Nov. 18, 2017:

The only thing as exciting as the teams competing on the field is the team fighting cancer – the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium. The member institutions are driving science rapidly from new ideas to new treatments, and they do not wait for anyone to catch up.  So keep up, with this month’s Across the Consortium!

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Four physicians from Cuba are working in Chicago to improve maternal health and birth outcomes in Englewood.

Through a partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago, the physicians have been observing clinical care at Mile Square Health Center, UI Health’s network of federally qualified clinics. They have also met with community leaders, including elected officials, nonprofit groups and others, to develop a picture of how health care is delivered in under-resourced communities, and how their expertise may help fill gaps in care.

“The Cuban health system does preventive health very, very well, and they do it without a lot of money,” said Dr. Robert Winn, associate vice chancellor of community-based practice at UIC and director of the University of Illinois Cancer Center.

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

African American women participating in a clinical study on breast cancer had more side effects and poorer survival rates than did women of European ancestry, according to a recently published Indiana University study that identified ethnicity through genetics, a first in this type of research.

Instead of relying on self-reporting of race, the researchers utilized genetic information from a National Cancer Institute-sponsored study that compared the therapy-induced toxicity of three standard adjuvant drugs. That national study looked at anthracycline-induced congestive heart failure, taxane-induced peripheral neuropathy and bevacizumab-induced hypertension and compared the results between patients of African ancestry and patients of European ancestry.

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Chemotherapies have improved cancer survival rates, but many of these drugs also cause debilitating side effects that decrease the quality of life of patients and survivors. In particular, many anti-cancer drugs cause chemotherapyinduced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN)—nerve damage and pain.

A new study in rats suggests that nicotinamide riboside (NR), a form of vitamin B3, may be useful for treating or preventing CIPN. The findings by researchers at the University of Iowa lay the groundwork for testing whether this nutritional supplement can reduce nerve pain in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

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University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Using ultrasound waves, an individualized approach to treating prostate cancer might offer several big benefits. A Michigan Medicine urologist explains.

A new treatment option for some prostate cancer patients could radically change how doctors combat the disease — helping recipients bounce back faster and without side effects such as urinary incontinence and loss of erectile function.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Michigan State University Extension educators have partnered with MSU breast cancer researchers to share important findings from the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP). BCERP researchers at Michigan State University, along with those at universities and research institutions across the United States are studying the effects of certain environmental factors on the development of breast cancer.

What environmental factors are being studied? There is a growing body of evidence that suggests there are chemicals in our environment that mimic hormones, and these chemicals may interfere with the endocrine system. Research has found that these chemicals have had harmful effects on laboratory animals, wildlife and humans. Scientists refer to these chemicals as endocrine disruptors.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Newly discovered genetic markers in osteosarcoma tumors could help tailor a more precise treatment, improving survival rates and quality of life for children and young adults with the disease.

The study, recently published in Cancer Research, analyzed osteosarcoma tumor profiles from mice, dogs and humans, and points to treatment paths requiring less chemotherapy drugs and fewer radiation treatments for some patients. The Masonic Cancer Center researchers leveraged the expertise of cancer researchers from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, Medical School, the Animal Cancer Care and Research Program, and  Pediatric Epidemiology unit, with grant support from the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund at Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

“Humans, dogs, and mouse osteosarcoma share many clinical and molecular features. Insight gained from one species may be translatable to the others,” said Jaime Modiano, VMD, PhD, contributing author to the study. “Using multi-species datasets provides unique opportunities to identify gene signatures and aspects of the immune response that can be manipulated therapeutically.”

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

It’s the fifth most common type of cancer in U.S. adults. For years, traditional therapies to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) have included chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell transplant. But after several years of clinical trials, a promising new option has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and will soon be commercially offered at Nebraska Medicine.

“This clinical trial has been unbelievably successful in patient populations where they have failed every other type of treatment, so this is a big home run,” said Julie Vose, M.D., the Neumann M. and Mildred E. Harris Professorial Chair of the Oncology/Hematology Division in the Department of Internal Medicine at UNMC and the chief of hematology/oncology at Nebraska Medicine.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Patients with advanced neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) reported similar health-related quality of life (HRQOL) during treatment with a recently approved chemotherapy drug as compared to patients receiving a placebo treatment, according to a clinical trial published in Lancet Oncology.

These findings, in conjunction with previous research showing delayed disease progression, suggest the drug, called everolimus, may be able to preserve quality of life even in light of chemotherapy’s often-toxic side effects. The findings support the usefulness of HRQOL as an endpoint in clinical trials studying NETs, in a secondary analysis of their findings, according to the study.

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Penn State Cancer Institute

Penn State College of Medicine has again been successful in extending funding from the National Cancer Institute through a training grant for vital research into viruses that cause cancer. This training grant has been in place for more than 20 years.

This August, the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Penn State Cancer Institute were successful in renewing the training grant funding to continue groundbreaking research for another five years – something that many other universities have not been able to achieve, said Dr. Craig Meyers. distinguished professor of microbiology and immunology. “We’re listed right up there with the big names,” he said. “A lot of universities want it.”

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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

W. Andy Tao, a biochemistry professor in the College of Agriculture who discovered a method to detect and monitor breast cancer using a simple blood test and bladder cancer using a urine test, is the 2017 recipient of the Outstanding Commercialization Award for Purdue University faculty.

The award is given annually to a faculty member in recognition of outstanding contributions to, and success with, commercializing Purdue research discoveries. The award was established with an endowment gift from the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership Foundation.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. It is a preventable disease as 80 percent of lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking, which is considered a leading risk factor, according to the American Cancer Society. If you or a loved one currently smokes, quitting can help reduce the risk of developing lung cancer. While cessation can be difficult, it can be done with the help of resources such as nicotine replacement patches or medications as well as help from a tobacco control program. At Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, we provide state-of-the-art tobacco treatment resources through the Rutgers Tobacco Dependence Program. Despite smoking being a major risk factor for lung cancer development, non-smokers are also at risk for lung cancer. Those with persistent symptoms such as cough, chest pain or weight loss, should speak with a healthcare professional about checking for lung cancer – even if there is not a family history of the disease or a history of smoking.  

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

The Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) announced that Sondel, a pediatric oncologist, has received the group’s top award for decades of work in developing immunotherapies for childhood cancers, especially neuroblastoma.

“This award is well-deserved for Dr. Sondel’s outstanding career, which has seen great improvement in outcomes for children with cancer,’’ says Dr. Howard Bailey, director of the UW Carbone Cancer Center. “Through his work in the lab and clinical trials, Dr. Sondel has helped usher in new treatments that are saving the lives of children everywhere.”

Sondel’s research has emphasized the translation of laboratory innovations into clinical progress. His laboratory has pursued the biology of graft-versus-leukemia reactions, activation of antitumor immune destruction with Interleukin-2 and the use of tumor reactive monoclonal antibodies and immunocytokines to facilitate tumor killing by leukocytes. He has published more than 370 scientific articles and chapters, and many of these studies have moved into clinical testing.

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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