Jan. 20, 2016:

The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium‘s “Across the Consortium” is your front-row seat to all the latest action in cancer research conducted by our member institutions.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

If it wasn’t for groups like the Theresa Tracy Strive to Survive, Drs. Christopher Gondi and Manu Gnanamony may not be able to continue their research at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria.

Their ultimate goal is to find a cure for pancreatic cancer through research they have done since 2012.

“The ultimate goal is the patient goes into the clinic. The doctor says, ‘OK, you have pancreatic cancer. We will start you on this therapy and we will start you on this drug as well, so to help you, help to lessen the toxicity of the drug. The other drug we are using in combination will help you ease the pain and will take care of all the tumor cells.’ The doctor would say, ‘I will give you six months for complete the clearing of the tumor and after six months you will be back to yourself.’ That would be an ideal situation,” Gondi said.

“Can pancreatic cancer be a manageable disease like a common cold or a broken leg?” That’s the burning question Gondi wants answer.

Read more.

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

Based in Indianapolis, the Susan G. Komen Tissue Bank at the IU Simon Cancer Center is the only normal breast tissue bio-repository of its kind in the world. As such, it is uniquely positioned to characterize the molecular and genetic basis of normal breast development and compare it to the different types of breast cancer.

Research by my colleagues at Indiana University suggest that triple negative breast cancer, an especially aggressive form of the disease, in African American women has greater probability of originating from a population of cells with stem-cell like properties. In Hispanic women, it may originate from an entirely different set of cells. The importance of that finding is that ethnicity-dependent differences in normal breast biology can lead to further discoveries down the road to help us predict breast cancer incidence among different ethnic groups.

My colleagues made that discovery, in part, by using what is considered “normal” – or cancer-free — breast tissue samples from the bank.

Read more.

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

It has been a while since I submitted a blog entry, and one of my New Year’s resolutions is that I will get back to posting entries more regularly. I thought I would start with a summary of the past year in the field of cancer in general and the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center in particular.

By all accounts, it was an outstanding year. For decades, cancer immunotherapy was seen as a field that created both scientific excitement and clinical frustration – studies in mice demonstrated real promise, yet we were unable to apply the resulting advances to help patients. This is no longer the case. Clinical research studies from 2015 demonstrate cancer immunotherapy can be effective for patients with an increasing number of cancer types that are resistant to other standard therapies. The past year provided additional evidence that persistence in the field of cancer immunotherapy has finally had a positive impact for patients and is here to stay. Possibly most importantly, it is clear we are only now scratching the surface of what cancer immunotherapy can do, and are sure to be able to use the immune system to help additional patients in the years ahead.

Read Dr. George Weiner’s full blog post.

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

What started as research into one of the most rare types of cancer has expanded into a portfolio that includes a potential treatment for the most common endocrine disease in women.

Millendo Therapeutics, a University of Michigan startup company, announced an exclusive license agreement with AstraZeneca for the worldwide development and commercialization rights to test a new compound, MLE4901, for the treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome. There are no approved therapies for PCOS, which affects up to 15 percent of women.

Read more.

Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

While studying cervical cancer statistics compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Sabrina Ford noticed a discrepancy she thought must be a mistake. While African American women undergo screenings for cervical cancer at a higher rate than white women, they die from the disease at almost twice the rate.

Read more.

Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Jaime Modiano, V.M.D., Ph.D., professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, will be leading a team of researchers in an exciting new study to better understand and prevent hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer in dogs.

The study is being funded by a grant from the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing, treating and curing diseases in all dogs. Three groups whose dogs have been affected by this cruel disease —  the American Boxer Charitable Foundation, the Golden Retriever Foundation, and the Portuguese Water Dog Foundation — are taking a unique, collaborative stand against cancer by pledging $432,000 to support this research effort.

Read more.

Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Babu Guda, Ph.D., has been named UNMC’s first chief bioinformatics and research computing officer.

In his new role, Dr. Guda will help vice chancellor for research, Jennifer Larsen, M.D., identify and prioritize the development of new research infrastructure, processes, tools, and policies relative to research.

He also will assist in the recruitment of new biomedical informatics faculty, grow new expertise in bioinformatics with the biomedical informatics graduate program, and help develop more communication and collaborations between the campuses regarding available biomedical informatics expertise.

Read more.

Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

The laboratory of Derek Wainwright, PhD, assistant professor of Neurological Surgery, studies strategies to reverse pathways that inhibit the immune system from fighting glioblastoma, a fatal and incurable type of brain cancer.

“Immunosuppression is a dominant player that inhibits the productivity of an anti-tumor immune response against brain tumors,” Dr. Wainwright said.

The standard of care for adult patients with glioblastoma includes surgical resection, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but even with those aggressive treatments median survival is only just over a year. The goal of Wainwright’s lab is to understand how manipulating immunosuppressive pathways can increase survival when combined with existing therapies.

Read more.

Penn State Cancer Institute

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine, working with Chinese and American colleagues, have discovered a novel way to enhance and restore cancer suppressor activity in B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, resulting in better outcomes in a pre-clinical model of the disease. The finding could pave the way for a new class of drugs for this and other forms of leukemia.

Read more.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Entrepreneurs have launched a nonprofit startup that will option Purdue University-discovered drug compounds and could shepherd them through proof-of-principle clinical trials.

Timothy L. Ratliff, co-founder of Boilermaker Health Innovations, said researchers at Purdue receive money to discover compounds that could address a variety of health conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes and more.

“Once a compound is discovered, there are different steps to evaluate its efficacy, to examine how it is distributed through the body and to determine its toxicity,” said Ratliff, the Distinguished Professor of Comparative Pathobiology in Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the Robert Wallace Miller Director of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research. “Researchers cannot receive funding from external agencies to do that, however. Many compounds never reach the public because of this lack of funding.”

Read more.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed a ban on tanning bed use by those under 18. In 2013, a law was enacted in New Jersey banning those under the age of 17 from using tanning beds. Jerod L. Stapleton, PhD, is a behavioral scientist at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, whose research aims to understand why young people frequently engage in indoor tanning.  He shares some insight into the concern by medical professionals about the risks of this practice – especially by teens and young adults.

Read more.

University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

In biology, signaling is everything. Take fly fishing, a relaxing passion of Richard Anderson, PhD, professor and member of the UW Carbone Cancer Center.

When trout rise in the stream, they inadvertently signal their presence by forming dimples in the water. The best fly fishers have a trick to receive that signal.

“I taught my yellow lab, Ty, whose hearing is much better than mine, to point out where the trout are,” Anderson said.

In cell biology, signaling is a crucial way for cells to transmit signals from outside the cell to inside, as well as within a cell.

Anderson’s research group studies a class of molecules known as second messengers, which, as their name suggests, take the initial signal, amplify it and pass it on. Specifically, they study a subset of second messengers known as the phosphoinositides, or PIPs. In normal growth and development, PIP second messengers relay growth signals from outside the cell to inside, and then are degraded when the cell should stop growing.

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.