With the five-year grant recognizing a Specialized Program Of Research Excellence (SPORE), M. D. Anderson is the first academic medical center to receive such a research grant for this cancer type.
Dr. Waun Ki Hong, head of the Division of Cancer Medicine and chairman of thoracic/head and neck medical oncology, is the principal investigator on M. D. Anderson's latest SPORE grant, which gives a boost to the institution's integrated head and neck cancer research program. Drs. Reuben Lotan, professor of thoracic/head and neck medical oncology, and Gary Clayman, professor of head and neck surgery, serve as the grant's co-principal investigators.
"The SPORE grant pushes M. D. Anderson's already-strong translational research efforts in head and neck cancer to a new level, enhancing our multidisciplinary approach to the disease," Dr. Hong says. "With this grant, we want to rapidly increase our progress in the basic understanding of the disease, so we can develop new approaches to prevention, treatment and early diagnosis of head and neck cancer.
"M. D. Anderson has made great strides in treating head and neck cancer patients while maintaining quality of life for our patients," Dr. Hong continues. "We are already hard at work, and with this addition, we hope to make more progress in reducing head and neck cancer and ensure that patients with these diseases receive state-of-the-art medical care with cutting-edge therapeutic approaches."
The head and neck SPORE grant funds will support research in five areas: identifying genetic susceptibility markers and high-risk populations for head and neck cancers; angiogenic therapy; EGF receptors for chemoprevention; p53 therapy for reversal of pre-malignancies of the oral cavity; and apoptosis or cell death.
Since 1992, the National Cancer Institute has awarded SPORE grants into certain cancer sites for concentrated research that focuses on projects with a translational emphasis. M. D. Anderson has received five SPORE grants over the past six years totaling more than $53 million. One $4.5 million grant for lung cancer research was awarded jointly to M. D. Anderson and the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas in 1996. A second, $10 million, SPORE grant for ovarian cancer research was awarded in 1999. In 2001, M. D. Anderson received both prostate and bladder SPORE grants, making it the first institution to hold two such genitourinary cancer grants.
Types of head and neck cancer include cancers of the jaw, mouth, throat, nose, nasal cavity, salivary gland, sinuses, thyroid and larynx. According to the American Cancer Society, 37,800 new cases of head and neck cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, and it is the sixth most common cancer worldwide. More than 90 percent of the cases are associated with tobacco and alcohol use, Dr. Hong says.
The SPORE research team includes researchers and specialists in head and neck surgery and medical oncology, pathology, basic science, genetics, and biostatistics. Funds from the SPORE grant will also establish a Career Development Program to train physicians and scientists with a focus on translational research in head and neck cancer.