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Prouty Pilot Projects

Dollars raised by the Friends are contributed to Norris Cotton Cancer Center as unrestricted funds, which support high-quality programs and projects for which there are few other sources of funding.

Allocation of Friends contributions is determined through peer review by the Cancer Center leadership through its Executive Committee and its Cancer Research Committee.

One of the most important mechanisms to enrich research at the Cancer Center is Prouty Pilot Projects. These awards are given to creative investigators with new ideas, allowing them time and resources to test those ideas. A Prouty award enables the investigator to develop data that will become the basis for competitive research applications for federal or other national funding to support his or her research.

Prouty Funds Making a Difference

One particular form of funding is the Prouty Pilot project awards, which are small-dollar grants that allow researchers to test novel hypotheses.  With these preliminary data they can then apply for much larger federal grants. Over a five-year period, Prouty Pilot project grants totaled $1.2 million and then brought in more than $20 million in federal grants, which is a testament to the excellence of the science.

At the 2014 Prouty Kick-off Party, NCCC researcher and Associate Director Yolanda Sanchez, described in a few sentences such projects built from the ground up with Prouty funds. Read her speech here.

Here are three examples of Prouty Pilot projects that have gone on to receive funding:

• Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) recurs in patients because cells effectively hide from the initial drug treatment. NCCC researchers Alan Eastman and Alexey Danilov discovered a new drug combination to kill the resistant cells. Eastman calls it “the most promising drug combination so far for the treatment of CLL.” Their research began with a 2011 Prouty grant and now has funding from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Next step, a clinical trial.

• The search for a real-time sensor of dangerous second-hand and third-hand smoke exposure was launched with a 2008 Prouty grant. Susanne Tanski, a pediatrician and NCCC researcher with a great idea, got a Prouty Pilot grant to develop it in collaboration with Thayer School engineers. Creating something smaller than a cell phone, she and her team have been so successful they now have a patent pending and a clinical trial starting immediately!

• Keeping cancer cells from the fat they need to grow shows success in reducing breast cancer tumors. Bill Kinlaw’s 2006 Prouty grant was to explore the connection between breast cancer tumors and fatty acid synthesis. His hypothesis? If you target genes involved in the synthesis of fat by cancer cells you might be able to “starve” the tumor. A clinical trial recently showed they were on the right track to developing a drug that would keep tumors from the fat they need, effectively killing them.

Recent Research

The Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center helps fund a truly comprehensive spectrum of research topics—from the development of nanoparticle-based treatments, to new drugs targeting only cancer cells, to personalized cancer treatment, to radiation therapy enhancements, to cancer prevention studies for colon cancer, to palliative care interventions, to quality of care initiatives improving treatment for cancer patients. Nothing comes easy, and improving cancer treatment always requires a comprehensive approach plus the patience and resources to go through the many steps necessary to develop a new drug or a new treatment for even one of the hundreds of diseases called cancer.