Sept. 17, 2018:

Big Ten cancer centers are enriched by dedicated researchers who are meeting cancer head-on with not only their intellect, but also their heart. In this edition of Across the Consortium, we applaud those who are making a difference in the clinic, in the lab, and in the community.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Judy Bolton, PhD, University of Illinois Cancer Center member and distinguished professor and head of the department of medicinal chemistry and pharmcognosy at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy, received the Founders’ Award from the Division of Chemical Toxicology recently at the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting in Boston. Dr. Bolton leads an experienced chemical toxicology research team at UIC that is primarily focused on post-menopausal women’s health. She has had two National Institutes of Health-funded projects to examine the carcinogenic effects of estrogens and antiestrogens and investigating natural alternatives to hormone replacement therapy.

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

Indiana University Distinguished Professor Hal E. Broxmeyer, PhD, is the recipient of a highly competitive National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Outstanding Investigator Award to continue his 35 years of groundbreaking research into lifesaving umbilical cord blood transplantation. Dr. Broxmeyer, an internationally recognized scientist, received a seven-year, $5.4 million grant to continue his research into how to maximize the use of adaptable blood-forming cells in cord blood for transplantation for certain types of cancer, metabolic and blood diseases.

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

George Weiner, MD, director of the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, recently visited the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine to give a seminar and meet with faculty, staff, and students. In his latest post on his blog, Holden the Line on Cancer, Dr. Weiner writes about the similarities and differences between human and animal medicine, and about opportunities for greater collaboration in cancer research.

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University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

As researchers gain more understanding of how to target cancer treatment to specific genetic markers, identifying the best, most “actionable” markers is crucial. A new grant to University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center member Arul Chinnaiyan, MD, PhD, will provide long-term support to increase understanding of these markers to leverage targeted treatments for cancer. Dr. Chinnaiyan has received an Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Cancer Institute, which provides $6.5 million in funding over seven years. The grant will fund research to create new bioinformatics resources and identify new cancer biomarkers to improve diagnosis and ultimately to develop new targeted therapies.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Richard Neubig, MD, PhD, spends most of his time searching for new and better treatments for skin cancer and other diseases. Once a year, he and his colleagues leave their labs and join thousands of others in the MSU Gran Fondo, a bike ride that is approaching $1 million in funding for skin cancer research. “It’s actually very inspiring to see all these people out there supporting skin cancer research,” said Dr. Neubig, professor and chair of the College of Human Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

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Watch: MSU Gran Fondo 6.

Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

“The HPV vaccination is one of the few opportunities we have to actually eradicate a class of cancers (HPV-related cancers), and it is devastating that the American population is not taking advantage of this opportunity even though it has been proven to be safe in multiple post-marketing studies,” said Deanna Teoh, MD, assistant professor in the medical school and Masonic Cancer Center member.

The Masonic Cancer Center, and all other NCI-designated cancer centers, are sending a powerful message to parents, adolescents, and health care providers about the importance of HPV vaccination for the elimination of HPV-related cancers.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

The University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy continues to climb the rankings of U.S. pharmacy-research powerhouses, cracking the national top 10 for the first time in annual National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for fiscal year 2017. The ranking is compiled by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP). Courtney Fletcher, PharmD, oversaw this period of research growth as the College of Pharmacy’s dean. Dr. Fletcher took over leadership of the college in 2007, and the 2017-18 academic year was his last as dean, though he remains on faculty.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

The three-dimensional atomic structure of the COMPASS protein complex has been detailed for the first time, according to a study published in the journal Cell. The findings will provide a platform for designing future cancer therapies, as the epigenetic regulator COMPASS and members of its family are some of the most commonly mutated proteins in a variety of cancers. Northwestern University’s Ali Shilatifard, PhD, is co-senior author of the study.

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Penn State Cancer Institute

Cancer cells often have mutations in their DNA that can give scientists clues about how the cancer started or which treatment may be most effective. Finding these mutations can be difficult, but a new method may offer more complete, comprehensive results. A team of researchers has developed a new framework that can combine three existing methods of finding these large mutations — or structural variants — into a single, more complete picture. Feng Yue, MS, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State College of Medicine, said the new method — published Sept. 10 in Nature Genetics — could help researchers find new structural variations within cancer cell DNA and learn more about how those cancers begin.

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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Purdue University researchers pursuing a way to repurpose high-definition Blu-ray technology, popular for watching videos and listening to music, to diagnose early-stage cancers and monitor their treatments have received nearly $200,000 in state and federal grants. Cytomics Analytical LLC, led by J. Paul Robinson, PhD, the SVM Professor of Cytomics in Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine and professor in Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, has received a National Institutes of Health Phase I Small Business Innovation Research Grant, also known as America’s Seed Fund, for $147,364. The company also has received a $50,000 grant from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey has named M. Michele Blackwood, MD, FACS, as its new chief of breast surgery. Dr. Blackwood, whose surgical expertise is in complex breast malignancies, is currently the medical director and northern regional director of breast services for RWJBarnabas Health. As chief of breast surgery, Dr. Blackwood will work with the surgical team in the institute’s Stacy Goldstein Breast Cancer Center to further enhance and expand clinical and surgical services.

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Megan Spurgeon, PhD, is a scientist with the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Wisconsin, studying how the viruses HPV and Merkel cell polyomavirus are linked to human cancers. Having a career in cancer research, Dr. Spurgeon has participated in the UW Carbone Cancer Center’s signature fundraising event, Race for Research, a few times before, raising “a little bit of money,” she says. When she signed up last year, she did not expect to become the event’s top fundraiser.

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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