Alabama's top cancer center earns $11.5 million renewal of its breast cancer SPORE

October 08, 2007

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - As National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October has been a key time to recognize the strides made in breast cancer prevention, detection and treatment, and to press forward in the battle against the disease.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recognized the University of Alabama at Birmingham's (UAB) commitment to cancer research by renewing a major grant to support groundbreaking breast cancer science and discovery. NIH has awarded the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center an $11.5 million renewal grant of its Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in breast cancer from the National Cancer Institute.

The UAB breast cancer SPORE is among 11 such projects funded nationally. Since its inception more than five years ago, the UAB program has grown into one of the most productive and highest-ranked efforts to combat the disease.

"There's no question this grant is a fantastic honor, and a major recognition of our award-winning women's cancer care," said Cancer Center Director Edward Partridge, M.D. "What this means for the women of Alabama and the region is that our breast health program is stronger than ever. It also means that women who come to UAB with breast cancer, or risk factors for the disease, are potentially eligible for leading-edge treatments."

The $11.5 million grant will focus primarily on experimental compounds and cellular targets that have shown promise in preventing, slowing or effectively treating breast cancer. Three of the four main projects involve targeted therapies and anti-cancer compounds that were discovered or developed in the basic science laboratories of UAB, and will soon be tested here.

"The great fundamental strength of this SPORE is seizing on translational research - taking a finding from the lab, and then moving it into clinical testing to see if it helps prevent, treat or conquer breast cancer," said Kirby I. Bland, M.D., chair of the UAB Department of Surgery and principal investigator of UAB's breast cancer SPORE. Albert LoBuglio, M.D., is the co-principal investigator.

Limited federal funds for cancer research means that NIH-backed projects, particularly SPORE grants, must demonstrate potential for use in patients. "Each of these UAB breast cancer projects have already shown great potential for reducing cancer burden," Bland said.

The grant renewal will fund these four primary projects:
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In addition to these research projects, the SPORE grant includes a career-development program to recruit and train the next generation of breast cancer researchers. It also includes a pilot-project component that allows some of the grant money to be earmarked for early-phase innovative cancer research work.

The NIH SPORE program started in 1992 as a way to promote interdisciplinary research and speed the transition of basic science findings to the clinical testing arena, all with the hope of reducing cancer death rates and improving survival.

In addition to the breast cancer award, UAB's Comprehensive Cancer Center holds SPORE grants in brain and pancreatic cancers. The Cancer Center is among the few federally funded cancer research centers in the Southeast, and the only one within a five-state region to have the NIH comprehensive cancer center designation.

University of Alabama at Birmingham

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