New initiative aims to speed discovery of therapeutic targets for incurable cancer

Phoenix, AZ-March 31, 2006 -- The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in collaboration with the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC) and others, has announced the launch of the Multiple Myeloma Genomic Initiative, a multi-million dollar research program designed to rapidly accelerate progress made against multiple myeloma by significantly improving the understanding of the biology of the disease. The Multiple Myeloma Genomic Initiative is the most comprehensive research collaboration of its kind that focuses on cancer genomics, opening a new front in the battle against multiple myeloma.
Multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the plasma cell, is the second most common hematologic (blood) cancer, representing one percent of all cancer diagnoses and two percent of all cancer deaths. Despite recent advances in treating myeloma, the five-year survival rate for multiple myeloma is only 32 percent, one of the lowest of all cancers. Approximately 50,000 people in the United States are living with multiple myeloma and an estimated 16, 000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

"The Multiple Myeloma Genomic Initiative underscores the critical role that scientific advances and new genomics technologies play in the fight against myeloma This unprecedented research program will fundamentally improve our understanding of myeloma, which will prove invaluable in future efforts to develop better, more effective treatments for the disease," said Kathy Giusti, founder and chief executive officer of the MMRC.

The Multiple Myeloma Genomic Initiative's research and discovery programs hinge on the ability to study, analyze, and characterize a large number of untreated myeloma patient tissue samples in great detail. This kind of research has been made possible only recently with the development of the MMRC Tissue Bank, the only resource of its kind to house high-quality bone marrow aspirates and matching peripheral blood samples accrued under Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) standards. Today, with hundreds of patient tissue samples now accrued under GLP standards into the MMRC Tissue Bank, and ongoing accrual at sites nationwide, researchers for the first time have access to the critical mass of tissue necessary to start this important genomic initiative.

"We expect that findings from the Multiple Myeloma Genomic Initiative will lead to the discovery of new druggable targets for myeloma and, ultimately, to the development of better, more effective therapies that are active against these targets," said Jeffrey Trent, PhD, president and scientific director of TGen.

In addition to TGen and the MMRC, the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard is also participating in the project.

"The MMRC has set a standard for all cancer research through its funding of this initiative and its unparalleled Tissue Bank of multiple myeloma samples," said Todd Golub, MD, director of the cancer program at the Broad Institute. "We can now build a molecular understanding of this disease, the critical first step towards effective treatment."

Accelerating the Pace of Myeloma Research and Discovery
Bringing together the Broad Institute and TGen's computational biology and genomics technology capabilities -- ranked among the most powerful in the world -- with the MMRC's unrivaled expertise in the clinical and biological aspects of myeloma, the Multiple Myeloma Genomic Initiative takes a collaborative, systematic approach to mapping the myeloma genome. Over the course of three years, the MMRC will coordinate and fund the Multiple Myeloma Genomic Initiative's several related research and discovery programs that span the spectrum of genomic science.

These programs include gene expression profiling to determine what genes and molecular pathways play a role in the onset and progression of myeloma; genome copy number and loss of heterozygosity analyses to better understand of the biology of myeloma and how the disease behaves; and efforts to pinpoint the "Achilles Heels" of myeloma -- genes that are essential for myeloma cell survival and those which may represent therapeutic targets for myeloma.

Findings from the Multiple Myeloma Genomic Initiative will be made accessible to the academic and commercial world via pre-publications and key learnings will be directly communicated to the scientific community to aid researchers pursuing genome mapping in other cancers.

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About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments. Translational genomics research is a relatively new field employing innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project and applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases. TGen's research is based on personalized medicine. The institute plans to accomplish its goals through robust and disease-focused research.

About the MMRC
The Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC) is a 509a3 non-profit organization that integrates leading academic institutions to accelerate drug development in multiple myeloma. It is comprised of the MMRC and ten member institutions: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Mayo Clinic, University Health Network (Princess Margaret Hospital), Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute, University of Chicago, St. Vincent's Comprehensive Cancer Center of Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers of New York, Hackensack University Medical Center, The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The MMRC was founded in 2004 by Kathy Giusti, a myeloma patient, and with the help of the scientific community, as an optimal research model to rapidly address critical challenges in accelerating drug development and explore opportunities in the most promising areas of myeloma research-genomics, compound validation, and clinical trials. The MMRC is the only consortium to join academic institutions through membership agreements, customized IT systems, and an integrated tissue bank. For more information, please visit

Media Contacts:
Amy Erickson, TGen: (602) 343-8522
Sue Preziotti, 212-453-2144
Krista Richardson, 212-453-2412

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