West Virginia University’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center has been awarded an $11 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE). WVU competed with 26 schools for grant money and was one of seven awarded. The NIH considered the quality of each institution’s cancer researchers, its projects and programs, and the impact funding would have on expanding research programs.

“This award is a major vote of confidence in our institution by the NIH ,”said Eddie Reed, MD, director of the Cancer Center.

In order to establish the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence at WVU , the Cancer Center will continue to add to its team of cancer scientists from various disciplines. Five researchers will be recruited to join an existing team of five faculty members from the schools of Medicine, Pharmacy and Arts and Sciences. The grant will also support the development of centralized laboratory facilities at WVU where researchers will share highly specialized equipment. The focus of their research will be to identify molecular changes that happen only in cancer cells. The goal is to develop new technologies that will allow scientists to analyze and identify proteins that are uniquely activated and expressed within an individual cancer.

“By analyzing the array of proteins expressed in an individual’s cancer, we hope to, in the near future, be able to’customize’cancer therapies,”said Dan Flynn, PhD, associate director of Basic Research at the Cancer Center.”This advance would permit physicians and scientists to work together to make specific recommendations for a treatment strategy that addresses the unique features of an individual’s cancer.”

For example, cancer experts could determine whether a patient would respond well to standard treatment methods, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, or if alternative novel treatments, including new drugs, would be the best option.

As the principal investigator, Flynn will oversee all the COBRE research projects, with Dr. Reed, John Barnett, PhD, chair, microbiology, immunology and cell biology; and Christopher Cuff, PhD, vice-chair, microbiology, immunology and cell biology, serving as co-directors.

The MBRCC research scientists who comprise the existing COBRE team include doctors Bing-Hua Jiang, Quentin Li and Solveig Ericson, of the Cancer Center, Dr. Grazyna Szklarz of WVU ’s School of Pharmacy, and Dr. Aaron Timperman of WVU ’s Department of Chemistry.