SARC Receives National Cancer Institute Award For Sarcoma Research

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ANN ARBOR — The Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration, an Ann Arbor nonprofit consortium dedicated to providing infrastructure to support collaborative sarcoma research, announced today that it has received a Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This grant will provide $11.5 million over five years in support of sarcoma translational research.

Sarcoma is a relatively rare cancer that can occur in the bones and the soft connective tissues, like muscle and fat.  Approximately 15,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year, accounting for less than 1 percent of adult cancers and approximately 15 percent of childhood cancers. Funding for sarcoma research has been limited. This grant will support research essential to identifying new therapies.

The SARC SPORE, one of only two in the country dedicated to sarcoma, is a large-scale collaboration led by SARC that is designed to improve the understanding of the underlying biology of sarcoma and to develop novel diagnostic tests and therapies for patients with sarcoma. This collaboration brings together a broad-based multi-disciplinary investigative team anchored by multiple researchers from the Harvard Cancer Center, the NCI, the University of Michigan Cancer Center, and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, as well as key leadership from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Cancer Research and Biostatistics (CRAB), and Columbia University.

“The SARC SPORE is a highly innovative approach for integrating translational and clinical study of an orphan malignancy that has historically been under-funded and under-studied,” said Raphael E. Pollock, M.D., professor of surgery and director of the Sarcoma Research Center at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who serves as the SARC SPORE’s Program Director and Principal Investigator. “Since the early 1970s, overall five-year survival rates for sarcoma have remained static at about 50 percent. This project has the potential to provide major therapeutic advances for sarcomas.”

Denise Reinke, SARC president and COO said: “The SARC SPORE presents an unprecedented opportunity for advancement in the diagnosis and treatment of sarcoma.  Given the rarity of sarcoma, a well-planned and organized collaboration among dedicated sarcoma experts is needed to accelerate translational research. The SARC SPORE team of investigators is poised to lead advancements to benefit sarcoma patients.”

“As the largest and most productive sarcoma clinical research and correlative science group worldwide, enrolling more patients in sarcoma clinical trials than any other organization, SARC is uniquely positioned to lead this SPORE,” said McHenry Tichenor, chairman of the board of SARC. “We believe this collaborative effort with leading research institutions will link insightful translational science with cutting-edge clinical trials to have a tremendous impact on sarcoma patient outcomes.  We owe a debt of gratitude to the SARC leaders who conceived of a SARC SPORE several years ago, and the many doctors and researchers who collaboratively spent countless hours developing the research plan and prosecuting the application.”

Under the SARC SPORE, investigators will conduct laboratory and clinical projects to understand the cellular and molecular basis of sarcoma progression and spread of the disease by examining the metastatic cascade and the genes and signaling pathways that control it. The investigators hope that identifying vulnerable molecular points within these processes in specific sarcoma subtypes will provide the foundation for developing new therapies. The SARC SPORE research will also focus on molecularly-driven diagnostic approaches to improve early detection of primary as well as metastatic/recurrent sarcoma.

SARC and the SARC SPORE members will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with existing SPORE projects in other tumor types, allowing them to share data and information that could impact sarcoma research and patient care.  In addition, the SARC SPORE includes a Developmental Projects Program designed to ensure continual renewal of high-quality scientific endeavors under the SPORE, as well as a Career Development Program that will provide the incentive and structure necessary to bring new investigators into the sarcoma multidisciplinary translational research arena.

Sarcoma is a cancer of connective tissue, which includes the bony skeleton and the soft tissues that support the bones such as muscle, and fat, that may metastasize (or spread) to other parts of the body. It can occur anywhere in the body and the location, size and grade of the tumor are important variables that can influence treatment and outcome.

Sarcoma accounts for 15 percent of pediatric cancers, but just 1 percent of all adult cancers. It is, however, the most common solid tumor found in young adults today.

Soft tissue sarcomas occur more frequently than bone sarcomas with more than 50 different subtypes. All these subtypes differ in terms of their tissue of origin, clinical behavior, age of occurrence, aggressiveness, the way they spread, genetic alterations, and their sensitivity to certain therapies. Soft tissue sarcomas account for 1.6 percent of all malignant tumors diagnosed in the United States.

Bone sarcomas are less common and account for only 0.2 percent of all cancers in the country with about 2,800 new cases in the United States diagnosed each year.

SARC is a not-for-profit consortium representing physician clinician-scientists who have common interest in developing new and effective treatments for patients diagnosed with sarcoma. SARC’s mission is to provide the collaborative platform needed to support research for the prevention, treatment and cure of sarcoma.

SARC bridges all sarcoma stakeholders – from patients and advocacy groups to pharmaceutical companies, physicians, and academic institutions – creating a unity of purpose in the fight against this disease.  By bringing together all the necessary expertise and experience under one roof, SARC maximizes the effectiveness of sarcoma clinical trial investment, executing all study phases and providing the pathway for translating results into new and effective treatments.

More at www.sarctrials.org.

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