National Cancer Institute renews designation for Purdue center, awards $8 million

April 16, 2015  


Timothy Ratliff

Timothy Ratliff 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The National Cancer Institute renewed the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research's designation as an NCI cancer center and awarded the center $8 million in funding over the next 5 years.

"The Purdue Center for Cancer Research is among an elite few that receive such a designation," said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. "The center has leveraged Purdue's strengths into tremendous advances in cancer detection and treatment. Its successes include 13 potential drugs in clinical trials and technology that has generated 14 startup companies within the last five years, and its future is even more promising."

The National Cancer Institute rated the center as "outstanding" in its review and renewed its designation as a NCI basic science cancer center.

"Notably, the center has clear examples of having translated a number of its discoveries," the review stated. "The center is poised to move to a new level of national impact in drug discovery and development."

Out of thousands of cancer facilities in the nation, only 68 are NCI-designated cancer centers. Of those 68 only 7 are basic laboratory cancer centers, which conduct only laboratory research and do not provide patient treatment, said Timothy Ratliff, the Robert Wallace Miller Director of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research.

 "The center's role is to integrate the strengths of the university and to provide the resources necessary for success in cancer research," Ratliff said. "More than 14 million people in the U.S. have a history of cancer and more than one million new cases will be diagnosed this year. We want to eliminate any hurdles or gaps in the path from research concept to a tool or treatment available to patients."

Discovery groups within the center are focused on bladder cancer, brain cancerbreast cancer, prostate cancer, and obesity and cancer.

"We are fortunate to have many talented researchers, spanning multiple disciplines," Ratliff said. "They are tirelessly working to address key cancer problems from understanding how cancers develop, progress and respond to treatment, to the development of early detection methods and more effective treatments."

The center has 95 members and builds on Purdue's strengths in structural biology, engineering, veterinary medicine, chemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, nutrition science and biological sciences, he said. Research programs include cell identity and signaling, chemical and structural biology, drug delivery and molecular sensing, and medicinal chemistry.

The center also has established partnerships with Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis, IU Health Arnett in Lafayette, Indiana, and is a member of The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium.

Shared resources available through the center include expert consultation and specialized equipment to assist in all points of the research and development process, said Douglas Cuttell, the center's managing director.  

"The grant from the NCI will help us maintain and grow these shared resources so we can continue to nurture multidisciplinary collaborations and lead in the field of basic cancer research," Cuttell said. "It also will enhance our ability to attract top talent and to expand into emerging areas of cancer research. For example, over the next five years we plan to expand genomics and bioinformatics work that can feed into the field of personalized medicine."

In addition to Ratliff and Cuttell, the center's leadership team includes deputy director Andrew Mesecar, Purdue's Walther Professor in Cancer Structural Biology; and associate directors Sophie Lelièvre, associate professor of cancer pharmacology, and Marrietta Harrison, professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology and director of Purdue's Oncological Sciences Center.

The center plays a significant role in the Purdue Moves drug discovery initiative, and has expanded its physical presence through the new Bindley Multidisciplinary Cancer Research Facility and space at the new Drug Discovery Facility.

The NCI-designated cancer centers program recognizes centers around the country that meet rigorous criteria for world-class, state-of-the-art programs in multidisciplinary cancer research. These centers put significant resources into developing research programs, faculty, and facilities that will lead to better approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer, according to the website.

There are three types of NCI-designated cancer centers: cancer centers, comprehensive cancer centers and basic science centers. Of the 68 NCI-designated cancer centers 20 are cancer centers, 41 are comprehensive cancer centers and 7 are basic science cancer centers.

The Purdue University Center for Cancer Research was first established as an NCI basic science cancer center in 1978. 

Writer: Elizabeth K. Gardner, 765-494-2081, ekgardner@purdue.edu 

Sources: Timothy Ratliff, 765-494-9129, tlratliff@purdue.edu 

Douglas Cuttell, 765-494-5022, dcuttell@purdue.edu 

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