October, Lawrence Livermore joined forces with the University of
California at Davis Cancer Center to fight cancer, the nation's
second leading killer. Together, they are researching cancer biology,
prevention, and control as well as new cancer detection and treatment
During a ceremony to announce the collaboration, Livermore
Deputy Director for Science and Technology Jeff Wadsworth noted
that the collaboration reflects the principles on which Ernest Lawrence
founded the Laboratory. "One of those principles was that the Laboratory
should work on problems of national importance using multidisciplinary
teams on projects of scale," he said. "I think this collaboration
exemplifies those principles. Solutions to cancer are of great national
importance, and we're using multidisciplinary teams from this Laboratory
and UC Davis in this effort."
Livermore brings to the venture its
multidisciplinary staff of scientists and engineers, supercomputing
expertise, and a biomedical research program that dates back to
the early 1960s. The UC Davis Cancer Center contributes its patient-centered
research and clinical experience. The collaboration offers a clinical
testing ground for medical technologies that Livermore develops.
Over the years, Livermore
has developed expertise in DNA repair, cancer susceptibility, dietetic
carcinogenesis, genetic toxicology, structural biology, genomics,
and biotechnology. Livermore in collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley
and Los Alamos national laboratories formed the Joint Genome Institute
to decode three chromosomes for the Human Genome Project. Livermore
is also one of the few research institutions in the world that is
applying accelerator mass spectrometry to biological research (see
S&TR, November 1997, A
New World of Biomedical Research: The Center for Accelerator Mass
Spectrometry, and July/August 2000,
Benefits from Counting Small). With this ultrasensitive measuring
technique, most commonly used to trace carbon-14 in samples for
carbon dating, scientists can for the first time measure how typical
doses of a suspected carcinogen affect DNA. Scientists from Livermore
and UC Davis are already using it to learn more about how we metabolize
vitamins and other nutrients.
Scientists from UC Davis and Livermore have
been performing research together for several years. A few Livermore
scientists are already adjunct professors at UC Davis. This collaboration
brings the two organizations together on a more formal basis, making
it easier for these two parts of the University of California to
work together in the future. Under the terms of the agreement, molecular
biologist Jim Felton, a Livermore specialist in cancer causation
and prevention, and physicist Dennis Matthews, leader of Livermore's
Medical Technology Program, have been named associate directors
of the UC Davis Cancer Center. Felton is also the Livermore liaison
to UC Davis for all work associated with the collaboration.
earlier work, Livermore researchers found that rodents and humans
exhibit significantly different responses to high and low doses
of MelQx, a chemical that appears in meat after it is cooked.
MelQx causes damage to DNA. Scientists from Livermore and the
University of California at Davis will continue this work and
perform similar experiments to determine the effects of tobacco
on humans and rodents.
Work in Progress
Lawrence Livermore and the UC Davis Cancer Center have about 200
scientists and physicians working on cancer research projects. Their
work falls into six areas: molecular oncology; cancer biology in
animals; cancer therapeutics; cancer etiology (causation), prevention,
and control; prostate cancer; and biomedical technologies. Each
research area has 25 or more researchers involved, with participants
from both Livermore and UC Davis.
Livermore researchers are
participating in all six research areas and are taking a leadership
role in three of them. Felton is co-leader of research on cancer
causation, prevention, and control. Matthews is co-leading the work
on biomedical technology. Toxicologist Ken Turtletaub is co-leader
of molecular oncology research.
The team headed by Felton
and Marc Schenker, M.D., of UC Davis seeks to better understand
the causes of cancer and then to develop and implement strategies
to reduce cancer incidence and morbidity. Their work focuses on
three causes of cancer—tobacco, nutrition, and environmental
exposures. For many years, Felton has been studying the effects
of diet on carcinogenesis, in particular, how heterocyclic amines
produced during the cooking of meats may damage DNA and ultimately
cause cancer. Other joint dietary studies are examining the role
of selenium and folate in preventing cancer. Says Felton, "We are
also tackling the effects of tobacco smoke constituents on rodent
and human lung cells and tissue. Working with the California State
Department of Public Health, we are studying methods to convince
people to stop smoking."
