March 18, 2020:

In this month’s Across the Consortium, the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (Big Ten CRC) highlights new tests and genomic research that could help identify cancer earlier in its development. We also congratulate those who received awards for their research, and we remember champions of cancer research who recently passed away.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Kimberly Richardson, PCORI (Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute) project coordinator of the University of Illinois Cancer Center Patient Brigade, saw her tireless work pay off last week as the Illinois House of Representatives’ Human Services Committee approved HJR0086, a proposed bill that will create a special commission to study gynecologic cancer, how it will impact Illinois residents, and how best to treat the disease. Read more.

Cancer Center at Illinois

By adding infrared capability to the ubiquitous, standard optical microscope, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hope to bring cancer diagnosis into the digital era. Pairing infrared measurements with high-resolution optical images and machine learning algorithms, the researchers created digital biopsies that closely correlated with traditional pathology techniques and also outperformed state-of-the-art infrared microscopes. Read more.

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center

An Indiana University cancer researcher has identified eight new genomic regions that increase a person’s risk for skin cancer. Jiali Han, PhD, and colleagues discovered eight new loci — locations on a person’s genome — that are susceptible to the development of squamous cell skin cancer. Han is the Rachel Cecile Efroymson Professor in Cancer Research at IU School of Medicine, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, and a researcher at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. Read more.

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Physicians and artificial intelligence technology could team up to treat and diagnose cancer patients in the future, according to a new study by University of Iowa researchers. Researchers at the College of Engineering and their collaborators in the Carver College of Medicine and College of Public Health recently published an article in a journal called Scientific Reports by the Nature Publishing Group. The study outlines the research team’s hypothesis that artificial intelligence technology can identify biomarkers in lung-cancer patients who received radiotherapy and can also predict survival outcomes. Read more.

University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine developed a new nanoparticle drug formulation that targets a specific receptor on cancer cells and appears to be more effective than a standard nanoparticle therapy currently on the market to treat metastatic breast cancer, according to a study published today in the journal Science Advances. The new DART (decreased, non-specific adhesivity, receptor-targeted) nanoparticles bypass healthy cells and tissues and bind to tumor cells, dispersing evenly throughout the tumor while releasing the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel. Read more.

University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

College basketball fans have March Madness. But for fans of medical research, there’s nothing like STAT Madness, an online tournament of science run by the STAT health news organization. This year, the tournament bracket includes three teams of University of Michigan scientists, physicians and engineers. Can one of them make it all the way, and defend the tournament title that Michigan scientists won last year? Read more.

Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Stem cells involved in replenishing human tissues and blood depend on an enzyme known as telomerase to continue working throughout our lives. When telomerase malfunctions, it can lead to both cancer and premature aging conditions. Roughly 90% of cancer cells require inappropriate telomerase activity to survive. In a groundbreaking new study, an interdisciplinary team of Michigan State University researchers has observed telomerase activity at a single-molecule level with unprecedented precision ­­­­– expanding our understanding of the vital enzyme and progressing toward better cancer treatments. Read more.

Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

What if farmers knew how to grow crops to boost the levels of cancer-fighting nutrients they contained? That, says Ilse Renner, would help turn the management of cancer away from treatment and toward prevention. A doctoral student with Professor Vince Fritz in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, Renner studied what conditions made cruciferous vegetables, mainly cabbage, ripe for producing a nutrient called glucobrassicin. Read more.

Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

On Feb. 21, Sammy’s Superheroes Foundation presented a check for $110,000 to the Child Health Research Institute (CHRI) — an innovative collaboration between UNMC and Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Pediatric Cancer Research Group (PCRG). Eleanor Rogan, PhD, professor & chair, UNMC Environmental, Agricultural and Occupational Health, College of Public Health, will use the funds for continued work on the Nebraska Watershed Project, a research project within the PCRG. The gift marks a milestone in the foundation’s fundraising for pediatric cancer research — their one millionth dollar raised. Read more.

Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

An emerging strategy to target cancer may actually harm certain immune cells, according to a recent Northwestern Medicine study published in the journal Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy. The strategy — inhibiting an enzyme called general control nonderepressible 2 (GCN2) to boost immune system activity — is making its way through the pharmaceutical pipeline, but according to Aida Rashidi, MD, lead author of the study, scientists should be careful to avoid targeting cytotoxic T-cells with this inhibitor. Read more.

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

With great sadness, The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) announces the passing of Dr. Clara D. Bloomfield, a Distinguished University Professor at The Ohio State University, and a former director and longtime senior adviser to the OSUCCC – James. Bloomfield died at the age of 77. Read more.

Penn State Cancer Institute

Although the concept of the microbiome, the sum total of our resident bacteria, viruses, and fungi, has only recently been popularized, “It’s not a new idea that microbes have influence in the body,” Andrew Patterson said. “But it’s only now that technology is allowing us to see how microbes exert that influence, and to measure it.” Patterson, Tombros Early Career Professor and professor of molecular toxicology at Penn State, is using one of the newer and more promising of these technologies, called metabolomics, to learn about the microbiome of the human gut. Read more.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

A pancreatic cancer “time machine” engineered by Purdue University researchers has revealed that the disease is even more unpredictable than previously thought: Cancer cells promote each other’s invasiveness when they grow together. The study, published in the journal Small, is just the beginning of a new discovery about how pancreatic cancer evolves. Since the paper’s publication, the researchers also have found drug resistance in cancer cell types originating from two drug-sensitive ones. Read more.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Research from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey shows administering the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab together with chemotherapy given at the same time as radiation treatment (chemoradiation) is safe and tolerable as a first-line therapy for patients with stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The work, stemming from a multi-center phase 1 clinical trial led by Rutgers Cancer Institute, is published in the February 20 online edition of JAMA Oncology (DOI: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2019.6731). Read more.

University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

A groundbreaking cancer researcher and a pioneer in the field of contemporary distance education will be awarded honorary doctoral degrees during spring commencement ceremonies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The recipients are V. Craig Jordan, the first researcher to identify the breast cancer prevention properties of tamoxifen, and Michael G. Moore, credited internationally with establishing the scholarly study of distance education. 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 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