Dec. 21, 2016:

Fast away the old year passes, and the Big Ten Cancer Centers are bringing 2016 to a climactic close. Their amazing and world-changing work in the fight against cancer has not only made 2016 an unforgettable and truly historic year, but it also beckons the shining dawn of a promising new year full of hope for patients and researchers. Next year’s breakthroughs have been this year’s vision, and this year’s legacy becomes next year’s inspiration. Take a moment to reflect on recent breakthroughs which embody a year to remember, in 2016’s final Across the Consortium.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Their dog was near death from a brain tumor, but a new treatment – a pill for cancer – has extended her life. Now, doctors are studying if this same treatment could also help human patients.

CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey reports.

Something terrifying happened this past summer with Albert and Genevieve Pierceall’s rescue pup, Abby.

“She looked like she was going to yawn or something and kind of stretch her legs out, and I realized that she had completely locked up and started convulsing,” Albert Pierecall says.

An MRI revealed brain cancer.

Read more.

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

The founder of Interactive Intelligence is giving $30 million to the Indiana University School of Medicine to boost research into immunotherapies, treatments that enlist a patient’s immune system in the quest for a cure for cancers and other diseases.

Dr. Donald Brown, a 1985 IU med school graduate and founder of Interactive Intelligence, said he made the gift, the largest the medical school has received from an alumnus, to bolster the institution’s already strong research program in an area that has long interested him.

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dr. Varun Monga, Clinical Assistant Professor of Hematology, Oncology, and Blood & Marrow Transplantation, presented at the Connective Tissue Oncology Society meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, last month. His poster details the results of a Phase I clinical trial combining an oncolytic herpes virus with radiation therapy in patients with localized sarcomas. This neoadjuvant approach, is meant to increase tumor necrosis thereby reducing the chance of distant metastases post-surgery. The results of the 14-week study, as detailed on Dr. Monga’s poster, reveal that the drug, Talimogene laherparepvec, was safe and well-tolerated by the patients involved. Nearly half of the patients planned for the Phase II trials have already been enrolled. Congratulations to Dr. Monga and the 16 other named researchers and clinicians who contributed to this study.

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University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

A new study suggests the possibility of predicting at its earliest stages when a type of head and neck cancer will come back.

Oropharyngeal cancer — which occurs in the throat, tonsils and back of the tongue — is frequently linked to the human papilloma virus (HPV). That’s good news, in a way, as HPV-related cancers are generally more responsive to treatment.

But for about 15 to 20 percent of these patients, the treatment won’t work and their cancer will return. There are no known biomarkers to predict when treatments are likely to fail.

Read more.

Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Metabolons, near-mythical clusters of enzymes, have been discovered for the first time. Using fluorescent tags and microscopy ­– molecular movie technology – scientists have confirmed their existence, thus unlocking plants’ secret medicinal toolbox.

The discovery has been hailed as a “milestone,” and the renowned journal Science called it “a watershed in metabolon research.” The paper, featured in a recent issue of Science, shows how plants activate complex mechanisms in concert to respond so efficiently to challenges in their environment.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Cancerous tumors are complex. The diseased cells multiply among healthy cells, spread to tissue and leech valuable proteins and nutrients from their surrounding microenvironments.

An emerging pool of evidence shows that cancer cells form miniscule tubes that they use to communicate and shuttle vital signals and nutrients back and forth, making them more aggressive and potentially more resistant to drugs intended to treat cancer. But, new research from the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota suggests that these tubes may also serve as an ideal pathway to deliver cancer-killing viruses and other drug particles designed to treat cancer.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

The $323 million cancer complex going up in Omaha will partner with a cancer hospital in China, the University of Nebraska Medical Center announced Thursday.

The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, a collaboration between UNMC and hospital partner Nebraska Medicine, is expected to open next year. UNMC announced that it signed an agreement last month to work as a “sister institution” with Hubei Cancer Hospital in Wuhan, China.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Two Northwestern faculty members have been elected by their peers as 2016 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in recognition of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science.

Ali Shilatifard, PhD, Robert Francis Furchgott Professor and Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, was recognized for “his distinguished contributions to transcriptional elongation control and chromatin, particularly the role these processes play during development and in the pathogenesis and treatment of childhood leukemia.”

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Penn State Cancer Institute

Patients with locally advanced bladder cancer often find themselves at a fork in the road when it comes to treatment decisions. The determining factor for many patients is whether or not they are candidates for surgery.

For those who can have cisplatin based chemotherapy and can undergo surgery, the standard approach is often well defined; but for those who cannot, the road ahead is not so clear. A new Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium study, led by Monika Joshi, MD, MRCP, of Penn State Cancer Institute, may help to open new options for these patients.

Read more.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

A research team in the department of Basic Medical Sciences (BMS) has identified a link between the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and the development of liver cancer. Dr. Ourania Andrisani, professor of Basic Medical Sciences, leads the team of graduate research assistants Ahmed Diab,  Saravana Kailasam Mani, Dante’ Johnson and post-doctoral research associate Zhibin Cui, in collaboration with the research team of professor Philippe Merle from INSERM, France. Using molecular approaches including transfections, fluorescence-activated cell sorting, immunoblotting, and reverse transcription polymerase chain reactions (qRT-PCR), Dr. Andrisani’s team investigated the functional significance of epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) re-expression in HBV-mediated cancer production in the liver.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

A genomic analysis study by Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey investigators and other colleagues has identified recurrent genomic alterations in a subset of breast cancer that are typically associated with a form of thyroid cancer and an intestinal birth defect known as Hirschsprung disease.  Data from the study, conducted in conjunction with the Avera Center for Precision Oncology in South Dakota and Foundation Medicine in Massachusetts, are being presented as part of a poster presentation during the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium being held this week.

Read more.

University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Robert Comyne felt a pain in his chest during an aerobics class. Thinking he’d pulled a muscle, he ignored it for a few weeks until he sneezed, and “it felt like somebody put a sword through my right lung.”

A scan revealed Stage 4 lung cancer.

The diagnosis came three years after Comyne’s wife, Diane, was diagnosed with lung cancer. He wanted the same level of care she received through UW Health.

“Her care was fantastic,” Comyne says. “She’s breathing well, and there are hardly any signs of cancer right now.”

Read more.

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