$2 million grant awarded to City of Hope to promote critical research on aging and cancer

June 1, 2018 | by Letisia Marquez

William Dale, M.D. Ph.D. William Dale, M.D., Ph.D.
City of Hope has received a five-year award totaling $2 million from the National Institute of Aging to establish a national research infrastructure that will facilitate and support significant innovative projects across the country addressing an underserved research area: aging and cancer.
The award is a joint grant with the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and is led by principal investigators Arti Hurria, M.D., the George Tsai Family Chair in Geriatric Oncology, director of the Center for Cancer and Aging at City of Hope and vice provost for clinical faculty; William Dale, M.D., Ph.D., the Arthur M. Coppola Family Chair in Supportive Care Medicine, and clinical professor and chair of City of Hope's Department of Supportive Care Medicine; and URMC’s Supriya Mohile, M.D., Ph.D., a dually board-certified geriatrician and oncologist and director of the Specialized Oncology Care and Research in the Elderly (SOCARE) geriatric oncology clinic at the University of Rochester/Highland Hospital.
Arti Hurria Arti Hurria, M.D.
“Although cancer is a disease associated with aging, and the number one risk factor for cancer is age, research on older adults is underrepresented in our field,” Hurria said. “Because of the aging U.S. population, there is a growing need to focus on evidence-based research on older adults with the aim of improving cancer care in this group.”
Sixty percent of new cancer diagnoses occur in adults aged 65 and older, according to the National Cancer Institute. By 2030, 70 percent of patients with cancer will be over 65 years of age, and cancer incidence in this group will increase nearly 70 percent from 2010 to 2030, compared to a 10 percent increase among younger adults.
Furthermore, physicians currently have limited evidence on how to treat older patients with cancer. While the majority of patients with cancer are over 65, only 10 percent of patients enrolled in cancer clinical trials are over that age. That means evidence about treatment for the majority of cancer patients, who are older and less fit, is developed through trials enrolling younger, healthier people with very different physiologic and functional age.
“That is an aspect of cancer research that clearly needs to change, particularly as baby boomers start to age, rapidly expanding the group of patients with cancer,” Dale said. “Cancer research must be much more inclusive of older adults, especially those who are vulnerable and have unique and complex medical care needs.”
The project has five key aims, including solidifying an infrastructure and expertise needed to facilitate the design of impactful aging and cancer research, utilizing the sustainable infrastructure to foster collaborations among a range of interdisciplinary investigators across the nation to accelerate innovative research in aging and cancer, and supporting and guiding high-priority research projects at the interface of aging and cancer to lay the foundation for competitive multisite studies.
Another key aim will be to identify, cultivate, and mentor investigators in aging and cancer research. Lastly, the project will disseminate research findings on aging and cancer.
City of Hope is at the forefront of the institutions that are investing in research on cancer and aging. In 2006, City of Hope established the Cancer and Aging Research Program, which brings together investigators from all cancer disciplines to study biology, treatment and survivorship issues of older adults with cancer. They have initiated over 20 clinical trials aimed at improving the care of older adults with cancer. Over 3,500 patients have been enrolled into center studies, and research results have been disseminated in more than 170 publications. The institutional commitment to cancer and aging research continued to deepen with the formation of the Center for Cancer and Aging in 2017.
The grant’s principal investigators will also work with the American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Cancer Society, American Geriatrics Society and The Gerontological Society of America.
Additional City of Hope staff members involved in the grant are Daneng Li, M.D., assistant clinical professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics, Matthew Loscalzo, L.C.S.W., executive director of the Department of Supportive Care, Betty Ferrell, Ph.D., R.N., director of the Division of Nursing Research and Education, and Mark LaBarge, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Population Sciences and deputy director of the Center for Cancer and Aging.  
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