By Jordan Prochnow
The University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and Mayo Clinic’s Specialized Program Of Research Excellence (SPORE) focused on lymphoma research has received a $12.4 million grant renewal from the National Cancer Institute.
This is the fourth time the Iowa-Mayo lymphoma SPORE has received a renewal since its initial funding in 2002, and longest-running lymphoma SPORE in the nation.
“The SPORE is an example and highlight of the effective teamwork that makes Holden a special place,” Dr. Gail Bishop, Associate Director of Basic Research, said. “People appreciate each other as individuals and it exemplifies the good teamwork we have here.”
SPORE is a program that was started by [the institute] to bridge the gap between basic research and research labs, and how they can help patients,” Iowa’s SPORE Director George Weiner said. “The idea behind SPORE is that each SPORE project is supposed to have components that involve lab research and treatment of patients.”
To be a full SPORE program, four programs must be in existence that meets certain criteria. Currently, the Iowa-Mayo lymphoma SPORE is working on looking inside the lymphoma node to see how the disease can hide from the immune system, to try and modify that by changing the microenvironment, to understand how gene pathways are involved in changing metabolism, and to see how cellular mutations can affect the disease.
In addition to Iowa’s lymphoma SPORE, a team of researchers maintains the nation’s only neuroendocrine SPORE.
“For any cancer type, you can apply for a SPORE,” Weiner said. “The [Cancer Institute] only gives out about 60 SPORE grants, so for us to have two at Iowa is pretty exciting.”
The partnership between Holden Center and Mayo Clinic began more than 15 years ago to extend the interactions between the two facilities and to achieve feats that either hospital might not have accomplished alone.
“We decided our strengths were complementary and that we were more likely to succeed together,” Weiner said. “We focus on what’s best for patients, not what benefits the hospitals more.”
The two hospitals have lots of contacts, both from a distance and directly; in several weeks, researchers from both programs will meet to discuss ideas for further research and progress.
Lymphoma is a cancer affecting the immune system and, according to the Mayo Clinic, there are fewer than 200,000 cases per year.
“Lymphoma comes in multiple types, each of them requiring highly specialized approaches for treatment,” Igor Kuzmin of the National Cancer Institute said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “The diversity of this disease may limit the potential for commercialization of new treatments approaches by the industry.”
While lymphoma does not have as much research behind it as compared to other forms of cancer, Kuzman warns that the disease has been increasing and becoming even more deadly, showing that the Iowa-Mayo SPORE will be busier than ever.
“According to the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program data, it is estimated that in 2017 there will be a total of more than 80,000 new cases of lymphoma in the U.S. alone,” Kuzman said. “In 2016, a total of more than 20,000 people are expected to die of different forms of lymphoma. Lymphomas remain a serious medical problem affecting thousands of individuals.”