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From the Summer/Fall 2015 Quest
The funding of the SPORE is a cause for celebration. It will enable researchers to conduct studies that impact the outcomes and quality of life of prostate cancer patients. © Dan Oldfield

On July 1, 2015, Dr. William Catalona was notified that the National Cancer Institute has awarded a grant of approximately $11 million over 5 years to the Prostate SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence). Dr. Catalona is Principal Investigator of the SPORE grant.

The National Cancer Institute’s Translational Research Program (TRP), headed by Toby Hecht, Ph.D., is the home of the SPOREs. SPOREs are an integral part of the National Cancer Institute’s efforts to promote collaborative and interdisciplinary cancer research. The prestigious SPORE grants fund projects that will result in new and diverse approaches to the prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

SPOREs are designed to translate scientific results into clinical settings, and to discover the biology behind observations made in cancer patients or in populations at risk for cancer. They are designed to enable the rapid and efficient movement of basic scientific findings to benefit patients.

The funds and energies of the URF are used for research and education for the prevention, detection, treatment and cure of prostate cancer. Please consider supporting the URF.

Translational research

Translational research uses knowledge of human biology to develop and test the feasibility of interventions,including molecular assays, imaging techniques, drugs, biological agents, and/or other methodologies. All SPORE projects must be translational and include both a laboratory component and a human application that must be performed at some time during the 5-year term of the grant. In most cases, SPOREs are expected to focus on a particular organ-specific cancer, such as prostate cancer, or a group of related cancers that belong to a common organ system, for example gastrointestinal cancers.

In nature, what lies beneath the surface is often most essential. © Dan Oldfield

SPORE components

All SPOREs include the following common features:

  1. They must be dedicated to capitalizing on research that has the potential to change the current approach in the prevention, detection, diagnosis, and/or treatment of human cancer.
  2. The SPORE leadership must have the flexibility to change research direction and team approach, if indicated.
  3. SPOREs are expected to establish the critical research infrastructure needed to sustain the research projects, as well as to promote collaborative projects with other SPOREs and other government and nongovernment (including industry) research groups.
  4. SPOREs provide a unique environment that can be used to prepare new scientists for careers in this field or provide the opportunity for established scientists to re-orient their research careers toward translational research.
  5. SPOREs are expected to identify the kinds of research questions, including pilot projects, that can only be accomplished through collaborations, networks, and consortia and take full advantage of SPORE scientific expertise and infrastructure.
  6. SPORE Directors and selected investigators are expected to participate in NCI-sponsored meetings and workshops to share expertise and research results with other translational grantees funded by NCI mechanisms.

“We are delighted that, through an incredible team effort, we achieved this prestigious SPORE award, especially in the present difficult climate for securing NIH research funding. This SPORE represents a major investment by the NCI in our prostate cancer research program. Our SPORE unites basic scientists, clinicians, pathologists, biostatisticians, bioinformaticists and advocates, working together to understand the basic biology of prostate cancer and design and conduct innovative paradigm-shifting clinical trials. We are excited and anticipate that the results obtained through our SPORE will have a significant impact on the outcomes and overall quality of life of prostate cancer patients and their families.”

- Dr. Catalona

Impact on patients

The overall objective of the SPORE proposal is to conduct studies that impact the outcomes and overall quality of life of prostate cancer patients.

Dr. Catalona and his collaborators proposed four major research projects that involve two of the most important issues in prostate cancer:

The SPORE team

The SPORE is a collaboration between Northwestern University’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, the University of Chicago’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and NorthShore University Health System, with contributions from the University of California San Francisco, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Southern California. The SPORE is fully integrated into a rich research environment that both strengthens the proposed research and leverages resources available for the planned projects.

Dr. Catalona is Director of Prostate Cancer Research at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Walter Stadler, Co-Principal Investigator of the SPORE, serves as Deputy Director of the University of Chicago’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. Robin G Leikin, Ph.D., is the Scientific Administrator of the grant. The SPORE benefits from institutional and philanthropic support from the Urological Research Foundation and NorthShore University Health System to augment funding from the National Cancer Institute.

There are currently seven other Prostate Spores, including Dana-Farber Harvard Cancer Institute, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Johns Hopkins University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, UCLA, the University of Michigan and the University of Texas/MD Anderson.

ICPCG Research

Confirming the Role of Genetic Variants and Familial Disease

The ICPCG research group, of which Dr. Catalona is a contributor, analyzed 25 prostate cancer genetic variants and their association with familial prostate cancer risk.

The genome-wide association study included 12,506 samples, including 9,560 prostate cancer cases (3,368 with aggressive disease). For people with family history of prostate cancer, 20 of the 25 genetic variants were at least nominally associated with prostate cancer. Sixteen variants had significant associations with prostate cancer. For men with aggressive disease, 16 of the variants had at least nominal association with prostate cancer and 8 were statistically significant.

These results indicate that the majority of common, low-risk variants previously identified for prostate cancer also contribute to risk for familial prostate cancer, and some may increase the risk of aggressive disease.

Teerlink CC, Thibodeau SN, McDonnell SK, et al.; International Consortium for Prostate Cancer Genetics. Association analysis of 9,560 prostate cancer cases from the International Consortium of Prostate Cancer Genetics confirms the role of reported prostate cancer associated SNPs for familial disease. Hum Genet. 2014 Mar;133(3):347-56. doi:10.1007/s00439-013-1384-2. Epub 2013 Oct 26.

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