Public Release: 

NFCR - Prostate Cancer Foundation unite with Burnham Institute to expedite cancer drug discovery

Three-dimensional culture will simulate tumor micro-environment, enable rapid testing for candidate drugs

Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

(La Jolla, CA, Santa Monica, CA, and Bethesda, MD, August 25, 2005). The National Foundation for Cancer Research ("NFCR") has aligned with The Prostate Cancer Foundation to grant $200,000 in seed funding to The Burnham Institute's NCI-designated Cancer Center to develop three-dimensional experimental culture systems that simulate a tumor's micro-environment. The outcome of this pilot study is anticipated to provide a new model for discovery and pre-clinical evaluation of anti-cancer drugs.

"By collaborating with both the Burnham and the Prostate Cancer Foundation, we anticipate the outcomes and discoveries from this study to significantly accelerate both our understanding of cell-cell interactions and as a result, the pace at which drugs are made available to patients," said Franklin C. Salisbury, Jr., President of the National Foundation for Cancer Research. "We know that our organizations' joint work on these projects is a model for future research initiatives and collaborations."

"We are delighted to partner with the NFCR and Burnham to help give investigators the ability to establish standards for a 3-dimensional culture, which we believe will have a significant effect on how pre-clinical evaluation of anti-cancer drugs can be tested in the future," said Leslie Michelson, CEO, The Prostate Cancer Foundation. "We will follow their progress closely and look forward to sharing their results."

Burnham investigators have developed a unique technique for culturing cancer cells into clusters, called spheroids, which links cellular biochemistry with tumor physiology. The 3-dimensional culturing of cancer cells is a significant advancement over conventional tissue culture methods in which cells are grown in two-dimension, as a flattened layer on plastic. The new method will expedite the drug discovery process, as thousands of compounds can be tested in three-dimensional cell culture to determine prime drug candidates before testing in animals.

The NFCR and Prostate Cancer Foundation partnership funding will enable the Burnham investigators to establish standards for 3-dimensional culture, which has potential applications beyond cancer, and develop new methods for high throughput screening with chemical compounds and high-throughput imaging of spheroids.

"We are grateful to NFCR and The Prostate Cancer Foundation for their vision, partnership, and support this project," said Dr. John C. Reed, President and CEO of The Burnham Institute. "We anticipate that these studies will revolutionize our understanding of cell-cell interactions in the context of cancer physiology and responsiveness of the malignant cells to therapeutic agents. It would be impossible to start this creative and potentially far-reaching work without the seed funding granted by our partners, which includes individual donors who contribute to NFCR and the Prostate Cancer Foundation."

The NFCR and Prostate Cancer Foundation each provided $100,000 for the project ($200,000 total). Seed funding, such as the grants provided by these two foundations, plays a critical role in launching innovative projects that are not yet sufficiently developed to be competitive for NIH or other government funding.


About National Foundation for Cancer Research
Since its founding, the NFCR has spent more than $210 million funding basic science cancer research and prevention education focused on understanding how and why cells become cancerous. NFCR is dedicated to funding scientists who are discovering cancer's molecular mysteries and translating these discoveries into therapies that hold the hope for curing cancer. NFCR has established a powerful collaborative network of nine research centers and more than 30 laboratories around the world in the fight against cancer. NFCR scientists work together to share knowledge so that discoveries at the bench can be accelerated to the bedside. NFCR is "Research for a Cure". For more information, visit or call (800) 321-CURE.

About the Prostate Cancer Foundation
The Prostate Cancer Foundation is the world's largest philanthropic source of support for prostate cancer research. Founded in 1993, the PCF has raised more than $230 million and provided funding for prostate cancer research to more than 1,200 researchers at more than 100 institutions worldwide. The PCF has a simple, yet urgent goal: to find better treatments and a cure for recurrent prostate cancer. For more information, visit www.Prostate Cancer

About the Burnham Institute
The Burnham Institute, founded in 1976, is an independent not-for-profit biomedical research institution dedicated to advancing the frontiers of scientific knowledge and providing the foundation for tomorrow's medical therapies. The Institute is home to three major centers: the Cancer Center, the Del E. Webb Neuroscience and Aging Center, and the Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center. Since 1981, the Institute's Cancer Center has been a member of the National Cancer Institute's prestigious Cancer Centers program. Discoveries by Burnham scientists have contributed to the development of new drugs for Alzheimer's disease, heart disease and several forms of cancer. Today the Burnham Institute employs over 700, including more than 550 scientists. The majority of the Institute's funding derives from federal sources, but private philanthropic support is essential to continuing bold and innovative research. For additional information about the Institute and ways to support the research efforts of the Institute, visit

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