June 19, 2016:

Many people excel in sports, and even amateurs get lucky now and then.  But it is the relentlessly consistent accomplishment of great – and crucial – plays that makes a legend.  In this month’s edition of Across the Consortium, we celebrate such plays by the unyielding Big Ten Cancer Centers.  Pioneering research aims to nail important questions of our time and offer hope to countless many, from the promise of novel, natural cancer-killers to targeted cancer therapies, liquid biopsies, and bio-dynamic imaging.  Meanwhile, many members institutions pull through with varsity fund-raising.  Take a look Across the Consortium!

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Clinical trials of the anti-cancer agent PAC-1 are continuing to expand, thanks to a $7 million angel investment from an anonymous contributor who originally invested $4 million to help get the compound this far in the drug-approval pipeline.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also granted PAC-1 orphan drug status for the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme, a deadly brain cancer. This designation is meant to encourage development of drugs to treat rare diseases or conditions affecting a small subset of the population. Some steps in the approval process are aided or expedited for orphan drugs.

Read more.

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

The Vera Bradley Classic never ceases to amaze even those who organize it. The annual golf and tennis event, which has been a local fixture since 1994, raised $1,052,717 this year for its fight against breast cancer.

“We are extremely pleased,” Lynda Houk, executive director of the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, said Monday at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.

The Vera Bradley Foundation, which raised $834,658 last year, has raked in more than $26 million of its $35 million pledge to the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, which houses the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research Laboratories.

Read more.

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Riding a bicycle has always been enjoyable and it just got even more meaningful.

The third and final year of “pEDaling for Pancreatic Cancer” will take place on Saturday, June 25 in Muscatine. All funds raised will support the pancreatic cancer research team at the University of Iowa Hospitals. In the first two years, the ride has raised $11,500.

Read more.

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

The biochemical pathways and metabolic requirements that enable tumor survival and growth may be used to design targeted cancer therapies.

Costas Lyssiotis, Ph.D., studies this idea in his lab at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“I would argue that the most important feature about a cancer cell is its metabolism,” says Lyssiotis, an assistant professor of physiology and medicine. “Normal cells can only become cancer cells by rewiring the way that they acquire and utilize nutrients, the processes generally referred to as their metabolism.”

Read more.

Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Michigan State University professor and researcher André Bachmann is collaborating on cancer-fighting research that could change the way we treat the illness.

Bachmann, professor of pediatrics and associate chair for research in the MSU College of Human Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics and Human Development, is working with plant biologist Robert Dudler from the University of Zurich to develop a natural bacterium produced chemical with anti-cancer properties.

Dudler originally found the substance, called syrbactin, or syringolin A, and together Dudler and Bachmann tested it and found that it appeared to kill cancer cells, but could not explain why.

Read more.

Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

As part of the coverage for the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology conference, OncoTherapy Network interviewed Veronika Bachanova about using immunotherapy, including natural killer cell-based therapies and novel stimulatory agents to boost immunity for blood cancers. Dr. Bachanova is a hematologist who treats patients with blood cancers and an associate professor of medicine, in the division of hematology, oncology, and transplantation at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Bachanova gave a talk, What We Have Not Heard About the Role of Immunotherapy in Hematologic Malignancies on Friday, June 3rd at the meeting.

Read more.

Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Nebraska’s 7th annual Lymphoma Walk raised $72,000 recently at Mahoney State Park with more than 450 in attendance. The funds will benefit Nebraskans through research grants and patient services.

Hosted by the Lymphoma Research Foundation, the fun-filled, non-competitive 5K event supports those whose lives have been touched by lymphoma. About 450 new cases of lymphoma are diagnosed in Nebraskans each year.

To date, $572,000 has been raised through walk participants and sponsors.

Honorary chairman of the walk was Mitch Osborn, high school activities director and boys head basketball coach in Harlan, Iowa. He was diagnosed in August 2014 with Mantle cell lymphoma. After six months of chemotherapy two days per month, he had a stem cell transplant in 2015.

Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Oncologists and researchers have long sought a minimally invasive, highly sensitive and specific multi-cancer test as a more effective way to catch cancer in its earliest stages, when treatment and prognosis are most promising. An ambitious initiative, Project LUNAR, will study the efficacy of Guardant Health’s liquid biopsy, Guardant360, for detecting early-stage cancer.

Researchers from the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, UC San Francisco, Samsung Medical Center, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, and other institutions will study the ability of Guardant Health’s technology to detect cancer at early stages in high-risk populations. Guardant Health has already collected samples from multiple trial sites in breast, ovarian, lung, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers, with pilot data expected in the second half of 2016.

Read more.

Penn State Cancer Institute

Millions of adults and children across the U.S. identify as cancer survivors. Beating cancer can transform someone’s life and lead to a new sense of gratitude — but it can also usher in a range of physical and emotional challenges.

The following questions and answers were adapted from a webchat that took place on May 19 on abc27.com. It featured Dr. Niraj Gusani, director of the Program for Liver, Pancreas and Foregut Tumors at Penn State Cancer Institute, and Lynn Fantom, a care coordinator at the Cancer Institute.

Read the Q&A.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Purdue Center for Cancer Research member Dr. David Nolte, and his team, have developed a new technology that could improve the odds of selecting the right drug for a specific patient’s cancer, for a more effective cancer treatment.

“Similar to Doppler weather radar measuring the reflection of radio waves from clouds, our technology measures the reflection of light waves within living tissue to build a 3-dimensional image showing the movement of cells and organelles in real time,” said David Nolte, the Edward M. Purcell Distinguished Professor of Physics at Purdue University, who developed the technology at Purdue. “This bio-dynamic image offers novel information about tissue health and function that is simply not available from any other existing technology.”

Read more.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. Lung cancer diagnoses have more than doubled among females in the past 38 years, while having fallen 29 percent among males, according to the American Lung Association. Aiming to better understand gender differences in this disease, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey radiation oncologist Sharad Goyal, MD, is embarking on new research supported by an inaugural $400,000 LUNG FORCE Research Innovation Project: Lung Cancer in Women Award from the American Lung Association. The work will explore whether radiation exposure from interventional cardiovascular procedures leads to increased risk of lung cancer in women as compared to men.

Read more.

University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Clinical trial results find that two stem cell transplants, along with immunotherapy, are improving the outlook for children with high-risk neuroblastoma.

See video.

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.