Friday, May 29, 2009

MGH Cancer Center receives $15 million grant from SU2C

The MGH Cancer Center has been awarded a $15 million research grant from the proceeds raised by the landmark Sept. 5, 2008 Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) telethon. SU2C, a charitable program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), was established by media and entertainment industry leaders to raise awareness and accelerate developments made in cancer research. The telecast aired simultaneously on ABC, CBS and NBC and raised more than $100 million.

MGH’s grant will help accelerate research being done on the CTC-chip, a microchip-based device for detecting and analyzing circulating tumor cells (CTCs) carried in the bloodstream. Developed and first tested at MGH by Mehmet Toner, PhD, director of the BioMEMS Resource Center, and Daniel Haber, MD, PhD, director of the Cancer Center, the CTC-chip can capture extraordinarily rare cancer cells -- one tumor cell in a billion blood cells -- from a small blood sample using advanced microfluidic technology. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way oncologists detect, monitor and treat cancers in the future.

In the spirit of SU2C's mission, Haber will lead a "Dream Team" of collaborators comprising oncologists, engineers, geneticists and researchers from several renowned facilities. Along with Toner, the inventor of the CTC-chip, Haber's MGH team will be joined by scientific and clinical leaders: Sangeeta Bhatia, MD, PhD, of MIT; Mark Kris, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Bruce Johnson, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; and Roy Herbst, MD, PhD, of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

"The MGH Cancer Center is honored to have this dedicated and diverse group of cancer researchers sharing and working with our CTC-chip technology," says Haber. "While much work remains to be done, this approach raises the possibility of noninvasively monitoring tumor susceptibility and resistance to treatment in 'real time,' and as the technology improves, it even offers the potential for early detection in people at an increased risk of cancer. Our ultimate hope and goal is that the CTC-chip will become an important tool for clinical management of patients with cancer, for the design and testing of novel therapeutics, and for studying the critical cells that are responsible for a cancer’s metastasis through the bloodstream."

Kathleen Lobb, EIF vice president and the telecast director and producer, agrees that the Haber Dream Team is well positioned to fulfill the organization's mission. "Our ultimate goal is to bring together the best and brightest in the cancer community and encourage continued collaboration." In addition to the MGH team, awards were given to teams led by investigators at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Pennsylvania.

Funds raised by the telethon were administered by a scientific advisory board assembled by the American Association for Cancer Research and chaired by Nobel Prize winner Phil Sharp, PhD, of MIT. The board reviewed more than 250 applications before selecting five awards. For more information on SU2C, visit

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