Fox Chase Cancer Center Receives Competitive SPORE Grant for Head and Neck Cancer Research Collaboration

Erica Golemis, PhD, deputy chief science officer and co-leader of the Molecular Therapeutics Program at Fox Chase.
Erica Golemis, PhD, deputy chief science officer and co-leader of the Molecular Therapeutics Program at Fox Chase.

PHILADELPHIA (September 30, 2020)—Researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center were recently awarded a grant through the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to fund a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) for Head and Neck Cancer.

“SPORE grants are among the most prestigious of awards bestowed by the NCI and fund critical translational research by teams of basic scientists and clinical researchers,” said Richard I. Fisher, MD, president and CEO of Fox Chase Cancer Center. “Under the exceptional leadership of Dr. Erica Golemis, we at Fox Chase are honored to collaborate with the other centers to bring about important treatment advances for patients with head and neck cancers.”

Head and neck cancers are a group of cancers that start in the lining of the oral cavity, throat, voice box, or vocal cords. These squamous cell carcinomas account for approximately 4% of all cancers in the United States and can be complex to treat, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Over 65,000 people are estimated to be diagnosed with head and neck cancer this year, and over 14,000 deaths from head and neck cancer are estimated this year.

The five-year, $11.7 million grant funds a SPORE collaboration among Fox Chase Cancer Center, Yale Cancer Center, and the University of North Carolina Lineberger Cancer Center to address obstacles in treating head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to focus sustained effort on improving treatment for this devastating disease,” said Erica Golemis, PhD, deputy chief science officer and co-leader of the Molecular Therapeutics Program at Fox Chase.

“My collaborative project with Dr. Burtness of Yale aims to develop therapy for patients that have resistance to normal forms of treatment for advanced head and neck cancer. As a SPORE project, it’s designed fundamentally to connect insights in the labs directly to clinical trials taking place at Yale, Fox Chase, and Lineberger,” she added.

The NCI established SPOREs to promote interdisciplinary research and to help basic research findings move quickly from the laboratory to the patient. The grants are highly competitive. In order to earn one, institutions must demonstrate a high degree of collaboration between first-rate scientists and clinicians, and show excellence in translational research projects.

“Having the funding for this is exciting. I think it’s great to have a cadre of people who are interested and qualified to be working in head and neck cancer because it is one of the cancers that is understudied and underfunded,” said Barbara Burtness, MD, principal investigator and professor of medicine (medical oncology) at Yale Cancer Center.

Before moving to Yale, Burtness held many roles at Fox Chase, including chief of head and neck oncology. “This award will make a huge difference in exploring advanced treatments for this disease,” she said.

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence six consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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