Research Could Aid Under­standing of Cancer Risk and Early Detection

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity is one of seven insti­tu­tions selected by The National Cancer Insti­tute (NCI) to receive funding as part of a new $15.5 mil­lion, five-​​year ini­tia­tive to dis­cover, develop, and clin­i­cally val­i­date cancer bio­markers by tar­geting the car­bo­hy­drate (glycan) part of a mol­e­cule. The pur­pose of this ini­tia­tive is to aid in the under­standing of cancer risk and detec­tion. Northeastern’s research team is led by William Han­cock, Pro­fessor of Chem­istry and Chem­ical Biology and Brad­street Chair of the Bar­nett Insti­tute, and will focus its work on breast cancer.

The NCI, part of the National Insti­tutes of Health (NIH), believes that exam­ining bio­markers and finding new ways to iden­tify them will be crit­i­cally impor­tant to both the basic under­standing of cancer and the ability to iden­tify early cancer and risk for cancer. Bio­markers are sub­stances some­times found in the blood, other body fluids, or tis­sues that mea­sure bio­log­ical processes, and in addi­tion to genes and pro­teins, can be com­plex car­bo­hy­drate (sugar) struc­tures that are attached to pro­tein and lipid (fat) molecules.

Numerous studies com­paring normal and tumor cells have shown that changes in the glycan struc­tures of cells cor­re­late with cancer devel­op­ment, but the bio­log­ical and chem­ical com­plex­i­ties of working with glycan struc­tures have often dis­cour­aged inves­ti­ga­tion. With the advent of advanced tech­nolo­gies to con­duct pro­tein and car­bo­hy­drate chem­istry, research into this area has expe­ri­enced renewed interest.

We are excited to be working in this new and promising area of cancer research,” said Han­cock. “Though the work is com­plex, we are focused on pro­ducing results quickly, taking our work from the lab to the clinic where it can help to improve early detec­tion and ulti­mately save lives.”

In awarding seven insti­tu­tions, the NCI has cre­ated an Alliance of Gly­co­bi­ol­o­gists that it hopes will accel­erate the pace of bio­marker devel­op­ment and dis­covery. Dr. Han­cock has also been named a co-​​chair of the Alliance and will take an active role in encour­aging col­lab­o­ra­tion between all of the Alliance partners.

Dr. Hancock’s lab is under­taking ground­breaking research in the emerging area of cancer bio­markers,” said Srinivas Sridhar, Vice Provost for Research at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. “This grant, as well as his selec­tion as co-​​chair of the Alliance, is recog­ni­tion of his dis­tin­guished con­tri­bu­tions to the field, and an honor to the University.”

For a full list of grant awardees, visit: http://​www​.cancer​.gov/​n​e​w​s​c​e​n​t​e​r​/​p​r​e​s​s​r​e​l​e​a​s​e​s​/​G​l​y​c​o​b​i​o​l​o​g​y​A​l​l​i​a​nce

For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact Laura Shea Souza at 617–373-5427 or at l.​shea@​neu.​edu.


About North­eastern

Founded in 1898, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity is a pri­vate research uni­ver­sity located in the heart of Boston. North­eastern is a leader in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research, urban engage­ment, and the inte­gra­tion of class­room learning with real-​​world expe­ri­ence. The university’s dis­tinc­tive coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion pro­gram, where stu­dents alter­nate semes­ters of full-​​time study with semes­ters of paid work in fields rel­e­vant to their pro­fes­sional inter­ests and major, is one of the largest and most inno­v­a­tive in the world. The Uni­ver­sity offers a com­pre­hen­sive range of under­grad­uate and grad­uate pro­grams leading to degrees through the doc­torate in six under­grad­uate col­leges, eight grad­uate schools, and two part-​​time divi­sions. For more infor­ma­tion, please visit www​.north​eastern​.edu.