Cancer Consortium: Research directions planned for global oncology, cancer imaging, radiation research

Programs will be part of a competing renewal for the Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium’s Cancer Center Support Grant from the National Cancer Institute
Dr. Marion Dorer, Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium administrator
Dr. Marion Dorer, Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium administrator Photo by Dean Forbes

Building on an impressive portfolio of research spanning Fred Hutch, the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital—the leadership of the Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium has proposed new research programs in preparation for its next funding cycle. Several of the nation’s top cancer experts convened recently to review and advise the Cancer Consortium on its accomplishments and future plans in basic, translational, clinical and public health sciences. These experts are endorsing a number of new or reorganized research programs, including ones focused on global oncology and cancer imaging and radiation research. The new programs will be part of a competing renewal for the Consortium’s Cancer Center Support Grant—a major award from the National Cancer Institute that provides the partnership its status as a comprehensive cancer center.

While each of the Consortium member institutions have separate organizational structures to house their scientific areas of emphasis, the joint cancer center structure draws faculty conducting cancer-related research from all three into a series of scientific research programs. In addition to fostering these cross-institutional research programs, the NCI grant also provides major funding for shared resources, infrastructure, the conduct of clinical trials, pilot project awards and funds for new faculty recruitment.

Consortium highlights from the past year

At the Oct. 1 meeting of the Consortium’s External Advisory Board, held in the Sze Auditorium, Consortium Director Dr. Larry Corey and colleagues updated the board members on the year’s accomplishments and proposed future directions, which include:

• Strong growth in funding and membership

- $253 million in direct dollars from the National Institutes of Health, including
- $85.5 million in direct dollars from the NCI
- $89.3 million in direct funding from other sources
- 28 scientists recruited in the past year, the vast majority as junior faculty members.
• Consortium fund awards for new research directions, high-risk projects, recruitment and early-stage, and investigator-initiated clinical trials

- $1,023,000 in pilot funding (awards of $50-100,000, providing support for new research directions and high-risk projects 
- $513,000 in recruitment awards to support five new investigators in the Consortium
- $218,000 that will partially fund four new early-stage, investigator-initiated clinical trials.

 A new program in Global Oncology

External advisers strongly support the creation of a new program in Global Oncology. The program will build on a number of international cancer research efforts, including Fred Hutch’s nearly decade-long partnership with the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI).

Co-led by Drs. Corey Casper and Denise Galloway, the Global Oncology Program will strive to:

- Expand oncology research in middle- and low-income countries
- Develop a strong program in infection-related cancers
- Increase research in novel methods of health care metrics

Among the research projects that will be housed in the new program are:

- A new collaboration with the UCI and funded by the Burkitt's Lymphoma Fund for Africa and the Martin-Fabert Foundation that uses an evidence-based strategy to provide comprehensive treatment for Burkitt’s lymphoma patients in Uganda and to complete outcomes research
- A program to expand training in HIV-AIDS malignancies in Uganda for research leaders, managers and implementers
- An NIH Provocative Question Grant to identify a viral causes of cancers common in immunosuppressed people, including some lymphomas, penile and vulvar cancers in people uninfected with HPV, and a wide variety of lung cancers in nonsmokers.

Much of the Consortium work in Global Oncology has been focused on the infection-related diseases that account for about 25 percent of cancers in Africa. This focus on infection-related cancers, their treatment and prevention was seen has having broader implications as a laboratory for learning how to develop the infrastructure and resources needed to treat cancer in resource-limited settings. The external advisers agreed that development of this new program has great potential to place the Consortium in a unique position as national and global leaders in research on Global Oncology. 

• New Cancer Imaging and Radiation Science Program

In addition, a new program in Cancer Imaging and Radiation Science was also proposed. While its goals will be further defined over the next year, it will focus on developing imaging biomarkers to guide patient selection for therapeutic decisions and treatment response, establishing a research base at the proton facility, slated to open in Spring 2013, and developing formal collaborations with the cancer cost and outcomes group. 

Cancer Network Coordinating Centers: More than biostatistics

Dr. Steve Self, program leader of Biostatistics and Biomathematics, gave an overview of Consortium leadership of Network Coordinating Centers.  Consortium members lead 10 national cancer networks, including the Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network, Early Detection Research Network, and Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics in Cancer Centers. 

External advisers agreed that Consortium leadership in national cancer networks, the vigor of biostatical activities, and the broad range of science occurring in these projects is and will continue to be a major asset to the Cancer Center. Moreover, these national efforts are viewed by the advisers as providing more than purely biostatistical support, as the history of major achievements in cancer prevention shows that national networks need to be leveraged to make progress on complex issues such as smoking and obesity. Consortium leadership was advised to seek ways to leverage the coordinating centers and their data repositories to advance cost-effectiveness research and other areas of Public Health and Clinical Research.   

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