December 14, 2007

Vanderbilt-Ingram ranks among tops in NCI awards

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Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D.

Vanderbilt-Ingram ranks among tops in NCI awards

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center ranks seventh in the nation in terms of research awards from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

In Fiscal Year 2007 Vanderbilt-Ingram received 147 grants for a total of $66,264,603 in NCI funding.

“This is the first time we have ranked among the top 10 research institutions in funding from the National Cancer Institute,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., interim director of Vanderbilt-Ingram. “This dramatic increase in grant awards is evidence of the growing strength of our cancer research program. It's a tribute to our entire cancer enterprise and our approach to team science.”

The NCI released grant totals for 736 institutions. The top six grantees are University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Johns Hopkins University, Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the University of California San Francisco.

Vanderbilt-Ingram's ascension to seventh place comes at a time when the level of federal funding for health care research has been shrinking in real dollars.

Among the largest NCI awards to investigators at Vanderbilt are the cancer center's Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grants.

Vanderbilt-Ingram has received three major SPORE grants:

• Lung Cancer, led by principal investigators David Carbone, M.D., Ph.D., Harold L. Moses professor of Cancer Research, and David Johnson, M.D, Cornelius Abernathy Craig Chair in Medical and Surgical Oncology;

• Breast Cancer, led by principal investigator Carlos Arteaga, M.D., vice-chancellor's professor of Breast Cancer Research, and;

• Gastrointestinal Cancer, led by principal investigators Robert Coffey Jr., M.D., Ingram professor of Cancer Research and Joe B. Wallace professor of Medicine, and Mace Rothenberg, M.D., Ingram professor of Cancer Research.

The biggest NCI cancer research grant — which also represents one of the largest R01 awards for the entire VUMC enterprise — provides funding for the Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS), led by William Blot, Ph.D., professor of Medicine.

Researchers with Vanderbilt-Ingram, Meharry Medical College and the International Epidemiology Institute are recruiting nearly 100,000 people in the South for a longterm study of cancer incidence in the region. Nearly two-thirds of the recruits will be African-Americans so investigators can try to determine why this group has higher rates of many types of cancer.

Since many population-based studies underrepresent African-Americans, the SCCS could fill important gaps in population-based research about cancer.

“The high-impact research we are doing here does more than simply advance our scientific knowledge,” said Pietenpol.

“We are leaders in translational research — applying the things we learn in the lab to treatment methods for cancer patients. Our goal is to have a positive impact on society, and funding for research is a critical element of this endeavor.”

“This is an extraordinary group of investigators,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research.

“At a time when many programs are shrinking, our cancer center investigators are achieving not only remarkable growth in NCI funding, but also are making game-changing advances that will make a difference for patients. This is an exciting time for cancer research at Vanderbilt,” Balser said.