Chao Lu is a recipient of the 2021 Columbia Precision Medicine Joint Pilot Grant Program Award

The annual Precision Medicine Pilot Grants have been awarded to five teams of  researchers conducting innovative basic science, translational, and clinical research across multiple diseases.  CSCI faculty member Chao Lu, PhD, is a co-investigators on one of the award-winning teams. 

Jointly awarded by the Columbia Precision Medicine Initiative (CPMI), the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC), and the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (Irving Institute), the Precision Medicine Pilot Grants underscore Columbia’s commitment to supporting diverse, cross-disciplinary research targeting the promise of precision medicine.

The five winning teams are being led by faculty at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons (VP&S). The projects being funded are focusing on a range of research, from novel cancer therapeutics to health disparities research. 

The Vagelos Precision Medicine Pilot Grant program is made possible by a generous donation from Roy and Diana Vagelos and is intended to support groundbreaking basic research in the field of precision medicine. Each research team receives $100,000 in funding for one year. The researchers will present their projects at an annual symposium for the precision medicine awards in fall 2022.

Patient-Derived Organoids to Model and Manipulate Tumor Regulatory Dependencies in Esophageal Adenocarcinoma

Lead Investigator: Brian Henick, MD
Co-Investigators: Andrea Califano, Dr; Chao Lu, PhD; Hiroshi Nakagawa, MD

Patients with advanced/metastatic esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) suffer poor outcomes despite new drug approvals, perhaps because EAC actually represents multiple cancer subtypes not easily distinguishable with conventional techniques. Studying tumor RNA, the Califano laboratory has developed algorithms that can delineate EAC subtypes based on the differential activity of Master Regulator (MR) proteins that mechanistically govern tumor cells’ transcriptional states, amenable to confirmation in model systems. Manipulating MRs genetically or with drugs identified by the CLIA-certified OncoTreat algorithm can help repurpose existing drugs  for use in EAC subtypes on a case-by-case basis. Testing drug efficacy in tumor models by this approach could identify promising new therapies for multiple EAC subtypes simultaneously. Patient-derived organoids (PDOs) are an efficient model system that can recapitulate tumor biology and likelihood of treatment response. The team plans to confirm that human EAC share MRs with their derived PDOs in the Nakagawa laboratory. In the Lu laboratory, they will experimentally knock out MRs predicted to be most essential in each PDO, and finally test a library of drugs to identify those most likely to benefit each EAC subtype.

See full article here