March 25, 2018:

Across the Consortium is your instant replay of Big Ten CRC member news. This month we highlight colon cancer screen options and advice; advancements in technology to provide better understanding of cancer spread; new strategy for treating pancreatic cancer; cutting edge cell therapies; and more!

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Could Chicago’s segregated, high-crime and fast-food-heavy neighborhoods create such high stress that residents grow more susceptible to getting colorectal cancer?

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found what they believe is just such a link in a study published a year ago in Gut, an international medical journal covering diseases of the stomach, liver, pancreas and gallbladder.

They found that African-Americans who live amid “structural violence” – the kind that sustained stress causes – are more likely than whites who live without those stresses to get colorectal cancer. Structural violence includes constantly fearing crime and traveling long or complicated journeys to find healthy food and other resources.

Read more.

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

Men who survive testicular cancer often worry about the cancer returning. But a study published March 16, 2018, in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network suggests that the development of heart disease poses a far greater threat to their future health. Researchers found testicular cancer survivors had higher rates of obesity, hypertension, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) than similar-aged men who did not have cancer.

The study should prompt testicular cancer survivors and their doctors to take steps to reduce the risk of heart disease, says the lead author of the study, Mohammad Abu Zaid, assistant professor of medicine at the Indiana  School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

Read more.

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

The University of Iowa is starting to take part in a study that explores a new treatment for women with low-risk breast cancer. The new study, called the COMET trial, explores a concept called “watchful waiting.”

If a woman has a low-risk, non-invasive form of breast cancer, called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), she and her doctor decide against surgical treatment. Instead, they wait, and the patient is carefully and safely observed to make sure things don’t get worse.

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University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

For the first time, researchers have linked radiation-damaged thyroid glands to poor surgical outcomes. The solution may be as simple as a common hormone supplement.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have discovered a link between low thyroid hormone levels and wound healing complications.

The retrospective study looked at 182 patients with laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma who were first treated with radiation, but ultimately required a total laryngectomy, or removal of the voice box. The research published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Michigan State University scientists are engineering a virus-like particle, known as Qβ, that will generate anti-cancer immune responses in the body and potentially be used as a new vaccine for the treatment of cancer.

The project, funded by a $2.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, will support the development of the vaccine to protect animals against cancerous cells that are currently untreatable, and could easily translate to vaccines for humans’ use of spontaneously occurring cancers.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Dr. Ningling Kang and team from The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota published exciting new research in the high impact journal Gastroenterology impacting liver cancer development. The research focuses on the role that specialized cells and enzymes play in tumor growth in the liver.

The article, “P300 acetyltransferase mediates stiffness-induced activation of hepatic stellate cells into tumor-promoting myofibroblasts” was a collaboration with other researchers including Drs. Changwei Dou, Zhikui Liu, Kangsheng Tu, Hongbin Zhang, Chen Chen, Usman Yaqoob, Yuanguo Wang, Jialing Wen, Jan van Deursen, Delphine Sicard, Daniel Tschumperlin, Hongzhi Zou, Wei-Chien Huang, Raul Urrutia and Vijay H. Shah.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Breast cancer is typically a disease that strikes older women. But it can strike women in their younger years and be disruptive for a woman’s plans for a career and family.

With the help of collaborating cancer physicians in Norfolk, North Platte and Grand Island, a team at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, will conduct a quality improvement project to address issues specific to younger patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

About 1,300 women in Nebraska are diagnosed every year with breast cancer, but a much smaller number of those are under age 50. Breast cancer patients 50 and under will have an opportunity to participate in the project through their physicians, Ryan Ramaekers, M.D., in Grand Island, Irfan Vaziri, M.D., in North Platte or Rabih Fahed, M.D., in Norfolk.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Northwestern Medicine neurosurgeon Maciej “Matt” Lesniak stalks an aggressive killer, and one of the most insidious: glioblastomas. These fast-growing, highly malignant brain cancers are fed by a rich blood supply and usually consist of a complex mix of cells whose microscopic roots sink deep into healthy tissue, threatening to erase our words, memories, and identity, making treatment challenging and recurrence likely.

Relatively rare among the 100 or so brain and nervous system tumors, glioblastomas make up about 15 percent of all primary brain tumors, with some 12,000 new cases reported each year, including those of high-profile patients like Senator John McCain (R-Ariz). Prognosis is grim. Even with treatment, median life expectancy after diagnosis is 15 months.

Read more.

Penn State Cancer Institute

From age 50 on, most people are advised to get a colonoscopy every 10 years to screen for colon cancer. But others may need to start screening earlier due to certain risk factors, an expert says.

People most at risk for colon cancer are those with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) who has had the disease.

Someone with more than one family member who has had colon cancer is three to 12 times more likely to develop the disease than the average person, said Dr. Walter Koltun. He is chief of colon and rectal surgery at Penn State Health Medical Center.

Read more.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

According to a study conducted at Purdue University, a 3-D-written lifelike cancer environment made out of polymer can help better predict how drugs might stop its course.

Luis Solorio of Purdue University has created the model.

Previous research has shown that most cancer deaths happen because of how it spreads, or metastasises, in the body. A major hurdle for treating cancer is not being able to experiment with metastasis itself and knock out what it needs to spread.

Read more.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Research by Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey investigators further explores the use of the diabetes drug metformin and its impact on pancreatic cancer and finds that targeting a certain signaling pathway with this agent may be a novel strategy for the prevention and treatment of pancreatic cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. The latest findings from the work are being presented as part of a poster session at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting being held next month in Chicago.

Metformin continues to gain attention as an anti-cancer drug and/or a chemoprevention agent due to its role in blocking protein synthesis in the protein complex known as mTOR, modulating inflammatory responses, and selectively killing cancer stem cells. It is still unclear how metformin impacts pancreatic cancer progression and metastasis.

Read more.

University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

One and a half years into his time at the UW Carbone Cancer Center, Jacques Galipeau, MD, (pictured left) sees 2018 as the year the Cancer Center and other UW Health groups will begin treating patients with new advanced cell technologies available for the first time in the US.

“I was recruited so that the incredible discoveries in the cell technology space bubbling all through the science at UW can get ‘MacGyvered’ into promising high-tech treatments that are accessible through UW Health to Wisconsinites,” Galipeau, a hematologist and the inaugural assistant dean for therapeutics discovery and development in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, said. He is also director of the Program for Advanced Cell Therapy, or PACT, and tasked with advancing these technologies to treat human diseases.

From conducting the nation’s first bone marrow transplant 50 years ago to leading the way with stem cell research, UW and cell therapy discoveries go hand in hand.

Read more.

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