Coriell Institute receives prestigious SPORE grant to support studies of epigenetic therapies for cancer

The Coriell Institute for Medical Research and Van Andel Institute have been awarded a prestigious Specialized Programs of Research Excellence grant from the National Cancer Institute.

The five-year SPORE grant is valued at an estimated $12.4 million and will support nearly 20 scientists as they work to improve epigenetic therapies for cancer.

NCI utilizes SPORE grants to empower interdisciplinary and collaborative research into specific aspects of cancer. This prestigious grant is the first of its kind at both Coriell and VAI, establishing them as premier institutions for cancer research.

The award currently is the only SPORE grant awarded to an organization in New Jersey. This grant, which is also the first to support a thematic SPORE focused on epigenetics in NCI history, can be renewed indefinitely.

The project is co-led by Dr. Jean-Pierre Issa, Coriell’s CEO; Dr. Peter Jones, Van Andel Institute’s chief scientific officer; and Dr. Stephen Baylin of Johns Hopkins University.

“SPORE grants hold a special place in translational cancer research,” Issa said. “Through them, the NCI enables groundbreaking work, and the trust it puts in the awarded scientists allows for unparalleled freedom and collaboration.

“It’s a true honor to receive this grant and it’s a sign of more exciting things to come for the Coriell Institute.”

About the Coriell Institute

Founded in 1953 in Camden, the Coriell Institute for Medical Research is a nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving human health through biomedical research. Coriell scientists lead research in personalized medicine, cancer biology, epigenetics and the genomics of opioid use disorder. Coriell also hosts one of the world’s leading biobanks — comprised of collections for the National Institutes of Health, disease foundations and private clients — and distributes biological samples and offers research and biobanking services to scientists around the globe. To facilitate drug discovery and disease study, the Institute also develops and distributes collections of induced pluripotent stem cells.

Jones, Baylin and Issa also collaborate on the Van Andel Institute – Stand Up to Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team, which has launched more than a dozen epigenetic therapy clinical trials in recent years and will support trials from this SPORE.

Jones and Baylin co-led both the first iteration of the SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team, which was established in 2009, and co-lead the current team, which was launched in 2014. Much of the SPORE project’s design was informed by SU2C’s collaborative model, which brings together experts and organizations to unite against cancer.

“Epigenetic therapies hold immense potential to shift the paradigm in cancer treatment,” Jones said. “We’re thrilled to be recipients of a SPORE award, which is an exceptional mechanism for catalyzing collaboration and powering discovery.”

Epigenetic therapy aims to treat cancer by correcting abnormal gene expression. In doing so, these therapies can also make other cancer therapies more effective. This SPORE seeks to improve on current epigenetic therapies by exploring new targets, investigating novel combinations of epigenetic therapies with other cancer treatments and by designing and running clinical trials to evaluate these promising strategies.

“Research in the last decade has reinforced the promise of epigenetic therapies both as a standalone treatment strategy and as a way to enhance existing approaches such as immunotherapy,” Baylin said. “The SPORE award will allow us to investigate the underpinnings of epigenetics in cancer, with the goal of translating our findings to the clinic.”