Feb. 19, 2019:

In this month’s Across the Consortium, the Big Ten CRC features the health initiatives our members are pursuing to reach communities at greatest risk of fatal cancer due to educational and health disparities; we celebrate some of the newest advances in cancer research at Big Ten universities; and we highlight our members’ engagement with state and local leaders.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

The University of Illinois Cancer Center intends to catch cancer no matter where it lives. A contingent of UI Cancer Center administrators recently traveled to Peru, Ill., to convene with officials in LaSalle County to discuss how the two groups can work together to eradicate the deadly disease in the 17th most populous county in Illinois. LaSalle is one of five Illinois counties – Cook, Will, Livingston and Grundy are the others – in the UI Cancer Center’s catchment area. Read more

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

A significant portion of people over the age of 50 have mutations in their blood cells that are associated with leukemia. However, only a small percentage of these otherwise normal people go on to develop leukemia. It is unclear what leads to the development of leukemia in the small portion of people who have pre-leukemic mutations, but Indiana University School of Medicine researchers have found that inflammation can have a big impact on the function of these cells. In a study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, IU researchers found that inflammation can play a significant role in the growth and survival of stem cells bearing pre-leukemic mutations, such as TET2. Read more.

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Research at the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is organized into four programs: cancer genes and pathways, experimental thera­peutics, free radical metabolism and imaging, and cancer epidemiology and population science. The latter category – cancer epidemiology and population science (CEPS) – is where public health really shows its strengths. “The goal of the CEPS program is to conduct population-based research that improves our understanding of what causes cancer, how cancer can be prevented and, if not prevented, how it can be detected early in its course, and to increase quantity and quality of life for cancer survivors,” says Charles Lynch, CPH professor of epidemiology and the CEPS program co-leader along with Richard Hoffman, professor of internal medicine. Read more.

University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

For some patients with larynx cancer, the disease persists or recurs after surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Additional surgery often results in poor survival. Immunotherapy treatments can work sometimes, but which patients should receive the treatment before additional surgery? University of Michigan researchers have found that infiltrating lymphocytes are tied to survival in patients with recurrent larynx cancer. These findings suggest super-boosting the immune system before additional treatment. Read more.

Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Yuan Wang, an assistant professor in the MSU Department of Animal Science, believes stem cells may hold the answer to some of medicine’s biggest questions. “Stem cells are the basis for regeneration in your body,” Wang said. “They can help us understand the development of disease, and we are figuring out how they can be used to replace damaged cells or replenish consumed cells in the body. The stem cell’s ability to adapt and serve any number of functions is unique, which is why it holds so much promise.” Read more.

Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota Medical School Researchers Discover New Therapy for Prostate Cancer Patients.

Masonic Cancer Center members Aaron LeBeau, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Branden Moriarity, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School received the Prostate Cancer Foundation Challenge Award to further their work identifying new therapies for prostate cancer. This is the first Challenge Award in the history of the Prostate Cancer Foundation solely awarded to investigators at the University of Minnesota. Read more.

Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, accompanied by State Sen. Mark Kolterman, recently toured the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The governor, accompanied by UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, visited the iEXCEL Visualization Hub, where he received a demonstration of various technologies, and toured the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, meeting with director Ken Cowan, MD, PhD, and researcher Tony Hollingsworth, PhD. Read more.

Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Betina Yanez, PhD, assistant professor of Medical Social Sciences, has received the New Investigator Award 2019 from the American Psychosocial Oncology Society. The award recognizes Yanez’s contributions to the field of psychosocial oncology, which aims to provide treatment and support for patients and their families during cancer therapy. Read more.

Penn State Cancer Institute

The incidence of thyroid cancer was associated with malpractice payouts in a recent study by Penn State Cancer Institute researchers. Because thyroid cancer is not usually fatal, the findings suggest that physicians sometimes offer unnecessary testing to avoid being sued. Over the past several decades, the incidence of thyroid cancer has increased dramatically in the United States, from 3.6 cases per 100,000 in 1973 to 15 cases per 100,000 in 2014. Read more.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Researchers have been struggling for years to find a treatment for patients who have a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive blood cancer that is one of the most lethal cancers. About 19,520 news cases are diagnosed a year, and about 10,670 people a year die from it, according to the American Cancer Society. Purdue University researchers are developing a series of drug compounds that have shown promise in treating such cases. Read more.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
An energy crisis usually isn’t viewed as a positive situation, but when it comes to stopping a common form of lung cancer, it’s considered a good thing. Research from investigators at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey examined a potential approach to cancer therapy that disrupts a cancer cell’s ‘fuel supply’ by targeting a cellular survival mechanism known as autophagy. Read more.

University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Elise Lawson, MD, MSHS, recently received an American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant for her project, “Addressing disparities in outcomes for patients with rectal cancer in Wisconsin by identifying multi-level facilitators and barriers to provision of guideline-recommended care.” 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 www.bigten.org.