Nov. 12, 2018:

In this month’s Across the Consortium, we focus on strategies Big Ten cancer centers are using to assist those who have difficulty finding resources for their cancer treatment or prevention. We also highlight some recent discoveries in several cancer types.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Richard Warnecke, PhD, knows that disparities exist between minority and white women receiving a timely breast cancer diagnosis. The question he has is why. In a new paper published online in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, Dr. Warnecke, a University of Illinois Cancer Center member and professor emeritus of epidemiology, public administration and sociology, reviewed data from more than 900 black, Latina, and white patients to learn about the barriers they encounter to receiving a timely mammography screening and follow-up treatment. Dr. Warnecke’s findings identify potential policy interventions to address the problems related to later-stage diagnosis.
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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

A team of Indiana University School of Medicine radiology researchers, led by Steven Westphal, MD, will recruit 3,000 women to participate in TMIST, a nationwide study comparing the two most common technologies used for breast cancer screening. Tomosynthesis, also known as three-dimensional or 3-D mammography screening, will be compared with 2-D or conventional mammography in a study conducted by the National Cancer Institute and the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group. In total, the study will enroll 165,000 women over the next three years to determine which screening tool is best at identifying life-threatening cancers of the breast.
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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

A University of Iowa study published April 6 in the Journal of Surgical Oncology used data from the National Cancer Database (NCDB) to examine the effects of volume – the number of sarcoma patients treated at a hospital – on the outcomes of patients treated for non-metastatic soft tissue sarcoma of the upper and lower extremity. In a comparison of two groups of patients, the UI research team found the group treated at high-volume hospitals had survival rates of 87 percent at 2 years, 73 percent at 5 years, and 58 percent at 10 years, while the group treated at low-volume hospitals had survival rates of 84 percent, 68 percent, and 53 percent for the same periods.
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University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

While popular beliefs and population data suggest that African-American men are at higher risk of dying from prostate cancer than Caucasian men, a new analysis of genetic data from a large prospective registry and clinical data from several randomized trials indicates that African-American patients may have comparatively higher cure rates when treated with radiation therapy. The study, which is the first report demonstrating improved prostate cancer outcomes for African-American men, was presented at the 60th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).
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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Researchers from Michigan State University and Stanford University have created a computer simulation, validated by experimental results, to help design drug-delivery nanoparticles that carry cancer-fighting medicines directly to tumors, while minimizing the potential side-effects on healthy cells. Bryan Smith, PhD, MSU associate professor in the College of Engineering who conducted the research at Stanford University, and Eric Shaqfeh, PhD, professor at Stanford University, describe their work in a recent issue of Biophysical Journal.
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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Sergio Gradilone, PhD, and team at The Hormel Institute’s Cancer Cell Biology and Translational Research lab published breakthrough cancer research in the high-impact journal Hepatology. Dr. Gradilone led the research team that included Drs. Adrian P. Mansini, Estanislao Peixoto and researchers Sujeong Jin and Seth Richard. “This discovery is critically important because it uncovers novel information on fundamental, ciliary-dependent mechanisms controlling the spread of malignant cells, and provides the foundation for novel anti-cancer therapies,” said Dr. Gradilone, who joined The Hormel Institute in October 2014.
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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

The man who helped spearhead the ascent of UNMC/Nebraska Medicine into an international powerhouse for cancer care and research – Ken Cowan, MD, PhD – will step down as director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center and the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer at the end of June 2019. Dr. Cowan, who joined the medical center in 1999, will remain as a full-time faculty member and will continue to see patients.
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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Minimally invasive hysterectomy, a popular procedure for early-stage cervical cancer, turns out to result in worse overall survival for cancer patients than traditional open surgery, reports a new national study from Northwestern Medicine and other institutions. Among women undergoing minimally invasive surgery, the risk of death within four years was 9.1 percent as compared to 5.3 percent in the open surgery group, a 3.8 percent difference. This equates to patients being about 1.65 times more likely to die over this time frame than if they received open surgery.
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Penn State Cancer Institute

From aging to cancer – with quite a bit in between – Katherine Aird, PhD, assistant professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at Penn State College of Medicine, and her team have a whole world of research opportunities in front of them. This is not just because they have a lot yet to discover, as Dr. Aird insists they do, but because the progress they have made has incredibly broad potential impact. The team’s latest research reveals that skin, pancreatic, bladder, ovarian, and colorectal tumor cells may share a common target for new therapy approaches. In each cancer type, forcing a particular change in the cell’s metabolism (how it uses nutrients) may shut off or suppress its growth, essentially putting it to sleep.
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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

You’re experiencing jaundice, abdominal pain, or constipation. And by then, you may be too late. Pancreatic cancer symptoms often arrive after the cancer has already spread, making the disease one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the U.S. However, a team of researchers believes that targeting how blood clots form and are naturally cleared could make the cancer more treatable.
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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, in partnership with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) – New Brunswick, is the first in the state to administer a form of targeted cancer treatment known as peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) for rare neuroendocrine tumors that have spread beyond the initial tumor site. The first patient received treatment October 24 at RWJUH, an RWJBarnabas Health facility in New Brunswick. The PRRT treatment lutetium Lu 177 dotatate was approved earlier this year by the United States Food and Drug Administration for adult use and is not widely available across the U.S. at this time. In New Jersey, it is only available at Rutgers Cancer Institute, the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, through RWJUH.
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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

When a key gene in blood cell development, GATA-2, is mutated, it causes a predisposition to the development of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and the changes in GATA-2 were believed to diminish its protein function. A new study of a subset of human disease-associated protein mutants shifts this notion, and finds that some AML-associated GATA-2 variants retain and even have greater activity – but in a corrupted way. The study, published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that some GATA-2 mutations generate a form of GATA-2 that promotes myeloid cell development. This finding has implications for the development of AML, a blood cancer that affects people of all ages, and a better understanding of GATA-2 function in normal and leukemic cell regulation may lead to improved targeted therapies.
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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