Public Release: 

Burnham to collaborate on NCI-funded task force to find 'molecular signature' for prostate cancer

President/CEO Dr. John Reed to lead project aimed at developing accurae early-stage diagnosis, eliminating unnecessary treatment

Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

(La Jolla, CA - December 13, 2005) The Burnham Institute for Medical Research will collaborate on a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional task force aimed at defining the "molecular signatures" that distinguish different stages of prostate cancer funded by the National Cancer Institute as part of its new Strategic Partnering to Evaluate Cancer Signatures ("SPECS") Program. Led by UC Irvine, the consortium will receive $9.5 MM over the next five years.

One out of six men in America will be afflicted with prostate cancer over the course of a lifetime; one-third by age 50, and nearly 75% by age 75. According to the National Cancer Institute, about half of the 16% diagnosed for prostate cancer will develop significant symptoms. In the other half, prostate tumors develop so slowly that the disease will not progress fully in the bearer's lifetime. Current diagnostic methods for prostate cancer cannot distinguish between the rapid-growing, life-threatening and the slow-growing, indolent forms of the disease. Physicians must prescribe treatment with partial knowledge, in many cases recommending treatment that is unnecessary. The SPECS Program consortium aims to examine the various phases of prostate cancer, profiling the disease from its genetic make up, developing a molecular signature, which ultimately will enable better-informed diagnoses and treatment.

Drs. John C. Reed, Stanislaw Krajewski, and Maryla Krajewska of the Burnham will conduct tissue microarray analysis examining 4,000 prostate tissue samples for cancer "markers" or certain gene products that are indicative of the clinical behavior of prostate cancer cells.

"These comparative analyses will be compiled into a diagnostic tool that will guide a more informed prognosis for individuals diagnosed with prostate cancer," said Dr. Reed. "Working together with the SPECS team, we look forward to defining the molecular signatures that identify which prostate cancers require therapy, and what the optimal treatment choice should be for each tumor. I also hope to continue the track-record of accomplishment previously laid by Burnham scientists who invented the diagnostic method upon which the current PSA test is based."

In addition to UC Irvine and the Burnham, other collaborating institutions include UC San Diego, Northwestern University, the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in San Diego, the Translation Genomic Institute of Phoenix, and the Sun Health Research Institute.

The UC Irvine consortium on prostate cancer is one of six awards granted under NCI's newly established Strategic Partnering to Evaluate Cancer Signatures (SPECS). The other SPECS awards were allocated for 1) childhood leukemias, 2) non-Hodgekin's lymphoma, 3) lymphocytic leukemia, 4) lung cancer, and 5) breast cancer. NCI founded the SPECS program "to bridge the gap between discovery and application of molecular profiles by confirming, refining, and evaluating molecular signatures that previously have been demonstrated to be clinically useful."

Dr. John C. Reed is President and CEO of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, where he directs a laboratory of 40 cancer researchers. He is also founder of the San Diego Prostate Cancer Consortium. Some of Dr. Reed's earlier research on prostate cancer was funded by the Prostate Cancer Foundation, founded in the early 1980's as "CaP-CURE" by Michael Milken. Dr. Reed has served as an advisor to that organization. Dr. Reed is inventor of the DNA-based drug GenasenseTM, now in Phase III testing for hormone refractory prostate cancer.

Dr. Stanislaw Krajewski and Dr. Maryla Krajewska of the Burnham are co-principal investigators on the Burnham's portion of the project.


About the Burnham Institute for Medical Research

The Burnham Institute for Medical Research, 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 Institute employs over 725, 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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