July 13, 2020:

In this month’s Across the Consortium, the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (Big Ten CRC) highlights research on disparities when treating and diagnosing cancers, developments in cellular, genomic research, blood diseases, and big data, and ongoing growth at member cancer centers.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Larisa Nonn, PhD, associate professor of pathology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and a member of University of Illinois Cancer Center’s Translational Oncology Program, has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to study why a large gap exists between Black and white men being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Previous studies show Black men contract the disease at a younger age, the growth is more aggressive in nature, and causes twice as many deaths.
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Cancer Center at Illinois

Zeynep Madak-Erdogan, a member of the Cancer Center at Illinois and Cancer Research Advocacy Group, is studying health disparities in cancer, including estrogen-receptor (ER) signaling and regulation and ER positive breast cancer in African American women. Madak-Erdogan’s interest in researching cancer began during high school, when the first molecular biology and genetics department in Turkey was established. She began her academic journey there, then continued her studies at the University of Illinois for her PhD, postdoctoral fellowship, and finally, as a faculty member.
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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center

An Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher has been awarded a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study ways to build bone and decrease tumor growth in multiple myeloma bone disease. G. David Roodman, MD, PhD, distinguished professor at IU School of Medicine, is leading research to investigate a molecule developed with collaborators at the University of Pittsburgh that could repair bone, decrease tumors, and improve outcomes for multiple myeloma patients on specific targeted therapies.
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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Every year, more than 850,000 Americans are diagnosed with some form of cancer, and two-thirds of these patients are treated with radiation therapy. University of Iowa researchers say while cancer tissue targeting techniques have improved, radiation can still injure healthy tissue surrounding the treatment area. A team of UI researchers led by Randy Kardon, MD, PhD, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, and Isabella Grumbach, MD, PhD, professor of internal medicine – cardiovascular medicine, will study the effects of radiation therapy on small blood vessels, also known as micro vessels, in cancer survivors. The group received a five-year R01 grant for $2.5 million from the National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute.
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University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center

Using a combination of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to target and sample suspicious prostate tissue, along with a standard prostate biopsy, is significantly more likely to detect the most aggressive prostate cancers than standard biopsy alone. The finding, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, could allow a higher percentage of prostate cancer patients to avoid unnecessary treatment for slow-growing prostate cancers that are not likely to spread.
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University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

A new commentary in The Lancet EClinicalMedicine argues for the combined efforts of HPV screening and vaccination in the fight to prevent cervical cancer. While the latest findings on long-term efficacy of the HPV vaccine are cause for celebration, vaccinations should be coupled with preventive screening to better protect women from cervical cancer, two University of Michigan experts argue in the invited commentary.
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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

African American and Hispanic children admitted to pediatric intensive care units for cancer treatment have significantly higher death rates than do Caucasian patients, a study led by two Michigan State University and Spectrum Health researchers found. Nationwide, 8.5% of African American and 8.1% of Hispanic children with cancer died after admission to pediatric intensive care units, compared with 6.3% of non-Hispanic Caucasian children.
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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Deepali Sachdev, PhD, a breast cancer researcher with the Masonic Cancer Center and the University of Minnesota Medical School, was recently awarded a research grant by METAvivor, a volunteer-led, nonprofit organization founded by metastatic breast cancer patients. Her research will focus on development of natural kill cell-based tri-specific killer engagers as novel immunotherapy for metastatic breast cancer.
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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Kishor Bhakat, PhD, associate professor in the UNMC Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Anatomy, took part in a recently published study that could have an impact on developing novel therapeutic drugs for various diseases as DNA damage is the hallmark of cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases. The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “provides evidence that oxidized guanine residues in G4 sequences, followed by binding of APE1, is essential for the formation of G4 structures that regulate many biological processes,” Dr. Bhakat said.
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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered that a protein called mDia2 is vital for one step of bone marrow transplantation, according to a study published in Nature Communications.Boosting mDia2 function in transplanted bone marrow cells — known as hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) — could one day lead to more efficient transplantation, which is used to treat a variety of blood diseases such as sickle cell anemia, leukemia, and lymphoma.
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The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

A new center at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) gives patients direct, expedited access to diagnostic testing for cancer. The goal, says Chief Medical Officer David Cohn, MD, MBA, is to provide immediate community-wide patient access to cancer providers for anyone with a suspected cancer, especially in communities where access to healthcare is limited and has become even more challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic. The James Cancer Diagnostic Center offers a platform for expert evaluation and access to the appropriate diagnostic testing so that a cancer diagnosis can be made in a timely and precise manner, in a low-risk environment.
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Penn State Cancer Institute

New images of an enzyme in action as it interacts with the chromosome could provide important insight into how cells — including cancer cells — regulate their genes. The enzyme, LSD1, can “turn off” gene expression by removing chemical flags (methyl groups) from the nucleosome — tightly packed units of DNA and protein in chromosomes. The LSD1 histone demethylase is over-expressed in multiple cancer types, resulting in disruption to normal cell development, and the new structure could inform therapeutic interventions that target the enzyme. A paper by Penn State researchers that describes the crystal structure of LSD1-nucleosome complex, published in the June 4 issue of Molecular Cell, explains the role of a separate accessory protein, CoREST.
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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

A novel approach to treating lung and thyroid cancers is moving closer to clinical trials.
A $399,933 SBIR Phase I grant from the National Cancer Institute to KinaRx, a Purdue University-affiliated startup, will help to advance a novel platform aimed at producing more effective drugs to treat lung and thyroid cancers. The platform targets gene mutations that help cancers grow and expand within the body.
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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

A harmonization of “big data” in examining long-term outcomes with contemporary treatment for pediatric and adult Hodgkin lymphoma patients is yielding a new approach to inform future clinical trial design and enhance clinical decision-making. Results were shared in a poster presentation at ASCO’s virtual meeting in May. Investigator Andrew M. Evens, DO, MSc, FACP, associate director for clinical services and director of the Lymphoma Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and medical director of oncology services at RWJ Barnabas Health, describes the findings and the development of a new international consortium known as HoLISTIC that contributed to the basis of the work.
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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Despite advances in cancer screening and treatment regimens in recent years, significant gaps remain in who receives access to these potentially life-saving measures. Closing these gaps, which often fall along gender and racial lines, tends to be a common goal for state and federal policymakers who set healthcare policy. But without a little help, their ability to solve the problem is hampered.
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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.