine, has been named one of seven Cancer Genome Characterization Centers for the genome atlas project. The award was announced today (Oct. 16) by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute, both parts of the National Institutes of Health.

The Cancer Genome Atlas is a collaborative three-year, $100 million pilot project to test using large-scale genome analysis technologies to identify important genetic changes involved in cancer. Launched in December 2005, the cancer atlas will map the genomic changes associated with lung, brain and ovarian cancers. The seven genome characterization centers will operate as a network, with each center using advanced genome analysis technologies to identify major changes in the genomes of these cancers.

UNC Lineberger scientists will identify changes in the transcription profiles that occur in cancer. The grant to UNC totals $1.6 million; the total amount of funding to the seven sites is $11.7 million.

"This is a great opportunity for us as scientists and translational researchers to be involved in this next generation of genetic medicine-based national health initiatives," said Dr. Charles M. Perou, assistant professor of genetics and pathology and laboratory medicine and UNC's principal investigator for the project. "We hope to discover new cancer causing genes and biomarkers that could have a big impact upon patient care."

In addition to Perou, Dr. David Neil Hayes, assistant professor of medicine, will lead the bioinformatics activity and supervise the analysis and interpretation of the data generated at the UNC site. Dr. Michael Topal, professor of biochemistry and biophysics, will lead the DNA microarray expression profiling component. All three are members of UNC's Lineberger Center.

NCI Director Dr. John E. Niederhuber said, "We are, today, gaining new insights into the genetic changes that accumulate over a lifetime and are associated with malignancy. The Cancer Genome Atlas holds the potential to help turn what we know into what we can harness - to be able to study changes in a patient's genetic sequence over time and then use that information to design highly targeted, individually based interventions."

The other genome characterization centers are: the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.; Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif.; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, N.Y.; Harvard Medical School, Harvard, Mass.; the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, Md.; and Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, Calif.

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UNC Lineberger contact: Dianne Shaw, (919) 966-5905 or dgs@med.unc.edu
News Services contact: Becky Oskin, (919) 962-8596 or becky_oskin@unc.edu