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U.S. National Institutes of Health
Cancer Diagnosis Program Cancer Imaging Program Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program Developmental Therapeutics Program Radiation Research Program Translational Research Program Biometric Research Branch Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Last Updated: 08/31/2015

About the Associate Director

Toby T. Hecht, Ph.D., Associate Director

Toby T. Hecht, Ph.D., earned her doctorate in microbiology and immunology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She did her post-doctoral research at Yale University before coming to the NIH where, among other accomplishments, she created a unique Hodgkin’s lymphoma-specific monoclonal antibody that was used in both imaging and therapy trials at the NIH Clinical Center and at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; and was instrumental in the development of ch14.18 (dinutuximab), an FDA-approved effective agent for children with high-risk neuroblastoma. More…


The Translational Research Program (TRP) is the home of the SPOREs — the Specialized Programs of Research Excellence — a cornerstone of NCI’s efforts to promote collaborative, interdisciplinary translational cancer research. SPORE grants involve both basic and clinical/applied scientists working together and support projects that will result in new and diverse approaches to the prevention, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of human cancers.

Each SPORE is focused on a specific organ site, such as breast or lung cancer, on a group of highly related cancers, such as gastrointestinal cancers and sarcomas, or a common pathway or theme that ties together the cancers under study. SPOREs are designed to enable the rapid and efficient movement of basic scientific findings into clinical settings, as well as to determine the biological basis for observations made in individuals with cancer or in populations at risk for cancer. SPOREs are required to reach a human end-point within the five-year funding period. There are currently 52 funded SPOREs located at academic centers in 21 states across the United States. Eighteen organ sites, systems, or pathway-specific themes are currently represented in the SPORE portfolio, including: bladder, brain, breast, cervical, gastrointestinal, head and neck, kidney, leukemia, lung, lymphoma, myeloma, neuroendocrine, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, sarcoma, skin cancers, and hyperactive RAS tumors.

The program is open to additional organ system or pathway-related translational research, including research in less common cancers. The objective for all SPOREs is to reduce cancer incidence and mortality, and to improve survival and quality of life for cancer patients. SPOREs encourage the advice of patient advocates in SPORE activities.


The TRP mission is to integrate scientific advancements in the understanding of the biology of human cancer with the development of new interventions for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer patients or populations at risk for cancer, by fostering broad interdisciplinary investigations that focus on bringing discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic, and coordinating resources of the National Cancer Institute with those of academia, industry, and non-profit organizations/foundations to reduce cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality, to extend survival, and to increase the quality of life of cancer patients.

This is accomplished by:

  • Planning, advising, coordinating, evaluating, and supporting the Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPOREs), which use the P50 grant funding mechanism, to translate novel scientific discoveries from the laboratory and/or population studies to the clinic for testing in humans with cancer, to determine the biological basis for clinical observations, and to use specimens from clinical studies to determine correlations between biomarkers and outcomes in patients

  • Encouraging and facilitating collaborations between SPOREs, Cancer Centers, other NCI/NIH funded mechanisms and programs, and outside organizations, to increase cross-fertilization of ideas, leverage resources, reduce duplication, and ensure access of resources to projects and investigators

  • Establishing high-quality organ-specific tumor specimen banks to provide research resources for the cancer research community

  • Maintaining the Developmental Research Program and Career Development Program of the SPOREs to promote pilot or high risk/high payoff projects, and to ensure the development of promising researchers new to translational research

  • Supporting research in high incidence cancers as well as in rare cancers

  • Inviting advice of patient advocates who support translational science in cancer

SPORE Organ Sites and Systems

Head and Neck
Skin Cancers


SPORE Locations

U.S. Map showing the location of various SPOREs