July 29, 2009

Schumer, Gillibrand Secure Key Senate Subcommittee Approval for $500,000 for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to Study Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Senate Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Approves $500,000 for Cold Spring Harbor Lab’s Women’s Cancer Genomics Center To Purchase Equipment Needed To Study Breast and Ovarian Tumors

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the Senate Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee has approved $500,000 to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Women's Cancer Genomics Center to purchase equipment needed to study breast and ovarian tumors. This funding will shorten the time in which affordable DNA Biopsy diagnostic tests and new therapeutic strategies for breast and ovarian cancer will be available in the clinic for the hundreds of thousands of women diagnosed with these cancers each year in the U.S. alone. The funding was approved as part of the Senate Appropriation process, and has been included in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill.  The bill was passed out of the Subcommittee and now will need to be approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee, after which it will be sent to the Senate floor, and then to the president for signature.  Schumer worked with his colleagues to ensure funding for the project.

"This funding is essential for the continued research into breast and ovarian cancer," Schumer said. "It is of the utmost importance that Long Island's outstanding Cold Spring Harbor Lab has the ability to properly research these cancers to best serve women everywhere. This funding will help ensure that women on Long Island and across the country receive the best possible care."

"It is critical that we invest in the life-saving research at our world class facility at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory," said Senator Gillibrand. "Federal funding for these cutting-edge technologies will help develop better treatment and more hope for women suffering from breast and ovarian cancers -- saving lives and promoting economic growth on Long Island. During these tough economic times, I will continue to work with Senator Schumer to ensure that New York receives its fair share of federal dollars."

This funding will provide costs for equipment needed to perform genomic analyses on breast and ovarian tumors. Having this equipment will shorten the time in which affordable DNA Biopsy diagnostic tests and new therapeutic strategies for breast and ovarian cancer will be available in the clinic for the hundreds of thousands of women diagnosed with these cancers each year in the U.S. alone.

The Women's Cancer Genomics Center is aiming to use their genomic technologies in clinical studies with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and other leading institutes to develop prognostic and predictive markers for breast cancer to identify patients responsive to specific cancer therapies including taxol and Herceptin. They will also conduct work to develop sensitive assays for single cell and single molecule signatures for breast cancer, including chromosomal breaks, gross chromosomal abnormalities, and methylation changes at DNA switch regions.

They will develop additional molecular markers for high-risk malignancies and assays that will allow the earliest detection of spread or recurrence of cancer in blood and lymph nodes and propose to identify DNA sequence mutations within ovarian target genes, particularly protein tyrosine phosphatases, and to validate the signaling function of these genes in ovarian cancer models.

They will focus on detecting alterations that affect resistance to carboplatin, the most frequently administered chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. This work is expected to identify therapeutic targets or biomarkers in ovarian cancer that can be used to determine severity of disease, and predict response to therapy. Knowledge gained from analyses will be used to lower costs of genome scans, making them suitable for clinical use.

The Center is also aiming to develop a DNA biopsy for breast cancer that will allow physicians to make more accurate prognoses and the most appropriate treatment recommendations for their patients. To date, scientists at the Center have conducted genome scans on over 1,000 breast cancer and 150 ovarian cancer tumors or primary cell lines. Ovarian cancer research at the Center has led to the identification of genomic alterations in several potential target genes, some of which are members of a specific class of regulators of signal transduction called protein tyrosine phosphatases and their regulatory/interacting proteins.

With current biopsy methods, physicians cannot determine with certainty the prognoses of their patients suspected of having cancer. Also problematic is the fact that breast and ovarian cancer therapies have life-threatening side effects, and the choice and timing of therapy for a given patient is not always the most effective. Early detection of cancer and recurrence are two of the problems that are inadequately addressed. These problems point to the great need for new diagnostic and prognostic tools and better information regarding effective therapies for breast and ovarian cancer. To answer these needs, scientists at the CSHL Women's Cancer Genomics Center are employing powerful DNA chip and DNA sequencing technologies that scan the genome for mutations that lead to cancer, and are even applicable to single cells.

Next the appropriations bill will need to be approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee, after which it will be sent to the Senate floor. Following approval by the Senate, the bill will move towards Conference with the House and then to the President for signature.