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Developmental Research Program

The primary goal of the Developmental Research Program (DRP) of the Yale SPORE in Head & Neck Cancer (YHN-SPORE) is to identify and fund innovative pilot projects that possess translational potential to make an impact in the field of head & neck cancer in the areas of risk assessment, early detection, biomarkers for prognosis and therapy prediction, mechanisms of carcinogenesis/tumorigenesis, novel therapeutic targets, development of novel therapeutics, and novel treatment approaches.

Investigators of funded developmental research projects are strongly encouraged to collaborate with other investigators within and outside of the YHN-SPORE institutions, including other SPORE communities.

The purpose is to provide each funded DRP project with the potential to evolve into independent full SPORE projects or equivalent-scale study proposals.

Ultimately, along with the main YHN-SPORE projects, the outcome from this program will contribute to the reduction of head & neck cancer morbidity and mortality in the US and worldwide.

Award Amounts: Up to $50,000. Awardees may be eligible for a second year of funding contingent on progress during year one.

Purpose: To provide seed money to investigators to support studies with a strong translational component that have the potential to evolve into, or be incorporated into, a full Yale Head and Neck SPORE (YHN-SPORE) project, or other new NIH grant application. Projects of more limited scope (e.g., for smaller amounts and/or for shorter periods of time) will be at no competitive disadvantage in the review process. Multi-disciplinary collaborations and projects with the highest translational research potential will be prioritized.

Eligibility: Open to investigators who hold a faculty appointment at a YHN-SPORE affiliated academic institution (Yale University, University of North Carolina, Fox Chase Cancer Center and Temple University) who can be described by one of the following categories:

  1. 1) established investigators in head and neck cancer who wish to test an innovative, translationally-relevant idea not currently funded;
  2. 2) junior investigators holding a faculty appointment proposing innovative research in the arena of translational head and neck cancer who require preliminary data to apply for an R01 or equivalent research support;
  3. 3) independent investigators with a previous and/or current R01 or equivalent funding whose research to date has not been specifically directed at head and neck cancer, or even at cancer more generally, but who are interested in developing the applicability of their particular expertise to head and neck cancer.

Women and minority investigators are strongly encouraged to apply.

Requirements: If a grant is awarded, the P.I. and all co-investigators must agree to abide by the attached Grant Guidelines (page 4) and to participate in the YHN-SPORE DRP/CEP symposium to be held at Yale (or virtually) in June 2025.


  • Letter of Intent (recommended): March 22, 2024
  • Full application: May 24, 2024

Previous Developmental Research Awardees

2023 Developmental Research Awardees
  • Electronic cigarette-induced tongue carcinoma – Potential contribution of Fanconi Anemia DNA repair pathway (He Wang, MD, PhD; Yale University)
  • Targeting mechanisms of cell death for therapeutic benefit in HNSCC (Curtis Pickering, PhD; Yale University)
  • Defined genetic alterations as a biomarker predicting therapy response and prognosis in HPV-associated head and neck cancer (Natalia Issaeva, PhD / Travis Schrank, MD, PhD; University of North Carolina)
  • Leveraging mitochondrial stress to increase immune reactivity of Head and Neck Carcinomas (Lee Graves, PhD; University of North Carolina)
2022 Developmental Research Awardees
  • Nuclear integrity as a novel modulator of the radiation response in head and neck cancer (Megan King / Patrick Lusk, Yale University)
  • Autophagy inhibition to potentiate AURKA inhibitor therapy in head and neck cancer (Jong Woo Lee, Yale University)
2021 Developmental Research Awardees
  • Immunocompetent Syngeneic Mouse Models for Investigating Tumor Immune Microenvironment Dynamics (Antonio Amelio, University of North Carolina)
  • Defined genetic alterations as a biomarker predicting therapy response and prognosis in HPV-associated head and neck cancer (Natalia Isaeva, University of North Carolina)
  • Regulation of autophagy to optimize AURKA inhibition-mediated therapeutics in head and neck cancer (Jong Woo Lee)
Cycle 2
  • Discovery of New Biomarkers Associated with Immunotherapy Treatment in HNSCC (David Rimm, Yale University)
  • Investigating Genetic Ancestry and Therapeutic Response Among African American Oral Cavity and Laryngeal Cancer Patients (Camille Ragin, Fox Chase Cancer Center)
  • Understanding how HNSCC-associated ERK2 mutations sensitize to EGFR inhibition (Benjamin Turk, Yale University)

Developmental Research Program Directors

  • Anthony N. Brady Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology); Chief Translational Research Officer, Yale Cancer Center; Chief, Head and Neck Cancers/Sarcoma; Co-Leader, Developmental Therapeutics, Yale Cancer Center; Associate Cancer Center Director for Translational Research, Yale Cancer Center

  • Professor of Pharmacology and of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry; Co-Leader, Developmental Therapeutics, Yale Cancer Center; Co-Director Therapeutics/Chemotherapy Program