Sanford-Burnham News Archive

National Foundation for Cancer Research and The Prostate Cancer Foundation Unite with Burnham Institute to Expedite Cancer Drug Discovery

LA JOLLA, Calif. , 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 Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Sanford-Burnham takes a collaborative approach to medical research with major programs in cancer, neurodegeneration and stem cells, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is recognized for its National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and expertise in drug discovery technologies. Sanford-Burnham is a nonprofit, independent institute that employs more than 1,000 scientists and staff in San Diego (La Jolla), Calif., and Orlando (Lake Nona), Fla. For more information, visit us at

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