Oct. 23, 2018:

In this month’s Across the Consortium, we highlight the innovative work of our member cancer centers across a wide spectrum of cancer care: from prevention to new approaches to treatment, from bench science to survivorship. Catch the latest from each member cancer center in this month’s edition.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

New research from the University of Illinois at Chicago shows that cancer cells in the fallopian tube affect normal chemical signaling between reproductive tissues and stimulate the release of norepinephrine, a small molecule hormone, from the ovary.

Reported in ACS Central Science, an open-access journal published by the American Chemical Society, the study suggests that the cancer cells take over the communication between the fallopian tube and the ovary to create an environment that is more hospitable to its growth, and that the increased norepinephrine levels cause cancer cells to migrate from the fallopian tube to the ovary.

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

Lisa Carter-Harris, PhD, has been awarded $100,000 by the American Lung Association for a two-year behavioral study of primary care clinicians to identify barriers associated with low referral rates for the screening that has been recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force since 2013. Dr. Carter-Harris is an assistant professor of nursing at the IU School of Nursing and a research member of the Cancer Prevention and Control program at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

George Weiner, MD, director of the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, writes in a recent blog post:

Last month I gave a presentation on cancer medicine and cancer research to a sophisticated group of non-scientists and was asked to predict what cancer medicine would look like in 25 years. This made me think back on a talk I gave in the late 1990s on that very topic. Thankfully, I no longer have the slides I used for that talk! I do recall a couple of items that were a focus of that presentation – one where I missed the mark and another where I was more on target.

I predicted we would find a single (or small number of) common mutations in every cancer type, and that these genetic changes would allow us to identify medicines to treat most cancer types with targeted therapies directed at such changes. My excuse now is that, at that time, we did not understand the complexity of cancer, nor the degree to which cancers that appear identical under the microscope can have very different genetic causes. There have been some important successes in targeted cancer therapy based on genetic analysis but not to the degree I had predicted. On the other hand, I predicted we would figure out how to turn on and off the immune system more specifically, and that this would rejuvenate cancer immunotherapy research. It took awhile, but this has indeed come to pass.

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University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

Smoking-related lung cancer rates are expected to drop dramatically over the next 50 years, but lung cancer will continue to be a significant health problem in the United States, says a University of Michigan researcher.

Under the most optimistic scenario, rates could drop by 81 percent, while under the most pessimistic scenario, rates would fall by 75 percent from 2015 to 2065.

Rafael Meza, associate professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, and colleagues at the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network, utilized four independent models to project lung cancer rates for U.S. men and women aged 30 to 84 from 1964 to 2065. All models projected the impact of changes in smoking prevalence since the 1960s on past and future lung cancer mortality.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the FDA’s approval of the anti-cancer drug cisplatin, a discovery by a Michigan State University researcher that has saved millions of lives. Michigan State University marked the occasion in August with a two-day celebration that drew 200 attendees. In the mid-1960s, MSU biophysicist Barnett Rosenberg and colleague Loretta Van Camp and then-graduate student Thomas Krigas discovered the cancer-fighting properties of platinum, which led to the development of cisplatin for treating testicular, bladder, ovarian, and other types of cancer.

The keynote speaker at the anniversary celebration was Lawrence Einhorn, MD, who in 1974, as a young Indiana University oncologist, tested cisplatin with two other drugs as a treatment for testicular cancer. He was accompanied by John Cleland, the first patient cured by cisplatin, often called the “gold standard of cancer drugs.” Rosenberg, who retired from MSU in 1997 and died in 2009, would have been proud.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Cancer research at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota was the big winner after Varsity Team Rally’s 8th annual fundraising event on October 3. With help from the mayor of Minneapolis, The Honorable Jacob Frey; inspiring keynote speaker, Minnesota Women’s Basketball Head Coach, Lindsay Whalen; and local personality, a cancer survivor, and host of MyTalk 107.1FM’s “Weekly Dish,” Stephanie Hansen, the event raised money to “GOpher a Cure.”

“The importance of research in driving the decline in cancer death rates is indisputable,” said Douglas Yee, MD, director of the Masonic Cancer Center. “Bringing research advances into cancer prevention, screening, therapy, and survivorship requires teamwork. Varsity Team Rally has been an important part of our team, supporting our research over the past eight years, and I’m looking forward to this year’s event and our ongoing collaboration.”
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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center will host the exhibition “Mary Zicafoose: Alchemy of Color & Cloth,” through April 6 in the gallery space on Level 1 of the center.

For three decades, Nebraska artist Mary Zicafoose has been creating woven tapestries that are as visually compelling as they are narrative. Reinterpreting centuries-old weaving traditions into contemporary cloth, her work engages viewers in intimate dialogues between vibrant dyes, intricate patterns and archetypal shapes. The exhibition is largely curated from two of her recent bodies of work, “Fault Lines” and “Mountain for the Buddha,” and features 18 tapestries and collographic monoprints on paper by Zicafoose.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Northwestern Medicine scientists have identified hundreds of key genes in primary effusion lymphoma and highlighted two genes that, when inhibited, may slow progression of the cancer, according to a study published in Nature Communications.

This large, unbiased genetic screen paints a new picture of how the disease works, according to Eva Gottwein, PhD, assistant professor of Microbiology-Immunology and senior author of the study.

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Penn State Cancer Institute

It’s bad enough that breast cancer attacks physical health, but it can also take a toll on mental health and overall wellness. To help promote wellness with these patients, Dr. Michael Hayes, a psychologist at Penn State Health, is organizing a retreat at a bed and breakfast outside Hershey at the end of the month for 10 breast cancer patients and their partners.

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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Purdue University researchers are studying ways to make prostate cancer, ranked as the second most common and second most fatal cancer among men by the American Cancer Society, less lethal by making it less aggressive.

The Purdue team has developed a drug to target the laminin receptor (37/67 LR), a membrane protein that when overexpressed can promote the growth of cancer cells and tumors. The researchers say it also could help fight other types of aggressive cancers, including pancreatic, colon, liver, and breast.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

The Biospecimen Repository and Histopathology Service shared resource at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey has received accreditation from the College of American Pathologists (CAP) based on results of a recent on-site inspection as part of the CAP’s Accreditation Programs.

The Biospecimen Repository and Histopathology Service shared resource is one of 63 CAP-accredited facilities worldwide. The Biospecimen Repository and Histopathology Service at Rutgers Cancer Institute is a cancer center-managed shared resource offering biorepository and histopathology services to both internal and external investigators. The service supports transdisciplinary and translational research through cost-effective, quality controlled tissue collection, biospecimen procurement and processing, and cancer clinical trial support. It utilizes state-of-the-art technologies for tissue analysis coupled with professional interpretation by board-certified pathologists.

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

There’s something to be said for looking better than you feel. Just ask Amber Pena, who was 32 while she was being treated for breast cancer. She was working a full time job in a busy office, running her own business and being mom to an active 11-year-old boy. So it helped that she was able to use cooling caps while going through chemotherapy, which allowed her to keep the majority of her thick, long, black hair.

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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 www.bigten.org.