- Houston, TX
- MD Anderson Cancer Center Press Release
Nearly 38,000 men and women in this country will develop head and neck cancers in 2002, according to the American Cancer Society. Now, the first Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant to study these cancers has been awarded to a national cancer center. The National Cancer Institute recently presented M. D. Anderson with a $12 million SPORE grant to study head and neck cancers, which include cancers of the:
* nasal cavity
* salivary gland
“M. D. Anderson has made great strides in treating head and neck cancer patients while maintaining quality of life for our patients,” says Dr. Waun Ki Hong, the lead investigator on M. D. Anderson’s latest SPORE.
Hong is head of the institution’s Division of Cancer Medicine and chairman of the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology. The grant’s co-lead investigators are Drs. Reuben Lotan, professor of medicine, and Gary Clayman, professor of head and neck surgery, both in the Department of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology. “We are already hard at work, and with this addition, we hope to make more progress in reducing head and neck cancer and ensure that patients with these diseases receive state-of-the-art medical care with cutting-edge therapeutic approaches.”
The head and neck SPORE grant will support research in five key areas:
Genetic Susceptibility Markers: Although head and neck cancer is known to be associated with tobacco and alcohol use, only a small subset of users will ever develop the disease. To find better methods to identify high-risk subgroups for screening, early detection, behavioral modification and chemoprevention, researchers will evaluate a group of patients with newly diagnosed oral cancers and/or precancerous lesions.
Angiogenic Therapy: The major cause of death from squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck is the metastasis, or spread, to other organs. Researchers hypothesize that the aggressive nature of head and neck cancer is associated with an imbalance between pro- and anti-angiogenic molecules that feed or starve tumors. A Phase II clinical trial studying the anti-angiogenic agent PEG-IFN will be conducted in patients with surgically resectable squamous cell cancers of the head and neck.
Targeting EGF receptors for chemoprevention in head and neck cancer: Researchers will enroll 102 patients with precancerous oral lesions in a clinical trial to study the EGF receptor inhibitor Iressa® to determine its effectiveness in preventing oral cancers.
P53 therapy for reversal of pre-malignancies of the oral cavity: Pre-malignancies of the oral cavity and oropharynx have a high risk of progression to invasive squamous carcinomas. Biochemoprevention studies conducted at M. D. Anderson suggest that these cancer sites are resistant to even the most active preventive agents. Response rates to cis-retinoic acid and interferon, for example, are just 15%. A Phase I/II study will be conducted to test p53 gene therapy as a chemopreventive agent in patients with pre-malignant oral lesions.
Apoptosis or cell death: Studies have shown that a resistance to the normal and anticipated death of cells over time, rather than increased multiplication of cancer cells, is how malignant cells accumulate in patients. Researchers will examine numerous retinoids – alone and in combination – to assess their potential as head and neck cancer therapies.
Since 1992, NCI has awarded grants to cancer centers for concentrated research projects that promote interdisciplinary and translational laboratory research (research that can be quickly converted, or translated, from knowledge into direct patient care applications). The M. D. Anderson SPORE team includes researchers and specialists in head and neck surgery, as well as medical oncology, pathology, basic science, genetics, and biostatistics. Funds from the SPORE grant will also establish a career development program to train physicians and scientists with a focus on translational research in head and neck cancer. “The SPORE grant pushes M. D. Anderson’s already strong translational research efforts in head and neck cancer to a new level, enhancing our multidisciplinary approach to the disease,” Dr. Hong says. “With this grant, we want to rapidly increase our progress in the basic understanding of the disease, so we can develop new approaches to prevention, treatment and early diagnosis of head and neck cancer.”