Renewal of the first National Cancer Institute grant to fund a University of California Cancer Consortium research collaboration is inspiring UC scientists to continue their quest to develop targeted therapies to treat gastric cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center serves as the lead research institution. It is also the only minority focused research center to have participated in the Patient-Derived Xenograft Development and Trial Center since its inception five years ago. The $5.2 million renewal of the NCI grant will span another five years.

Patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) are created by implanting tumor tissues from human patients into immunocompromised mice to create an environment that increases understanding of tumor development and spread. Other participants include all five University of California comprehensive cancer centers, and the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

The goal of the research alliance is to establish and characterize at least 120 new PDXs from racially diverse populations and study them to better understand the specific genetic factors that may underlie certain cancer disparities. The scientists also are testing precision medicine therapies that may be successful in overcoming gene mutations specific or more common to certain races or ethnicities.

“The impact of the collaborative is to understand the biological processes involved in cancer health disparities and to develop effective new treatments that we can then offer to patients as clinical trials,” said Luis Carvajal-Carmona, associate vice chancellor for the UC Davis Office of Academic Diversity and founding director of the cancer center’s Center for Advancing Cancer Health Equity.

Carvajal-Carmona said researchers will implant human fresh tumor samples into mice. The goal is to assess how ancestry influences patients’ response to anti-cancer drugs and what types of drug combinations will work more effectively in certain populations. The models and data generated in the study will be made available as a resource for UC scientists and those around the country.