UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and Mayo Clinic Lymphoma SPORE grant renewed
Monday, September 24, 2012

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa and Mayo Clinic have received a five-year, $11.5 million grant renewal from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to continue the Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) for lymphoma research. The renewal was based on a highly competitive process of peer-review conducted by cancer researchers from across the country.

The University of Iowa/Mayo Clinic SPORE is a highly productive research collaboration focused on applying scientific advances to develop new approaches to the prevention, detection, and treatment of lymphoma and lymphoid leukemias. It is the nation’s longest standing lymphoma SPORE and has now received more than $34 million from the NCI.

George Weiner, M.D.,
George Weiner, M.D.

“We are extremely pleased and grateful to the NCI and our peers for having chosen our SPORE for renewed funding,” says George Weiner, M.D., director and principal investigator of the SPORE at the UI. Weiner also serves as director of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI.

Weiner notes that one reason for the success of the University of Iowa/Mayo Clinic Lymphoma SPORE is the combined strengths of the translational lymphoma programs of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center (HCCC) at the UI and the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center. Both centers have extensive experience in lymphoma research extending from basic investigation through performance of innovative clinical trials. The two institutions also work together on the epidemiology of lymphoma.

“The advancements we’ve made and the SPORE grant itself would not have happened if our two organizations hadn’t collaborated so well together,” he says. “The SPORE has been successful for so long because of focus of our investigators and staff on working together to improve outcomes for our patients.”

“Collaboration between researchers at both institutions has led to new discoveries about cancers of the immune system and to clinical trials that test novel treatments,” adds Thomas Witzig, M.D., SPORE director at Mayo Clinic.

The team’s work includes translational and clinical studies exploring the potential of treatments that stimulate the immune system to treat lymphoma; clinical trials targeting lymphoma-specific signaling pathways; discovery of gene mutations in cell signaling pathways that contribute to development of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma; identification of key interactions between lymphoma cells and their microenvironment that can be disrupted to make the cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapies; and investigation into biomarkers that could have a significant impact on management of lymphoma.

The research team has worked with more than 6,000 patient volunteers to become world leaders in understanding how the genetic makeup and other factors impact on outcome in patients with lymphoma and lymphoid leukemia.

Going forward, SPORE funds will support four major research projects, four shared research cores, clinical trials, early pilot projects, and support for new investigators in lymphoma research taking place at both institutions.

UI faculty and HCCC members involved in the SPORE come from the Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Public Health, and Liberal Arts and Sciences, and include Weiner, Brian Link, Terry Braun, Aliasger Salem, Alicia Olivier, Brian Smith, Sergei Syrbu, Steven Lentz, and Raymond Hohl, and numerous other faculty and staff.

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is Iowa's only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers are recognized as the leaders in developing new approaches to cancer prevention and cancer care, conducting leading-edge research, and educating the public about cancer. For more information, visit http://www.uihealthcare.org/HoldenComprehensiveCancerCenter/.