Press Release

29 Oct 2015

NIH selects Van Andel Research Institute’s Biorepository as an integral player in large-scale cancer study

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Oct. 29, 2015)Van Andel Research Institute’s (VARI) Biorepository has been selected as a Biospecimen Core Resource by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in a federal project aimed at better understanding the molecular basis of cancer.

The project, the Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC), is a multi-institutional effort dedicated to improving the understanding of cancer biology through genomic and proteomic analysis, and providing scientists with needed information to design the next generation of cancer therapies. CPTAC is supported by NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI), and is comprised of more than 30 organizations across the U.S. and abroad.

We are thrilled to be part of CPTAC and look forward to working with other consortium members to shed new light on the molecular underpinnings of cancer,” said Scott Jewell, Ph.D., director of VARI’s Core Technologies and Services, which houses the Institute’s Biorepository. “Large-scale projects like CPTAC give scientists the data required to take a truly holistic look at the aberrations that occur across cancer types and across patients, and provide additional tools for developing novel cancer therapies.”

Building knowledge
CPTAC plans to collect 200 samples each from 10 tumor types, including lung, pancreas, brain, bone, skin and blood cancers. After VARI’s Biorepository processes the samples, other organizations that have been designated as characterization centers will map each sample’s genome (genetic makeup) and its proteome (protein makeup). While genes can be viewed as a blueprint, proteins are a cell’s workforce. They play crucial roles in virtually every biological process in the body, from cellular communication and cellular structure to molecular transport and immune defense. By analyzing the protein types present in various cancers, scientists can get an inside look at how cancer works and potential ways to prevent or stop it. Proteins also can be used as biomarkers, which act as a calling card for a particular type or subtype of cancer.

Characterizing proteins can pose significant challenges. A single gene may encode hundreds of different proteins, which can then be further modified in response to myriad factors such as health state or environmental conditions. CPTAC aims to eliminate some of the barriers to proteomic analysis, such as variations in approaches and low sample numbers, by streamlining the pipeline, standardizing protocols, and providing a large sample pool.

“CPTAC involves a collaborative consortium of institutions and investigators with expertise in proteomics, including genomics, cancer biology, oncology, bioinformatics, and clinical chemistry,” said Henry Rodriguez, Ph.D., M.B.A., director of the NCI Office of Cancer Clinical Proteomics Research. “The consortium performs coordinated research projects to identify proteins found in cancer specimens whose genomes have been characterized and to shed new light on tumor biology that remains unclear based on genomic analysis alone.”

Rodriguez added that he believes that proteomics “will eventually complement genomic and transcriptomic analyses to improve diagnostics, therapeutics, and cancer prevention.”

Biorepository plays an integral role
NCI selected VARI’s Biorepository as CPTAC’s Biospecimen Core Resource after a rigorous application process and thorough review. VARI will receive and process samples from designated source sites before sending the samples on for genomic and proteomic characterization. The Biorepository also will store portions of the samples for later analysis.

CPTAC is designed to integrate with other large-scale NIH projects, such as The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a multi-institutional effort to genomically analyze dozens of cancers. In addition to new samples collected by CPTAC, the project’s characterization centers will conduct proteomic analysis on some of TCGA’s samples, which have already undergone extensive genomic characterization.

CPTAC has already concluded two, smaller pilot studies. The current third phase is a full-scale roll-out of the program. CPTAC data, along with information on the protocols used to gather the data, will be made publically available.

VARI enjoys growing profile
The designation of VARI’s Biorepository’s as CPTAC’s Biospecimen Core Resource is the latest in a series of high-profile awards for the Institute. In addition to being accredited by the College of American Pathologists, VARI’s Biorepository also is a Comprehensive Biospecimen Resource for NCI’s Biorepository and Biospecimen Research Branch and NIH’s Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project. It provides biobanking and biospecimen processing for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation’s CoMMpass study and, beginning this year, it also serves as the national biobank for the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.

Research reported in this press release was supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award number HHSN261201500055C. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent nonprofit biomedical research and science education organization committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations. Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, VAI has grown into a premier research and educational institution that supports the work of more than 330 scientists, educators and staff. Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), VAI’s research division, is dedicated to determining the epigenetic, genetic, molecular and cellular origins of cancer, Parkinson’s and other diseases and translating those findings into effective therapies. The Institute’s scientists work in onsite laboratories and participate in collaborative partnerships that span the globe. Learn more about Van Andel Institute or donate by visiting 100% To Research, Discovery & Hope®

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