3D illustration of Epiglottis, medical concept

What is the Head and Neck Cancer SPORE?

The University of Wisconsin Department of Human Oncology and the UW Carbone Cancer Center, under the direction of Principal Investigator Dr. Paul Harari, were awarded Wisconsin’s first NIH-funded Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in August 2016. This SPORE focuses on head and neck cancer (HNC) translational research, which means that the goals of each SPORE research project must link laboratory research (bench) to the clinic setting (bedside) to improve overall outcome for patients with HNC. The Wisconsin Head and Neck SPORE is composed of four main translational research projects, three cores and two pilot funding programs.

Why is Head and Neck Cancer Translational Research Important?

HNC is the sixth most common cancer worldwide with more than 600,000 new cases diagnosed annually. In the U.S. alone, there are approximately 56,000 newly diagnosed HNC patients each year. These patients frequently bear a disproportionate burden from their cancers based on the critical anatomic location of the disease. These tumors and their treatment often compromise speech, swallow and breathing function and can cause significant changes in physical appearance and social interactions. Efforts to improve cure rates must be carefully balanced with efforts to reduce treatment morbidity to enable a truly improved overall outcome and future for HNC cancer patients.

What are the Main Goals of the Wisconsin Head and Neck SPORE?

The broad objectives of this SPORE are to:

  • Promote multidisciplinary translational research in HNC
  • Improve overall survival and quality of life for patients with HNC
  • Develop new animal model systems of HNC to test novel targeted therapy strategies
  • Develop common resources (such as patient-derived tumor xenografts) to be shared across institutions to promote translational research
  • Translate promising new molecules developed at the University of Wisconsin through preclinical and clinical testing

How does this SPORE recruit and mentor talented new Head and Neck Cancer Translational Researchers?

Advancing research discoveries into improved care for patients with HNC requires expansion of the pool of scientists with translational research knowledge. The Career Enhancement Program (CEP) provides formal career enhancement training for future scientists who want to develop novel prevention and treatment strategies for head and neck cancer. The Developmental Research Program (DRP) provides pilot project funding to support new and highly innovative approaches to study HNC with the aim of improving overall survival and quality of life for those with this disease.