Fox Chase Receives $6 Million Grant as Founding Member of New NCI Prevention Initiative
Fox Chase Cancer Center was recently awarded a grant for $6 million over the course of 5 years to develop a new Cancer Prevention-Interception Targeted Agent Discovery Program (CAP-IT). The new National Cancer Institute (NCI) program was created to establish a pipeline for the discovery of new cancer-prevention agents. Margie Clapper, PhD, the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Endowed Chair in Cancer Prevention and Co-Leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control research program at Fox Chase, led the successful grant application and will serve as Program Director.
“We were selected, along with Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, as the founding members of this new NCI initiative. My lab is dedicated to developing new therapies for the prevention of cancer and has been for 30 years. The CAP-IT provides an opportunity for other scientists across Fox Chase to contribute to this mission in a meaningful way,” said Dr. Clapper.
The goal of the CAP-IT center, which will consist of several research laboratories and shared resources within Fox Chase, is to coordinate the development of molecularly targeted therapies for precision cancer prevention and early interception in populations at high risk for cancer. Although prevention aims to stop cancer before it begins, early interception refers to disrupting the development of cancer in its earliest stages.
To meet the program’s main objectives, a multidisciplinary team with expertise in heritable cancer risk assessment, cancer biology, molecular modeling, drug development, cancer prevention, clinical genetics, and bioinformatics has been assembled. The CAP-IT projects at Fox Chase are rooted in preliminary data from the areas of drug discovery and the tumor microenvironment. These projects will be led by John Karanicolas, PhD, Co-Leader of the Molecular Therapeutics research program, and Edna “Eti” Cukierman, PhD, Co-Director of the Cancer Signaling and Epigenetics research program.
Dr. Karanicolas’ project will address Li-Fraumeni syndrome, the cancer-predisposing disorder in which people inherit a gene mutation that impairs the folding and function of a protein called p53. Dr. Karanicolas has developed small molecules that can refold p53 and restore its function, thus holding the promise of protecting these individuals from cancer.
Dr. Cukierman’s project aims to target the pancreatic stroma to intercept progression of precancerous tissue and prevent pancreatic cancer. This work builds on her previous studies in desmoplasia, a unique microenvironment enriched in stromal fibroblasts and dense extracellular matrix that characterizes pancreatic cancer. It will target netrin G1, a molecule previously found by Dr. Cukierman’s lab to play a key role in the development of pancreatic cancer.
Although Fox Chase is currently undertaking two projects through the CAP-IT program, the intention is to propose a third project soon, as well as to develop and coordinate research collaborations across the CAP-IT. “This is a very promising initiative, and we are excited and honored to be one of the founding institutions chosen for this project,” said Dr. Clapper.