April 17, 2015:

Each month, the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium highlights advances in research and treatment led by our member institutions. Following are recent developments across the consortium:

University of Illinois Cancer Center

One infrared scan can give pathologists a window into the structures and molecules inside tissues and cells, enabling fast and broad diagnostic assessments, thanks to an imaging technique developed by University of Illinois researchers and clinical partners.

Using a combination of advanced microscope imaging and computer analysis, the new technique can give pathologists and researchers precise information without using chemical stains or dyes. Led by Rohit Bhargava, University of Illinois professor of bioengineering and member of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the researchers published their findings in the journal Technology. Read more.

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

An Indiana University cancer researcher and her colleagues have identified genetic markers that may help determine who benefits from regular use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for lowering one’s risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Previous studies have shown that regular use of aspirin and NSAIDs lower one’s risk of colorectal cancer, but their use is not recommended as a way to prevent the disease because of uncertainty about the risks and benefits. Thus, the researchers set out to examine the interrelationship between genetic markers and the use of aspirin and NSAIDs to learn who actually benefits from their use. They did so by conducting a genome-wide analysis of gene by environment interactions. Read more.

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

“The incredible speed of advances in computer technology and enhancements in our ability to collect, store, share, and utilize data, have led to complex challenges for how access to that information should be controlled,” writes Dr. George Weiner, MD, director of the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, in a recent blog post on data and privacy in cancer research. Read more.

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Research led by the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute has identified a gene critical to controlling the body’s ability to create blood cells and immune cells from blood-forming stem cells — known as hematopoietic stem cells.

The findings, scheduled for online publication in the Journal of Clinical Investigation on April 13, provide new insights into the underlying mechanics of how the body creates and maintains a healthy blood supply and immune system, both in normal conditions and in situations of stress — like the body experiences following a bone marrow transplant. Read more.

Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

The Michigan State University Department of Virology, Immunology, Cancer and Cell Biology is exploring the basis of gene expression and signaling mechanisms in the host response to infection (immunology) and to factors involved in the development of cancer. Learn more about the department’s research.

Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Minnesota Public Radio recently hosted a discussion on immunotherapy with guests including Christopher A. Pennell, Ph.D., professor and researcher in the microbiology, immunology, and cancer biology program at the University of Minnesota. Listen to the program.

Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

The Fred and Pamela Bufett Cancer Center honored Amy Robach, correspondent for ABC News, as an Ambassador of Hope during a gala event on March 21.

In October 2013, Robach received life-altering news when, after agreeing to do her first mammogram on the air to honor breast cancer awareness month, she was diagnosed with the disease. Robach said the decision to have the on-air mammogram was “the difference between life and death.” She has since chronicled her journey in segments aired on Good Morning America and plans to release a book.

Hosted by the Advocates Board of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, the Ambassador of Hope Gala is held every two years and is one of the top fundraising events in the city.

Prior to the gala, Robach toured the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine campus. See photos of the tour.

Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Northwestern Medicine scientists have identified a small RNA molecule called miR-182 that can suppress cancer-causing genes in mice with glioblastoma mulitforme (GBM), a deadly and incurable type of brain tumor.

While standard chemotherapy drugs damage DNA to stop cancer cells from reproducing, the new method stops the source that creates those cancer cells: genes that are overexpressing certain proteins. Read more.

Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute

A private company has licensed a technology that builds on a Penn State patent for a “highly unique cancer therapy.” According to the company, Keystone Nano, the patent is for ceramide nanoliposomes (CNLs), which encapsulate a material and deliver it in a highly targeted manner. 
Read more.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) renewed the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research’s designation as an NCI cancer center and awarded the center $8 million in funding over the next 5 years. The NCI rated the center as “outstanding” in its review and renewed its designation as a NCI basic science cancer center.

Out of thousands of cancer facilities in the nation, only 68 are NCI-designated cancer centers. Of those 68 only 7 are basic laboratory cancer centers, which conduct only laboratory research and do not provide patient treatment, said Timothy Ratliff, PhD, the Robert Wallace Miller Director of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research. Read more.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

New research from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey shines a light on identifying ‘hot spots’ in drug-resistant mutations involving a certain protein found to influence cancer growth. Senior author X. F. Steven Zheng, PhD, chief of Division of Cancer Pharmacology, and co-leader of the Cancer Pharmacology and Preclinical Therapeutics Program at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, shares more about the study, which is published in the current online edition of Cell Reports. Read more.

University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

One of the most recent technology advancements in radiation oncology is a unique combination of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and radiotherapy technologies.

With this MRI-guided radiation therapy, physicians have greater control over the daily radiation prescriptions because they are able to see the patient’s internal anatomy and adapt to movements that may occur during the actual treatment delivery.

University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics is the second health care system in the world to host the MRIdian technology. Read more.

Information for this story was compiled from BTCRC member websites, news releases, and social media.

About the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium: The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium creates a unique team-research culture to drive science rapidly from ideas to treatment-changing paradigms. 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 student-athletes’ lives and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness, and competitiveness. The broad-based athletic programs of the 14 Big Ten institutions provide nearly $200 million in direct financial aid to almost 9,500 student-athletes 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 and women’s lacrosse as official sports for the 2014-15 academic year. For more information, visit www.bigten.org.