December 28, 2020:

In this month’s Across the Consortium, the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium highlights recently published research, grants, professional appointments, oral presentations, and developments in basic scientific research across Big Ten cancer centers and universities. Stay current on what’s happening within our Big Ten universities.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

In Chicago, more than twice the number of people who die of prostate cancer live in a black neighborhood compared to white, often because of late diagnosis of the disease. A new study being conducted at the UI Health Mile Square Health Centers will determine whether a prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening procedure can eventually reduce this disparity while increasing the detection of life-threatening but treatable disease. Investigators contributing to this study include: Co-Principal Investigator Peter Gann, MD, ScD, professor of pathology and director of the Translational Pathology Shared Resource at the University of Illinois Cancer Center, Co-Principal Investigator Nicole Gastala, MD, director of Behavioral Health and Addiction, UI Health Mile Square Centers and a member of the UI Cancer Center’s Cancer Prevention and Control program, and Clinical Project Lead Jessica Richardson, MD, the physician lead at Mile Square’s main health center.

Read more.

Cancer Center at Illinois

Cancer Center at Illinois researcher, Erik Nelson, PhD, professor of molecular and integrative physiology, was awarded a $4.5 million Era of Hope Scholar Award from the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP). This prestigious award supports young investigators who have demonstrated significant potential to effect meaningful change in breast cancer.

Read more.

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center

Harikrishna Nakshatri, PhD, associate director of education at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Marian J. Morrison Professor of Breast Cancer Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine, recently received a $1.3 million grant from the Department of Defense to identify the unique biology that may make Black women more susceptible to aggressive breast cancer. The grant, offered by the DoD Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program’s breast cancer research program, will enable Dr. Nakshatri to continue to characterize unique biomarkers within normal breasts of black women and how that impacts health disparities in breast cancer.

Read more.

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Muhammad Furqan, MD, associate professor in Hematology, Oncology, and Blood & Marrow Transplantation and leader of the Thoracic Multidisciplinary Oncology Group at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center (HCCC), recently received a 2020 Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award from the National Cancer Institute. This two-year, $119,982 award recognizes Dr. Furqan’s passion, advocacy, and hard work in streamlining the cancer clinical trial operations at the University of Iowa and the HCCC.

Read more.

University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center

University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) Department of Radiation Oncology Chair William F. Regine, MD, FACR, FACRO, along with UMSOM Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA recently announced that three prominent  faculty members in the Department of Radiation Oncology will be promoted into leading department positions that recognize their outstanding academic scholarship and success. Isabel Lauren Jackson, PhD, associate professor and deputy director of the Division of Translational Radiation Sciences (DTRS) in the Department of Radiation Oncology, will be named the second Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Endowed Professor in Radiation Oncology, the highest honor a faculty member can receive at UMSOM. Elizabeth Nichols, MD, associate professor and clinical director, and Zeljko Vujaskovic, MD, PhD, professor and director of the DTRS, have been named vice chairs in the Department of Radiation Oncology.

Read more.

University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

Pancreatic cancer has remained resistant to immunotherapies that other types of cancer have benefited from. A study led by the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center combined single single-cell RNA sequencing with two other investigative techniques to create one of the most robust and detailed portraits to date of network of interactions that suppress the body’s immune response in and around pancreatic cancer. The team’s findings, which appear in the journal Nature Cancer, put a new spotlight on the large degree to which immune response varies from patient to patient and tumor to tumor – which should be taken into account as new immunotherapy combinations are developed against pancreatic cancer. The study is led by study senior author, Marina Pasca di Magliano, PhD, professor of surgery and cell and development biology at Michigan Medicine and co-senior author, Filip Bednar, MD, assistant professor of surgery at Michigan Medicine.

Read more.

Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Michigan State University researchers have identified a potential genetic target for treating an especially painful and invasive form of endometriosis. The study, published in the scientific journal, Cell Reports, could lead to better treatments for women suffering from severe forms of endometriosis, said Mike Wilson, a postdoctoral fellow in the MSU College of Human Medicine. Wilson, PhD and Jake Reske, a graduate student in the MSU Genetics and Genome Sciences Program, are first authors of the study.

Read more.

Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Anne Blaes, MD, an M Health Fairview medical oncologist, with interest in cardio-oncology, and Claudio Brunstein, MD, PhD, professor of medicine within the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Transplantation and the director of the Adult Blood and Marrow Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Program, have been appointed to leadership positions at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota. Dr. Blaes has accepted the role of co-leader of the Screening, Prevention, Etiology and Cancer Survivorship (SPECS) Research Program. Dr. Brunstein, will become a co-leader of the Masonic Cancer Center’s Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program.

Read more.

Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Raymond Bergan, MD, recently joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center as the cancer center’s deputy director. Dr. Bergan previously worked at the Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) and the Knight Cancer Institute, where he served as associate director for medical oncology, the head of division of hematology and oncology, and co-leader of the Knight Institute’s translational oncology program. While serving in these positions, Dr. Bergen also treated patients and led a research team that expanded the understanding of how early-stage cancer cells transform to travel throughout the body.

Read more.

Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

A new study led by Northwestern Medicine investigators has identified tissue-specific epigenetic regulators and profiled the three-dimensional genome structure of zebrafish, filling in a longtime knowledge gap in the understanding of the organism’s genome. The findings, published in Nature, could help scientists use the model organism to unravel human diseases such as cancer, according to Feng Yue, PhD, the Duane and Susan Burnham Professor of Molecular Medicine and senior author of the study.

Read more.

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

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) has established a new center dedicated to maintaining and expanding the legacy of the late Clara D. Bloomfield, MD, a distinguished university professor who dedicated her research career toward acute myeloid leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The center will be initially supported by a $5 million commitment from the OSUCCC – James. The new Clara D. Bloomfield Center for Leukemia Outcomes Research at the OSUCCC-James will focus on research in hematologic malignancies, including acute leukemias, myelodysplastic syndromes and clonal hematopoiesis.

Read more.

Penn State Cancer Institute

Cancer cases in adolescents and young adults have risen by 30% during the last four decades, with kidney cancer rising at the greatest rate, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers. Results of their study of cancer patients, ages of 15 to 39, across more than four decades, showed that cancer diagnoses increased from 57 to 74 per 100,000 adolescents and young adults between 1973 and 2015. The results of the study were published on Dec. 1 in JAMA Network Open. Nicholas Zaorsky, MD, MS, assistant professor of radiation oncology and public health sciences, said that cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death in this age group and that the increasing number of cases is concerning.

Read more.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research (PCCR) recently received a five-year accreditation extension as one of only seven basic laboratory cancers recognized by the National Cancer Institute. These laboratories connects more than 110 researchers across the university to study cancer on the cellular level. The PCCR is led by Timothy L. Ratcliff, PhD, distinguished professor of comparative pathobiology. As the only NCI basic laboratory cancer center that includes a college of veterinary medicine, PCCR has a unique ability to study canine oncology and see how it relates to humans. Research by Deborah Knapp, DVM, MS, the Delores L. McCall Professor of Comparative Oncology in Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has recognized bladder cancer in dogs as the most relevant model for invasive bladder cancer in humans. By treating canine patients, Purdue’s researchers can observe therapies in clinical settings comparable to human circumstances.

Read more.

Rutgers Cancer Institute Of New Jersey

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center, together with RWJBarnabas Health, recently shared its data from its hematologic clinical research program at the 62nd American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting and Exposition. A total of 22 abstracts were accepted, predominantly in data in several types of blood cancer, including leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. Of the 22 abstracts, 10 were accepted for oral presentation, including one from Rajat Bannerji, MD, PhD, for session 626/Abstract 400, Odronextamab (REGN1979), “a Human CD20 x CD3 Bispecific Antibody, Induces Durable, Complete Responses in Patients with Highly Refractory B-Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, including Patients Refractory to CAR T Therapy.”

Read more.

University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

For almost 40 years, the UW Blood and Marrow Transplant Program has given patients with blood cancers an opportunity for a better outcome. After receiving a multiple myeloma diagnosis in 2019, Janice Bynum, didn’t know the stage of her cancer and she learned that her best chance for remission was to receive a transplant to help reboot her immune system. Approximately 200 transplants and novel cell therapy treatments are conducted at UW annually, including supporting patients on clinical trials. Valerie P. Kenkre, MD, an associate professor of medicine within the division of hematology/oncology at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, is among the providers who supports the Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant Clinic and Hematology Clinic.

Read more.

Information for these stories was compiled from Big Ten CRC member websites, online publications, 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 more than 9,800 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