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Ark. Research Alliance recieves $764K for cancer study | News

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Ark. Research Alliance recieves $764K for cancer study

CONWAY, Ark. - On Wednesday, the Arkansas Research Alliance announced a $764,000 contract with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine if new approaches can be developed to screen for lung cancer with a simple blood test.

Dr. Donald Johann, Associate Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Informatics at the UAMS Department of Hematology and Oncology, the Principle Investigator, noted the major goal of the initiative is the development of tools and methods for the early detection of cancer. Early detection leads to improved patient outcomes and can save lives.

The project will seek to advance scientific and computational approaches to understand intricacies of human gene sequences, especially mutations involving certain lung cancers. It is also consistent with the President's and Congress's calls for more focus in the area of "precision medicine". Precision medicine is an innovative approach that takes into account individual differences in people's genes, environments, and lifestyles. It gives medical professionals the resources they need to target treatments, improve outcomes, and reduce side effects.

UAMS Chancellor Dr. Dan Rahn, stated, "As the state's only academic medical center, UAMS is committed to improving the health of Arkansans. This award represents a tremendous opportunity for UAMS to contribute in the rapidly evolving field of cancer-based precision medicine."

The genomics-based approaches to be utilized will result in the generation of very large and complex data sets. Because of this challenge, a number of new tools and approaches are involved that utilize a combination of computer science, statistics, mathematics, engineering and biology to gain an understanding of the enormity of data. These tools are used in the discipline of "bioinformatics," which makes up an additional component of the contract with the FDA. That portion of work involves collaborative endeavors from Arkansas' five research universities: UAMS, UALR, ASU, UAPB and the University of Arkansas in conjunction with the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) in Jefferson.

Arkansas Research Alliance President and CEO Jerry Adams, stated, "This award provides funds for further scientific advances in biotechnology related science and novel bioinformatics. In addition to improving healthcare, successful advances may facilitate economic development opportunities in Arkansas."

Additionally, the project will encompass the study of DNA from smokers, non-smokers and those with compromised immune systems, in order to understand the differences among those groups. Arkansans suffer from lung cancer at a rate higher than the national average. According to a 2012 study from the Centers for Disease Control, Arkansas had the third highest lung cancer death rate in the U.S. behind only Kentucky and West Virginia.

The new FDA contract is a result of a continuing partnership between ARA and FDA in which the two entities collaborate to conduct research in important areas of study such as nanotechnology and bioinformatics to improve public health outcomes.