July 22, 2021:

In this month’s Across the Consortium, get to know some the cancer investigators in the Big Ten, what doctoral candidates and graduate students are researching, what publications and accolades have been shared with Big Ten researchers, and more.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Fourth year University of Illinois Chicago doctoral candidate Amanda Maldonado is among 16 young science leaders welcomed to the Yale Ciencia Academy for Career Development, a National Institutes of Health-funded fellowship program to assist promising Hispanic and Latinx scientists transition into research careers. Maldonado’s work focuses on medicinal chemistry, studying how metabolites produced from natural sources, such as fungi, bacteria, or plants, may play a role in inducing cell death in high-grade serous ovarian cancer. As a member of University of Illinois Cancer Center Member Joanna Burdette’s laboratory, Maldonado was recently awarded a NIH T32 training grant to aid her research interests in natural products and women’s health.

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Cancer Center at Illinois

Four Illinois students received the Cancer Center at Illinois (CCIL) Graduate Cancer Scholarships to pursue cancer research projects under the mentorship of CCIL scientists. The four students include Bashar Emon, Sarah Gardner, Yoon Jeong, and You Jin Song. “A core mission of the Cancer Center at Illinois is to mobilize and inspire students across campus to pursue careers in cancer research,” said Rex Gaskins, PhD, CCIL’s associate director for education. “Not only do CCIL scholarships accelerate cancer discoveries at Illinois, but they provide students with real-world experience on exceptional, interdisciplinary teams.”

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center

New research from Indiana University suggests obesity in black women increases their risk of recurrence of breast cancer or even dying – more so than in white women. “The racial disparities are certainly not just biological,” said Tarah J. Ballinger, MD,  assistant professor of clinical medicine at the IU School of Medicine and a breast oncologist at IU Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center and lead author of the study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. “In European Americans, if they were obese, it didn’t make them do worse.”

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Researcher Adam Dupuy, PhD, associate professor of anatomy and cell biology at the University of Iowa Carver School of Medicine, is currently working to understand the role that somatic mutation plays in all aspects of tumor biology. Much of the work he and his collaborators have made use of the Sleeping Beauty transposon system to engineer mouse cancer models in which somatic mutations are generated by transposon insertions. Some of these studies have identified many novel candidate cancer genes. Dr. Dupuy’s current research focuses on the genetics of hepatocellular carcinoma and T-cell leukemia.

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University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center

As an epidemiologist and member of the Population Sciences Program of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, Clement A. Adebamowo, BM, ChB, ScD, FWACS, FACS, conducts research on the epidemiology of cancer. Currently, he is the principal investigator of the NIH-funded African Collaborative Center for Microbiome and Genomics Research, which is one of the NIH/Wellcome Trust funded Human Heredity and Health in Africa initiative on genomics research and education in Africa. ACCME’s current project is enrolling 10,000 women in Nigeria and following them for 6 months for research focused on integrative epidemiology of persistent high risk HPV infection, host germline and somatic genomics and epigenomics, and vaginal microenvironment and risk of cervical cancer. As part of the project, Dr. Adebamowo established a comprehensive genomics laboratory in Nigeria, including facilities for epigenetics and next generation sequencing.

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University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

The Rogel Cancer Center has been selected as part of the Erdheim-Chester Global Alliance (ECDGA) Referral Care Center network. Having an Erdheim-Chester Disease referral center in the region will help the 12 Michigan-based patients currently registered with ECDGA and will also allow access for more patients seeking a possible ECD diagnosis in the future. The partnership is designed to ensure collaboration, education, improvements in early diagnosis, administration of effective treatments, and support for the ECD patients in the Midwest. Erdheim-Chester Disease is a type of blood cancer characterized by excessive production and accumulation of specific cells whose normal function is to fight infections. Asra Ahmed, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at Michigan Medicine, is the lead physician on this initiative.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Bin Chen, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Human Development at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, is interested using big data and artificial intelligence to support translational research in the Chen Lab. Using a systems-based approach, his lab has successfully identified drug candidates for Ewing’s Sarcoma, liver cancer, and basal cell carcinoma. Prior to joining Michigan State, Dr. Chen served as assistant professor in the Institute for Computational Health Sciences at University of California, San Francisco. He is also the founding member of DahShu, a non-profit organization established to promote research and education in data sciences. Dr. Chen completed his doctoral degree in informatics and his master’s degree in chemical informatics from Indiana University, Bloomington.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

