Department of Otolaryngology

Center Grants

Grant Type Grant Description Principle Investivators

Head and Neck Cancer SPORE

The goal of this research is to use a multi-disciplinary approach to improve the management and outcomes in head and neck cancers including head and neck squamous cell carcinoma and thyroid cancer. We will advance the prevention and treatment for head and neck squamous cell cancer patients by identifying new ways to prevent and treat the disease based on the biology of the individual patient’s tumor and new biomarkers that predict risk and response to therapy. We will advance the management of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer by integrating novel next generation sequencing platforms into clinical strategies.



Project 1

Chemoprevention of Head & Neck Cancer

Patients curatively treated for an initial primary head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) are at high risk for developing second primary tumors (SPTs) and succumbing to these secondary tumors, underscoring the tremendous need for a chemopreventive strategy in this disease. We have shown that broccoli seed preparations promote detoxication of carcinogens common to air pollution and cigarette smoke. These studies will integrate preclinical and clinical studies to evaluate broccoli seed preparations and the bioactive metabolite of these preparations, sulforaphane, as tolerable, effective, and affordable agents for the prevention of HNSCC SPTs.

Steve Kim

Daniel Johnson, 

Julie Bauman
Project 2

Optimization of STAT3 Decoy Delivery for Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

HNSCC is largely a locoregional disease. STAT3 is an attractive target for cancer therapy, including HNSCC where STAT3 activation contributes to treatment resistance. This research builds on a track record of successful clinical translation to enhance delivery of a novel STAT3 inhibitor to HNSCC tumors and identify biomarkers that can accurately predict which patients will respond to this approach.

Jennifer Grandis, Flordeliza Villaneuva
Project 3

Checkpoint Receptor Targeting to Enhance Cetuximab Efficacy Against HNSCC

A new type of cancer treatment has shown success over the past decade are antibodies that target tumor cells. Unfortunately these antibodies are not fully effective in most patients, so understanding how they work and why they don’t work effectively for all patients will likely improve their success in cancer patients. We have shown that one such antibody, cetuximab, which is FDA-approved for head and neck cancer, may have limited success for patients because of inhibitory signals in the immune system. We plan to combine cetuximab with a second antibody that targets these inhibitory signals with the expectation that this approach can improve the success of cetuximab in head and neck cancer patients.

Robert Ferris,

Dario Vignali
Project 4

Molecular-guided risk stratification of thyroid nodules and cancer

Well-differentiated thyroid cancer (mostly papillary thyroid cancer) is largely an indolent disease. Thyroid surgery may not be necessary in many patients who currently undergo invasive procedures for diagnosis and/or treatment. This research builds on a track record at the University of Pittsburgh of developing, and translating into clinical practice, molecular testing for thyroid disease. At the conclusion of this study, we expect to use molecular testing to accurately predict those patients who can safely avoid thyroid surgery.

Umamaheswar Duvvuri, Yuri Nikiforov, Linwah Yip
Core 1

Administrative Core

Coordination of the projects, cores and programs in this SPORE will be overseen by this Administrative Core. This will include scheduling of regular meetings and facilitation of interactions with members of the IAB and EAB. Oversight activities will include monitoring of progress for each project, core, DRP pilot, and CDP awardee. These functions

Robert Ferris,

Jennifer Grandis
Core 2

Core 2: Histology/Tissue

The Tissue and Histology Core is a required and essential  component of the Head and Neck SPORE. The Core oversees the collection, processing and distribution of tissues obtained from HNSCC and thyroid nodule/thyroid cancer subjects for use by the projects and programs of the SPORE. This Core works closely with the Informatics component of Core C to link each specimen to individual subjects in our professionally curated organ-specific database.

Raja Seethala,

Simion Chiosea
Core 3

Core 3 Informatics, Biostatistics, and Bioinformatics

The Informatics, Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Core provides specialized data management and analysis services to the clinical, laboratory and translational research projects of the Head and Neck SPORE to ensure that experiments are efficiently designed and data are analyzed using the most appropriate methods. The Informatics component provides long-term, comprehensive management to ensure that analyses are based on complete and accurate data.

Daniel Normolle

Career Development Program

This required program provides resources to support young faculty and/or new investigators in the field of head

and neck cancer translational research, with an emphasis on recruiting women and underrepresented minorities. The Head and Neck SPORE identifies and support investigators new to research in head and neck and thyroid cancer with both pilot study funding and expertise and assistance in planning and preparing grant applications to secure independent funding.

Theresa Whiteside,

Jonas Johnson,

Jennifer Grandis

Developmental Research Program

This required program provides resources to recruit new investigators into the field of head and neck cancer translational research. The Head and Neck SPORE will identify and support innovative high-risk, high-reward pilot research in head and neck and cancer.

Jennifer Grandis,

Robert Ferris,

Jonas Johnson

Middle Ear Pressure Regulation in Health and Disease

Our Clinical Research Center Grant, begun in 2006, is focused on the physiology/pathophysiology of middle ear pressure (MEP)-regulation (MEPR) as a contributor to ME health. The overall goal of this unique Research Center is a focused, comprehensive description of: 1) MEP-regulation, 2) the role played by MEP-dysregulation (MEPD) in otitis media (OM) pathogenesis, 3) the prognostic capabilities of specific tests designed to assess MEPR efficiency and 4) the efficacy of treatments targeting those factors identified as underlying MEPD. This is accomplished within the context of 3 inter-related Projects, all focused on different aspects of MEPR/D, and 2 Core units that provide administrative, technical and statistical support to ensure Project success and integration.

Cuneyt Alper, PI
Project 1

Gas Supply, Demand and Middle Ear Gas Balance

Project 1 utilizes a variety of ETF tests to diagnose the cause of ETD in children and adult patients referred to the ME Physiology Laboratory (MEPL) for assessment, define the sensitivity, specificity and accuracy of each test, identify a subset of those tests that could prove clinically useful in the setting of a standard clinical practice, and leverage this experience to prepare for the future transition of our Clinical Research Center to a Clinical Research/Diagnostic/Treatment Center.

Cuneyt Alper

Project 2

ET Growth and Development: Anatomy / Function

Project 2 evaluates the functional consequences of the growth and development of the ET system in children.  Past cross-sectional studies support an intimate relationship between the anatomy and function of the ET/ME system with anatomic maturation during growth and development often invoked to explain the age-related improvement in ETF and the coincidental decrease in OM prevalence.

Margaretha Casselbrant
Project 5

Patient-Specific Modeling of ET Function and ME Pressure Regulation

The goals of this project are to 1) develop advanced computational models that can evaluate patient-specific mechanisms of ETD (aim 1) and its associated clinical presentation (aim 2), 2) investigate how biophysical/biostructural properties influence therapeutic efficacy (aim 3) and 3) evaluate the clinical relevance of mechano-transduction on ETD (aim 4).

Samir Ghadiali,

J. Douglas Swarts
Core A

Administrative Core

Core A centralizes the administrative, budgetary, data management and information dissemination aspects for the Center.  This centralization reduces the possibility of redundant efforts, and maintains fiscal, ethical, regulatory and scientific oversight over Center activities and personnel.  As such, this Core is central to Center function.

Cuneyt Alper
Core B

Core B: Testing / Imaging

Core B provides all resources related to the construction and maintenance of the test equipment and instruments required by the 3 Projects, develops new tests and instruments for use in those Projects, conducts all examinations, tests and imaging studies required by the Projects and conditions, extracts and formats primary data for submission to the investigators of Core A and inclusion into the numeric databases.  As such, Core B is integral to the success of the Center

J. Douglas Swarts