Kidney Cancer Program receives $11 million SPORE renewal from NCI

September 21, 2022
SPORE, Research

The UT Southwestern Kidney Cancer Program Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) has been renewed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Initially awarded in 2016, the Kidney Cancer Program SPORE seeks to translate discoveries at UT Southwestern Medical Center into advances in the care of patients with kidney cancer.  

The Kidney Cancer Program at UT Southwestern (KCP) is one of only two programs specializing in kidney cancer research nationwide, to be recognized by NCI with such an award.  

Under the overall guidance of James Brugarolas, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Kidney Cancer Program, and Payal Kapur, M.D., 3 teams of investigators will delve into the most promising therapeutic areas – immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and metabolism. In addition, seed funding is available to explore new areas through the Development Research and Career Enhancement Programs. 35 pilot projects were funded during the previous SPORE cycle. 

Project 1, led by Dr. Brugarolas and Xiankai Sun, Ph.D., Director of the Cyclotron and Radiochemistry program, will leverage innovative siRNA technology to develop a second-generation HIF-2α inhibitor and an innovative radiology test to monitor HIF-2α in patients. This project builds upon the research success that led to the development and subsequent FDA approval of a groundbreaking HIF-2α inhibitor, Belzutifan, during the first cycle of SPORE funding. 

Drawing upon the In Vivo Metabolism Lab set up during the previous SPORE cycle, Project 2 investigators Ralph DeBerardinis, M.D., Ph.D., and Kevin Courtney, M.D., Ph.D., will evaluate new approaches to exploit glutamine addiction in renal cancer. By bypassing the limited efficacy of glutaminase inhibitors, the project aims to offer innovative solutions. 

Project 3 capitalizes on the research of Zhijian Chen, Ph.D., recipient of the Breakthrough Prize. Led by Drs. Chen, Raquibul Hannan, M.D., Ph.D., and Hans Hammers, M.D., Ph.D., researchers intend to simultaneously activate the innate and adaptive immune system using a novel drug IMSA101 in combination with radiation and an immune checkpoint inhibitor. By activating both ‘arms’ of the immune system, investigators seek to maximize anti-tumor activity. 

These research programs are supported by four avant-garde core facilities, encompassing pathology, imaging, data analytics, and administration.   

 “Discoveries by the SPORE team have been paradigm setting and practice changing,” said Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D., Director of the Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. “With this renewal, some of the most urgent questions in kidney cancer will be addressed. We appreciate the National Cancer Institute support of this engine of discovery, innovation, and translation to advance patient care.”