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Systems, Pathways & Targets Program (SPT)

The overall goal of the SPT program is to discover new aspects of cancer biology that can be exploited for the development of novel treatments and diagnostics. SPT membership comprises an interdisciplinary group including cell biologists, immunologists, geneticists, developmental biologists, computational scientists, and clinicians. The program leverages these diverse perspectives to build collaborative teams that tackle long-standing problems using bold and innovative approaches. Working at different scales, from molecules and cells to tissues and organs, SPT members study the fundamental biology of individual cancer cells as well as the interactions among cells in the tumor environment and metastatic sites. Several SPT members are clinical-scientists with independent research programs, and are well positioned to translate discoveries from bench to bedside. Moreover, SPT leadership actively connects basic scientists with clinicians through the Disease-Oriented Teams and the annual Cancer Center retreat. These interactions are leading towards new clinical trials and also facilitate access to tumor tissue for laboratory research projects.

A unique aspect of SPT is the integration of Systems Biology approaches. UC Irvine has an extensive, well-funded, internationally recognized group of systems biology faculty. These scientists use mathematical and statistical modeling to study behavior and organization of cells and tissues. Through the efforts of SPT co-Leader John Lowengrub and other leaders in the Cancer Center, systems biologists at UC Irvine have focused their attention on cancer-relevant problems. This emerging emphasis has resulted in productive collaborations, both intra- and inter-programmatic, and new extramural funding. In future years we expect that teams studying cancer using systems approaches will identify new molecular and cellular targets for intervention.

The breadth of interests and expertise of SPT members have enabled collaborative teams to focus on specific tumors or tissue types. These include groups studying acute leukemia, skin, breast, prostate and colon cancer. Faculty in these areas meet frequently, along with their group members, to exchange ideas and develop collaborations. By devoting resources to these focused cancer themes, SPT maximizes progress toward the identification of targets.

 John Lowengrub, Ph.D.  David Fruman, Ph.D.