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Distributed October 6, 2005
Contact Wendy Lawton

NIH Grants $11 Million to Brown University for Cancer Research

The National Institutes of Health has awarded Brown University a five-year, $11-million Center of Biomedical Research Excellence grant. The funding will allow researchers to explore how healthy cells become cancerous – knowledge critical to finding cures for the second leading cause of death in the United States.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The National Institutes of Health has awarded Brown University a five-year, $11-million grant to pursue genomics-based cancer research. The grant comes under the NIH’s Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) program and is one of the largest research awards to Brown in recent years.

Brown received its first five-year, $11-million COBRE award in 2000. That grant served as a springboard for the creation of the Center for Genomics and Proteomics.

“The COBRE awards are playing a vital role in expanding Brown’s research portfolio and fueling the growth of the Division of Biology and Medicine and its Medical School,” said Eli Y. Adashi, M.D., dean of medicine and biological sciences. “They’ve created advanced biomedical facilities and well-trained scientists that will be recruited for a cause of great consequence – the fight against cancer.”

John Sedivy

Understanding the rogue cells
Cancer cells, says John Sedivy, are rogues that do not obey signals from outside. Research supported by the COBRE award will try to find out why.

John Sedivy, director of the Center for Genomics and Proteomics and chair of the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry, is the project’s principal investigator. Sedivy said that renewed COBRE funding will support research that explores how cancer cells develop from normal cells. Five faculty members will study topics such as DNA damage, cell growth and division, and hormone signaling – all of which can contribute to the development or spread of cancer, a disease that kills more than 500,000 Americans each year.

“Cancer cells are rogues: they don’t obey outside signals,” Sedivy said. “So if we had a better understanding of what is happening inside these cells, we could design more effective prevention measures or treatment methods. There is great importance in this basic research.”

The new COBRE award will mainly fund research projects, while the first mostly paid for equipment and facilities. These included Rhode Island’s first transgenic facility, where mice with altered DNA are bred for scientists at Brown and its affiliated hospitals. In addition, powerful microscopes were purchased along with sophisticated instruments to study gene activity and protein structure.

These tools are used not only to study cancer, but also fertility, aging and brain development as well as heart disease, diabetes and addiction.

Brown was among the first universities to establish a COBRE, which are led by senior scientists who direct multidisciplinary efforts that focus on a theme, such as neuroscience or immunology. Training young researchers and creating core facilities are other goals of the program, which is operated by the National Center for Research Resources within the NIH.

Rhode Island Hospital, Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, and Roger Williams Medical Center also operate a COBRE. Together, these four Rhode Island centers have received nearly $53 million to investigate cancer, stem cells and fetal and newborn heart and lung development.

“These awards have all but transformed the research capabilities of our life and health sciences community,” Adashi said.


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