Rochester School of Medicine gets $11.5M for Wilmot Research

Prestigious National Cancer Institute Grant is “Seal of Approval”

September 08, 2008

The University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry has received an $11.5 million National Cancer Institute grant to support the expansion of lymphoma research and clinical trials at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. The highly competitive Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant fuels translational research projects designed to quickly advance findings from the laboratory to clinic setting to improve care and find cures.

“Only a small number of institutions have been awarded a SPORE grant,” said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester. “It is a major accomplishment for the Wilmot Cancer Center to earn this grant. It’s a testament to the cooperation that exists between clinical and basic scientists within the program and the collaborative environment that exists at the University of Rochester Medical Center.”

The National Cancer Institute funds SPORE projects at the top academic institutions across the country focusing on brain, breast, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, gynecologic, head and neck, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, and skin cancers, as well as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

“Earning this grant certainly credentials the Wilmot Cancer Center as a national leader for lymphoma research and care,” said Richard I. Fisher, M.D., director of the Wilmot Cancer Center and vice president of the Medical Center. “It’s a ‘seal of approval’ from the National Cancer Institute for the program that we’ve built.”

This five-year grant is the first for the Wilmot Cancer Center, the only upstate institution to earn prestigious SPORE funding, which is awarded to institutions conducting collaborative, novel cancer research programs. There are only four other lymphoma SPORE grants in the country, at Johns Hopkins University, University of Iowa, City of Hope and Baylor College of Medicine.

Wilmot’s lymphoma team of more than 20 clinicians and scientists is one of the largest in the Northeast. Patients travel to Rochester from throughout the country for the expertise and clinical studies available only at the Wilmot Cancer Center.

Wilmot received the funding because of the reputation of its researchers, the promise of their integrated studies, collaborations with Arizona Cancer Center at University of Arizona and the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, and its leadership in the Southwest Oncology Group, a national cooperative clinical trials group that will help move new therapies to nationwide patient studies quickly.

“The SPORE grant pushes Wilmot’s already strong translational research efforts in lymphoma to a new level, bringing together teams of scientists and physicians to study the disease from fresh angles,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

“With this grant, we will rapidly increase our progress in the basic understanding of the disease, so we can develop new approaches to treatments for the thousands of people affected every year,” Fisher said.

Lymphoma is a group of cancers that originate in the lymphatic system, which helps the body fight infection and disease. The National Cancer Institute is keenly interested in learning more about the causes and treatments for lymphomas because incidence has grown by nearly 80 percent in the past 30 years. This year, about 74,340 Americans will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and the less common Hodgkin’s disease.

The SPORE grant supports the Medical Center’s strategic plan to build robust research programs to improve health care and become one of the top 20 academic medical centers in the nation. Cancer research and care are among six signature programs at the nucleus of the strategic plan.

“This SPORE grant represents the first of what we hope to be several SPORE grants in the years to come,” said Medical Center CEO Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D. “It confirms the caliber of our science and our ability to perform research that translates into life-extending cures.”

The recent opening of the $65 million new Wilmot Cancer Center facility strengthened translational research efforts by bringing scientists and clinicians together under one roof to facilitate the exchange of scientific and clinical questions and knowledge.

Fisher is leading the effort with Jonathan Friedberg, M.D., Steven Bernstein, M.D., Fay Young, M.D., Craig Jordan, Ph.D., Derick Peterson, Ph.D., Hartmut “Hucky” Land, Ph.D., W. Richard Burack, M.D., Ph.D., and Susan Gross Fisher, Ph.D.

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