Jan. 4, 2016:

A conversation with Arkadiusz Dudek, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, hematology/oncology, at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. Dr. Dudek is a member of both the University of Illinois Cancer Center and the BTCRC Steering Committee.

Q: How do you think cancer research will change in the next 10 to 20 years?

Portable technology is changing research every day. From apps to scanners, information transmission is faster than ever before. In development at the University of Illinois is a portable blood drop test for lung cancer screening. The way a drop of blood can alter the course of daily treatment for a diabetic, will hopefully have the similar path to recognize lung cancer at earliest stage and aid with patient selection for screening with low dose spiral computed tomography. The UI Cancer Center also works very closely with SAWBO, Scientific Animations Without Borders, which is a global media depository that develops universal tools to understand medical problems, in this case education about a need for cancer screening. This portable technology is another instrument that has the potential to expand comprehension in innumerable ways.

Personalized cancer therapies are evolving the scope of research. The UI Cancer Center’s Precision Oncology Board, led by Drs. Kent Hoskins, Arek Dudek, Gayatry Mohapatra, and Anjen Chenn, and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) DNA Services and Center for Research Informatics is looking at the genetic make up of individual cancers, to develop the most suitable treatments for patients, based on those genetics.

In the bigger picture, research will continue to be impacted by the economics of cancer. There is always a deficit of funding being allocated to research, and it would be foolish to assume that that would change for the better. That said, higher taxes on tobacco, soda and sugared beverages, have the potential to bring down the abuse of those substances and perhaps find ways to reallocate the funding back to cancer research.

Q: What does translational science look like within your institution and in your collaboration with other BTCRC member institutions?

UIC is in collaboration with the BTCRC and is leading an effort to understand the biology of lung cancer in women. UIC is providing DNA and RNA sequencing services and bioinformatics in this effort.

Q: In what ways is your institution involved in expanding access to clinical trials throughout the communities you serve?

As a cancer center that represents all of the University of Illinois, we also represent the State of Illinois. That means that we place an emphasis on expanding to communities that don’t otherwise have access to sufficient medical services and collaborations with other academic institutions and medical entities. We also pride ourselves on our networks of community partnerships, both in the suburbs and in the urban Chicago landscape. We developed the Community Campus Cancer Collaborative (CCCC), to bring together local organizations that can benefit from the wealth of cancer research, support and clinical trials that we have. The CCCC meets monthly to discuss community needs and how we can support each other and our patients to the fullest extent, wherever those patients are located. Finally, our pediatrics program is part of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), a triad of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Rush University Medical Center and Stroger Hospital of Cook County, which enables us to participate in the clinical trials treatment of children and adolescents at all three institutions. Each institution, though only blocks apart, is vastly different in population and provides unique opportunities for clinical trials as a result.

Q: How is the BTCRC unique from other research consortia in which you participate?

We are honored to be part of the BTCRC. As part of the consortia, we carry the University of Illinois name through highly responsive networking to all of the other institutions. We are introduced to and have a relationship with clinicians and researchers from this pipeline of outstanding schools, who share similar research goals. Not only do we support each other as scientists and as clinicians, but we support the research itself, and having this network provides for a framework and foundation to build ideas and test hypotheses. Finally, the BTCRC also provides for an opportunity for mentorship for junior faculty and trainees. It really fosters and celebrates an environment of learning, which is the foremost intention of any academic institution.

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.