The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center have established a joint cancer research consortium that will combine pioneering efforts to diagnose, treat and care for patients and families affected by cancer. As a demonstration of each institution’s commitment to tackling the second leading cause of death in the United States, both organizations announced their intention to hire multiple faculty investigators in cancer genomics.
Genomics is the study of the entirety of deoxyribonucleic acid within a living organism. DNA contains the instructions for the development and function of all living organisms and many viruses. As such, the molecular basis for a great deal of human disease is believed to be in the genome.
“We aim to have a global impact. Over the last five years, researchers have really begun to recognize the broad role that DNA plays in all human diseases,” said Richard M. Myers, Ph.D., HudsonAlpha’s president and science director. “Bringing genomics to the forefront in cancer health care is one of HudsonAlpha’s biggest projects. We have research in breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and kidney and prostate cancer, to name a few, and for us, a partnership with one of the most respected NCI comprehensive cancer centers will help us fulfill our mission.”
HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is a nonprofit research institute dedicated to realizing the promise of genomics in medical, agricultural, educational and commercial practice. Since opening its doors in 2008, HudsonAlpha has expended more than $30 million on cancer-related research and generated more than a half-dozen discoveries related to genomic techniques and biomarkers.
The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, and the only one in the Deep South’s six-state region, meeting the stringent criteria for the designation awarded by the National Cancer Institute. To garner this designation, the UAB CCC possesses the region’s greatest depth and breadth in laboratory, clinical and population-based research, as well as substantial transdisciplinary research that bridges these scientific areas. It has held the designation continuously since 1973.
The UAB CCC is home to more than 350 physician-scientists and researchers with the largest group of cancer specialists in Alabama who focus on specific cancer disciplines. Patients also have access to more than 180 cancer-related clinical trials, positioning the UAB CCC to solve the problem of cancer while providing the best possible care to the patients they serve.
The UAB-HudsonAlpha Cancer Consortium formalizes the two organizations’ fruitful collaborations dating from 2010. The Consortium’s goals are to improve cancer patient diagnosis, treatment and care through research and to reduce disparities in cancer outcomes among different demographic groups. The UAB CCC and HudsonAlpha have individual education and public outreach programs that are complementary and will likely amplify each other’s impact.
“Our philosophy is that we’re better together,” Myers said. “Genomics is a highly dynamic field with a great deal of potential. Its application also requires a great deal of experience to interpret the vast quantities of data generated by sequencing DNA and performing other experiments on the human genome. This is where HudsonAlpha excels, and we need partners who are experts at clinical diagnosis, treatment and care so that we can relate genomic data to patient attributes. Getting the most out of new discoveries so that we impact patient care substantially and quickly is the reason HudsonAlpha was founded.”
“Both of our organizations have a passion for improving the lives of those affected by cancer,” said Edward E. Partridge, M.D., director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. “The UAB CCC serves about 5,000 new patients and provides oncology to more than 20,000 patients annually, and we are determined to bring state-of-the-art genomics to their care. Partnering with HudsonAlpha brings to this challenge a deep reservoir of knowledge about the genetic and epigenetic basis for human disease, as well as HudsonAlpha’s leadership in devising genomic techniques.”
In recent years, as part of its mission to expand and grow its centers, the National Cancer Institute has encouraged the development of consortium cancer centers, especially those that reach into geographic regions that have unmet needs and opportunities to improve cancer health care.
As a cancer consortium, UAB and HudsonAlpha create an attractive destination for researchers in cancer genomics. HudsonAlpha intends to hire multiple faculty investigators, especially those with an interest in cancer genomics and computational biology, who will be part of the UAB-HudsonAlpha Cancer Consortium, taking full advantage of UAB’s clinical setting and HudsonAlpha’s genomics expertise and state-of-the-art infrastructure. Faculty investigators carry joint or adjunct appointments at both institutions.
The UAB-HudsonAlpha Cancer Consortium is one part of the institutions’ joint venture, which also includes the UAB-HudsonAlpha Center for Genomic Medicine announced earlier this summer with the intention of incorporating research knowledge into predicting and diagnosing personalized therapies and cures.