September 24, 2020:

In this month’s Across the Consortium, the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (Big Ten CRC) highlights a variety of activities and accomplishments across universities. From new cancer drugs, to grant awards and new methods of treatments, researchers stop at nothing to continue to fight against cancer.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

A new type of breast cancer drug developed by University of Illinois Cancer Center members Debra Tonetti and Gregory Thatcher can help halt progression of disease and is not toxic, according to phase 1 clinical trials. The drug is specifically designed for women whose cancer has stopped responding to hormone therapy. The results are published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

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Cancer Center at Illinois

Research being conducted through the Holonyak Micro & Nanotechnology Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is working to develop a device that can detect cancer biomarkers with just a few drops of blood. The method would provide rapid results, enabling the clinician to quantitatively observe the effects of treatment on the tumor by measuring increases or decreases in strategically selected molecules. The team recently received a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund this work.

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center

Lois B. Travis, MD, ScD, an internationally recognized expert on cancer survivorship at Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center, has been awarded a five-year, $5.7 million National Cancer Institute grant to evaluate long-term health outcomes for cancer patients who receive platinum-based chemotherapies.

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Ovarian cancer is the focus of the 2020 Cancer in Iowa Report by the Iowa Cancer Registry. It is also a good time to recognize the research collaborations between experts at The University of Iowa, the Iowa Department of Health, the Iowa Cancer Registry, and the Iowa Cancer Consortium.

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University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center

Saurabh Dahiya, MD, FACP, assistant professor of medicine for the University of Maryland School of Medicine and hematologist-oncologist at University of Maryland Greenbaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, discusses new research that show neurological side effects have no impact on survival for lymphoma patients treated with CAR T-cell therapy. The study was recently published in Neuro-Oncology.

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University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

Many modern cancer drugs target a specific genetic mutation that is driving a particular cancer’s runaway growth and division — such as the HER-2 protein in some breast cancers or EGFR in certain lung cancers. But this strategy hasn’t worked well against glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, which is known for having multiple mutations that differ from region to region and cell to cell within a single tumor. Now research led by the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center has hit upon a new approach: Make radiation therapy more effective for glioblastoma patients by targeting a critical metabolic pathway and disrupting its ability to repair the DNA damage caused by the radiation.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

A cancer research company co-founded by a Michigan State University professor was acquired by the New York biotechnology firm Lodo Therapeutics Corp., in a move that holds the potential for the development of innovative drugs that treat cancer. André S. Bachmann, PhD, professor and associate chair of research for MSU’s College of Human Medicine and Michael C. Pirrung, PhD, distinguished professor and drug researcher at the University of California, Riverside, discovered selective proteasome and immunoproteasome inhibitors that could play a role in the treatment of solid tumor cancers, based on preclinical studies conducted by MSU and the National Cancer Institute.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Researchers at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota have opened a new clinical trial to test whether a novel cell therapy currently under clinical investigation for acute myeloid leukemia and lymphoma can be effective as a treatment for COVID-19. The engineered iPSC-derived natural killer cell product candidate, FT516, may play a role in diminishing viral replication of the novel coronavirus.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Surinder Batra, PhD, chairperson and Stokes-Shackelford Professor in the University of Nebraska Medical Center Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology, and Moorthy Ponnusamy, PhD, associate professor in biochemistry and molecular biology, recently published a study that reveals how a small population of pancreatic cancer cells with stem cell-like features is responsible for disease aggressiveness, metastasis, recurrence, and drug resistance. The findings were published in the August issue of the Journal of Gastroenterology.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered a new target for slowing treatment-resistant prostate cancer, according to recent study published in Nature Communications. “Inhibiting an epigenetic regulator called DOT1L reduced growth of human prostate tumor cells while sparing healthy cells,” said Sarki Abdulkadir, MD, PhD, the John T. Grayhack, MD, professor of Urological Research, vice chair for research in the Department of Urology and senior author of the study.

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

Researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) have been awarded a five-year, $2.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study novel combination radiation and targeted medical therapies for thyroid cancer. Co-led by Terence M. Williams, MD, PhD, vice chair of radiation oncology and division director, Thoracic and Hepatopancreaticobiliary Radiation Oncology, and Manisha H. Shah, MD, professor and medical oncologist, both from the OSUCCC – James, this grant will enable a multidisciplinary cancer research team to evaluate how BRAF gene mutations promote therapeutic resistance to radiation and other genotoxic therapies in patients with anaplastic thyroid cancer.

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Penn State Cancer Institute

A new technology that uses a protein’s structure to predict the inner wiring that controls the protein’s function and dynamics is now available for scientists to utilize. The tool, developed by researchers at Penn State University, may be useful for protein engineering and drug design. Nikolay Dokholyan, PhD, MS, professor of pharmacology at Penn State College of Medicine and vice chair for research at Penn State, and postdoctoral scholar, Jian Wang, created an algorithm called Ohm that predicts allosteric sites in a protein.

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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Purdue University’s Zhong-Yin Zhang, PhD’s team has discovered a novel “phosphatase cascade” that plays a critical role in pancreas, lung, liver, kidney, breast, prostate, brain, and other cancers. Their findings were published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and demonstrate that a “pro-oncogenic” phosphatase PRL2 exerts its effect by down-regulating PTEN, a tumor-suppressive phosphatase frequently lost in human cancers. Dr. Zhang is the Robert C. and Charlotte P. Anderson Chair in Pharmacology and director of the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

With the aid of a $3.1 million, five-year National Institutes of Health grant (R01CA243547), Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey leaders Eileen White, PhD, Edmund Lattime, PhD, and Shridar Ganesan, MD, PhD, will collaborate on translational research exploring the immune response to cancers that feature a high number of mutations.

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

An investigational new drug license, or IND, recently issued by the Food and Drug Administration will allow UW oncologists to study a new cell therapy to treat radiotherapy-induced xerostomia, also called dry mouth. The new IND offers an entirely novel use of personalized cell therapy with the patient’s own interferon-gamma activated marrow stromal cells, according to Jacques Galipeau, MD, associate dean for therapeutics development and director of the UW Program for Advanced Cell Therapy.

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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 more than 9,800 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