Dec. 18, 2017:

Get up to date on the latest discoveries and important breakthroughs. Be inspired by accounts of teamwork and generosity. Remember why we are stronger together. All this and more as we take you Across the Consortium!

University of Illinois Cancer Center

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation announced $2.2 million in grants across the country to fund cancer research for children including $215,294 to two Chicago-based researchers.

One of the Chicago grants was awarded to the University of Illinois at Chicago for a total of $150,000. This grant will support the UIC/Rush/Stroger Children’s Oncology Group (COG) Clinical Trials Program. This program specifically serves underserved and often overlooked young patients in the Chicagoland area. The main researcher of this grant is Dr. Nobuko Hijiya.

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

Soy is a staple for vegetarians looking to get their protein fix—and for meat-eaters who just can’t resist a side of edamame with their meals. But there’s been controversy over whether soy is good or bad for your cancer risk (along with whether it can contribute to other issues like man boobs, too).

Now, a new study published in the International Journal of Cancersuggests that eating foods high in certain soy compounds might actually raise your risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

In the study, researchers analyzed dietary data from over 27,000 men, and compared that to their risk of developing prostate cancer over about 12 years. They discovered that the men who ate the most total isoflavones—a compound found in plants like soybeans—were 91 percent more likely to develop advanced prostate cancer than those who ate the least.

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

University of Iowa investigators are beginning a yearlong study to better understand why HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine coverage in rural areas of the state lags behind other adolescent immunizations.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute through the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, will be led by a team from Holden. Natoshia Askelson, assistant professor of community and behavioral health in the UI College of Public Health, is the project director. Other partners include the Iowa Primary Care Association, Iowa Department of Public Health, American Cancer Society, Iowa Cancer Consortium, and local public health agencies.

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University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Researchers have identified and characterized a new type of RNA protein called THOR that plays a role in cancer development — and could serve as a target for drug development.

It turns out Thor, the Norse god of thunder and the Marvel superhero, has special powers when it comes to cancer, too.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center uncovered a novel gene they named THOR while investigating previously unexplored regions of the human genome — or the human genome’s dark matter.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Michigan State University will broaden its research and education partnership with McLaren Health Care, as the medical provider looks to build a new hospital near the university’s campus.

“MSU has long enjoyed a close relationship with McLaren, and this new collaboration allows us to explore additional partnerships to jointly deliver health care services, further medical education and advance medical research,” MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said.

“Working with McLaren, this new facility will help us recruit top physicians and researchers to our region by providing access to tools and data that will build a healthier society and develop new life-saving therapies and treatments.”

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Groundbreaking cancer research from The Hormel Institute’s Dr.Seung Ho Shin made the cover article of a top online research journal EBioMedicine. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. and therefore better and more effective research and treatments for this disease are essential.

The published article describes important cancer biomarker research conducted by Dr. Shin under the guidance of executive director Dr. Zigang Dong in collaboration with others in the Molecular and Cellular Biology section. It is accompanied by a guest editorial on advances in pairing cancer biomarkers to more effective therapies.  

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Samuel Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., Havlik-Wall Professor of Oncology in the UNMC Department of Pathology and Microbiology, has been named to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB).

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s an honor,” said Dr. Cohen of the three-year appointment.

As a practicing medical pathologist who also is involved in basic research with a long track record in toxicology and chemical carcinogenesis, Dr. Cohen noted that he will be one of the few SAB members who “bridges that gap between human disease and animal models.”

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

The body’s largest organ, the skin plays an essential role in maintaining health. It acts as both a protective barrier and a sensor linking the body to the outside world. Yet many unanswered questions remain about how genetic mutations, diseases or even common treatments can harm the skin.

“Skin is the first barrier and line of defense against many environmental stressors, including ultraviolet — UV — radiation, mechanical stress and infectious agents,” explains Kathleen Green, PhD, the Joseph L. Mayberry, Sr., Professor of Pathology and Toxicology, and a professor of Dermatology.

Faculty members in Northwestern’s Department of Dermatology are working hard to better understand the fundamentals of skin biology and to bring those discoveries to the forefront of skin treatment. Their research extends from deciphering the genetic and molecular basis of deadly skin cancers, to trying to avoid harmful side effects of treatments like glucocorticoids, to preventing disease-related complications like neuropathy.

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Penn State Cancer Institute

When you think about breast cancer, you usually think about how it affects women. But men get breast cancer too.

Breast cancer, a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the breast, is about 100 times less common in men than women. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious health problem for men. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2017 about 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and about 460 men will die from it.

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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Andrea Kasinski, an assistant professor of biology in Purdue University’s College of Science, has been awarded grants to improve microRNA therapeutics for cancer by the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health.

Small, non-coding RNAs, called microRNAs, are often lost during the formation of tumors and restoring critical RNAs is known to fight cancer. More than 2,000 microRNAs have been identified in the human genome, and one has proven to be particularly effective in treating cancer: miR-34a. It was the first microRNA to enter clinical trial, and although the trial was halted due to problems with toxicity, Kasinski is working hard to make it safer.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Using light-emitting nanoparticles, Rutgers University-New Brunswickscientists have invented a highly effective method to detect tiny tumors and track their spread, potentially leading to earlier cancer detection and more precise treatment.

The technology could improve patient cure rates and survival times.

“We’ve always had this dream that we can track the progression of cancer in real time, and that’s what  we’ve done here,” said Prabhas V. Moghe, a corresponding author of the study and distinguished professor of biomedical engineering and chemical and biochemical engineering at Rutgers-New Brunswick. “We’ve tracked the disease in its very incipient stages.”

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

A University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health cancer researcher has been awarded $50,000 by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

Dr. Inga Hofmann, a pediatric hematologist oncologist and director of pediatric stem cell transplantationat the Carbone Cancer Center and medical director of the program for advanced cell therapy, has been awarded an infrastructure grant for her work in advanced cellular therapies for pediatric cancer and predisposition syndromes.

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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