Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in GI Cancers Alliance

Principal Investigators

Research Priority Area

  • Cancer

How to Join

Membership in the SPORE Alliance will be open to the broad research community at the University of Kentucky and will include members from different colleges and departments across campus. Broadly, there will be two criteria for members:

  • Any investigator at UK who is engaged in research (i.e., basic, clinical, population, or community-based) related to cancers of the GI tract.
  • Any investigator at UK who may not be currently engaged in GI cancer research but would be interested in directing their focus to mechanisms, treatment, or prevention of GI cancers.

An individual may contact either Dr. Mark Evers or Dr. Tianyan Gao if there is an interest in joining.

Summary

Gastrointestinal (GI) cancers represent a significant problem in Kentucky, especially in the eastern rural part of the state. In fact, Kentucky has the highest incidence of colorectal cancer in the nation.

With the support of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine’s Alliance Research Initiative, the Specialized Program Of Research Excellence (SPORE) in GI Cancers is working to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of GI cancers. The SPORE alliance will introduce new risk prediction strategies for colorectal cancers based on epidemiology and genetics, increase earlier detection and diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, and develop new therapeutics in colorectal and liver cancers and GI neuroendocrine tumors.

Mark Evers, MD, professor in the department of surgery and director of the Markey Cancer Center, is a co-principal investigator for the GI SPORE alliance. Dr. Evers is a GI and oncologic surgeon with over 25 years of clinical experience in caring for patients with GI cancers, in particular, colorectal cancer. Co-principal investigator Tianyan Gao, PhD, professor in the department of molecular and cellular biochemistry, focuses her research on how protein phosphatases function in suppressing cancer development and progression. Under the direction of the two, the “team science” approach of the SPORE alliance extends beyond the boundaries of GI cancer research program to include critical collaborations with multiple UK colleges, affiliate hospitals, community providers, other institutions, networks, and industry.

Clinical Trials

  1. The FASN clinical trial at the University of Kentucky, led by Dr. Mark Evers, is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pharmacodynamics study investigating the inhibition of fatty acid synthase (FASN) with TVB-2640 (FASN inhibitor) in colon and other resectable cancers. Objectives of the trial include to evaluate the pharmacodynamic effects on metabolic endpoints following short-term treatment with TVB-2640, and to determine if short-term treatment with TVB-2640 decreases cancer cell proliferation or inhibits cell survival signaling and lipid biogenesis. Patients enrolled in this trial receive a 10 to 21 day regimen of an oral drug, either TVB-2640 or placebo, prior to their scheduled resection, and then complete a 28 day follow-up period. Both archival tissue and surgical specimens are obtained to compare FASN expression before and after TVB-2640 treatment, as well as to determine any short-term effects of TVB-2640 on cell proliferation. There have been 15 patients enrolled in this study, and the first interim data analysis is currently being completed.  

Alliance Members

  • Lowell Anthony, MD, Division Chief – Department of Internal Medicine
  • Terrence A. Barrett, MD, Professor – Department of Internal Medicine
  • Avinash S. Bhakta, MD, Assistant Professor – Department of Surgery
  • Therese Bocklage, MD, Professor – Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
  • Michael J. Cavnar, MD, Assistant Professor – Department of Surgery
  • Aman Chauhan, MD, Assistant Professor – Department of Internal Medicine
  • Mark Dignan, PhD, MPH, Professor – Department of Internal Medicine
  • Mark Evers, MD, Director, Markey Cancer Center – Department of Surgery
  • Teresa Fan, PhD, Professor – Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology
  • Tianyan Gao, PhD, Associate Professor – Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry
  • Roberto Gedaly, MD, Professor – Department of Surgery
  • Richard Higashi, PhD, Professor – Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology
  • Joseph Kim, MD, Professor – Department of Surgery
  • Eun Lee, MD, Professor – Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
  • Chunming Liu, PhD, Professor – Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry
  • Xiaoqi Liu, PhD, Professor – Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology
  • Prakash K. Pandalai, MD, Assistant Professor – Department of Surgery
  • Piotr Rychahou, MD, Assistant Professor – Department of Surgery
  • Qing-Bai She, PhD, Professor  – Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences
  • Daret St. Clair, PhD, Professor – Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology
  • Chi Wang, PhD, Assistant Professor – College of Public Health
  • Qingding Wang, MD, Associate Professor – Department of Surgery
  • David Watt, PhD, Professor – Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry
  • Qiou Wei, PhD, Associate Professor – Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology
  • Sainan Wei, MD, PhD, Professor – Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
  • Heidi Weiss, PhD, Professor – Department of Surgery
  • Ren Xu, PhD, Professor – Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences
  • Kate Zaytseva, PhD, Assistant Professor – Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology
  • Shulin Zhang, MD, PhD, Professor – Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
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