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GI SPORE Program

The Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Gastrointestinal Cancer at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins supports a highly interactive, multidisciplinary program of Gastrointestinal Cancer Researchers. This program has been continuously funded through the NCI Translational Research Program.


The focus of Johns Hopkins GI SPORE program is to:

  • Reduce cancer incidence and mortality of gastrointestinal cancers
  • Aid the decision-making of patients and families ranging from individual
  • To provide a strong scientific basis for efficient cancer research
  • To serve as an organizational foundation enabling and encouraging the best team science

Colorectal and pancreatic cancers represent the 2nd and 3rd leading causes of cancer deaths respectively in the United States.  Our SPORE program is dedicated to understanding molecular underpinnings of these cancers and translating these findings to improve risk assessment and early detection screening for these cancers.  This work is coupled with cutting-edge therapeutic advances for patients who develop these cancers.

Our history and scope

Throughout the 26 year history of our SPORE program we have transformed the understanding of the how and why these cancers develop and used the knowledge to improve detection and treatment for these cancers.  This work began within our Johns Hopkins Bowel Tumor Working Group (since 1986) and from the multidisciplinary Pancreatic Cancer Working Group (since 1991). Our SPORE program was the first to sequence a cancer genome, the first to demonstrate that exome sequencing can identify the cause of a hereditary disease and the first to show immunotherapy is an effective treatment for micro-satellite unstable cancers.

Laboratory equipment

One of the keys to our success is our ongoing leadership in multi-disciplinary team science for over two decades, as demonstrated by our pancreatic cancer research team receiving the 2013 AACR Team Science award. Our team includes leading experts in molecular biology, oncology, gastrointestinal pathology, gastroenterology, gastrointestinal surgery, epidemiology, immunology, molecular bioinformatics, and geneticists. The application of basic scientific knowledge to the clinical setting and improving clinical care is a core mission of these Groups. Our SPORE program provides a key role in maintaining this team not only through the support of the projects and cores but through our highly successful developmental research program and career enhancement program.

Dr. Alison Klein

Our current SPORE program, directed by Dr. Alison Klein, is comprised of four research projects, four cores, a career development and a research developmental program are proposed to extend our translational research in colorectal and pancreatic cancer.

Project 1, Improving Pancreatic Cancer Risk Assessment:  Clinical/Population Leader Dr. Alison Klein and Basic Science Leader Dr. Michael Goggins

Project 2, Neo-antigen Vaccines for Pancreatic and Colorectal Cancer:  Basic Science Leaders Drs. Elizabeth Jaffee and Drew Pardoll and Clinical Leaders Drs. Daniel Laheru and Nilo Azad

Project 3, Diagnosis and Management of Pancreatic Cysts:  Clinical Leader Dr. Anne Marie Lennon and Basic Science Leaders Drs. Ken Kinzler and Bert Vogelstein

Project 4, Using TME genetics and immunobiology to drive combination immunotherapies: Basic Science Leader Dr. Elizabeth Jaffee and Clinical Leaders Drs. Dung Le and Lei Zheng

The cores support the research programs (Admin Core: Administration and Communication, Dr. Alison Klein; Core 1, Statistics/Bioinformatics, Drs. Elizabeth Sugar and Robert Scharpf: Core 2, Human Tissue Research and Logistics, Dr. Robert AndersCore 3, Familial and Population Cancer Registries, Drs. Frank Giardiello and Alison Klein.)

The Career Development Program (Dr. Scott Kern) aids the emergence of new investigators and the Research Developmental Program (Dr. Bert Vogelstein) provides rapid funding of innovative directions.