Thought-provoking Idea Provides Basis for Unique NCI Grant Awarded to RPCI Researcher

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

BUFFALO, NY — The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) new Provocative Questions research funding program has awarded a prestigious grant to a researcher at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center to investigate a promising but neglected or unexplored area of cancer research.

David W. Goodrich, PhD, Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, recently received a two-year, $406,247 award from the Provocative Questions Project.

The Provocative Questions Project emerged in 2012 in an effort to tackle long-standing questions about our understanding of cancer biology and cancer control. The grant is part of the NCI's Provocative Questions Project to challenge cancer researchers to provide answers for 24 perplexing questions in cancer research. NCI solicited the scientific community’s help to formulate the list of key questions that, if answered, could lead to significant research advances.

Dr. Goodrich’s proposed research will aim to answer a question concerning the Mechanisms of Tumor Development or Recurrence: How does the order in which mutations or epigenetic changes occur alter cancer phenotypes or affect the efficacy of targeted therapies?

All cancers occur when something goes wrong in the DNA of a cell — a gene mutates or changes in a way that causes the cell to multiply haphazardly, creating a tumor, explains Dr. Goodrich.

“Scientists are cataloguing all the gene mutations that occur in human cancers, and we now know that each cancer contains many mutations that determine how the cancer behaves and how it responds to therapy,” he said. “What we don’t know, however, is whether the order in which these mutations occur influences these characteristics.”

His project will create a novel model to test whether varying the order and timing of mutations in two genes important for human prostate cancer, the PTEN and RB1 tumor suppressor genes, will ultimately affect the cancer’s aggressiveness and how it responds to therapy.

“Whether the order of mutations influences a cancer’s behavior is an important question for personalized medicine because how we treat a patient may be determined not only by the mutations in their cancer, but also on the order in which those mutations are acquired. Finding an answer to this provocative question will be significant for improving patient therapy and prognosis,” says Dr. Goodrich.

More than $12 million will be distributed to 30 grant recipients nationwide in this first of two funding cycles. Although each investigator takes on a separate distinct question, their combined impact will be substantial, and potentially change the way scientists approach cancer research and therapy.


The mission of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, Roswell Park is one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit, call 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) or email Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

Media Contact: 

Tara Yates, RPCI Director of Public Affairs