Dec. 3, 2019:

In this month’s Across the Consortium, the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (Big Ten CRC) congratulates researchers who recently received grants to continue their work to fight against cancer. We also zoom in on the work researchers are doing to understand and treat breast cancer both during and after surgery and/or treatment.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

University of Illinois Cancer Center member Jiyeon Kim has been awarded a V Scholar Grant to conduct research on how fructose-mannose metabolism impacts tumor growth and aggressiveness in non-small cell lung cancer. Fructose – or fruit sugar – consumption increases the risk of colorectal cancer in mice, while mannose – a simple sugar related to glucose – does the opposite, slowing cancer growth in the animals, said Kim, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics.

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Cancer Center at Illinois

Paul Hergenrother, PhD, is one of eight University of Illinois faculty members who were elected 2019 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Hergenrother leads one of the Cancer Center at Illinois research themes focused on new cancer drug discoveries.

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

After mastectomy surgery, women with breast cancer are faced with many types of scars. With every glance in the mirror, the physical scarring left after surgery serves as a constant reminder of their battle with the disease—creating emotional scars in its wake. However, advances in surgical techniques have given surgeons the tools to rebuild the breast in such a way that these scars have less chance to form.

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Hawkeyes and Badgers may compete in athletics, but they work together to fight cancer. See how the University of Iowa’s Sneha Phadke, DO, and the University of Wisconsin’s Kari Wisinski, MD, are teaming up against breast cancer.

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University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

Looking beyond DNA mutations to a combination of molecular features could help determine the best drug combinations for each patient. Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive cancer, one that’s likely to recur and to metastasize. It’s also quite diverse at the molecular level, and doctors currently don’t have a good method for determining which drugs are likely to work against each patient’s unique cancer. But a group of researchers at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center is laying the foundations for a new, “multi-omic” approach that could help determine the drugs to which a particular triple-negative tumor will be most likely to respond based on the totality of its molecular features.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

A Michigan State University study led by a physiology graduate student in the College of Human Medicine has found that new drug combinations may prevent melanoma, an often deadly form of skin cancer, from becoming resistant to treatment. The study published in Oncogene, one of the world’s leading cancer journals, “could be very important for a subset of melanoma patients,” said Richard Neubig, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine and Human Medicine. He estimated that the findings could help about half of the melanoma patients whose cancer becomes drug resistant.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, lung cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosis and is the leading cause of cancer mortality in Minnesota. It also kills more than twice as many men as prostate cancer and more than twice as many women as breast cancer in the state. Abbie Begnaud with the University of Minnesota answers questions on the symptoms, risk factors and treatment for lung cancer.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Known as a quiet force who transformed the medical center and ushered in a modern era of transplantation and research, Charles Andrews, MD, the fifth chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, died Saturday, Nov. 16, at Nebraska Medicine following a recent stroke. He was 94. Born Jan. 22, 1925 in Stratford, Okla., Dr. Andrews was instrumental in establishing UNMC as a leader in solid organ and bone marrow transplantation, now among the leading programs in the world, and set the institution on the path of becoming a major academic medical center.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

A new review has found that a combination of endocrine inhibitors and hormone therapy can prolong progression-free survival for patients with hormone-receptor positive metastatic breast cancer, as compared to either chemotherapy or hormone therapy alone. Published in Lancet Oncology, the findings show this combination therapy should be used as a first-line treatment in hormone receptor-positive patients, according to Massimo Cristofanilli, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology and co-author of the study.

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The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) has earned two national awards for excellence in patient care delivery from Press Ganey, a health care performance improvement organization that works with more than 41,000 health care facilities to improve the overall safety, quality and experience of care. This is the fourth consecutive year The James has received a Press Ganey Guardian of Excellence Award. The award recognizes top-performing healthcare organizations that have achieved the 95th percentile or above for performance in patient experience and is a nationally recognized symbol of achievement in health care.

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Penn State Cancer Institute

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine have developed a new method to model how genes interact with each other – and it may someday contribute to the development of personalized treatments for patients. According to the researchers, the new model is able to construct personalized networks for an individual patient that can show complex gene interactions in multiple directions and predict how those interactions may change over time. Genes encoded in human DNA determine physical characteristics like hair color or body shape. Historically, it was believed that a single gene influenced a single trait. Modern scientists understand that genes influence each other in a complex web of connections called gene regulatory networks.

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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bladder cancer strikes about 72,000 Americans each year, kills about 16,000, and is one of the most expensive cancers to treat. The current treatments for bladder cancer are invasive for patients – who often must sit for hours at a time with a bladder full of an agent designed to kill cancer cells and tumors. Bladder cancer also is one of the most recurring for people diagnosed with the disease. Now, researchers at Purdue University have come up with a way to combine the anthrax toxin with a growth factor to kill bladder cancer cells and tumors.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

More than $2.3 million in Research Scholar Grants from the American Cancer Society have been awarded to three Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey researchers to examine cell metabolism and tumor formation in forms of breast cancer, lung cancer, and leukemia.

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Mark Burkard, MD, PhD, associate professor of hematology, medical oncology, and palliative care, received a Vilas Faculty Mid-Career Investigator Award. This award, which recognizes research and teaching excellence in faculty who are at mid-career, provides $75,000 in flexible research funds over three years.

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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