Grant Gives UAMS Physician-Scientist Access to Gene Analysis Software

By Susan Van Dusen

The $25,000 grant from Almac Diagnostic Services is one of 10 grants presented to cancer researchers around the world and gives them access to Almac’s software, known as claraT, to further their gene expression research.

“Up to 40% of all cancer patients will develop brain metastases, meaning their cancer cells spread from the original site in their body to their brain. For these patients, the median survival rate is only one year from diagnosis,” said Rodriguez, director of neurosurgical oncology at UAMS.

She hopes to use the power of claraT software to help identify new targets for drugs and immunotherapy in patients with brain metastases. To do this, she will input data from a group of 75 patients who previously underwent surgery to have their brain tumor removed. Following surgery, scientists examined each tumor’s DNA for genes with cancer-associated mutations, as well as their RNA expression profiles.

“Our goal is to identify therapeutic targets in this group of patients using a method known as RNA transcriptomics. This novel method has already helped us find drug targets for glioblastoma, which is the deadliest form of brain cancer. We hope to have the same result with brain metastases patients,” Rodriguez said.

RNA contains information to make proteins and perform other important cell functions. Transcriptomics is used to learn more about how genes are turned on in different types of cells and how this may help cause certain diseases, such as cancer.

Patients in the study had a variety of primary cancers, with 60% being lung cancer and melanoma.

Rodriguez plans to test and validate drug targets identified by claraT and use that data to pursue national grant funding.