skip to main content

Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE)

Through the Translational Research Program, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) brings together the experience and expertise of research scientists from across the nation to collaborate in interdisciplinary translational research. This collaborative research effort called Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) is a type of research grant that focuses on specific cancer types.

Focusing research on prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of the specific cancer simultaneously, the SPORE team can make significant progress to reduce the incidence and mortality by cancer type as well as improve survival and quality of life for cancer patients.

Common Pathway of Cancers

Within the SPORE grant, research scientists and clinicians work together to determine a common pathway that is shared across various cancers types. Identifying these common themes in cancer pathways can then expedite the translation or movement of basic scientific findings into the clinical settings to effectively treat patients. Additionally, through observational research, the SPORE teams work to determine the individual or population based biological factors that affect the incidence and progression of these cancers.

The center leads three SPORE's:

Rogel Cancer Center and Karmanos Cancer Institute Awarded Prostate SPORE Grant

As one of the first NCI-funded SPORE in the country, the University of Michigan (UM) Prostate SPORE was established in 1995. In the 2019 renewal of the Prostate SPORE, we combined forces with Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit to leverage the strength of both institution and expand capabilities. The newly formed “Michigan” Prostate SPORE (co-directed by Dr. Arul Chinnaiyan and Dr. Ganesh Palapattu at UM and Dr. Elisabeth Heath at KCI) along with the team of clinician scientists and researchers, strive toward the following unified goals:

  • Support multidisciplinary, collaborative projects that pair basic and clinical investigators and draw on expertise of scientists from within and outside the prostate cancer field.
  • Recruit and train early-stage scientists to become the next generation of leaders in translational prostate cancer research.
  • Provide world-class infrastructure to carry out innovative, high-quality, high-impact translational prostate cancer research.
  • Support efforts to develop bench-to-bedside discoveries for clinical diagnostics and therapies.
  • Foster collaborations among investigators within the institution and with other institutional SPOREs or extramural prostate cancer programs.

Learn more about this SPORE by visiting the Prostate SPORE overview page.

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

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

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:

  • Identify and exploit genomic vulnerabilities in leiomyosarcoma, targeting the DNA repair pathway
  • Study the genetic epidemiology of leiomyosarcoma, defining the risk for cancer in families with cancer predisposition syndromes such as Li-Fraumeni Syndrome
  • 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. Learn more about the LMS SPORE.

Rogel awarded SPORE grant designed to further research on radiosensitization

The grant, worth $11.1M, is funded through NCI’s SPORE, or Specialized Program of Research Excellence, which are typically awarded to projects focused on a specific disease. This grant, however, will center around a cancer treatment approach – radiosensitization – and will look at how specific drugs make radiation more effective in locally advanced –neither surgically removeable nor metastatic—pancreas, brain and breast cancers.

The grant includes projects from across the cancer center, engaging collaboration among over 30 Rogel members and across a multi-dimensional approach to research. The projects are:

  • Pancreas cancer and immunotherapy: Although immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer care, it has not been effective in pancreatic cancer. This project will use the drug olaparib combined with radiation to make pancreas cancer susceptible to immune checkpoint blockade;
  • Brain cancer and metabolism: Glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain tumor, is rarely cured with standard treatment (radiation plus chemotherapy). This project will use the medication mycophenolate mofetil (CellceptTM), that decreases a key metabolite, GTP, which causes radiation resistance;
  • Breast cancer and repair of DNA damage: Women with breast cancer and multiple positive lymph nodes are at high risk for local recurrence even after standard treatment with chemotherapy and surgery followed by radiation therapy. This project proposes to use CDK4/6 inhibitors, which prevent the breast cancer cells from repairing radiation-induced DNA damage.

National Leadership in Translational Research

Major discoveries made by our clinician scientists and researchers through strong collaborative efforts have made our program a national leader in translational research as we strive to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with prostate cancer. These close collaborations not only include investigators from across the University of Michigan campus but also other institutions, industries, national networks that have contributed to advancing science through translational discovery.