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Cancer Grants Build Bench-Bedside Links
Researchers across the Harvard medical community are teaming up to bridge basic and clinical science in hopes of accelerating progress against a pair of common and often deadly malignancies, skin and breast cancer.
The Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center has two Specialized Programs of Research Excellence sponsored by the National Cancer Institute: Thomas Kupper (above) directs the skin cancer SPORE and J. Dirk Iglehart directs the SPORE in breast cancer. Photos by Graham Ramsay
Two multi-institutional collaborations administered through the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center are funded through the National Cancer Institute SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) initiative, which aims to speed into clinical practice novel ideas that have the potential to reduce cancer incidence and mortality and to improve survival and quality of life. Each DF/HCC SPORE has a five-year grant of approximately $15 million.
NCI's first SPORE in skin was awarded in October 2001 to a Harvard-wide consortium led by principal investigator Thomas Kupper, the Thomas B. Fitzpatrick professor at HMS, the chair of Dermatology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the director of the Center for Cutaneous Oncology at DFCI. The breast cancer SPORE, one of nine nationwide, was awarded in October 2000 to a group directed by J. Dirk Iglehart, the Anne E. Dyson professor in women's cancers at HMS and the Department of Surgery at BWH. It includes investigators from all HMS-affiliated hospitals and HSPH.
One key aspect of the SPOREs' strength is the way the programs bring together scientists who would otherwise be unlikely to collaborate, and possibly even unaware of each other's work. Every major project within a SPORE--the skin SPORE has five and the breast SPORE seven--must have one principal investigator engaged in laboratory research and one involved in clinical studies.
The programs "are very focused on translation of basic biological findings into clinical practice, or conversely, taking clinical observations and explaining them in the basic lab," Iglehart said.
Each SPORE also includes core facilities that provide services and expertise in specific areas; career development funds to help young investigators get independent research programs going; and support for "developmental projects" that could later become full-fledged projects.
Copyright 2002 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College