Georgetown Lombardi Center for Cancer Systems Biology


The Georgetown Lombardi Center for Cancer Systems Biology (CCSB) was established in May 2010 as a result of $7.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute's Integrative Cancer Biology Program. Robert Clarke, PhD, DSc serves as the Principle Investigator working with collaborators from Virginia Tech and Fox Chase Cancer Center.


Using computational data from breast cancer specimens and other sources, the team will create a virtual map of the Estrogen Receptor (ER) regulated molecular signaling network in breast cancer cells. The computational group will identify what they believe to be, "the towns and roads", that link the various aspects of the cancer network together.


"We need to first understand which roads are the main roads and which are the side roads. Secondly, we need to identify which are important and which are not," says Clarke.


The preliminary data that the researchers gather will be used to create a series of computational and mathematical models. "If we can figure out enough about how the cell works then we can figure out how to disrupt their signaling and that's how we get to the therapeutic aspect," says Clarke. If we can identify the topology of genes and protein interactions in cell signaling networks, then we would know where to target our drugs.


To achieve this goal, researchers will build computational models that predict how estrogen receptor –(ER) regulates molecular signaling and cellular functions to affect the risk of neoplastic transformation in the normal breast, and responsiveness to endocrine therapies in breast cancer.


They will develop and apply integrative systems approaches and computational analyses to build predictive computational models of the cellular functions and their underlying molecular signaling, as regulated by ER, that affect:


  • The susceptibility of normal mammary cells to neoplastic transformation
  • The subsequent responsiveness of breast cancer cells to those endocrine therapies that target ER action, i.e., antiestrogens (AE) and aromatase inhibitors (AI).


Researchers will try to incorporate the spatial and temporal ordering of multiple interacting components, with a focus on molecular signaling, to understand how this both regulates and integrates cellular processes that affect breast cancer cell fate. Individual components of computational models such as nodes/edges in a signal transduction network, may also be used to help better inform the selection of specific therapies for patients with ER+ breast cancer and lead to the discovery of new therapeutic modalities.

The Georgetown Lombardi Center for Cancer Systems Biology plans to offer a variety of educational programs including graduate level, non-degree certificates and a master's degree in Cancer Systems Biology. The center will also offer continuing education classes for professionals, research seminars and an early scholar's program for undergraduates and high school students interested in pursuing careers in cancer research. The education programs will be led by Leena Hilakivi-Clarkee, PhD, Professor of Oncology and project lead for the third component of the CCSB, which focuses on early life estrogenicity and mammary cancer risk.


Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future. Lombardi is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the only one in the Washington, DC area. The director of the Cancer Center is Louis M. Weiner, MD.


Established in 1970, the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center is named for legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, who was treated for cancer at Georgetown University Hospital. What began as a small clinic treating cancer patients has grown onto a state-of-the-art cancer center housing more than 240,000 square fee of clinic and research space.


Georgetown Lombardi's "Comprehensive Cancer Center" designation was initially granted in 1990 and is now in its 18th year of NCI funding.