A $19.6 million National Cancer Institute grant has been awarded to the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine to advance basic and clinical research for incurable blood disorders, the largest grant in the university’s history.

Ronald Hoffman, the Eileen Heidrick professor of oncology at UIC and principal investigator of the project, will lead an international team of scientists and physicians from 15 institutions in the United States, Canada, Italy, and Germany to establish the Myeloproliferative Disorders Research Consortium.

"This is an important collaboration among more than 20 investigators who will share their expertise to study the cellular and genetic basis for specific myeloproliferative disorders," Hoffman says. "The goal is to develop novel clinical treatment programs and to identify specific biomarkers that will be useful indicators of response to therapy and risk reduction in patients."

The consortium will focus on two myeloproliferative disorders, polycythemia vera, and idiopathic myelofibrosis. These disorders occur when certain types of blood cells are overproduced by the body, often leading to bone marrow failure.

The grant will fund six primary research projects and will allow the consortium to maintain an interactive Web site for investigators, an international tissue bank, and an online database to aid researchers in understanding the clinical differences among patients with myeloproliferative disorders.

Three of the research projects will deal with the cellular and molecular biology of polycythemia vera. Two of the research projects will address abnormal stem cell trafficking in myelofibrosis. A sixth project will embark upon clinical trials for each of the disorders.