RAS Initiative

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A graphic of RAS

Overview

The National Cancer Institute RAS Initiative endeavors to better understand the RAS oncogene and discover its vulnerabilities to treat RAS-related cancers. 

About one-third of all human cancers are driven by mutations of the RAS family of genes.  

Though scientists have known about RAS for more than 30 years, a treatment to block the oncogene has been elusive. 

Our scientists investigate approaches to RAS-driven cancer from multiple angles and multiple fields. From protein production to assay development to structural discoveries, we contribute to the search for an effective RAS inhibitor. 

When the National Cancer Institute RAS Initiative was founded in 2013, researchers studying mutated RAS proteins were decentralized, scattered across government and academic laboratories. Most major pharmaceutical companies had suspended or avoided drug development for RAS-related cancers because of the cost and poor chance of success. 

Due to scientific limitations at the time, there was no obvious path to better understand the mutant proteins’ behavior in human cells or to discover treatments for the thousands of RAS-related cancers. But the fledgling project headquartered at the Frederick National Laboratory soon began to turn heads. 

Through an open, collaborative model and under the guidance of the National Cancer Institute, we developed a united, international RAS research community.  

The RAS Initiative’s aspirational goals and early progress, along with headway made by other groups, helped to reignite interest and inspire laboratories and industry to renew the search for treatments. Funded by the National Cancer Institute, the initiative continues to pursue progress in basic research and drug discovery for RAS-related cancers. 

Frederick National Laboratory researchers work together toward this goal. The RAS Initiative is comprised of nine teams: 

We collaborate with other institutions and experts, including Frank McCormick from the University of California, San Francisco, a key RAS Initiative consultant. 

The Frederick National Laboratory provides reagents to the research community and coordinates a biennial RAS Symposium to elevate progress and unite scientists in the field.