ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center is part of a national organization that has received $11.5 million to study sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that can occur in bones, muscle and fat.
The Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration (SARC), a not-for-profit consortium dedicated to providing infrastructure to support collaborative sarcoma research, has received a Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute. This grant will provide $11.5 million over five years in support of sarcoma translational research.
Approximately 15,000 people will be diagnosed with sarcoma this year, accounting for less than 1 percent of adult cancers and approximately 15 percent of childhood cancers. Funding for sarcoma research has been limited. This grant will support research essential to identifying new therapies.
The SARC SPORE, one of only two in the country dedicated to sarcoma, is a large-scale collaboration designed to improve the understanding of the underlying biology of sarcoma and to develop novel diagnostic tests and therapies for patients with sarcoma. This collaboration brings together a broad-based multi-disciplinary investigative team anchored by multiple researchers from U-M, the Harvard Cancer Center, the NCI and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, as well as key leadership from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Cancer Research and Biostatistics (CRAB), and Columbia University.
“The SARC SPORE presents an unprecedented opportunity for advancement in the diagnosis and treatment of sarcoma. Given the rarity of sarcoma, a well-planned and organized collaboration among dedicated sarcoma experts is needed to accelerate translational research. The SARC SPORE team of investigators is poised to lead advancements to benefit sarcoma patients," says Denise Reinke, M.S., N.P., M.B.A., SARC president and chief operating officer and a nurse practitioner at the U-M Cancer Center who works with sarcoma patients.
“The SARC SPORE is a highly innovative approach for integrating translational and clinical study of an orphan malignancy that has historically been under-funded and under-studied,” said Raphael E. Pollock, M.D., Ph.D., the SARC SPORE’s program director and principal investigator. “Since the early 1970s, overall five-year survival rates for sarcoma have remained static at about 50 percent. This project has the potential to provide major therapeutic advances for sarcomas.”
“As the largest and most productive sarcoma clinical research and correlative science group worldwide, enrolling more patients in sarcoma clinical trials than any other organization, SARC is uniquely positioned to lead this SPORE,” said McHenry Tichenor, chairman of the board of SARC. “We believe this collaborative effort with leading research institutions will link insightful translational science with cutting-edge clinical trials to have a tremendous impact on sarcoma patient outcomes.”
Under the SARC SPORE, investigators will conduct laboratory and clinical projects to understand the cellular and molecular basis of sarcoma progression and spread of the disease by examining the metastatic cascade and the genes and signaling pathways that control it. The investigators hope that identifying vulnerable molecular points within these processes in specific sarcoma subtypes will provide the foundation for developing new therapies. The SARC SPORE research will also focus on molecularly driven diagnostic approaches to improve early detection of primary as well as metastatic or recurrent sarcoma.
SARC and the SARC SPORE members will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with existing SPORE projects in other tumor types, allowing them to share data and information that could impact sarcoma research and patient care.