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Building Better Lab Models of Human Tumors

By October 6, 2021No Comments

Prostate cancer researcher Dr. John Lee garnered a National Institutes of Health New Innovator Award to fund his breakthrough approach that promises to help make scientific tumor models better capture the complex biology of tumors that arise naturally. Part of the NIH’s High Risk, High Reward Research program, New Innovator Awards support exceptionally creative early-career investigators carrying out innovative, high-impact projects.

“The goal was to close the gap [between natural tumors and scientific models] and make tumor models look and behave more like human cancers,” said Lee, who is a faculty member at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Researchers learn more about cancer using a variety of methods, from cancer cells growing in lab dishes, to mice that have been genetically engineered to try to reproduce some characteristics of human tumors.

Lee developed his new approach by building a more complex model of prostate cancer. The grant, $1.5 million over five years, will allow his team to create a set of prostate cancer models that better mimic existing subsets of human tumors and probe different steps governing prostate cancer progression. They hope this will help improve scientists’ understanding of the genetic factors shaping prostate cancer’s initiation, growth and progression. Lee also plans to expand the approach to model other types of cancer.