An Orphan Program
By Bob Hecker
Like orphan malignancies generally, sarcomas are uncommon, and research into their causes and treatment are underfunded. They are a broad and heterogeneous group of cancers that make up less than 1 percent of adult malignancies and about 10 percent of childhood cancers.
Sarcomas arise from cells that resemble those that compose bone and a variety of soft tissues. Skeletal sarcomas include osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma. Soft-tissue sarcomas (STS) occur in striated and smooth muscle, fibrous and adipose tissue, blood vessels, nerve tissue, tendons and the lining of joints.
Because sarcomas are rare, grant support to study them is limited, but sarcoma expert Raphael Pollock, MD, PhD, director of Ohio State’s Division of Surgical Oncology and chief of surgical services at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James), leads a federally funded multi-institutional research program, including investigators at the OSUCCC – James, that should help scientists better understand and treat these diseases.
Prior to his recruitment to Ohio State in 2013, Pollock worked 31 years at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In October 2012, he became principal investigator for a five-year, $11.5 million Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The grant itself was awarded to the Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration (SARC), a nonprofit consortium of physicians and scientists dedicated to the development of new treatments for sarcoma.
“Our SPORE is an innovative approach to integrating translational and clinical study of an orphan malignancy that historically has been understudied,” Pollock says.
The NCI expects about 12,000 new cases of STS and 3,000 new cases of primary bone sarcoma in the United States in 2014, as well as 4,740 deaths from STS and 1,460 deaths from bone sarcoma. Incidence rates have risen slightly over the past 35 years.
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