A research team led by two world-renowned tobacco researchers from the University of Minnesota has been named as one of 11 global finalists for the Cancer Grand Challenges with the chance to be awarded  a share of £80 million ($100 million) for their cancer research project. The final chose teams will each receive up to £20 million ($25 million) to carry out their team science on a global scale. The lead researchers include Dorothy Hatsukami, PhD, professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Irina Stepanov, PhD, a Mayo professor in the School of Public Health’s Division of Environmental Health Sciences. Together they lead the Multinational Consortium on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems team of 19 investigators.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Hamid Band, MD, PhD, the Elizabeth Bruce Professor of Cancer Research at the Eppley Institute, has been pursuing research focused on molecular control of tyrosine kinase signaling. His lab’s focus is to define the role of ubiquitin-dependent endocytic traffic of tyrosine kinase-coupled cell surface receptors in regulating cell signaling in epithelial cells and lymphocytes. Additionally, he and his team focus on the role of these pathways in cancel cell signaling with the goal of developing and refining targeted therapeutics in cancer. Dr. Band also serves as director of the Center for Breast Cancer Research, associate director for translational research, and co-program leader of the Molecular and Biochemical Etiology Program at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

A Northwestern Medicine study has found that women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer were more likely to discontinue hormone therapy early due to poor quality of life-related outcomes, according to findings published in JAMA Oncology. Previous research suggests up to half of breast cancer survivors discontinue treatment for reasons including intolerable side effects from medication, financial burden, or family planning and fertility concerns among younger women. Betina Yanez, PhD, associate professor of Medical Social Sciences, served as lead author of the study.

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

Multiple myeloma patients have increased access to new care while helping doctors conduct groundbreaking research at a new center named Paula and Roger Riney Foundation Center for Advanced Research Excellence (Myeloma CARE). Backed by a $10 million gift from Paula and Rodger Riney and their family, researchers at the center will continue their work on five drugs to treat myeloma. These therapies will utilize immunotherapy and targeted cancer treatments to identify vulnerabilities in myeloma cancer cells. Professor Don M. Benson, MD, PhD, is among the leading myeloma investigators at the center.

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Penn State Cancer Institute

The Penn State Cancer Institute recently opened the Cancer Assistance and Resource Education (CARE) Center. Located on the second floor of the Cancer Institute, the center provides many resources cancer patients need during and after treatment in one location, to address their physical, emotional, social, spiritual and educational needs. The opening was marked during a special webinar on June 22, where Raymond Hohl, MD, PhD, director of the Penn State Cancer Institute, and Dr. Michael P. Hayes, PhD, an adult psychologist, shared the benefits of the center with those in attendance.

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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Emily Dykhuizen, PhD, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Purdue University, operates a lab that focuses on chromatin regulation in cancer. She and her team are interested in developing therapies to target epigenetic processes via the Dykhuizen Lab. Dr. Dykhuizen earned her PhD in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then completed an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellowship with Gerald Crabtree at Stanford University, where she worked to develop inhibitors of the BAF (SWI/SNF-like) chromatin remodeling complex. Through her work defining the mechanisms of BAF-mediated tumor suppression, Dr. Dykhuizen uncovered a novel role for BAF complexes in decatenation of DNA by topoisomerase IIa. In 2013, she began her career at Purdue University in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute Of New Jersey

Last month, RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, broke ground on the state’s first freestanding cancer hospital. The 510,000-square-foot building will be named the Jack and Sheryl Morris Cancer Center in recognition of the philanthropic leadership of Jack Morris, who has been a longtime supporter and pillar in New Brunswick development, along with his wife, Sheryl. The 12-story facility will house inpatient, outpatient, and ancillary services, as well as laboratories where research faculty can focus on translational research and provide hands-on educational opportunities for students.

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Moniba Nazeef, MD, assistant professor of hematology/oncology at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and her colleagues have teamed up to provide comprehensive sickle cell care at UW Health and the UW Carbone Cancer Center. Dr. Nazeef is a hematologist at UW Health. Sickle cell disease is a debilitating, inherited blood disorder, which can cause immense pain and could impact the body’s organs permanently. Together they want to provide treatment from diagnosis to end-of-life care, and also focus on outreach.

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Information for these stories was compiled from Big Ten CRC member websites, online publications, 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.