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October 16, 2006

Berkeley Cancer Genome Center to Study Tumor Genomics

BERKELEY, CA — The newly established Berkeley Cancer Genome Center, led by members of the Life Sciences Division in the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is one of seven Cancer Genome Characterization Centers to receive awards from the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute. Earlier today the two institutes, both part of the National Institutes of Health, announced a three-year, $35 million project which will seek to identify important genetic changes involved in lung, brain, and ovarian cancers through genome analysis.

The Berkeley Cancer Genome Center is a collaboration between Berkeley Lab, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at San Francisco. The center's director is Joe W. Gray, who is the director of the Life Sciences Division and Berkeley Lab's Associate Laboratory Director for Life and Environmental Sciences. Computational biologist Paul Spellman of the Life Sciences Division is codirector.

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"The Berkeley Cancer Genome Center will be focused on identifying changes to the populations of messenger RNA that occur in cancer," says Spellman. Such changes are indicative of different kinds of proteins produced by the altered genomes of tumor cells.

Spellman says, "The Center will use the Affymetric Exon 1.0 array platform to measure exon-specific expression" — exons are the coding sequences in a gene — "of at least 1,000 samples per year, and will use computational tools to identify those whose behavior suggests they might play a role in cancer."

In addition to Gray and Spellman, Berkeley Cancer Genome Center investigators include John Conboy of Berkeley Lab's Life Sciences Division, Jane Fridyland of UC San Francisco's Comprehensive Cancer Center, John Ngai of UC Berkeley's Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, and Terry Speed of UCB's Department of Statistics.

Other institutions receiving Cancer Genome Characterization Centers awards are the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge; the Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston; the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York; the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore; the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto; and the University of North Carolina's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill.  

Cancer Genome Characterization Centers comprise a component of the National Institute of Health's Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Pilot Project, launched in December 2005, which will test the feasibility of using large-scale genome analysis technologies to identify important genetic changes involved in cancer. When fully operational, the pilot project will consist of four integrated components: the Cancer Genome Characterization Centers, a Data Coordinating Center, and a Biospecimen Core Resource, all now in operation, plus Genome Sequencing Centers to be selected in the coming months.

For more about the NIH program in cancer genomics, visit

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