Campus & Community

BWH awarded $14M grant for skin cancer research

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Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) announced last month that the hospital’s Department of Dermatology has been awarded a Skin Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This five-year, $14.25 million research initiative – the largest the NIH has ever awarded to a dermatology department nationally – will be led by principal investigator Thomas S. Kupper, M.D., chairman of dermatology at BWH.

The Skin Cancer SPORE, which will be based at BWH under Kupper, is designed to promote interdisciplinary research and to facilitate the bi-directional exchange of information between the scientists who study skin cancer and the physicians who treat it. Researchers at other area hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School (HMS) – including Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and Children’s Hospital – will collaborate with investigators from BWH in this research.

“The SPORE award will give us an opportunity to bring together some of the best people in the field of skin cancer research,” Kupper said. “I believe this collaborative effort will lead us to a better understanding of how we can prevent and treat this disease.”

The SPORE program was created in 1992 to bring new ideas about the causes and genetics of cancer to clinical care settings where the disease is diagnosed and treated. Over the past two years, SPORE-sponsored research initiatives in cancer of the breast, lung, prostate, and ovaries have been funded at several institutions nationwide. The BWH-based SPORE is the first skin cancer SPORE to be fully funded.

The program includes several research projects focusing on malignant melanoma, a deadly skin cancer whose incidence is increasing faster than that of any other cancer, and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL), a less common skin cancer that can also be lethal. These research projects fall into three different areas of investigation – genetics, immunology, and population science.

The SPORE also provides funding for the establishment of core facilities – centralized units that provide services to a range of researchers – in biostatistics, pathology, immune monitoring, and clinical data management.

Additionally, the SPORE includes a career development award for promising young cutaneous oncologists and dermatologists as well as a developmental project program, which will fund new and innovative skin cancer diagnosis and treatment theories that are in the early stages of development.