ASU scientists tapped to work with USC cancer researchers

Editor's Note: Arizona State University basketball will take on the University of Southern California on Jan. 5. The men’s teams will play at 7:30 p.m., in Los Angeles and the women’s teams at 6:30 p.m., in Tempe. Read more about ASU's collaborations with Pac-12 schools.

The National Institutes of Health have begun a multidisciplinary effort to gain a better understanding of how cancer develops, tapping scientists in fields ranging from medicine to physics. A research team led by Joshua LaBaer of Arizona State University is working with researchers from the University of Southern California in the program.

Scientists in 12 centers across the United States will investigate the physical laws of cancer, including cell growth control and response of therapy at different levels. ASU’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics (CPD) laboratory is a part of the Physical Sciences in Oncology Center at USC, whose principal investigators include the world-renowned bioinformaticist Danny Hillis and oncologist David Agus.

ASU’s LaBaer, director of the CPD, is one of the foremost investigators in the rapidly expanding field of personalized medicine and former director of the Harvard Institute of Proteomics. He was recently recruited to ASU’s Biodesign Institute as the first Piper Chair in Personalized Medicine.

Four research projects in the effort are underway at USC, focused on studying lymphoma as a model cancer system. ASU is involved in two of these projects: utilizing nucleic acid programmable protein arrays (NAPPA) to identify autoantibodies that arise during tumor development, and combining the power of NAPPA with surface plasmon resonance imaging to determine the kinetics of protein-protein interactions in various pathways involved in cancer development.

Promising advances in the area of personalized medicine have shown that life-threatening diseases are as distinct in character as the individuals they afflict. The Piper Center’s CPD was established with an eye toward overcoming the health care challenges posed by disease variance.

The center is developing new diagnostic tools to pinpoint the molecular manifestations of disease based on individual patient profiles. The strategy may not only improve therapeutic care but also reduce treatment costs.

Written by Sarah Auffret