Sept. 25, 2019:

In this month’s Across the Consortium, the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (Big Ten CRC) highlights a wide range of topics from newly activated Big Ten CRC studies, research with cancer and genomics, rare cancers, and developing new strategies to integrate patient education in regular cancer care visits.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

The following study has recently activated for patient enrollment by the University of Illinois Cancer Center Clinical Trials Office (CTO). For more information or questions about studies at the University of Illinois Cancer Center, contact or call 312-355-5112.

BTCRC-BRE18-337: Phase 2 Trial with Safety Run-In of Gedatolisib Plus Talazoparib in Advanced Triple Negative or BRCA1/2 Positive, HER2 Negative Breast Cancers Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium

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Cancer Center at Illinois

The statistics behind ovarian cancer are grim: roughly 23,000 new patients are diagnosed each year, and the five-year survival rate is less than 50 percent. The disease is difficult to diagnose — its vague, flu-like symptoms are often attributed to more common ailments, and diagnostic testing frequently does not catch it in its early stages. Treatments, involving surgery and chemotherapy, are not especially effective and often have debilitating side effects and dismal outcomes. A team of students at the Cancer Center at Illinois, led by PhD student Sisi He, are exploring the link between ovarian cancer and cholesterol, which they hope might lead to new targeted approaches to treat ovarian cancer.

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

The Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center has achieved the highest recognition from the National Cancer Institute: Comprehensive Cancer Center. With this elite federal designation signifying research excellence, it becomes the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Indiana and one of just 51 in the nation.

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Although doctors and nurses who treat patients with cancer know how harmful tobacco use can be, efforts to help patients quit are not a well-integrated part of overall cancer care. Researchers at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center have received a two-year, $500,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to develop strategies to improve tobacco cessation interventions for patients with cancer.

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University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

Developing new medicines is notoriously challenging and expensive – especially in cancer. And for academic researchers, there’s limited funding available to advance new ideas to the point where they’re ready to compete for the large-scale federal or foundation funding needed to fully develop them. That’s why the University of Michigan invests in pilot funding for early stage drug discovery projects. Since 2012, Michigan Drug Discovery – a campuswide collaboration to find, fund, and mentor projects originating from faculty research – has invested more than $2.3 million in more than 70 projects. These, in turn, have gone on to secure more than $17 million in federal grants and other support, helping them to continue advancing from the lab bench towards the bedside.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Michigan State University researchers, in collaboration with the Van Andel Institute, have identified a combination of two gene mutations that is linked to endometrial cancer. The research, published in Nature Communications, found that mutations of the ARID1A and PIK3CA genes are frequently found together in the development of endometrial cancer, as well as in endometriosis-associated ovarian cancer. The findings could mean that better, more targeted treatments can be developed to help fight the disease.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

The Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology recently welcomed Ruping Sun, PhD, to its faculty. Sun is a computational geneticist who previously worked as an instructor at Stanford Medical School. His research focus will focus on the translational genomics of solid tumors, in conjunction with the Masonic Cancer Center.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Thirteen scientists at the University of Nebraska Medical Center have received a cumulative $650,000 in grant funding to further their research in cancer and diseases related to smoking. Each research project is supported by a $50,000 grant from the Nebraska Cancer and Smoking Disease Research Program through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). In addition, two University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists also received $50,000 each in grants.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Northwestern Medicine has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to prepare the next generation of scientists committed to research that improves minority health and reduces health disparities. The Northwestern University Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Training Program (NU-MHRT) will be funded by a five-year training grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. The program will provide health disparities research training experiences to minority and other underrepresented students and trainees, supporting early career development to 10 trainees per year from diverse backgrounds as they progress to the next stage in their health sciences-related research career.

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The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

After serving as the interim leader for almost two years, William Farrar, MD, will become CEO of The Ohio State University Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (The James), pending approval by The Ohio State University Board of Trustees. In this role, he will report to Harold L. Paz, MD, executive vice president and chancellor for health affairs at Ohio State and CEO of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Dr. Farrar is a surgical oncologist and has a long, successful history with Ohio State, serving on The James medical staff since it opened in July 1990.

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Penn State Cancer Institute

George-Lucian Moldovan, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State College of Medicine, was recently awarded a grant extension from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for his work on how certain inhibitors work on cancerous tumors. Dr. Moldovan was awarded funding from St. Baldrick’s last year, and its promise after scientific review led to a funding extension for an additional year.

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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

In 1944, people in The Netherlands entered into what would become known as the Hongerwinter, or hunger winter, a famine created in retribution by the Nazis for resistance activities in the German-occupied nation near the end of World War II. The Dutch famine, as the incident also is known, caused the deaths of as many as 22,000 people. But because the famine had begun so quickly, with the Nazi blockade of food in November 1944, and ended just as suddenly, with the liberation of the Netherlands in May 1945, it gave scientists a unique insight into the effects of how genes in the body can be affected, or effectively changed, by turning off or on in response to a variety of factors within the body and in the environment.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

An estimated 61,780 new cases of leukemia will be diagnosed in the United States this year, with some 2,000 cases in New Jersey, according to the American Cancer Society. Although leukemias are thought to occur in childhood, they can actually present at any age in both children and adults. However, not all leukemias are created equal. There are four main types of leukemia. There are acute versus chronic – and there are those that emerge from myeloid versus lymphoid cells. Athena Kritharis, MD, a hematologist/oncologist in the Hematologic Malignancies Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and an assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explains more in a recent article.

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

UW – Madison researchers recently reported that a rare blood cancer can be simulated in the lab only by simultaneously infecting white blood cells with two viruses typically found in the tumors. The successful creation of stable, cancer-like cells in the lab opens up opportunities for understanding the progression of this and related cancers and, perhaps, developing treatments. Primary effusion lymphoma, PEL, is a rare blood cancer that primarily affects those with compromised immune systems, such as people infected with HIV. It is aggressive, and patients typically live just six months after being diagnosed.

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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