The National Cancer Institute has for the first time awarded a prestigious Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant to researchers at the Siteman Cancer Center and Washington University School of Medicine. The three-year grant is the sole SPORE project currently focusing on endometrial cancer research.
For Paul Goodfellow, PhD, and David Mutch, MD, leaders of the SPORE team, the award demonstrates a commitment to what these investigators describe as a seriously underfunded area of women’s cancer research.
“Endometrial carcinoma is the orphan disease of gynecological oncology, despite the fact that its incidence is rising every year and its mortality increasing,” says geneticist Goodfellow, principal investigator for the SPORE grant and professor of surgery, genetics and obstetrics and gynecology. “The disease has been sorely understudied, even though 40,000 cases are diagnosed yearly with more than 7,000 women dying annually. That’s almost twice as many as die of cervical cancer.”
Goodfellow and Mutch, a gynecologic oncologist, clinical co-principal investigator for the SPORE grant and the Ira C. and Judith Gall Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, have collaborated for more than 15 years to find the genetic roots of this disease, the fourth most common cancer in American women. What sets them apart from many research partnerships is the “marriage” they’ve created between basic science and clinical research.
“SPOREs are designed to encourage interdisciplinary research, which in turn promotes translational research — moving laboratory discoveries into clinical settings as quickly as possible or bringing observations made in patient settings to the laboratory environment for further study,” Mutch says.
The four research projects currently under way cover all aspects of endometrial cancer, from continuing to uncover its causes to developing more effective treatments. Two current projects focus on developing and testing new nontoxic therapies that target cancer cells and reduce side effects. The others are designed to develop tools to better understand which patients are at the highest risk for recurrence and tools that identify women born with the gene that puts them at risk for inherited endometrial cancer.