Fox Chase Receives $6 Million Grant as Founding Member of New National Cancer Institute Prevention Initiative

PHILADELPHIA (October 17, 2022)—Fox Chase Cancer Center was recently awarded a grant for $6 million over the course of five 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 Clapper.

The goal of the CAP-IT center, which will be comprised 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. While 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 exciting 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.

“Drs. Karanicolas and Cukierman have not worked in the area of cancer prevention before and it’s exciting to think we can take their concepts and apply them to prevention in a way they haven’t thought about, an approach that could really jumpstart some new discoveries,” said Clapper.

Karanicolas’ project will address Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, a cancer-predisposing disorder in which people inherit a gene mutation that impairs the folding and function of a protein called p53. Karanicolas has developed small molecules that can refold p53 and restore its function, thus holding the promise of protecting these individuals from cancer.

Cukierman’s project aims to target the pancreatic stroma, which is supportive tissue near the tumor, 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 the Cukierman lab to play a key role in the development of pancreatic cancer.

“Fox Chase was selected to join the CAP-IT program because of their vision and strong leadership, and their expertise in cancer prevention and agent discovery research focused on helping individuals with an increased risk of cancer,” said Shizuko Sei, MD, director of the CAP-IT Program in the Division of Cancer Prevention for the NCI and National Institutes of Health.

“The integration of the Fox Chase Risk Assessment Program within the Fox Chase CAP-IT center will foster collaborations within Fox Chase and across the larger CAP-IT program. The two proposed research programs are highly innovative and expected to stimulate novel scientific ideas within the CAP-IT network,” Sei added. The Risk Assessment Program is led by Michael Hall, MD, MS.

While Fox Chase is currently undertaking two projects through the CAP-IT program, the intention is to propose a third project soon, as well as 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 Clapper.

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence six consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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