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Yale Cancer Center Awarded NIH SPORE for Head and Neck Cancer Research

September 24, 2020

Yale Cancer Center (YCC) researchers were awarded a five-year, $11.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund the Yale Head and Neck Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE). The SPORE program harnesses the strengths of academic cancer centers by bringing together experts in oncology, immunobiology, pharmacology, molecular biology, pathology, epidemiology, and addiction science to collaborate on projects. The goal of the Yale Head and Neck Cancer SPORE (YHN-SPORE) is to address critical barriers to treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) due to resistance to immunotherapy, DNA damaging, and targeted therapy.

“Head and neck cancer is a devastating disease, with even successful treatments causing significant after effects, and yet research into head and neck cancer is relatively less funded than research into other cancers. Team research will be critical to making progress for people with head and neck cancer, and the award of this SPORE in head and neck cancer will make a significant difference in helping us advance treatment options for this difficult-to-treat disease,” said Barbara Burtness, MD, Principal Investigator, Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology), and Co-Leader, Developmental Therapeutics Research Program at YCC. “The grant will facilitate collaborations between basic, translational, and clinical scientists from our labs and institutions around the country to help identify new curative therapies for our patients.”

HNSCC is the seventh most common cancer globally; annually in the United States over 64,000 cases are diagnosed. Current treatments often result in functional impairment, disfigurement, pain, or increased non-cancer mortality, even for patients who are cured, and there are over 13,000 deaths from HNSCC annually. The YHN-SPORE is a collaboration with Fox Chase Cancer Center and the University of North Carolina Lineberger Cancer Center, and is one of three SPOREs awarded to YCC.

“This is very exciting news for YCC and will catapult translational head and neck cancer research at Smilow Cancer Hospital,” said Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, Director of YCC and Physician-in-Chief at Smilow Cancer Hospital. “This new SPORE represents a highly translational, transdisciplinary team of researchers who will employ deep disease-based expertise to leverage the extraordinary scientific strength of many different departments at our cancer center and with the outstanding resources of cancer centers around the U.S.”

“The investigators participating in our collaborative head and neck cancer SPORE have had significant and far-reaching impact on the field of HNSCC over the past 20 years through paradigm-shifting translational and clinical research,” said Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, Chief of Medical Oncology at YCC and Smilow Cancer Hospital and Associate Cancer Center Director for Translational Research at YCC. Over the last decade we have fostered a pilot program focused on building translational research and SPOREs at Yale and it’s wonderful to have seen this team progress and develop under the leadership of Dr. Burtness.”

Submitted by Anne Doerr on September 24, 2020