Feb. 18, 2016:

Opportunity is knocking Across the Consortium, and member institutions of The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium are opening doors to greater innovation and impact. Through powerful partnerships, visionary leadership, an “all-in” investment in infrastructure, research, and outreach, members are unlocking answers for today, promise for tomorrow, hope that reaches beyond borders, and decades of vision now realized.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Gail Prins, PhD, Michael Reese Professor of Urology and Physiology, is the recipient of the 2015 Innovator of Today Alumni Award, for her contribution to prostate cancer research. Dr. Prins’ research has focused on how natural and environmental estrogens contribute to carcinogenesis.

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

More than a decade ago, Patrick Loehrer Sr., M.D., traveled to Kenya.  He left that country with a dream to meet the unmet need he witnessed first-hand.

Although more developed than other African nations, Kenya was by no means immune to the challenges of delivering healthcare to those in rural, resource-limited communities. The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to ravage the country and chronic diseases, such as cancer, are on the rise. Tens of thousands of people still desperately need treatment.

In response to Kenya’s increasing cancer cases, Dr. Loehrer, director of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, co-founded the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) Oncology Institute in 2009 to help build a sustainable oncology health care system in western Kenya where none previously existed.

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Health experts at the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center are saying that not enough people are being vaccinated to help prevent Human Papillomavirus.

They report that high-risk types of HPV are responsible for several kinds of cancers. On World Cancer Day, it’s difficult to find someone who isn’t impacted in one way or another by the disease.

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University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Gran Fondo was recently named one of the “must-rides” of 2016 by Gran Fondo Guide. The June 25 event is ranked fourth among 11 mass-participation cycling events.

“For the second year in a row, the MSU Gran Fondo is recognized as a premier cycling event because of its enhanced rider experience, highly supported routes, gourmet food stops and the best post-ride party,” said Robert Hughes, president of Advantage Benefits Group, a founding sponsor of the MSU Gran Fondo and executive committee member.

The MSU Gran Fondo is a fun, non-competitive cycling event to support the College of Human Medicine’s skin cancer awareness, prevention and research. The event has raised nearly $500,000 for skin cancer research.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

What would you do if you had the money? For Max S. Wicha, M.D., the answer was clear. And now the National Cancer Institute has given him the money.

Wicha has received a $6.5 million Outstanding Investigator Award to study cancer stem cells, the small number of cells within a tumor that fuel its growth and spread.

“With this kind of research, you don’t always know where it’s going next,” says Wicha, the Madeline and Sidney Forbes Professor of Oncology and founding director emeritus of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. “This new grant gives us the freedom to pursue new directions in cancer stem cell research.”

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Children diagnosed with osteosarcoma may be impacted by a DNA imprinting defect also found in parents, according to new research from the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota. DNA imprinting is a phenomenon in which just one of the two inherited genes is active while the other is present but inactive.

The study is published in the journal Oncotarget.

The research was spearheaded by Masonic Cancer Center researcher Subbaya Subramanian, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Surgery. The study was also collaboratively supported by David Largaespada, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Clifford Steer, M.D., professor in the Departments of Medicine and Genetics, Cell Biology and Development. Both are members of the Masonic Cancer Center.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

The Buffett cancer center is the largest public-private construction project in Nebraska history. As the tower took form in the heart of the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus, it climbed 10 stories into the sky. Those 10 stories will have researchers and cancer patients all under one roof.

“It’s also exciting for researchers who quite frankly don’t oftentimes get to see the importance of their own research,” said Dr. Ken Cowan, the Buffett Cancer Center director.

Many families recently visited the property and are counting on new breakthroughs.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Cancer cells are normal cells that go awry by making bad developmental decisions during their lives. In a study involving the fruit fly equivalent of an oncogene implicated in many human leukemias, Northwestern University researchers have gained insight into how developing cells normally switch to a restricted, or specialized, state and how that process might go wrong in cancer.

The fruit fly’s eye is an intricate pattern of many different specialized cells, such as light-sensing neurons and cone cells. Because flies share with humans many of the same cancer-causing genes, scientists use the precisely made compound eye of Drosophila melanogaster (the common fruit fly) as a workhorse to study what goes wrong in human cancer.

A multidisciplinary team co-led by biologist Richard W. Carthew and engineer Luís A.N. Amaral studied normal cell behavior in the developing eye. The researchers were surprised to discover that the levels of an important protein called Yan start fluctuating wildly when the cell is switching from a more primitive, stem-like state to a more specialized state. If the levels don’t or can’t fluctuate, the cell doesn’t switch and move forward.

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Penn State Cancer Institute

With atezolizumab (MPDL3280A) showing great potential as a treatment for patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in two particlar studies, we sat down with Chandra P. Belani, MD, to talk more about the treatment.

The PD-L1 inhibitor received a breakthrough therapy designation from the FDA based on early-stage studies as a potential treatment for patients with PD-L1–positive NSCLC, post-progression on prior therapies such as chemotherapy and targeted therapies. Belani, Miriam Beckner Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, deputy director, Penn State Cancer Institute, said in an interview with Targeted Oncology, that the acitivity the treatment shows is impressive.

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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Deep in the bowels of the Brown Laboratory of Chemistry are three magnets with internal field strengths of up to 380,000 times that of Earth’s magnetic field at the surface. These magnets (the largest standing almost two stories tall) as well as four in Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry, two in Heine Pharmacy Building, and one in Drug Discovery Research Facility, make up the Purdue Interdepartmental NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) Facility.

The facility is used by researchers in the Department of Chemistry, the Department of Biological Sciences, the College of Pharmacy, the Purdue Center for Cancer Research, and more to determine the physical structure of a given molecule and the arrangement of atoms within it.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

A web-based intervention targeted toward young, female users of indoor tanning beds has tested favorably among these users and may encourage cessation of this behavior. That is according to research by Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey which tested an intervention that targeted users’ perceptions of the benefits and value of tanning as well as encouraged them to consider how tanning was related to their body image.

“We believe this online intervention is the first to demonstrate an ability to reduce indoor tanning through engaging participants to reflect on and challenge their belief and the personal value placed on tanning,” notes lead author Jerod L. Stapleton, PhD, behavioral scientist at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

A newly discovered change in viral DNA may have disastrous effects when it comes to a common upper-throat cancer in humans, according to a new University of Wisconsin-Madison study.

When the Epstein-Barr virus infects human cells, the virus takes on either its “latent” or “lytic” forms. During a lytic infection, the virus actively produces infectious particles in an effort to spread to other cells. A latent infection typically occurs once the immune system suppresses a lytic infection, and the virus ‘hides’ in host cells, not actively replicating.

But EBV latency isn’t as ‘latent’ as the name might suggest. While the virus is hiding out, part of its genome is being expressed and producing oncogenic proteins that can contribute to cancer formation, and it’s in EBV’s latent form that nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) begins to develop. The nasopharynx is the uppermost part of the throat immediately behind and connected to the nasal cavity.

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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 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.