Multi-center partnership aims to better diagnose, treat cancer

Research to focus on proteins made by cancer cells

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Boise State University have been named partners in one of five U.S. centers that will use genetic data to search for proteins that are abnormally made by cancer cells.

The partnerships form the new Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC) supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

“We are looking for proteins in the blood that result from the genetic abnormalities causing the cancer,” says breast cancer expert Matthew J. Ellis, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine who treats patients at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine and a leader of the research at one of the five centers. “The hope is those proteins can then be used for cancer screening, diagnosis and therapy.”

This relatively new field examining the proteins that result from the DNA errors in tumor cells is called cancer proteomics. It has benefited from a technical revolution similar to that seen in DNA sequencing, with a rapid increase in sensitivity and accuracy over the last five years.

Following the National Cancer Institute’s investment in sequencing whole genomes of cancer patients to identify the mutations causing cancer, including the Cancer Genome Atlas project, efforts are shifting toward extracting the medical value of this massive catalog of genetic information. Since abnormal expression of these proteins is driven by the fundamental DNA differences between normal and cancer cells, the successful detection of cancer proteins in the blood would likely have great value for the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

In collaboration with experts in the cancer proteomics field, including Reid Townsend, MD, PhD, also of Washington University; Xian Chen, PhD, of University of North Carolina; and Morgan C. Giddings, PhD, of Boise State University, the NCI’s award will bring together the existing clinical and proteomics expertise at Washington University and the University of North Carolina as well as the advanced cancer profiling capabilities at Washington University’s Genome Institute.

The CPTAC Proteome Characterization Centers, by project title, are:

Cancer Proteomic Center at Washington University, University of North Carolina and Boise State University

• Washington University in St. Louis

Principal Investigators: Matthew J. Ellis, MB, BChir, PhD; Reid Townsend, MD, PhD

• University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Principal Investigator: Xian Chen, PhD

• Boise State University, Boise, Idaho

Principal Investigator: Morgan C. Giddings, PhD

Center for Application of Advanced Clinical Proteomic Technologies for Cancer

• Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Wash.

Principal Investigators: Richard D. Smith, PhD; Karin D. Rodland, PhD

Proteo-Genomic Discovery, Prioritization and Verification of Cancer Biomarkers

• The Broad Institute, Cambridge, Mass.

Principal Investigator: Steven A. Carr, PhD

• Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle

Principal Investigator: Amanda G. Paulovich, MD, PhD

Proteome Characterization Center: A GenoProteomics Pipeline for Cancer Biomarkers

• Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

Principal Investigators: Daniel W. Chan, PhD; Zhen Zhang, PhD; Hui Zhang, PhD

Vanderbilt Proteome Characterization Center

• Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.

Principal Investigator: Daniel C. Liebler, PhD

For more information on the Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium and other programs by the Office of Cancer Clinical Proteomics Research, visit

For more information about cancer or the National Cancer Institute, visit the NCI Web site at or call NCI’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4 CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.