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U-M to lead multi-site $12M grant to study rare type of sarcoma

Date Visible: 
10/13/2022 - 10:45am

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10 leading cancer centers will focus on genetics and biology to understand inherited risks of leiomyosarcoma and improve how it is diagnosed and treated

Larry Baker, DO and Scott Schuetz, MD, PhD.
Larry Baker, D.O. (left) and Scott Schuetz, M.D., Ph.D.

ANN ARBOR, Michigan — An international team of researchers led by the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center received a collaborative grant from the National Cancer Institute with a goal of bringing new insights into leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that seemingly originates in smooth muscle.

An estimated 1,700 people are diagnosed each year with leiomyosarcoma.

“Rare diseases, such as leiomyosarcoma require extraordinary collaboration to make progress. We recognized that to effectively study a rare cancer we had to assemble an outstanding international team from premier sarcoma centers,” said principal investigator Scott Schuetze, M.D. Ph.D., clinical professor of internal medicine at U-M.

The grant, worth $12.3 million, is through the NCI’s SPORE, or Specialized Program of Research Excellence, which funds collaborative, interdisciplinary translational cancer research. 

“Our goal is to improve the knowledge regarding leiomyosarcoma genetics, biology and therapeutic approaches to rationally develop novel and more effective therapies. This includes combinations of different agents targeting different pathways to exploit unique vulnerabilities,” said principal investigator Laurence Baker, D.O., Collegiate Professor of internal medicine and pharmacology at U-M.

Researchers from major sarcoma centers from across the world, including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham and Women’s Hospital; the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Australia; University of Utah; Mayo Clinic; University of Toronto, Canada; Weill Cornell Medical College; The Ohio State University; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Cold Spring Harbor National Laboratory comprise this collaborative team.

The Leiomyosarcoma SPORE includes three projects, three cores (biospecimen, data analysis and administration), and two programs (career enhancement and developmental research).

The program will include the largest-ever cohort of patients with leiomyosarcoma, with three overarching projects:

  1. Identify and exploit genomic vulnerabilities in leiomyosarcoma, targeting the DNA repair pathway
  2. Study the genetic epidemiology of leiomyosarcoma, defining the risk for cancer in families with cancer predisposition syndromes such as Li-Fraumeni Syndrome
  3. Develop new biomarkers to assess more quickly if a new therapy has benefit

In addition to the 10 cancer centers involved, the SPORE leverages partnerships with the Australia and New Zealand Sarcoma Association, Li-Fraumeni Syndrome Association, International Sarcoma Kindred Study, EDISYN, NCI Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program and EMD Serono.

Citation: National Cancer Institute grant 1P50CA272170-01