Jan. 19, 2015:

We begin a new year with recent highlights from each member institution of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium. From new discoveries in our understanding of RNAs to re-emerging ideas about Vitamin C; from initiatives that focus on our communities at home to those that stretch across continents, Big Ten cancer centers continue to innovate and inspire. Here’s to a promising new year across the consortium!

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Robert A. Winn, MD, interim director of the University of Illinois Cancer Center, discusses his institution’s mission to be a comprehensive, community-focused cancer center in this month’s member feature on the BTCRC website. Community-focused care has taken root through the institution’s ambulatory care network of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) known as the Mile Square Health System. Read more.

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

An international team of oncology research specialists led by Indiana University has been awarded a $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study HPV and cervical cancer in Kenyan women with HIV/AIDS. The grant will enable the researchers to create a sustainable approach to education, clinical care and research, with the goal of providing early detection screenings for human papillomavirus and cervical cancer. Read more.

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

When a potential cancer therapy shows great promise in the lab only to fail dismally in the clinic, it rarely gets a second chance. For vitamin C, the wait was more than three decades before a meticulous scientist at the National Institutes of Health teamed with determined University of Iowa researchers who thoroughly understood the chemistry of vitamin C and believed its role as a cancer killer was worth reviving. Read more.

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed the global landscape of a portion of the genome that has not been previously well-explored – long non-coding RNAs. This vast portion of the human genome has been considered the dark matter because so little is known about it. Emerging new evidence suggests that lncRNAs may play a role in cancer and that understanding them better could lead to new potential targets for improving cancer diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment. Read more.

Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

The Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Gran Fondo was recently named one of the “biggest and best” American Gran Fondos of 2015 by Gran Fondo Guide. The MSU Gran Fondo ranks sixth among 11 mass-participation events featured by the cycling news website. The non-competitive cycling event supports skin cancer awareness, prevention, and research. Read more.

Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Researchers from the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota recently discovered cells directly transfer tumor-causing microRNAs via tunneling nanotubes, or long cellular extensions of cancer cells facilitating intercellular communication. Intercellular communication is vital to survival in multicellular organisms. Communication between distant and proximal cells is especially important to cancerous tumor growth. Read more.

Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Melissa Teoh-Fitzgerald, PhD, is studying the role of antioxidant enzymes and oxidative stress in cancer. Her lab is working to understand how the loss of an antioxidant enzyme contributes to an oxidative tumor microenvironment and how this oxidative stress affects the communication between cancer cells and their surrounding cells such as fibroblasts. Read more.

Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Northwestern University scientists have demonstrated a simple but powerful tool that can detect live cancer cells in the bloodstream, potentially long before the cells could settle somewhere in the body and form a dangerous tumor. The NanoFlare technology is the first genetic-based approach that is able to detect live circulating tumor cells out of the complex matrix that is human blood. Read more.

Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute

Ross Keller, a fourth year PhD candidate in the Penn State Hershey College of Medicine’s Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program has posted a five-part series on the college’s research blog. His latest post is titled “War on Cancer: The Future of Cancer Treatment.” Read more.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research members R. Graham Cooks, PhD, and Philip S. Low, PhD, have been named fellows of the National Academy of Inventors. They are among 170 new fellows who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society. Read more.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Research from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University demonstrates that a drug used to treat Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) helps radiation be more effective when it was administered to laboratory models with melanoma that had metastasized to the brain. Read more.

University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Lara Collier, PhD, a UW Carbone Cancer Center scientist, is using a certain transposable element known as “Sleeping Beauty” as a tool to study which genes may play a role in cancer formation. Collier and her team engineer the Sleeping Beauty transposon into healthy cells in mice, then allow the transposons to mobilize and cause genetic changes that eventually lead to tumor formation. Candidate cancer genes are identified by finding DNA that transposons have inserted into the tumor. 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.