U cancer researchers net $37.5 million for new research in pancreatic, blood, and bone marrow cancers
Funds a confirmation position Masonic Cancer Center as a national leader in cancer clinical care and research
University of Minnesota cancer researchers have secured $37.5 million in grant funding from both the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The funding will spark new trials and clinical research in two of the Masonic Cancer Center’s top research areas: pancreatic and blood and bone marrow cancers.
Masonic Cancer Center pancreatic cancer researchers have won an $11.5 million Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in collaboration with the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). The rarely-awarded and prestigious SPORE grant will help researchers expand their work in genomic medicine and in developing new anti-cancer agents.
Blood and bone marrow cancer researchers Philip McGlave, M.D., and Jeffrey Miller, M.D., received a five-year program project research grant totaling nearly $26 million from the National Cancer Institute. The grants will allow research teams to continue work that will increase the availability, safety, and effectiveness of stem cell transplantation and cell therapies to improve treatment and survival for patients diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and other blood and bone marrow disorders.
The Promises of New Pancreatic Cancer Therapy
New SPORE grant funding will allow Masonic Cancer Center researchers to focus on the exploration of leading-edge biomarkers that may lead to improved diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. The grant also will allow further testing of new therapeutic agents that have shown promise in preventing, slowing or effectively treating the disease.
Many of the projects draw upon new discoveries in genomic medicine and combination therapies, said Donald Buchsbaum, Ph.D, a senior scientist at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and pancreatic SPORE leader. Selwyn Vickers, M.D., professor, chair of surgery and associate director of the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center will co-lead the project.
“Pancreatic cancer is an extremely difficult cancer for which few significant advances have been made in the past 30 years,” Vickers said. “This SPORE grant will allow scientists from two outstanding comprehensive cancer centers to work together to hopefully help change that – and most importantly – give patients a better chance of surviving this disease.”
Bone Marrow Transplant Progress…and What’s Upcoming
University of Minnesota Physicians McGlave and Miller have both produced recent stem cell transplant research breakthroughs – certainly a contributing factor to their continued funding.
Most recently, McGlave’s research team verified the effectiveness of umbilical cord blood transplants, which can be used in the majority of patients where a sibling is not available to serve as a stem cell donor.
Achievements by Miller’s research team include research on utilizing natural killer or “NK” cells to reduce the rate of relapse after transplant by leukemia patients. Natural killer cells are a naturally occurring type of cell that works as part of the human immune system to protect the body from invaders, such as viruses or tumors. NK cell transplants may be one key to lowering the relapse rate of leukemia, which currently returns in about 25 percent of patients who undergo stem cell transplants.
It’s what’s on the horizon, however, that’s may be most exciting.
With the new funding, the duo hope to conduct clinical trials to test the effectiveness of umbilical cord blood “T regulatory cells” to prevent graft-versus-host disease in transplant patients. They’ll also explore the role of young stem cells in umbilical cord blood in attempt to prevent leukemia, and lead clinical studies to determine the effect of natural killer cell therapy used in combination with transplant to reduce the leukemia and give the patient long-term survival.
--- Nick Hanson