Eric Rosenthal Reports

Thoughts and observations about issues, trends, and controversies in the cancer community.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Stand Up To Cancer’s Newest Dream Team Adds ‘Convergence’ Research to its Requirements


When Stand Up To Cancer’s (SU2C) scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research announced a few days ago that it would begin accepting idea submissions for the $8 million, three-year SU2C-Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Convergence Dream Team Translational Research Grant, it added a new dimension to its collaborative team science effort, as well as news about another foundation funding partner, the Fox Family.


Convergence research, which combines traditionally separate and distinct disciplines -- such as biological, computational, physical, and engineering sciences -- into collaborative, integrated research teams, will be added to the innovative scientific formula designed to bring beneficial therapy to patients faster.


 Philip A. Sharp, PhD, a Nobel laureate and the head of Stand Up’s Scientific Advisory Committee, explained that the grant proposals must describe how researchers will use a transformative and synergistic approach that can be translated to the clinic within a few years.


Teams should include multidisciplinary researchers from multiple institutions and bring together biology (genomics, epigenetics, proteomics, and other biological fields) with at least one additional field of research (computer science, physics, engineering, immunology, nanotechnology).  Grant recipients will be announced next spring.


During a telephone interview Sharp, Institute Professor at the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, said:  “In pancreatic cancer we need all the help we can get,” adding that convergence will expand scientific possibilities and “biology is now ready for a much larger engagement with engineering and computational science.” 


This more inclusive research approach could help deliver more innovative treatments to patients during shorter research intervals, and he said he anticipates that the entire $8 million will fund a single translational dream team. 


Sharp has been working on the convergence concept for about five years, he said, and in 2011 co-wrote an article about it with Koch Institute Professor colleague Robert Langer, ScD, published in Science (2011;333:527) (“Promoting Convergence in Biomedical Science”).


This will be the second dream team dedicated to pancreatic cancer research. “Cutting Off the Fuel Supply: A New Approach to the Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer,” led by Craig B. Thompson, MD, and Daniel Von Hoff, MD, was one of the original five dreams teams announced in 2009, and last year received additional funding from Lustgarten to extend its research. 


Another original dream team, “Bioengineering and Clinical Applications of Circulating Tumor Cell Chip,” led by Daniel Haber, MD, PhD, and Mehmet Toner, PhD, included a convergence aspect but it hadn’t been required or termed as such at the time, Sharp said.


This new SU2C grant will include $4 million from Lustgarten, together with $4 million from the Fox Family Cancer Research Funding Trust, which also donated an additional $1 million to Stand Up.


A SU2C spokesperson noted that the Fox family, from St. Louis, had initially became aware of Stand Up because of the St. Louis Cardinals’ support of the awareness and fundraising initiative through Major League Baseball’s relationship with Stand Up. One of the Foxes had pancreatic cancer, and the family wanted to support multidisciplinary cutting-edge research that could result in clinical treatments in a short timeframe. Through a friend involved in Major League Baseball, the Foxes were initially put in touch with SU2C Co-Founder Rusty Robertson.

Sharp will co-chair a SU2C-Lustgarten Joint Advisory Committee with William A. Kaelin Jr., MD, Professor of Medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Associate Director of Basic Science at Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center; and David Tuveson, MD, PhD, Director for Research of the Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Director of Research for the Lustgarten Foundation.


Letters of intent for the new dream team are due by Nov. 7, 12 noon ET, via proposalCENTRAL.


Additional information is available at