Feb. 19, 2017:

Just out of the starting blocks of 2017, the Big Ten Cancer Centers are already vaulting over more than $30 million of impressive grants, awards, and gifts, long jumping into new leadership positions and appointments, and crossing the finish line of multiple pace-setting studies.  In this month’s edition of Across the Consortium, we recap recent highlights of this winning relay team, the Big Ten CRC!

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Smoking and its side effects cost the world’s economies more than $1 trillion and kill about 6 million people each year — with deaths expected to rise by more than a third by 2030, according to a new report from the World Health Organization and the National Cancer Institute.

Those losses exceed annual global revenue from tobacco taxes, estimated to be $269 billion in 2013-14, according to the report released Tuesday. Of that, less than $1 billion was invested in tobacco control.

Frank Chaloupka, an economics and public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, contributed to the report as one of its scientific editors.

Read more.

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

One of the largest gifts ever to the Indiana University School of Medicine will enable researchers to harness the power of the immune system to cure cancer and other devastating diseases — propelling Indiana’s engine for biomedical discovery and innovation.

Indianapolis entrepreneur Donald E. Brown, MD, has announced a $30 million gift to establish the Brown Center for Immunotherapy at the IU School of Medicine. The center will discover new ways to deploy immune-based therapies to treat cancers and pioneer use of this powerful technology in other diseases. Researchers will also study how to make this highly specialized therapy accessible to large numbers of patients.

Read more.

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Leaders of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa announced the recipients of the 2016 Benz Seed Grant Program research awards.

The awards focus on projects related to psychosocial issues, complementary and alternative medicine, and other aspects of cancer research with a focus on quality of life for cancer patients and survivors.

Read more.

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

To understand what makes breast cancer spread, researchers are looking at where it lives: not just its original home in the breast, but its new home where it settles in other organs. What’s happening in that metastatic niche where migrated cancer cells are growing?

A new study from researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center identifies a protein in that microenvironment that promotes the spread of breast cancer cells. It’s part of a well-known family of receptors, tyrosine kinase receptors, which are implicated in many types of cancer and for which promising inhibitors are being developed.

Read more.

Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Ronald Chandler, assistant professor in the College of Human Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, has received a 2017 Liz Tilberis Early Career Award from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance.

The Liz Tilberis Early Career Award recognizes junior faculty who are committed to an investigative career in the field of ovarian cancer research. The intent of these awards is to support a substantial time commitment to research and academic endeavors in ovarian cancer.

Read more.

Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

“In my opinion, the study’s most disturbing revelation was this: black women living in the United States die at the same rate from cervical cancer as women living in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Christopher Pennell, Ph.D., associate director for Community Engagement at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, referring to a recent study about cervical cancer. “If this isn’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what is.”

The study showed cervical cancer is killing more woman than medical professionals originally thought. Black women in the United States are dying from the disease at a rate 77% higher than previously estimated and white women are dying at a rate 47% higher.

Read more.

Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Cancer, in one way or another, touches all of us. This year there will be an estimated 1.7 million new cancer cases and 600,000 deaths in the United States. But a new clinical trial at Nebraska Medicine is being hailed as a cancer breakthrough.

See interview.

Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Dr. Melissa Simon, the George H. Gardner Professor of Clinical Gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, has been appointed to a national task force that makes recommendations on clinical preventive services, including screenings, counseling, and preventive medications on topics such as cancer and diabetes.

Read more.

Penn State Cancer Institute

The PA Breast Cancer Coalition honored Nancy Lill, assistant professor of pharmacology at Penn State Cancer Institute, with a $50,000 grant to take the next steps with her research into triple-negative breast cancer.

The funding is part of $150,000 the coalition is awarding this year to breast cancer researchers across the state. The money comes from the Research Grants Initiative, which began in 1997 and utilizes donations from Pennsylvanians on the state income tax form along with private donations. More than $3 million has been contributed to the program, and more than 90 grants have been awarded to breast cancer researchers.

Read more.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Purdue University and Indiana University School of Medicine scientists were able to force an epigenetic reaction that turns on and off a gene known to determine the fate of the neural stem cells, a finding that could lead to new therapeutics in the fight against select cancers and neural diseases.

Joseph Irudayaraj, a Purdue professor of agricultural and biological engineering, and Feng Zhou, a professor and neuroscientist at the Indiana University School of Medicine, have developed an optogenetic toolbox that brings together proteins and enzymes that methylate or demethylate a gene called Ascl1. Alteration of the methylation pattern in a specific gene with the optogenetic proteins would allow scientists to turn that gene on or off and produce desirable neurons among other cell types.

Read more.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Post-operative recovery and length of hospital stay are critical things to consider when having major surgery. A drug commonly given to reduce the side effects of strong post-surgery pain medications has been found to reduce the length of hospital stays for patients who have undergone major gastrointestinal or bladder cancer procedures. An investigator at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey explored whether this drug would have a similar impact on patients undergoing surgery for testicular cancer and found use of this drug may facilitate gastrointestinal recovery and have other benefits. Results of the work are being presented at the 2017 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium (co-sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Society for Radiation Oncology and the Society of Urologic Oncology) in Orlando later this week.

Read more.

University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Dr. Laurel Rice is chair of the nationally ranked Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and a member of the UW Carbone Cancer Center, where she treats women with gynecologic cancers. When she takes over as president of the Society for Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) in March, she will also be leading a national effort to address a “crisis” in clinical trials for gynecologic cancers.

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 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.