Apr. 21, 2017:

Innovative therapies with hard-hitting impact; that must have been the game plan developed in the last huddle of the Big Ten Cancer Centers!  This month’s Across the Consortium is your instant replay of the amazing achievements making headlines across the country, from dynamic new treatments to prototype diagnostics for early detection.  Be inspired as you catch all the action.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Howard Ozer, the Eileen Lindsay Heidrick Professor of Oncology, has been named a Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

The title is awarded annually to ASCO members who have shown extraordinary dedication to providing volunteer services that benefit cancer patients, advance of the field of cancer care and support the society’s philanthropic arm, the Conquer Cancer Foundation. An induction ceremony will take place June 3 during the opening session of ASCO’s annual conference.

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

Douglas Rex, M.D., an internationally recognized gastroenterologist, focuses his research on colorectal cancer screening and colonoscopy. Dr. Rex answered questions about a recent study from the American Cancer Society that found that colorectal cancer rates are increasing among younger adults.   

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Cancer treatments are often hard on patients, but the side effects and challenges are necessary to control or even destroy tumor cells.

Now researchers say there may be a way to make those treatments work even better. In a study published in Cancer Cell, scientists say that giving people high doses of vitamin C during treatment may weaken cancer cells and make them more vulnerable to the effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

In the study, which was designed to determine if vitamin C in high doses was safe, 11 people with an aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma were treated with vitamin C intravenously three times a week for nearly two months. The dose was increased gradually while the people underwent radiation therapy, to ensure that enough vitamin C remained in the blood. The people in the trial reported no additional side effects or adverse symptoms associated with the vitamin, only those associated with normal chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

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University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

When cancer metastasizes, bone unwittingly offers a friendly place for tumor cell growth — only to have its hospitality betrayed by pathologic fractures, spinal cord compression, the need for bone surgery or irradiation and an increased risk of death.

In the largest-known study on bone metastases in thyroid cancer, researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that patients with follicular and medullary thyroid cancer had the highest rate of cancer-related bone lesions and fractures and an increased risk of death.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Michigan State University (MSU) researchers presented promising cancer therapy results at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) International Meeting in Washington, DC. This novel technology, AdVCA0848, activates the stimulator of interferon genes (STING) pathway to delay tumor growth in a B16 melanoma model, promoting beneficial anti-tumor responses. 

Supported by the immuno-oncology company Venn Therapeutics, this research (session MS.CL06.01 and abstract number 2994) is led by Dr. Andrea Amalfitano, Ph.D., D.O., Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Endowed Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at MSU, and Dr. Chris Waters, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at MSU.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Women who undergo surgery for breast cancer will often consider an adjuvant therapy, usually a precautionary regimen of chemotherapy to ensure the cancer is completely gone.

It was widely believed to ensure better long-term outcomes for the most common types of breast cancers, Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) and Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC).

But, new research from the journal Cancershows that adjuvant chemotherapy may not be as cut and dry, particularly if these cancers are estrogen receptor (ER)-positive and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

This week, researchers unveiled encouraging news in the fight against cancer as the FDA fast-tracked a specific type of gene therapy. Nebraska Medicine is one of only a handful of cancer in the country participating in a clinical cancer for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Patients with glioblastoma who wore a medical device that delivers alternating electrical fields in addition to being treated with the chemotherapeutic temozolomide had significantly improved median overall survival compared with those treated with temozolomide only, according to final results from a randomized phase III clinical trial presented here at the AACR Annual Meeting 2017, April 1-5.

“Glioblastoma is the deadliest primary malignancy of the central nervous system for adults,” said Roger Stupp, MD, professor of Neurological Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and associate director for strategic initiatives at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. “The last time any form of treatment was shown to improve survival for patients with this disease was more than 10 years ago, when adding temozolomide to radiotherapy was shown to improve the two-year survival rate from 10 percent to 27 percent.

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Penn State Cancer Institute

In a second floor, 300 square foot chemotherapy infusion suite in Penn State Cancer Institute are some dumbbells, some stretchy bands, two treadmills, a recumbent bike, a weight bench, some physical therapy tools, and a raised mat. It’s not much and it’s not very big, but for researcher Kathryn Schmitz, Ph.D., it’s what she wanted.

“What I asked for and got in coming to Penn State Cancer Institute was the exercise medicine unit in an oncology clinical setting,” Schmitz said. She needed it for her work.

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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Purdue researchers are developing technology that could lead to the early detection of cervical cancer with low-cost, easy-to-use, lateral flow test strips similar to home pregnancy tests.

“This field really needs an additional way to test for cervical cancer. A test that can report cervical cancer right away is very instrumental in a lot of low- and middle-income countries where women often get HPV tests and then never come back,” said Joseph Irudayaraj, professor of biological engineering in Purdue’s School of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. “In higher-income countries, it’s important that anything beyond HPV tests have the ability to complement those tests.”

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Research has shown that by themselves, the diabetes drug metformin and cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins are associated with reduced cancer mortality, but little is known about the effect on pancreatic cancer mortality when these drugs are taken together. Investigators at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and other collaborators examined Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Medicare data to further explore this approach and found that exposure to statins for these patients was significantly associated with reduced overall mortality. Results of the work are being presented as part of a poster session at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting being held this week in Washington, D.C.

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Thyroid cancer has the fastest growing incidence rate of any cancer in the U.S. in the past 30 years, but it also has the highest survival rate (98 percent of patients are alive after 10 years). While it is not clear if patients or physicians – or both – started it, thyroid cancer has earned the designation “the good cancer.”

And yet, a cancer diagnosis is still cancer, and like any cancer, its treatment comes with side effects. Recently, the thyroid cancer team at the UW Carbone Cancer Center developed a surgery-focused clinical trial from which they expect to help patients make informed decisions between more extensive surgery with lower risk of recurrence and less surgery with a greater recurrence risk.

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Information for this story was compiled from Big Ten CRC member websites, news releases, and social media.

About the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium: The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium was created in 2013 to transform the conduct of cancer research through collaborative, hypothesis-driven, highly translational oncology trials that leverage the scientific and clinical expertise of Big Ten universities. The goal of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium is to create a unique team-research culture to drive science rapidly from ideas to new approaches to cancer treatment. Within this innovative environment, today’s research leaders collaborate with and mentor the research leaders of tomorrow with the unified goal of improving the lives of all patients with cancer.

About the Big Ten Conference: The Big Ten Conference is an association of world-class universities whose member institutions share a common mission of research, graduate, professional and undergraduate teaching and public service. Founded in 1896, the Big Ten has sustained a comprehensive set of shared practices and policies that enforce the priority of academics in the lives of students competing in intercollegiate athletics and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness and competitiveness. The broad-based programs of the 14 Big Ten institutions will provide over $200 million in direct financial support to almost 9,500 students for more than 11,000 participation opportunities on 350 teams in 42 different sports. The Big Ten sponsors 28 official conference sports, 14 for men and 14 for women, including the addition of men’s ice hockey and men’s and women’s lacrosse since 2013. For more information, visit www.bigten.org.