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Project to capture and interrogate single cancer cells wins innovator award
Date:1/11/2013

HOUSTON From a single cell gone bad, cancer evolves into an increasingly complex tumor built of a variety of normal cells and diverse malignant cells, some of which escape to create dangerous colonies in other organs, further jumbling the treatment picture.

Nicholas Navin, Ph.D., an assistant professor in The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Department of Genetics, believes the key to sorting out this cellular chaos is by identifying important mutations in single tumor cells at various stages of the cancer's development.

Successfully analyzing differences in active mutations among cells would help researchers understand, map and eventually block the lethal path to metastasis spread of the primary cancer to other organs.

"The genetic diversity of tumor cells inhibits our understanding of metastasis. Single-cell sequencing will allow us to detail the genetic heterogeneity and trace the cell's lineage as mutations allow the cell to escape the primary tumor site, form a circulating cell and then seeds metastasis," Navin said. "Using genetic markers, we can reconstruct this evolutionary process."

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation wants Navin to test his idea, naming him the Nadia's Gift Foundation Innovator, one of its 2013 Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Awards, providing $150,000 a year for three years.

Potential to predict metastasis, treatment response

Navin is one of seven early career scientists chosen for innovation awards because their projects have the potential to significantly improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The foundation announcement notes the innovation awards are for "cancer research by exceptionally creative thinkers with "high-risk/high-reward" ideas who lack sufficient preliminary data to obtain traditional funding."

The foundation noted that Navin's method "will have myriad clinical applications, which have prognostic value in pre
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Contact: Scott Mervilloe
smerville@mdanderson.org
713-792-0661
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert

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