Public Release: 

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center awarded $11.5 million to research kidney cancer

National Cancer Institute SPORE grant brings together researchers from area institutions

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

BOSTON -- The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) an $11.5 million, five-year SPORE grant to focus on cancers of the kidney. Michael Atkins, MD, Deputy Director of BIDMC's Division of Hematology/Oncology, will oversee the grant, which involves collaborations with Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Massachusetts General Hospital via the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.

As the only NCI-funded SPORE focused on cancers of the kidney, this grant aims to improve detection, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of kidney cancer, which affects about 54,000 Americans each year and causes approximately 14,000 deaths. SPORE grants (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) are designed to promote interdisciplinary and translational research that rapidly moves scientific discoveries to a clinical setting to directly benefit patients. This grant is a renewal of a previous $13.3 million kidney cancer SPORE awarded to Atkins and his team of collaborators in 2003.

"This renewed support enables our team to maintain the momentum that was established over the past five years and continue to make tremendous progress in our research. Being the only kidney cancer SPORE, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to lead the effort to develop better approaches to detect and treat cancers of the kidney," says Atkins, who also directs the Cutaneous Oncology and Biologic Therapy programs and the Cancer Clinical Trials Office in BIDMC's Division of Hematology/Oncology.

"The renewal of our SPORE grant is validation from the NCI that the past five years of funding were productive and that our proposals for future research are also highly meritorious," he adds.

This grant, awarded in August 2009 and again headquartered at BIDMC, includes five main projects which are supported by three cores. Each project is jointly directed by a team comprising both basic scientists and clinical investigators, all of whom are members of the Kidney Cancer Program of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DFHCC). The Kidney Cancer Program encompasses research that spans from the basic laboratory to the clinic, from pediatric to adult cancers, and from detection and diagnosis to selection of appropriate treatment. Atkins, who also leads this DFHCC program, describes the SPORE as its "translational engine," with much of the new work building upon groundbreaking discoveries made during the previous SPORE, including several early phase clinical trials testing novel approaches for the treatment of specific types of kidney tumors.

"The SPORE can be viewed as an evolving process in which projects examine promising laboratory discoveries in progressively more applied settings, eventually moving those approaches that are most likely to impact disease management into definitive clinical trials to be conducted within the Kidney Cancer Program," explains Atkins.

During the five-year term of the SPORE, Atkins and colleagues will work to improve the understanding and treatment of kidney cancer that is resistant to standard therapies; to identify biomarkers for the purposes of early diagnosis, monitoring, and predicting treatment outcome; and to use the growing understanding of kidney cancer biology to develop novel immune and targeted therapies that improve the outcome of patients with advanced disease.

The SPORE's five research projects are:

  • Clinical Correlations of WTX Inactivation in Wilms Tumor, led by Daniel Haber, MD, PhD, and Miguel Rivera, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital;
  • Targeting of HIF2α with siRNA, led by William Kaelin, MD, and Toni Choueiri, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) and Sabina Signoretti, MD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital;
  • Acquired Resistance to VEGF Receptor Blockade: Underlying Mechanisms and Therapeutic Options, led by Nahum Goldberg, MD, James Mier, MD, and Michael Atkins, all of BIDMC;
  • Targeting the PI3-Kinase/Akt Pathway in RCC led by James Mier and David McDermott, MD, of BIDMC;
  • Adoptive Immunotherapy for Renal Carcinoma Using Dendritic Cell/tumor Fusions, led by David Avigan, MD, of BIDMC and Donald Kufe, MD, of DFCI.


Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School and consistently ranks in the top four in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide. BIDMC is a clinical partner of the Joslin Diabetes Clinic and a research partner of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit

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