The Gastrointestinal (GI) Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) focuses on translational research in the gastrointestinal system and includes cancer of the colon, rectum, stomach, esophagus, small intestine, liver, gallbladder and other digestive organs. An estimated 430,000 new digestive system cancers are diagnosed each year in the United States. Additionally, 164,000 deaths due to digestive system cancers occur in the United States annually. Colon cancers are particularly prevalent and represent 14% of all new cancer cases in the United States. They were expected to cause 53,200 deaths in the United States in 2020.
Currently, the GI SPORE focuses on cancers of the colon, rectum, esophagus, liver, gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), and pancreas, which account for the majority of new diagnoses.
Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in this country, while pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma) is the third most common cause. Our multidisciplinary team is fully engaged in highly innovative translational research including first-in-human trials to accelerate the development of therapeutic options available to colorectal and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma patients. The GI SPORE is actively challenging our basic science and clinical investigators to identify and implement leading-edge research that realizes translational impact.
Among the current challenges are:
- the failures of current immunotherapy agents to improve metastatic colorectal cancer outcomes, with the exception of rare subsets representing <5% of patients with microsatellite instability;
- the slow pace of chemoprevention research and limited repertoire of agents being evaluated in the clinic for populations at-risk for colorectal cancer; and
- the necessity to explore novel therapeutic vulnerabilities and eliminate residual disease after standard of care therapy in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
Our SPORE is aggressively meeting each of these challenges by building on strong preclinical data, unique institutional opportunities, exceptional investigators and a proven clinical-translational environment. This team of investigators will achieve these goals by fulfilling the following aims:
- evaluating clinical activity of an optimized combination of immune checkpoint inhibitors with a personalized, neo-antigen peptide vaccine (Project 1).
- determining the contribution of STAT3 signaling to colorectal cancer development in high-risk patients with familial syndromes or inflammatory bowel disease (Project 2).
- evaluatint metabolic therapeutic vulnerabilities in pancreatic cancer (Project 3)
Our SPORE team is strategically organized to effectively translate preclinical concepts and novel targets rapidly into a clinical setting, with the goal of significant impact on mortality rates from colorectal cancer and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.