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IBT researchers join NCI-funded consortium (1-4-00)

A research team headed by Eva Y.-H. P. Lee, Ph.D., professor of molecular medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, is one of 19 groups in the new Mouse Models of Human Cancers Consortium, organized and funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The researchers conduct studies at the Institute of Biotechnology (IBT), part of the Health Science Center and located in the Texas Research Park.

"This is a great opportunity for us. It is the first time the NCI has established this kind of mechanism to support mouse model research," Dr. Lee said. The total five-year funding is $2.5 million. The Health Science Center team also includes Wen-Hwa Lee, Ph.D., Alexander Nikitin, MD, Ph.D., and Z. Dave Sharp, Ph.D.

"The members of the consortium will meet twice a year to discuss their findings and collaborate on research," Dr. Lee said.

Consortium members aim to develop models that parallel the ways human cancers develop, progress, and respond to therapy or preventive agents. Initially, the groups will work separately on developing and evaluating mouse models for cancers of eight major organ systemsóbreast, prostate, lung, ovary, skin, blood and lymph system, colon and brain.

The team at the IBT is recognized for work on cancer genetics, including initial studies of the retinoblastoma gene. (Retinoblastoma is a rare hereditary childhood eye cancer.) Now the scientists have extended their research to establish breast cancer mouse models with the disruption of tumor suppressor genes frequently mutated in breast cancer. Other consortium sites have their own mice colonies.

"The engineering required to create a usable mouse model is extremely expensive, so the NCI funding will be most welcome," Dr. Lee said.

In addition to the opportunities for interaction with other investigators, the consortium will establish and maintain a high-quality resource of validated live mouse models, cryopreserved embryos and sperm. It also will set standards for integrating information and tracking the progress of the models being derived and validated, with the help of non-government advisers.

Within several months, the NCI plans to activate an Internet site with information about the consortium, its activities and its progress.

"We are very happy; this is very good support for us," Dr. Lee said.

Contact: Will Sansom or Jennifer Lorenzo