Specialized Program of Research Excellence Award (SPORE)
UT Southwestern Medical Center’s leadership in kidney cancer was recognized with an $11 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) on August 1, 2016. The Program received the NCI’s prestigious Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) award for kidney cancer. Along with the Harvard Cancer Center, UT Southwestern is one of only two institutions in the U.S. to have received such distinction since the inception of the Program in 1992. The UT Southwestern Program was scored as “exceptional” by the NCI. The award provides partial support for research activities as well as infrastructure.
For more details, see the kidney cancer program's SPORE page.
Award-Winning Immunology Research
Ongoing efforts seek to leverage the power of the immune system to fight kidney cancer. An important step of the immune attack is mounting an inflammatory response. Inflammation can be induced through different mechanisms but two critical processes were discovered at UTSW. Bruce Beutler, M.D., identified a class of receptors, Toll-like receptors (or TLRs), that are essential to induce inflammation in a variety of contexts. For this work, Dr. Beutler received the Nobel Prize in 2011.
A second pathway that works in conjunction with TLRs is the cGAS-STING pathway. The cGAS-STING pathway was characterized by Zhijian “James” Chen, Ph.D., for which he was recognized by the National Academy of Sciences in 2012, and with the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in 2018. Both of these pathways are being harnessed to unleash the full potential of the immune system against cancer with multiple trials evaluating the potential of TLR and STING agonists.