Jan. 21, 2020:

In this month’s Across the Consortium, the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (Big Ten CRC) highlights the fact that cancer does not discriminate and can affect even the most active and fit individuals. We also recognize the hard work researchers are doing and the grants they are receiving to improve our understanding of cancer and how to treat it.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

University of Illinois Cancer Center member Heather Prendergast, MD, MS, MPH, was awarded a Special Interest Project that is included in the new P3RC grant. The project, which is funded for two years at $500,000, will implement risk-stratified treatment protocols that standardize patient care and allow for rapid re-assessment and access to specialist care through well-coordinated cancer care plans.

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Cancer Center at Illinois

At least 90% of head and neck cancer patients develop symptoms that affect their ability or desire to eat, because of either the tumor itself or the surgery or radiation used to treat it. These problems, called nutrition impact symptoms, have wide-ranging negative effects on patients’ physical and mental health and quality of life. However, patients who eat foods high in antioxidants and other micronutrients prior to diagnosis may reduce their risks of developing chronic nutrition impact symptoms up to one year after being diagnosed with head or neck cancer, according to a recent study led by researchers at the University of Illinois.

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

Demetrius “Dee” Dowler was 31 years old when he was diagnosed with thymoma, a rare cancer of the thymus gland. Dowler spent his 20s playing professional baseball. He was drafted out of college by the Chicago Cubs and played for its farm team for five years before joining the Reno Blackjacks, an independent league team that played June, July, and early August. That allowed Dowler to begin his career as a math teacher in Indianapolis in 1997. Less than five years later – with a young wife and an 8-year-old daughter – Dowler found himself undergoing the toughest battle of his life.

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Two early-career University of Iowa scientists have each been awarded a one-year, $30,000 American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant through Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa. These seed grants help junior faculty members and independent research scientists start their careers in cancer research, and provide funds to explore new ideas related to the cause, prevention, and treatment of cancer. This is the second round of awards made within the current grant period.

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University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center

Mohan Suntha, MD, MBA, a physician leader with deep roots across the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), including providing exceptional care for cancer patients and leading two of the system’s hospitals, has been named President and Chief Executive Officer of UMMS, effective December 1, 2019. Dr. Suntha has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), the system’s flagship academic medical center in downtown Baltimore, since May 2016, and previously as President and Chief Executive Officer for UM St. Joseph Medical Center (UM SJMC).

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University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center researchers say an innovative way of assessing clinical trial-related imaging could reduce the kinds of errors that can distort results. The researchers implemented the tumor response assessment core — or TRAC — in 2016, and say it could serve as a model for improving imaging assessments at other cancer centers where clinical trials are conducted.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

As the seconds ticked down to the first Michigan State basketball national championship in 21 years, Sparty began to cry. The man inside the costume was Jason Zicchino, and nobody knew it. That was how it needed to be. He was one of six students who shared the secret identity of the Spartans’ muscled-up mascot that 1999-2000 season, arguably the greatest sports year in school history. Nearly two decades later, Zicchino would draw on this experience as he faced the fight of his life.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

A first-of-its-kind study on molecular interactions by biomedical engineers in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering will make it easier and more efficient for scientists to develop new medicines and other therapies for diseases such as cancer, HIV, and autoimmune diseases.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

UNMC set a new record for extramural research award dollars, bringing in just over $138 million for fiscal year 2019. It’s a 2 percent increase from the previous year’s record total, which was itself a 15.8 percent jump. Jennifer Larsen, MD, vice chancellor for research, said, “This steady upward trend, in a time of fiscal uncertainty for research, shows how we continue to recruit outstanding scientific talent to UNMC and our existing faculty continue to grow in their research funding success, as well.”

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

A new artificial intelligence (AI) model predicts breast cancer in mammograms more accurately than radiologists, reducing false positives and false negatives, reports a large international study from Google, Northwestern Medicine, and two screening centers in the United Kingdom published in Nature.

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

Together with State Sen. Bob Hackett (R-London) and State Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus), The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) announced new legislation that would ensure immediate access to treatment for stage IV cancer patients in Ohio. Under the newly proposed bill, insurance providers in Ohio would be required to eliminate “fail first” provisions that require patients to first try an insurers’ preferred and often generic alternative drug prior to receiving financial coverage for the therapy prescribed by a treating physician.

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Penn State Cancer Institute

Patient enrollment in clinical trials as the first course of treatment after cancer diagnosis is low, despite the fact that enrollment may increase life expectancy, according to researchers at Penn State. They also found that white males with private health insurance and metastatic cancers treated at academic medical centers are more likely than other groups to enroll in clinical trials.

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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

One of the most common side effects for those undergoing chemotherapy is peripheral neuropathy, a set of symptoms caused by damage to nerves that control the sensations and movements of arms, legs, hands and feet. The issue can be so intense in children that they can have trouble with simple handwriting and walking. Now, Purdue University pain researchers and engineers are working with medical experts at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, a metabolite profiling expert at Bindley Bioscience Center, and theoreticians at Max Planck Institute in Magdeburg, Germany, to develop methods to better predict which patients will have side effects from specific chemotherapy drugs and develop therapeutic cures for it.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Investigators at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey have found that a treatment based on a novel cellular product programmed to deliver an overabundance of chimeric antigen receptor causes cell death in non-Hodgkin lymphoma models that are sensitive or resistant to standard therapies. Andrew M. Evens, DO, MSc, FACP, associate director for clinical services and director of the Lymphoma Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute and medical director of oncology services at RWJBarnabas Health, shares more about the results published in the November 26 online edition of Leukemia .

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Amanda Parkes, MD, assistant professor (CHS), Hematology, Medical Oncology and Palliative Care (pictured), was selected for the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Education Scholars Program (ASCO-ESP). Her application was chosen from more than 50 for the 12-member class of 2020-2021.

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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 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 www.bigten.org.