University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

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Childhood Cancer Research at UCSF to Transcend Tissue Types With Innovative Grant

Unique $10 Million SPORE Award Builds on Two Decades of ‘Research Excellence’ Sept 8, 2015

Researchers at UC San Francisco are leading a five-year, $10 million research project dedicated to pediatric cancer, funded by the first grant of its kind to focus on a molecular pathway that underlies many cancers rather than on a cancer in a particular organ or tissue in the body.

The grant's design captures a growing understanding, spurred by genome sequencing, that cancers may be better diagnosed and treated if defined by genetic defects in particular molecular pathways, rather than by the tissues in which they originate.

The new grant was awarded under the Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) program of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health. SPORE grants, launched by the NCI in 1992, are among the most competitive and prestigious awards for cancer research.

“This new grant reflects researchers’ increasing realization that seemingly diverse cancers can be grouped together by common defects in molecular pathways. Moreover, the award is testament to UCSF’s great strengths in understanding and treating childhood cancer,” said Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS, president of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center (HDFCCC) and senior vice president for cancer services at UCSF Health.

Known as the DHART (Developmental and HyperActive Ras Tumor) SPORE, the grant caps more than 20 years of joint research by co-principal investigators Kevin M. Shannon, MD, of UCSF, and D. Wade Clapp, MD, of Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM), and their colleagues on neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a common inherited condition in which multiple different tissues develop abnormally. Patients with NF1 have a higher risk of developing a range of cancers, including certain forms of leukemia, which are usually diagnosed in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood.

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