Feb. 1, 2018:

Investigator Spotlight:

Attaya Suvannasankha, MD, Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

School of Medicine: Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand; Residency: Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia; Fellowship: Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

Research interests: Multiple myeloma is a rare and incurable blood cancer, but not all myeloma is the same. While the current treatments may work well initially, myeloma keeps recurring and eventually patients die from drug resistant myeloma and treatment side effects. Much work is needed to understand why myeloma cancer cells respond differently to common treatments. Currently, there is not a good way to predetermine the response of an individual’s myeloma to chemotherapy. Current treatments are therefore rather trial and error.

I believe that an individualized treatment for each patient will be more effective, less toxic, less expensive and can lead to a cure. In the lab, I am establishing a new way to grow and test each patient’s myeloma cells in mouse bones to select the right chemotherapy for them. In the clinic, I lead clinical trials that explore new drugs or drug combinations in myeloma. I am particularly interested in finding how to best use these medications in frail elderly patients in order to balance cancer control and quality of life issues.

Being a part of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium myeloma team allows me to work with the best and the brightest among the Big Ten Institutions to conduct high-impact, hypothesis-driven, highly translational, clinical trials in myeloma- a rare and incurable disease in need of novel treatments.

Little-known facts about Dr. Suvannasankha:

  • When I first moved to the US for residency training, I was so nervous speaking English that I only ate at fast food restaurants so I could order food by numbers without needing to speak in sentences. Thanks to all the Philadelphians for letting me practice English on them.
  • I was not at all athletic as a child. I’ve picked up running as a hobby and have completed a few marathons. Each marathon mile is dedicate to a patient, friend or family who has inspired me.
  • I have a poor memory for people’s names but I can remember people’s stories.



Investigator Spotlight:

Greg Durm, MD, Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

BS, University of Notre Dame; MD, University of Michigan; Residency and Chief Residency in Internal Medicine, Indiana University; Fellowship in Medical Oncology, Indiana University

Research interests: I am currently a medical oncologist at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis. My clinical areas of interest include lung cancer and head and neck cancer. Most of my research is focused on lung cancer, specifically locally advanced and metastatic disease and novel uses of immunotherapeutic drugs. I am currently working to build the research portfolio of our head and neck program, and I am also a part of the phase I clinical trial program at IU. I am fortunate to be a part of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (Big Ten TCRC) and the Hoosier Cancer Research Network, and many of my trials are coordinated through these two organizations. We currently have two investigator-initiated phase II clinical trials through the Big Ten TCRC. LUN 16-081 looks at consolidation single-agent and combination checkpoint blockade following concurrent chemoradiation for unresectable stage III non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and LUN15-029 looks at the utility of continuing PD-1 inhibition in combination with next-line chemotherapy following progression in metastatic NSCLC for patients who have previously benefitted from PD-1 blockade. I am looking forward to continuing my work in the Big Ten TCRC and to future trials and collaborations with our Big Ten colleagues.

Little-known facts about Dr. Durm:

  • While at the University of Notre Dame, I played in and won the Bookstore Basketball Tournament, which is the largest, amateur outdoor 5-on-5 basketball tournament in the world.
  • I’ve known my wife since we were in kindergarten, and we have four beautiful children between the ages of 15 months and 7 years.
  • When in high school, I played on an AAU basketball team with three future NFL football players.


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.