MD Anderson Cancer Center is built around multidisciplinary teams focused on the singular goal of ending cancer. This synergy is integral to our mission and a key factor in what makes us the nation’s leading cancer hospital.
Because of our multidisciplinary expertise and pioneering team science efforts, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded MD Anderson nine SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) grants — more than any other cancer center in the U.S.
Each SPORE seeks to understand the basic underpinnings of a particular type of cancer and to use that understanding to target aspects of the disease itself. The focus is a bidirectional approach to translational research, moving innovative discoveries from the lab to the clinic and back to the lab.
In Fiscal Year 2021, generous donations to MD Anderson’s Annual Fund provided support for four of the SPOREs.
Brain Cancer SPORE
Established in 2008, MD Anderson’s Brain Cancer SPORE continues to build upon the successes of initial projects, such as a first-inhuman Phase I clinical trial of Delta-24-RGD, a common cold virus engineered to attack glioblastoma (GBM). The trial allowed 20% of patients with recurrent GBM — the most common and deadly of brain tumors — to live for three years or longer. SPORE researchers currently are focusing on developing new biological, targeted and immunomodulatory therapeutic strategies for GBM.
Hepatocellular Carcinoma SPORE
MD Anderson has one of only two programs in the U.S. with a SPORE focused on hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer. The institution aims to stop the current rise of HCC-related mortality and to improve outcomes by increasing tumor resectability, decreasing postoperative recurrence rates and improving responses to immunotherapy in patients with advanced disease. SPORE investigators also seek to address the health and ethnic disparities associated with HCC, as well as the burden of obesity, diabetes and non-alcoholic liver disease and their effect on incidence of HCC.
Lung Cancer SPORE
This collaboration between MD Anderson and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center represents “the longest continuously funded SPORE in the history of the program,” according to Jack Roth, M.D., professor of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at MD Anderson and a principal investigator on the Lung Cancer SPORE. The overarching goal is to identify lung cancer vulnerabilities that can be targeted with novel therapies based on a molecular understanding of each patient’s cancer. Roth adds, “Our SPORE has been responsible for advances in targeted drugs, gene therapy and immunotherapy.” Investigators recently defined four small cell lung cancer subtypes and distinct therapeutic vulnerabilities for each type.
Uterine Cancer SPORE
Despite being the most common gynecologic malignancy and the fourth most common cancer in women, there is very little public awareness about uterine cancer, and research funding traditionally has lagged behind that for other cancers. Since 2003, MD Anderson has been the sole recipient of an NCI SPORE grant focused on eradicating this malignancy. Uterine cancer is highly curable if caught early, and investigators on the Uterine Cancer SPORE are conducting innovative research for the prevention and treatment of this disease.
Importance of donor support
By supplementing SPORE grants, gifts from the Annual Fund allow MD Anderson researchers to make even more of an impact. “Philanthropy has played a critical role in supporting a program that is focused on developing new treatments for cancer,” Roth says.
Ultimately, by providing support to vital programs like MD Anderson SPOREs, Annual Fund donors enable translational research not possible elsewhere. To contribute to the Annual Fund, visit www.mdanderson.org/gifts.