Under Matthews and UC Davis
Professor of Radiology John Boone, the biomedical technology program
combines expertise in physical and life sciences and engineering
to create new devices and technologies. The emphasis is on imaging
and diagnostics research and the development of therapeutic devices.
About 20 projects are under way in these areas. For example, using
ultrashort-pulse technology developed at Livermore, a joint team
is developing a diagnostic tool that creates images showing melanomas
and other cancers on the surface of the skin. One therapeutic device
is PEREGRINE, a new approach developed at Livermore to planning
radiation therapy for treating cancer (S&TR, May
Improving Radiation Treatment for Cancer, and October
Takes Aim at Cancer Tumors). PEREGRINE was recently cleared
by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in clinics and
hospitals. The project team has turned its attention to developing
imaging simulation codes as well as the means to plan radiation
therapy using internal radiation sources.
Turtletaub and molecular
biologist Hsing-Jien Kung of UC Davis are managing research on molecular
oncology. They are examining the fundamental processes of cancer
biology from the initial "insult" to the cell through the intermediate
and later responses of the cell, be they negative effects of the
carcinogen or the healing effects of therapy. Turtletaub is overseeing
the work related to DNA damage and cycle checkpoints, continuing
a long-term study of DNA damage and repair. The team hopes to quickly
translate its discoveries about cancer mechanisms into the development
of prognostic markers and curative therapies.
breast cancer case highlights the importance of accurate dose
calculations for correct dose coverage of a tumor and sensitive
surrounding lung tissue. (a) The radiation applied to the target
is shown in general. (b) While conventional dose calculations
show that the prescribed dose level covers the entire tumor,
(c) PEREGRINE calculations suggest that for this treatment,
the prescribed dose shows a higher skin dose, deeper penetration
of dose into the lung, and a different dose distribution within
the chest wall.
New Approach to Commercialization
Livermore is taking a new
approach to getting its technologies commercialized and available
for use by physicians and patients. Along the lines of the joint
cancer center, Livermore and UC Davis have initiated a joint Bio
and Medical Technology Development Industrial Partners Consortium.
By working together, Livermore, the UC Davis Health System, and
industrial partners form a complete "laboratory bench-to-bedside"
cycle for innovative medical technologies. Livermore's Medical Technology
Program and Biology and Biotechnology Research Program and the UC
Davis Health System are experienced in identifying critical medical
needs, researching new concepts, and developing prototype devices.
The industrial partners will develop these devices into commercial
products, shepherd them through the approval process, and distribute
them to the medical profession.
Formed at about the same
time as the joint cancer center, the Industrial Partners Consortium
is not limited to technologies related to cancer. More than 50 participants
from 30 companies attended the first presentation by the consortium
in November 2000. Since then, numerous companies have expressed
interest in working with Livermore and UC Davis, and one partnership
has officially been formed.
Becoming an NIH Cancer Center
Another major goal for the
Livermore and UC Davis collaboration is to become a designated cancer
center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). One of the National
Institutes of Health, NCI funds 60 cancer centers throughout the
U.S. These centers emphasize multidisciplinary cancer research as
well as public information, education, and outreach. NCI's decision
on the collaboration's application to become a designated cancer
center is expected in the fall of 2001.
NIH funding would not be
for specific projects but for overhead support and would thus free
many scientist–administrators to perform more actual research.
The funding would also help initiate collaborations between institutions
and provide seed money for new areas of research that support the
six themes of the cancer center.
Cancer has or will touch
the lives of almost everyone in the country at some time. Yet only
about half of all newly diagnosed cancer patients can be treated
effectively with available therapies. Increasing that percentage—and
finding better ways to prevent, detect, and diagnose the disease—will
benefit us all.
cancer research, National Cancer Institute (NCI), PEREGRINE, University
of California at Davis.
information contact Jim Felton (925) 422-5656 (firstname.lastname@example.org),
Dennis Matthews (925) 422-5360 (email@example.com),
or Ken Turtletaub (925) 423-8152 (firstname.lastname@example.org).