Nov. 18, 2016:

In the season of gratitude, this month’s edition of Across the Consortium recounts more reasons to be grateful for the collegial partnership of the Big Ten Cancer Centers in the fight against cancer.  Get up to date on the stunning discoveries and monumental breakthroughs with far-reaching implications.  Be inspired by accounts of leadership.  Remember why we are stronger together.  All this and more as we take you Across the Consortium!

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have identified a new way to block the action of genetic mutations found in nearly 30 percent of all cancers.

Mutations in genes for the RAS family of proteins are present in nearly 90 percent of pancreatic cancers and are also highly prevalent in colon cancer, lung cancer and melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer.

Read more.

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

Medical researchers at Indiana University Bloomington have found evidence for a link between prostate cancer, which affects millions of men age 50 and older, and Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects children and young adults.

The results of the study, reported in the journal Cell Reports, suggest that the molecular mechanism that triggers the rare disease Ewing’s sarcoma could act as a potential new direction for the treatment of more than half of patients with prostate cancer.

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

George Weiner, MD, director of the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Aliasger Salem, PhD, who leads the Holden research program in Experimental Therapeutics, received a three-year, $600,000 grant from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to develop an improved technique for using nanoparticles in a new type of lymphoma immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy is an approach to cancer treatment that focuses on defeating the mechanisms that cancer uses to protect itself from the body’s immune system. One promising immunotherapy for treating lymphoma is checkpoint blockade. Checkpoint blockade prevents tumor cells from disguising themselves as healthy cells when they encounter T-cells, the white blood cells that the immune system uses to fight disease.

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University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Researchers have identified a protein that helps ovarian cancer cells multiply and spread. By blocking it with a new antibody agent, they could slow the cancer’s growth and stop it from metastasizing.

The finding has potential to lead to a treatment to prevent or limit ovarian cancer in women at high risk.

The researchers examined EGFL6, a growth factor that drives cell growth and regulates stem cells. It’s best known for its role in hair follicles. Researchers suspected it might also play a role in ovarian cancer stem cells.

When they triggered EGFL6 in ovarian cancer cells, it stimulated the cancer to grow two to three times faster. This held both in cell lines and in mice.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

College of Human Medicine Dean Norman Beauchamp, Jr. was presented with the Gold Medal Award for his decades of leadership in the state of Washington’s radiology and medical community on Nov. 5 in Seattle.

“I can think of no radiologist in our great state that has been more impactful for our specialty or our citizens,” said Eric Stern, president of the Washington State Radiological Society. “Dr. Beauchamp has been a champion for radiology and health care quality for all in Washington — for the past 15 years. His outstanding service to all of radiology in Washington, our state’s underserved populations, as well as his meritorious scientific and research achievement bring outstanding credit upon radiology in Washington.”

This fall, Beauchamp began a new chapter in his career, becoming the new dean of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine on Oct. 1.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

The value of using biomarkers in bladder cancer is compelling, though experts in the field do need to better define the utility and costs, according to Badrinath Konety, M.D., M.B.A., department chair of urology at the University of Minnesota, who spoke at the 2016 Large Urology Group Practice Association (LUGPA) Annual Meeting.

In particular, Konety singled out biomarkers’ diagnostic consistency and the ways they can aid cystoscopy. “I use them to arbitrate atypicals and for post-intravesical therapy,” he said. He added that they also show potential in the areas of screening for bladder cancer, revealing other, unrelated cancers, and in distinguishing among bladder cancer grades.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

In November 2015, the FDA approved daratumumab for the treatment of multiple myeloma patients who have received at least three prior lines of therapy. Daratumumab was the first monoclonal antibody approved for the treatment of multiple myeloma, and represents a breakthrough in the field.

How does daratumumab work? Monoclonal antibodies are a form of antibody which have been engineered to target a specific protein found on the surface of the cell of interest. In the case of daratumumab, the monoclonal antibody targets a protein called CD38, which is found on the surface of the plasma cell (myeloma cell). Thus the drug recognizes the CD38 target, binds to the cancer cell, which in turn, leads to the immune system to target and destroy the cancer cell.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Using clinical and genomic databases, a team of scientists including a Northwestern Medicine investigator developed and validated the first molecular signature that can predict responses to radiotherapy for patients with prostate cancer, according to a recently published paper in Lancet Oncology.

“This work is an exciting step toward the integration of genomic data into the real life, decision-making process for our patients,” said Edward Schaeffer, MD, PhD, chair of UrologySchaeffer is also a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

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Penn State Cancer Institute

Dr. Daleela Dodge is fascinated by the resilience of her patients. The breast surgeon at Penn State Breast Center has repeatedly seen how social networks, diet, exercise, a strong support system, mindfulness and therapy through music, art and writing can be an important part of recovery and remission from breast cancer.

She encourages her patients to integrate holistic activities such as yoga, meditation and journaling with more traditional evidence-based treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

Read more.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

A Purdue University biochemist has developed a novel method for detecting certain types of proteins that serve as indicators for cancer and other diseases.

Glycoproteins are formed when sugars attach to and modify a protein. In some cases, a combination of glycoproteins present in a sample of blood or urine could be an indicator of disease or cancer.

But those glycoproteins can be elusive. There has been no antibody to differentiate between them and regular proteins. And the complex and bulky sugar groups can make it difficult for even standard protein-detection antibodies to find their targets.

W. Andy Tao, a Purdue professor of biochemistry, has developed a novel protein array, a high throughput platform to analyze multiple proteins in parallel, for separating glycoproteins from unmodified proteins. Tao also demonstrated its effectiveness for identifying glycoproteins associated with bladder cancer. The findings were published Monday (Nov. 14) in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Aiming to further propel scientific discovery as well as augment and expand comprehensive cancer services for patients through collaborative efforts with Rutgers and RWJBarnabas Health, Steven K. Libutti, MD, FACS, has been named as the new Director of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and will serve as Vice Chancellor for Cancer Programs for Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences at Rutgers University. When he takes on his new roles in early 2017, Dr. Libutti will be the third permanent director in the 25-year history of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and will take over for Bruce G. Haffty, MD, who has been serving as interim director and will continue his role as Chair of Radiation Oncology.  In addition to his leadership roles within Rutgers University, Libutti also will serve as Senior Vice President of Oncology Services for RWJBarnabas Health, further strengthening the university’s partnership with the healthcare system.

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

In 2012, the Cancer Health Disparities Initiative (CHDI) hired Erin Bailey to launch its African American cancer project in Dane County.

Erin came to CHDI with extensive experience in cancer education and patient advocacy within the local African American community. Turning to previous partners and local cancer survivors, Bailey formed a community advisory board, then set about conducting an assessment of assets, needs and priorities for cancer health promotion within the community. CHDI had already published a report showing significant cancer disparities for African Americans in Wisconsin, and that these disparities had persisted over the past 15 years.

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