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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 15, 2005

Researchers Win $184,375 Grant For Translational Cancer System

A team of University of Iowa engineers and other researchers has received a $184,375 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in support of a mutation screening system that may change the way doctors look at cancer treatment.

The UI College of Engineering's Coordinated Lab for Computational Genomics (CLCG) and Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB) recently won NCI approval to share an innovative information and data system with some 50 cancer centers across the United States. Terry Braun (left), Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering and ophthalmology and visual sciences and CLCG director, said that the system, called TrAPSS (Transcript Annotation Prioritization and Screening System), will enhance research among cancer centers searching for cancer-causing mutations.

"TrAPSS is a tool that enables data to be used more effectively in the search for genetic indicators of cancer," Braun said. He noted that fundamental techniques of TrAPSS recently helped Edwin Stone, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences in the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, and colleagues find a gene called fibulin 5 that is associated with a significant percentage of age-related macular degeneration cases.

The CLCG is working with the National Cancer Institute to incorporate TrAPSS into a system called caBIG (Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid), an NCI initiative to foster the sharing of data, applications, and techniques across many cancer centers, including the UI's Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Researchers at the UI's Holden Comprehensive Cancer and some 50 other cancer centers create the caBIG information network by linking up their teams of cancer researchers.

Commenting on the nationwide significance of caBIG, Braun said: "There may not be another opportunity of this scope in my lifetime."

Added Tom Casavant, CBCB director and professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, "It's broad enough that it brings together a lot of diverse research capabilities across the computational and research spectrum. But it's narrow enough to have a common theme that knits the members of that community together."

Braun said that when TrAPPS is running at full speed, it will be a valuable aid in helping researchers and physicians find genetic markers for specific diseases, identify patients who are at-risk for disease, and initiate early observation and/or treatment.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu; Program: Terry Braun, terry-braun@uiowa.edu