Mayo Clinic Cancer Center receives SPORE grant for brain cancer research from NCI


ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Mayo Clinic Cancer Center has received a Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for brain cancer research.

The SPORE grant will provide $10.8 million to Mayo Clinic to support research geared toward significantly reducing brain cancer deaths and disabilities. Mayo Clinic neurologist Brian O'Neill, M.D., is the overall principal investigator for the SPORE. Dr. O'Neill and Robert Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D., co-principal investigator and Mayo Clinic geneticist, will lead a team of 12 basic, clinical and population science investigators at Mayo.

This team will conduct four Mayo investigator-initiated research projects that focus on adult gliomas, the most common form of tumors that originate in the brain or spinal cord tissue rather than those that spread to the brain from other areas of the body.

"Adult gliomas can have a disproportionately greater effect on a person's quality of life than more common cancers because they can significantly disable cognitive, memory, language, mobility and problem-solving skills," says Dr. O'Neill. "Despite nearly three decades of intense research and clinical trials, current treatments do not increase cure rates for this type of cancer, and the quality of such survival is often poor because of the well-documented toxicity of standard therapy. Clearly more effective and less toxic regimens are needed."

Over the next five years, research activities may also extend to gliomas of children and adolescents, as brain tumors are currently the most common cause of cancer deaths in those age groups. All four SPORE projects are based on research generated by investigators at the three Mayo Clinic campuses in Rochester, Minn., Scottsdale, Ariz., and Jacksonville, Fla. The projects will include both clinical studies involving patients and translational research activities.

All projects and the core activities that support them will be interactive and complementary. In addition to these research projects, the SPORE grant includes a developmental research program for new research ideas and a career development program to recruit and train the next generation of cancer researchers.

Project 1 will focus on understanding the mechanisms by which tumor cells are killed using radiation and drugs that inhibit a protein that drives tumor growth and aggressiveness in gliomas. It will utilize a unique animal model of glioma, one that replicates the human condition and thus provides the most appropriate model for developing treatment and prevention strategies. Mayo researchers will then coordinate a clinical trial based on this research.

Project 2 will deliver a modified measles virus directly into the tumor to kill cancer cells without harming normal cells. This project exploits unique viral gene therapy developed in Mayo's Molecular Medicine program. Mayo research teams will conduct a clinical trial testing the effectiveness of this treatment on adult gliomas.

Project 3 will study a protein that brain cancers use to invade surrounding tissue so that researchers can attempt to design treatments that inhibit invasion. In conjunction with Mayo's drug discovery research efforts, Project 3's researchers have identified a "short list" of small molecules that inhibit this protein. The SPORE grant will facilitate the translation of this discovery into a clinical trial.

Project 4 will explore the genetic basis of brain tumors, building on previous Mayo discoveries about the genetics of oligodendrogliomas, a common adult glioma. In this project Mayo researchers hope to determine whether a better understanding of oligodendroglioma genetics can help predict a specific tumor's response to treatment.

The NCI established the SPORE program in 1992 to promote interdisciplinary research and speed the transition of basic research findings from the laboratory to applied settings involving patients and populations. The goal of the program is to bring into clinical care novel ideas that have the potential to reduce cancer incidence and mortality, improve survival, and enhance patients' quality of life. Laboratory and clinical scientists work collaboratively to plan, design and implement research programs focused on cancer prevention and control, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and survival.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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