May 28, 2019:

In this month’s Across the Consortium, the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (Big Ten CRC) highlights new treatments, early cancer detection methods, and research that is revealing more about the science of cancer and how it spreads. We also welcome two new members to the Big Ten CRC: The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, and the Cancer Center at Illinois (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). We look forward to their contributions to the Big Ten CRC!

University of Illinois Cancer Center (University of Illinois at Chicago)

The Cancer Letter published a guest editorial by Robert Winn, MD, director of the UI Cancer Center and John H. Stewart IV, MD, MBA, associate director for clinical research at the University of Illinois Cancer Center entitled “Getting beyond the immunotherapy divide: a call to action.” Advances in the field of tumor immunotherapy have given great hope for those treating cancer. We are in an era of unprecedented achievements, as evidenced by impressive clinical responses in patients treated with adoptive cell therapy and immune checkpoint inhibitors.

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The Cancer Center at Illinois (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

The gene-editing technology CRISPR is already making a difference across many scientific fields, but its importance could be about to grow even further. Scientists have discovered a new technique that can leave out particular sections of a gene, essentially “skipping” them. This new method, called CRISPR-SKIP, could be used to control how genes are expressed and regulated. A research team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have highlighted the ways their new tool improves on current CRISPR techniques in certain scenarios.

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

Indiana University School of Medicine researcher Reuben Kapur, PhD, has received more than $1.8 million to research the mechanisms that lead to a rare blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Kapur will closely examine the interaction between certain cellular mutations believed to contribute to the development and relapse of AML. The grant was awarded by the National Cancer Institute and will support this project for the next five years.

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Welcoming in a new era in cellular therapy patient care, the Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) Program at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics has opened a Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Therapies Unit focused on superior patient care. The spacious facility was designed with help from patients to make patient comfort and convenience a top priority, says UI clinical professor Margarida Magalhaes-Silverman, MD, director of the BMT program.

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University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

New findings suggest an unexpected path to killing cancer cells could make the hottest cancer treatment — immunotherapy — more effective. Researchers at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center looked at a little-understood type of cell death called ferroptosis. They found ferroptosis occurs in tumor cells and plays a role in cancer immunity, suggesting the potential of targeting this pathway to improve immunotherapy treatments. The study is published in Nature.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

A new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors has successfully slowed the spread of ovarian cancer for some patients, but the treatments are less effective for many others. With a $50,000 grant awarded by the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance today – World Ovarian Cancer Day – Jose Teixeira, a professor in the MSU College of Human Medicine’s department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology; and John Risinger, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology and the college’s director of gynecologic oncology research, hope to find out why many ovarian cancer patients do not respond well to PARP inhibitors. The answer, they believe, can be found in a cellular protein called PTEN.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Ovarian cancer, often called the “silent killer,” claims the lives of more than 16,000 women each year, due to the fact that it’s hard to detect.A new test, being developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota, could change that. “If we could actually have a test that would detect it early, that’s the ultimate goal,” said Dr. Amy Skubitz, a researcher in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Minnesota. Skubitz found five new biomarkers, linked to the disease. When found at elevated levels in a woman’s blood, it signals the presence of ovarian cancer.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Julie Vose, MD, chief of the division of oncology/hematology in the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine, has been elected a fellow in the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE). She will be inducted into the RCPE at a formal ceremony in June.
The RCPE is a medical royal college in Scotland. It is one of three organizations that sets the specialty training standards for physicians in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1681, the college has more than 12,000 fellows and members worldwide.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

A complex therapy for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma has shown no improvement over the current standard of care, but raises important questions about how heterogeneity in this type of malignancy impacts response to treatment, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. These findings should influence future clinical trial design, said Jane Winter, MD, professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, and a co-author of the study.

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

Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

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Penn State Cancer Institute

Matthew Lauver, a Penn State College of Medicine graduate student, has spent years working with Dr. Aron Lukacher to understand how mutations in a virus can affect the development and progression of a deadly brain disease. Thanks to a grant from the National Cancer Institute, Lauver received funding to work with Lukacher, chair of microbiology and immunology, for an entire year. They developed a model of the viral mutations in JC polyomavirus using a related virus, mouse polyomavirus. The funding also allowed Lauver to see how their efforts affect patient care.

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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

“They got all of it” are the reassuring words people hope to hear following cancer surgery, but a growing understanding of the science of how cancer spreads, and metastasizes, is suggesting that not only is this almost never true but — and here is the surprising part — it might be better to try to contain the cancer than to eliminate it. The new approach, which at this point has been tested only in animal models, is called “lock-‘n’-block,” and a national team of scientists led by researchers at Purdue University has found that a drug already on the market for another use is showing strong promise as a therapy to keep breast cancer from metastasizing.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Investigators at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey have found that approximately 30 percent of men with localized prostate cancer may have alterations in DNA damage response pathways. Their research not only provides insight into the biology of prostate malignancies, but also it may expand treatment options for these patients. Namely a class of drugs known as PARP inhibitors, which inhibit a cancer cell’s ability to repair its own damaged DNA, may be effective for many patients with localized prostate cancer.

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

With funding from a UW2020 grant and Garding Against Cancer, UW Carbone Cancer Center radiologist Elizabeth Burnside, MD, is leading a collaborative effort with cancer epidemiologist Amy Trentham-Dietz, PhD, oncologist James Shull, PhD, and computer scientists C. David Page, PhD and Irene Ong, PhD, to identify novel genetic markers to advance the precise targeting of breast cancer prevention and early detection of breast cancer. Using machine learning methods, this interdisciplinary research team hopes to better predict risk by leveraging information from multiple levels of “big data.”

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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 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