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SPORE in Skin Cancer Research

The Yale SPORE in Skin Cancer is the result of an $11.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to improve risk assessment, measures for diagnosis and prognosis, and therapies for patients with two types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Basal and squamous cell carcimomas are the most common skin cancers diagnosed in the United States and melanoma is the most devastating type of skin cancer with little effective therapy available once it has spread beyond the primary site.

The Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Skin Cancer grant supports multidisciplinary research that extends from the laboratory bench to cancer patients in need. Ruth Halaban, senior research scientist in the Department of Dermatology and Yale Cancer Center member, is the principal investigator of the multi-faceted project.

The Yale SPORE studies assess environmental and genetic factors in early onset of basal cell carcinoma. The results will help establish national guidelines on modifying behavior and on prevention as well as identification of new drug targets. Another expected outcome of the studies is development of an efficient system to assess a patient's likelihood of responding to therapy. Patients will be selected for specific therapy based on characteristics of their cancer cells.

An expected translational application is the development of blood or tissue tests for patients undergoing treatment that will monitor the impact of the drug so clinicians can better decide whether or not to continue with treatment. The studies will also introduce novel immunological therapies that break tumor immune-tolerance and boost patient immune response to eradicate cancer cells.

“The series of studies in the SPORE collectively represent a striking illustration of how ideas and results generated by solid basic science translate into preclinical and clinical investigation," said Halaban. "The team of researchers spans basic science and clinical departments around the University. The outcomes will be a reflection of the wide range of expertise involved in this project and we hope this will lead to improved diagnosis and treatment for patients.”

The SPORE is composed of four major translational projects and three core facilities. It also includes developmental research projects and a career development program directed by Robert Tigelaar, MD, Professor of Dermatology and Immunobiology.

The SPORE includes investigators in Dermatology, Medical Oncology, Pathology, Genetics, Immunobiology, Laboratory Medicine, Epidemiology and Public Health and Surgery. Their basic science and clinical expertise ranges from non-melanoma skin cancers, melanoma, and molecular biology, genome-wide analysis, immunology, oncology, cancer prevention, population biology and population studies. Other team members are experts in bioinformatics, biostatistics and artificial intelligence.