Arizona Cancer Center receives $11.5 million SPORE grant to fight Lymphoma

September 8, 2008
Contact: Ilya Sloan (520) 626-6401

TUCSON, Ariz. - The Arizona Cancer Center Lymphoma Program in partnership with the University of Rochester James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, has received an $11.5 million Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). These lead institutions will be collaborating with researchers from Virginia Commonwealth Massey Cancer Center.

The five-year Lymphoma SPORE award has been granted to only a very small group of similar research collaborations nationwide: Johns Hopkins University, University of Iowa/Mayo Clinic Rochester, City of Hope, and Baylor College of Medicine. The highly competitive grant will fund translational research projects designed to quickly advance findings from the laboratory to clinical settings and improve care and find cures.

“The internationally renowned lymphoma research groups in this SPORE complement each other’s abilities and this will advance productivity. This SPORE award reflects the belief that this partnership will be synergistic,” said Thomas P. Miller, MD, co-principal investigator for the SPORE and director of the Arizona Cancer Center Lymphoma Program.

Dr. Miller and Dr. Richard I. Fisher, director of the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center and principal investigator for the SPORE have worked collaboratively for over 25 years with shared leadership in the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG), the largest NCI-funded adult cancer research group in the nation. This established collaboration will help to quickly move new therapies to nationwide patient studies. “We have worked together designing clinical trials to improve treatment for patients with lymphoma, and together we have established many of the standard therapies used in the treatment of lymphoma,” said Dr. Miller.

The grant is a testament to both the cooperation that exists between clinical and basic scientists within the two programs and the collaborative environment that exists between the Arizona Cancer Center and the University of Rochester’s Wilmot Cancer Center.
“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,” said Dr. Fisher.

Lymphomas are 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 of lymphomas because the incidence has grown by nearly 80 percent in the past 30 years. This year, about 74,000 Americans will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and the less common Hodgkin’s disease.

“This grant will accelerate research at home and bring new therapies to patients at a faster rate. With this SPORE, the Arizona Cancer Center will now be viewed as one of the few world-class institutions in which to receive treatment for lymphomas,” said Dr. Miller.

The Arizona Cancer Center provides expert care for patients with cancer and is the only organization in Arizona offering specialized treatment for lymphoma patients.

At the Arizona Cancer Center, Dr. Miller is leading the efforts of the research team, which includes Daruka Mahadevan, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine, director of Phase 1 Clinical Trials; Daniel Persky, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine; Lisa Rimsza, MD, professor of pathology; Sylvan Green, MD, director of biometry; and Margaret Briehl, PhD, associate professor of pathology.

“Our lymphoma clinical translational research team is the best in the world. It has contributed greatly to an exquisite classification system based on histopathologic, immunologic, and genomic abnormality, which is ultimately hooked to prognosis and treatment selection,” said Arizona Cancer Center Director David S. Alberts. “Our deserving patients continue to benefit tremendously from Dr. Miller’s leadership and the remarkable talents of Drs. Daruka Mahadevan, Rimsza, Persky, Briehl, Green and Thomas Grogan!”
The Lymphoma Spore is the second prestigious SPORE for the Arizona Cancer Center. The Gastrointestinal Cancer Program recently received a five year $12 million Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant renewal from the National Cancer Institute.