SPOREs of Collaboration

About 12 years ago, I met with Dr. Tom Witzig, a friend and colleague, at a lymphoma conference and we generated a “SPORE” of an idea.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) had established a new research program called a “Specialized Program of Research Excellence” or “SPORE.” The SPORE program was designed to support groups of researchers working together on specific cancer types.

Tom and I discussed the NCI announcement that SPOREs were going to be offered in lymphoma. I told Tom we had thought about applying for a SPORE, but didn’t quite have all the needed expertise in place at Iowa. He said the same thing about Mayo. As we talked, we realized the lymphoma research expertise of our two institutions was complementary, and that our chances of getting funding, and more importantly contributing to progress in lymphoma, was greatest if we worked together instead of in competition.

After conferring with many of our colleagues at Iowa and Mayo, including Drs. Brian Link, James Cerhan, Brian Smith, Thomas Habermann, Steven Ansell, and many others, we decided to press forward with a fully integrated, two-institution lymphoma SPORE.
It wasn’t easy integrating two institutions, but we stuck with our guiding principle that we should propose the best research possible by taking advantage of the talent and expertise at both institutions.

That guiding principle has continued to serve us well. Indeed, what has happened since has exceeded our wildest imagination. Not only was our SPORE grant funded, but it has now been renewed two additional times–a real feat given that competition for SPORE funding has grown very intense.

In the intervening 12 years we have partnered with thousands of patient volunteers who have provided samples and participated in clinical trials though the SPORE. SPORE researchers have published more than 300 articles in peer-reviewed journals related to advances in lymphoma, and some of our discoveries are changing care for patients with lymphoma. Additional research projects have sprung from the SPORE, and we are now adding research partners to some of our projects from all over the country.

I will be forever grateful that we decided to work together 12 years ago. The SPORE of an idea to collaborate has now germinated into a comprehensive program that is still going strong–one that would have been impossible if we had each tried to go it alone.

If you are interested in learning more about the Iowa / Mayo Lymphoma SPORE program and perhaps sign up for our newsletter, I invite you to visit our website.

George Weiner, MD
Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center Director