Systems Biology

Genetics and genomics researchers have produced enormous amounts of data on human biology and disease. And now, researchers must determine how best to sort out this mountain of data to propel scientific advancements and create durable therapies.

Increasingly, life scientists are turning to systems biology, actively collaborating with physical scientists, computer scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to focus on not just a gene here and there, but multiple genes and everything that connects them. Knowing how genes develop, interact, and change as part of a system will enable researchers to achieve a more predictive approach to therapy discovery and development.

Systems biology is especially important to brain tumors. Researchers are highly focused on understanding the differences among tumor types and how subtypes of tumors affect individual patients differently. Many believe systems biology will provide the empirical evidence needed to solve the mysteries of why a therapy works for some and not others, as well as why potential therapies make it into clinical trials but then fail. We also view systems biology as the precursor to personalized medicine. To read additional perspectives on systems biology-based research approaches, click here.

Additional Research & Activities

To support the adoption of this promising research approach, the National Brain Tumor Society created the Mary Catherine Calisto Systems Biology Initiative. As a leader in the brain tumor community, we provided seed funding to six (6) leading researchers who we believe are poised to develop innovative and collaborative projects, which will take potential brain tumor therapies from pre-clinical research to clinical trials.

We also became a collaborative funder for genomic research in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) through the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. This program is part of an unprecedented clinical research collaboration called The Bridge Project.

Last year, we brought together the leaders in systems biology for our annual Research Symposium, as part of our 2011 Summit. Leaders of research institutions, industry, and federal government made presentations on the current state of systems biology research and directions for the future. Among those presenters, Lynda Chin, MD, professor and chair, Department of Genomic Medicine, MD Anderson Center, discussed the status of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project.

It Takes More than Funding and More than One Funder

In addition to our funded research, we are highly active in advocating for other organizations to recognize the immense potential of, and support systems biology within the research community. We are collaborating with the American Association for Cancer Research to advance cancer systems biology as a field and professional discipline for researchers.

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