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National Cancer Institute awards research grant renewal to University of Iowa and Mayo Clinic

Date: Monday, September 18, 2017

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and Mayo Clinic have received a five-year, $12.4 million grant renewal from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to continue the Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) for lymphoma research. The renewal was based on a highly competitive process of peer review conducted by cancer researchers from across the country.

The University of Iowa/Mayo Clinic Lymphoma SPORE is a highly productive research collaboration focused on developing new approaches to the prevention, detection, and treatment of lymphoma. First funded in 2002 and competitively renewed in 2007, 2012, and now again in 2017, it is the nation’s longest-standing lymphoma SPORE and has now received more than $46 million from the NCI.

“We are thrilled to have our Lymphoma SPORE renewed for another five years,” says George Weiner, MD, director and principal investigator of the SPORE at the University of Iowa and director of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. “It is particularly exciting to see advances we have made being applied worldwide to improve patient care.”

SPORE funds support four major research projects, four shared research cores, clinical trials, early pilot projects, and new investigators in lymphoma research taking place at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

“It is gratifying to see other inter-institutional research groups use the Iowa–Mayo collaborative model to accelerate progress by working across institutions,” Weiner says. “Working with outstanding collaborators and staff here at the University of Iowa and at Mayo Clinic on the Lymphoma SPORE has been one of the great pleasures of my career, and I look forward to another five years of close collaboration, and, most importantly, bringing research advances forward so they help patients.”

“We are grateful to the NCI to receive renewal of our Lymphoma SPORE that is conducted with our colleagues at the University of Iowa,” says Thomas Witzig, MD, SPORE director at Mayo Clinic, who received his internal medicine training at the University of Iowa. “This five-year grant will continue our quest to understand why patients get lymphoma and will be providing our patients opportunities for exciting new therapies.”

Both institutions have extensive experience in lymphoma research, from basic investigation through the performance of innovative clinical trials. The two institutions also work together on the epidemiology of lymphoma.

The reviewers commended multiple components of the University of Iowa/Mayo Clinic collaboration, including a supportive scientific environment in both cancer centers that encourages creative, productive research that has resulted in more than 150 papers published in the last funding cycle. The reviewers also noted the SPORE collaboration’s high rate of success in funding productive developmental research work and fostering careers in translational lymphoma research.

The SPORE team’s work includes translational and clinical studies exploring the potential of treatments that stimulate the immune system to treat lymphoma, clinical trials targeting lymphoma-specific signaling pathways, discovery of gene mutations in cell-signaling pathways that contribute to development of lymphoma, identification of key interactions between lymphoma cells and their microenvironment that can be disrupted to make the lymphoma cells more vulnerable to chemotherapies, and investigation into biomarkers that could have a significant impact on management of lymphoma for individual patients.

The research team has worked with more than 7,000 patient volunteers to understand how genetic makeup and other factors determine outcomes in patients with lymphoma.

University of Iowa faculty and Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center members involved in the SPORE come from the Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Public Health, and Liberal Arts and Sciences and include Weiner, Gail Bishop, Brian Link, Brian Smith, Umar Farooq, Aliasger Salem, Sergei Syrbu, and numerous other faculty and staff.

To learn more about the lymphoma SPORE, visit cancer.uiowa.edu/lymphoma-spore.

About Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is Iowa’s only National Cancer Institute–designated comprehensive cancer center and treated nearly 24,000 unique cancer patients in fiscal year 2016.

About University of Iowa Health Care

University of Iowa Health Care is the state’s only comprehensive academic medical center, dedicated to providing world-class health care and health-related outreach services to all Iowans. Based in Iowa City, UI Health Care includes University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, and University of Iowa Physicians, the state’s largest multispecialty physician group practice.