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Vol. LXII, No. 19
September 17, 2010
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NCI Educates Congressional Staff, Advocates

Dr. Lee Helman (l) and Susan Erikson (third from r) lead congressional staff and cancer research advocates on a tour of the Clinical Research Center during NCI’s Project Cancer Education.
Dr. Lee Helman (l) and Susan Erikson (third from r) lead congressional staff and cancer research advocates on a tour of the Clinical Research Center during NCI’s Project Cancer Education.

NCI and the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) recently co-hosted a pilot program, Project Cancer Education, for congressional staff and cancer research advocates. Held on campus, the half-day educational program’s goal was “to explain what translational research means; to show that bench-to-bedside is only part of the cycle,” said Susan Erikson, director of NCI’s Office of Government and Congress-ional Relations.

The participants toured the Clinical Center, stopping in the pediatric unit to gain an appreciation of a young patient’s cancer experience and to learn about the research of Dr. Jun Wei, an NCI biologist studying pediatric neuroblastoma. In the pathology lab, participants learned the importance of properly handling and storing patient samples for accurate diagnoses and future research use. To show attendees the evolution of cancer diagnosis, each advocate or staff member was given a traditional pathology report similar to that of an actual cancer patient along with a genotype report detailing the genetic abnormalities within the tumor.

The attendees visited Dr. Natasha Caplen’s laboratory to observe how gene expression array data from tumor cells is collected and analyzed, to understand how knowing the altered gene activities operating in a tumor inform the design of therapeutic strategies and to learn how Caplen’s research on gene silencing can validate chosen molecular targets for customized cancer therapy.

“I really enjoyed learning about the world of gene silencing and getting to see where so much of that innovation is taking place,” said Elyse Marcellino, staff member for Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

Dr. Ola Landgren discussed his studies on multiple myeloma, including the importance of identifying cancer precursor stages like smoldering myeloma. Landgren walked the group through further testing for preclinical profiles linked to this cancer, potential treatments, innovative clinical trials and prognoses for patients with this disease.

Dr. Lee Helman, scientific director for clinical research at the Center for Cancer Research, and Dr. Don Benson, Ohio State University assistant professor and AACI representative, concluded the program by recapping the power and importance of translational research. Both emphasized the interdependence of research in the lab and the clinic as well as the valuable partnerships between NCI and the network of cancer research institutions. “We need to integrate basic and clinical research to make cancer preventable, curable and chronically manageable,” Helman said.—


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