SMHS Awarded $22 Million Grant to Support Collaborative AIDS and Cancer Research

The AIDS and Cancer Specimen Resource has been renewed for five years.

September 24, 2019

Professor Sylvia Silver

Sylvia Silver, director of the GW Biorepository and professor of microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine at SMHS, is one of the principal investigators on the AIDS and Cancer Specimen Resource project. (Photo: Olivia Anderson)

The AIDS and Cancer Specimen Resource (ACSR) has been renewed with the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences serving as the primary site for the next five years, through a $22 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The award is among the largest grants the university has ever received to support collaborative, cutting-edge research.

The ACSR, established in 1994 as a cooperative agreement with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), is overseen by principal investigators from GW and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). The ACSR has the largest collection of annotated HIV malignancy specimens globally available to qualified researchers studying HIV and HIV-associated cancers through an established specimen application process.

The AIDS epidemic currently affects more than 35 million people worldwide. Infection with HIV is associated with a wide range of long-term health complications, including the development of cancer, currently a major cause of death among individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Innovative research associated with the ACSR has the potential to transform the lives of patients around the world.

“The ACSR network, the only biobank in the United States that focuses on cancer in the context of HIV/AIDS, is facilitating critical research into HIV-associated malignancies,” said Robert H. Miller, vice president for Research. “The resulting knowledge and clinical breakthroughs will be paramount in the quest to end the HIV pandemic and impact millions of individuals around the globe who are living with HIV/AIDS.”

Previously, the ACSR sites operated under their own awards each with its own principal investigator. In 2013, the sites joined under a single award with two principal investigators. The ACSR focuses on obtaining important well-annotated biospecimens for research as defined by investigator inquiries and the ACSR’s scientific advisory board.

“Through this grant, we are working to acquire, store and equitably distribute tumor tissues and biological fluids from individuals with HIV-associated malignancies to meet the biospecimen needs of researchers studying HIV-associated malignancies,” said Sylvia Silver, director of the GW Biorepository, professor of microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine at SMHS, and one of the principal investigators on the project.

Dr. Silver is joined in collaboration with SMHS professor Jeffrey Bethony and UCSF’s Michael McGrath and Paige Bracci. In addition to the sites at GW and UCSF, the ACSR also includes consortia at Baylor Medical College, Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa.

As part of the award, Dr. Silver also will serve as the director of the AIDS Malignancy Clinical Trials Consortium (AMC) Biorepositories. The AMC, which is funded by the NCI, works with more than 250 clinicians and conducts clinical trials in the United States, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Currently, the AMC biorepositories are located at GW for domestic trials and at Stellenbosch University for African trials.

“During this grant cycle, we also will be assisting NCI in the selection of an ACSR site in Latin America to support AMC clinical trials occurring in the region and to include specimens from that region in the ACSR,” Dr. Silver said.

The GW Biorepository recently earned accreditation from the College of American Pathologists and was designated as a core research facility at the university, which is instrumental in GW’s efforts to achieve preeminence as a research institution.