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M. D. Anderson Receives SPORE Grant for Bladder Cancer Research

M. D. Anderson Receives SPORE Grant for Bladder Cancer Research
Institution First to Hold Two Grants for Genitourinary Cancers
M. D. Anderson News Release 10/22/01

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has received the National Cancer Institute's first SPORE grant for bladder cancer research.

The five-year, $13.9 million grant recognizing Specialized Programs Of Research Excellence (SPORE) makes M. D. Anderson the first academic medical center to receive two such grants in genitourinary cancer. M. D. Anderson received a five-year, $13 million SPORE grant for prostate cancer research in April.

Dr. Colin P. N. Dinney, associate professor in the Departments of Urology and Cancer Biology, is the principal investigator on M. D. Anderson's latest SPORE grant, which gives a boost to the institution's integrated bladder cancer research activities.

"The SPORE grant provides us with the infrastructure to enhance our broad-based multidisciplinary approach to bladder cancer," says Dr. Dinney. "With this grant, M. D. Anderson will establish projects that address all aspects of the disease, including chemoprevention, early diagnosis, bladder preservation and novel therapies for treatment."

Since 1992, the National Cancer Institute has awarded SPORE grants for concentrated research in several cancer sites, including breast, prostate, lung and gastrointestinal cancers.

M. D. Anderson has received four SPORE grants over the last five years.  One for lung cancer research was jointly awarded to M. D. Anderson and the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas in 1996.  In addition to the two genitourinary cancer grants, M. D. Anderson's Ovarian Cancer Research Program was awarded a five-year, $10 million SPORE grant in 1999.

According to the American Cancer Society, bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the United States, with more than 53,000 new cases diagnosed in 2000. Despite its prevalence, explains Dr. Dinney, bladder cancer research, funding and discovery have trailed far behind other cancer types.

"Now, there is a great amount of research interest in bladder cancer because the natural history of the disease is well defined and because the bladder is an accessible organ. Both tissue and urine can be easily collected and utilized to find markers for the disease, markers that may prove responsive to targeted therapy," says Dr. Dinney.

The SPORE grant funds will support research in five areas, including the study of:

Early detection and chemoprevention. Research will determine if genetic and protein alterations serve as signatures of bladder cancer and can be utilized for early detection and progression indicators of the disease. Projects leaders are Dr. Bogdan Czerniak, associate professor of pathology, and Dr. Anita Sabichi, assistant professor of clinical cancer prevention. 

Epidemiologic predictors of bladder cancer recurrence.  Studies have shown that bladder cancer is related to smoking and that recurrence is a hallmark of the disease.  Still, there has been little investigation to correlate nicotine exposure and disease recurrence. Researchers will follow a large group of bladder cancer patients  -- current and former smokers -- to conclude if recurrence is more common or progression is more rapid in individuals who continue to smoke after diagnosis. Project leaders are Drs. Xifeng Wu, associate professor of epidemiology, and Dr. Paul Cinciripini, associate professor of behavioral science.

Interferon and muscle-invasive bladder cancer. A team of researchers are examining whether interferon can treat tumors that invaded the bladder wall.  Animal studies suggest that interferon response can be optimized by giving it frequently and at the appropriate biological dose. Researchers also observed that interferon can inhibit angiogenesis (tumor blood vessel growth), tumor invasion and enhance chemotherapy.  Utilizing this new information, a Phase II clinical trial will be conducted administering interferon -- in combination with standard chemotherapy -- to patients with muscle-invasive bladder cancer.  Project leaders are Dr. David McConkey, associate professor of cancer biology, and Dr. Randall Millikan, assistant professor in genitourinary medical oncology.

EGF receptor therapy and metastatic bladder cancer. Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) receptors are known to be expressed in cancerous tumors of the bladder, with the level of expression correlating directly to the tumor grade, stage and survival. In the first clinical study of EGF receptor therapy in bladder cancer, patients with metastatic disease will be treated with the targeted therapy IMC-C225 in combination with chemotherapy. Project leaders are Drs. Menashe Bar-Eli, associate professor of cancer biology, and Dr. Dinney.

Gene therapy/bladder salvation and superficial bladder cancer.  Today, for patients with superficial bladder cancers who don't respond to standard treatment, the most viable treatment option is surgical removal of the bladder, a cystectomy. Researchers are working to establish effective gene therapy treatments that may one day replace the cystectomy and allow bladder salvage for these patients. Project leaders are Dr. William Benedict, professor of genitourinary medical oncology, and Dr. H. Barton Grossman, professor of urology.

Monies from the SPORE grant also will establish a Career Development Program to train physicians and scientists with focus on translational research in bladder cancer.  Dr. Benedict will serve as the director of the program, and Dr. Grossman will serve as the co-director.

According to Dr. Dinney, the institution's already-strong multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of genitourinary cancers  -- including the establishment of M. D. Anderson's Bladder Cancer Multidisciplinary Program in 1999 -- was paramount in securing the institution's second SPORE grant in genitourinary research.

"With the SPORE grant, we hope to build on this collaborative approach in the treatment and research of bladder cancer at M. D. Anderson," says Dr. Dinney.  "By funding the necessary infrastructure to sustain research in the laboratory, we will be integrating new approaches in clinical practice that we hope, in the near future, will greatly improve the outcome for patients with bladder cancer."

M. D. Anderson continues to receive more grants from both the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society than any other institution. During 2000, M. D. Anderson received 181 NCI grants and 31 ACS grants.

Also in 2000, research expenditures at M. D. Anderson reached an all-time high and increased 17.5 percent over the previous fiscal year.  With federal grants and contracts, philanthropy, industry contracts and other sources, M. D. Anderson research expenditures totaled more than $182 million.

For more information about M. D. Anderson’s SPORE grant for bladder cancer, visit


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