The Head and Neck SPORE Program

Welcome to the University of Michigan Head and Neck Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence (S.P.O.R.E.) website. This program was established in September, 2002 through funding by the National Cancer Institute, and is currently one of only four such programs in the United States. This comprehensive research program involves the work of investigators from many different disciplines at the University of Michigan, the Henry Ford Health System, and the Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs' Medical Center. It is intended to translate findings from the research laboratories into clinical practice (and vice versa) and ultimately to significantly improve the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of head and neck cancer while decreasing morbidity and mortality associated with this disease.

Head and Neck Cancer SPORE Team

The goals of this SPORE are based on our belief that future advances in the treatment and prevention of head and neck cancer will be derived from a better understanding of specific molecular and genetic alterations characteristic of an individual patient's cancer. Based on this hypothesis, we will develop more specific and less debilitating treatment regimens that preserve the structure and function of the mouth, throat and voice box, improve prevention of cancer recurrence, and improve therapy of cancer that may spread to other areas of the body. To meet these goals, four major projects have been developed that will study the molecular structure of cancer cells, explore the possibility of their use as a predictive measures of response to chemotherapy and radiation treatment options, and predict the risk of spread of cancer or cancer recurrence. These projects are led by investigators from five different departments at the University of Michigan Health System and the Ann Arbor VAMC.

In addition to these four projects, we also have a Career Development Program that offers salary support and research funding for junior-level faculty with research interests in head and neck cancer. Support is provided for two years and is intended to help launch careers for individuals who will likely maintain a long-term interest in head and neck oncology. Eight scientists have been awarded funding from this program thus far. The SPORE also funds a developmental research program to address the need for increased numbers of clinician-researchers and to ensure continued innovation in the field of head and neck cancer research. The Developmental Research Program offers funds to researchers (junior or senior level) for a one- or two-year period in order to assist in developing research ideas with innovative approaches to head and neck cancer and to assist in developing preliminary data that would support movement into larger-scale projects. Successful projects may be selected as future major translational projects supported by the SPORE or be successful in obtaining extramural funding to further the studies initiated with developmental funds from the SPORE. Thirty developmental research projects have been funded to date. In addition to the financial support provided by these programs, a strong commitment of mentoring is made to developmental research projects to assure success of individual projects and the success of the clinician scientist. The Seed Grant Program is our newest initiative whereby support is given for small translational research projects directed toward understanding the mechanisms involved in head and neck cancer development or a cure of head and neck cancer. Previous experience in head and neck cancer research is not needed in order to receive Seed Grant funding. Two Seed Grants have been funded to date.

Supporting all of these research projects are three core resources. A Tissue and Histopathology Core serves as a repository and processing unit for all specimens collected from head and neck cancer patients for research purposes, as well as clinical data on all subjects enrolled on SPORE projects. A Biostatistics Core provides a team of statisticians who participate in the development of research projects and analysis of results in preparation for publication and/or presentation. An Administrative Core provides scientific oversight, encourages communication and collaboration, and serves as a liaison between the SPORE, institutional leaders and the National Cancer Institute assuring compliance with all requirements of the University and the sponsor.


This project was supported by Federal Funds from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health under the University of Michigan Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE): P50CA097248. The Molecular Basis of Head and Neck Cancer Biology, Treatment and Prevention, Principal Investigator Gregory T. Wolf, MD.

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Contact Us

Gregory Wolf M.D.
Jacques E. Nor, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Head and Neck SPORE
U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center NCRC
2800 Plymouth Road
Building 100, Room 110
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2800
PH: 734-615-6245
FX: 734-615-6246
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