Jan. 20, 2019:

In this month’s Across the Consortium, we highlight a variety of research initiatives — from genetic testing for quicker diagnosis to new projects that help us better understand biology in order to prevent and kill cancer faster — and we remember those who recently passed away and had a profound influence in cancer research and advocacy.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Six research projects totaling $400,000 have been awarded by the University of Illinois Cancer Center in its inaugural MPI/R01 Development Award program. The research programs are divided into three groups: Cancer Prevention and Control; Cancer Biology; and Translational Oncology.
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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

Indiana University School of Medicine and IU Simon Cancer Center researchers, as part of the IU Precision Health Initiative, have formed two new community partnerships focused on improving outreach and reducing breast cancer health disparities among African American women, who get breast cancer at a lower rate than white women but have a greater risk of dying from the disease.
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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

In a recent post on his blog, Holden the Line on Cancer, George Weiner, MD, director of the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, explores the potential benefits and pitfalls of genetic modification. “Technological breakthroughs often lead to both wonderful opportunities for advancement and potential for abuse. Nuclear physics and the internet are two undeniable examples. A third example was prominent in the news recently when a scientist in China, Dr. He, reported that he had genetically modified the DNA of twin girls using a very powerful new genetic tool known as CRISPR,” writes Dr. Weiner.
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University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

As genetic testing for breast cancer has become more complex, evaluating a panel of multiple genes, it introduces more uncertainty about the results. But a new study finds that newer, more extensive tests are not causing patients to worry more about their cancer risk. “Genetic testing is becoming increasingly more complex, but increasingly more precise. This has led to some ambiguity in test results. The challenge is incorporating this information into the treatment decision without causing unnecessary worry,” says lead study author Steven J. Katz, MD, MPH, professor of general medicine and of health management and policy at the University of Michigan.
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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

The Big Ten CRC recently welcomed Borys Hrinczenko, MD, PhD, to serve as the Steering Committee member representing Michigan State University. The Steering Committee is composed of one researcher from each member institution. The committee meets on a regular basis to review activities of the consortium and decide matters of policy.
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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Rebecca Morris, PhD, I.J. Holton Professor of the Stem Cells and Cancer lab at The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, published break-though skin cancer research based on findings from 14 years of scientific investigation. Her research team included Heuijoon Park, Sonali Lad, Kelsey Boland, Kelly Johnson, Nyssa Readio, Ashok Singh, and Anupama Singh from The Hormel Institute; Guangchun Jin, Samuel Asfaha, Kelly S. Patterson, and Xiangdong Yang from Timothy C. Wang’s group at Columbia University; Douglas Londono and Derek Gordon from Rutgers University; and Carol Trempus from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Sonny Johansson, MD, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and a world-renowned surgical and experimental pathologist, died Dec. 27 at his home in Sweden after a battle with Parkinson’s disease and pneumonia. He was 76 years old. Dr. Johansson had an international reputation in surgical pathology with special expertise in diseases and tumors of the kidney, urinary bladder, testes, and interstitial cystitis. He also had expertise in bone tumor pathology as well as soft tissue and head and neck cancer.
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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered two successful therapies that slowed the progression of pediatric leukemia in mice, according to a string of studies published over the last two years in the journal Cell, and the final paper published in Genes & Development.
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Penn State Cancer Institute

People with cancer are more than four times more likely to commit suicide than people without cancer, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers. In a study using data on more than eight million cancer patients in the United States, the researchers also found that among people with cancer, white males; patients who were diagnosed at a younger age; and patients with lung, head and neck, testicular cancer, and lymphomas were more likely to commit suicide.
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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research
Donors to Purdue University have established the Tyler Trent Courage and Resilience Award, a scholarship honoring the student whose fight against cancer and enthusiastic support of the Purdue football team captured national attention. Funded through a combination of gifts, the scholarship will be awarded to undergraduate students at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus who have encountered adversity in their pursuit of higher education. First-year students through seniors are eligible, in any discipline. Students may nominate themselves or be nominated by others. The first scholarship is expected to be awarded in 2019.
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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Research from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey shows improved overall survival at five years for pediatric patients with early-stage Hodgkin lymphoma when treated with chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy versus chemotherapy alone.  The work, believed to be the largest retrospective study to date involving this population, is published in the January 3 online edition of JAMA Oncology (doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.5911).
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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Michael Toelle, superintendent of the Tomorrow River Schools, recently became the first patient at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center to be infused with an experimental cellular therapy designed to prevent infections in leukemia patients. Toelle has been a patient at UW Health’s University Hospital in Madison since he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) the day after Thanksgiving. He’s had one round of high-dose chemotherapy and will have another before he has a bone marrow transplant, likely in January.
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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 www.bigten.org.