Cancer Center Announcement

Case Comprehensive Cancer Center Receives
$11.3 Million to Establish GI SPORE- GI Cancers Research Center

September 16, 2011

The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center (Case CCC) has been awarded an $11.3 million research grant to establish a GI SPORE- GI Cancers Research Center at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). With this designation, CWRU joins only six other nationally recognized GI SPORE Centers of Excellence in the country. Researchers from CWRU, University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center and Cleveland Clinic, all members of the cancer center, collaborate in the research effort.

GI SPORE Principal Investigator, Sanford D. Markowitz, MD, PhD, Francis Wragg Ingalls Professor of Cancer Genetics in the Department of Medicine (Hematology and Oncology), said the GI SPORE team intends to battle these diseases by developing new tests to identify individuals who are susceptible to these cancers; new molecular tests to pick up cancers and pre-cancers in the early curable stages; new drugs for prevention of these cancers; and new treatment approaches, with particular emphasis on discovery of new targets for blocking the metastatic spread of these cancers.

"The Cancer Center is exceptionally proud of the accomplishments of the investigators that make up the GI SPORE," said Stan Gerson, MD, Director of the Case CCC and Asa & Patricia Shiverick and Jane Shiverick (Tripp) Professor of Hematological Oncology. "This is a special group of scientists that have put incredible efforts into remarkable science that will benefit our member institutions, our laboratories and the patients in this region of the country. Eventually, their discoveries will impact all patients with colon cancer in the country."

"This SPORE award provides the first recognition of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center as a powerhouse for research and therapy of gastrointestinal cancer and an outstanding national resource," said Nathan Berger, MD, GI SPORE Co-Principal Investigator, Director of the Center for Science, Health and Society and Hanna-Payne Professor of Experimental Medicine.

Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. with 154,000 new cases and 52,000 deaths per year. Esophageal cancer is, along with melanoma, the most rapidly increasing cause of cancer deaths in America. "Colon and esophagus cancers are a major cause of mortality both in Cleveland and nationwide," said Neal J. Meropol, MD, Case CCC Associate Director for Clinical Research, Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Oncology), and Chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology. "The GI SPORE brings together a critical mass of scientists working on these problems to accelerate the development of new strategies to prevent and treat these cancers."

The GI SPORE investigators agree that one of the significant impacts of the GI SPORE funding will be direct translation of basic research discoveries into clinical care of cancer patients.

"Our study will be the first to evaluate the effectiveness of an emerging technology developed at Case, stool DNA testing, in the detection of large polyps," said Gregory Cooper, MD, GI SPORE project co-leader and Professor of Medicine (Gastroenterology). "These are the precursors for the vast majority of colon cancers."

The GI SPORE team will pay particular attention to understanding the genetic basis of racial disparities in colon cancer. According to Joseph Willis, MD, GI SPORE project co-leader and Associate Professor of Pathology, the incidence of colon cancer in African Americans is 15 to 23% higher than Caucasians, is associated with presentation at higher stage, and has a higher stage specific mortality at every age level. African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with and to die as a result of colon cancer than any other ethnic or racial group.

Li Li, MD, PhD, GI SPORE project co-leader, Case CCC Associate Director for Prevention Research, and Associate Professor of Family Medicine, said the team will use "cutting-edge home-grown genomic technology for screening and early detection of colorectal cancer". With African Americans making up 40% of the study population, this research could have significant implications for surveillance and reduction of colorectal cancer disparity, he said.

All work of the GI SPORE team will be executed in Cleveland, with an aim at bringing a direct benefit to individuals who live right here in the community. "The $11.3 million dollars of new NIH support for our work will strengthen the cancer research community in Cleveland," said Markowitz, "allowing us to recruit and retain the best and the brightest young researchers, maintain and expand research jobs in our medical center, and enhance our position as one of the leading centers for biomedical research in the country."

SPORE Faculty
Sanford D. Markowitz, MD, PhD, SPORE Principal Investigator (CWRU/UHCMC)
Nathan A. Berger, MD, SPORE Co-Principal Investigator (CWRU/UHCMC)
Jill Barnholtz-Sloan, PhD (CWRU)
Mary Bronner, MD (Cleveland Clinic)
Amitabh Chak, MD (CWRU/UHCMC)
Gregory S. Cooper, MD (CWRU/UHCMC)
Dawn M. Dawson, MD (CWRU/UHCMC)
Robert C. Elston, PhD (CWRU)
Stephen Fink, PhD (CWRU)
Janet Houghton, PhD (Cleveland Clinic)
Ian Lavery, MD (Cleveland Clinic)
Li Li, MD, PhD (CWRU/UHCMC)
Neal J. Meropol, MD (CWRU/UHCMC)
Helen Moinova, PhD (CWRU)
John Pink, PhD (CWRU)
Abdus Sattar, PhD (CWRU)
Mark Schluchter, PhD (CWRU)
Shuying Sun, PhD (CWRU)
Cheryl Thompson, PhD (CWRU)
Martina Veigl, PhD (CWRU)
Zhenghe John Wang, PhD (CWRU)
Joseph E. Willis, MD (CWRU/UHCMC)
James K.V. Willson, MD (UT Southwestern)
Guo-Qiang Zhang, PhD (CWRU)
Xiaofeng Zhu, PhD (CWRU)