Jan. 23, 2016:

The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium‘s “Across the Consortium” is your all-access pass to the latest action in cancer research conducted by our member institutions. We begin a new year with recent highlights from each member institution. Here’s to a promising new year across the consortium!

University of Illinois Cancer Center

UIC members, Dr. Oana Danciu, Dr. Paul Hergenrother and Dr. Timothy Fan were on CBS Chicago, discussing PAC-1, a drug that is currently working as a brain cancer treatment in dogs, and its transition in clinical trials to humans.

See interview.

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

Kathy D. Miller, MD, of the Indiana University School of Medicine recently received one of 18 research grants as part of the ANN INC. Breast Cancer Research Foundation® Awards program. Since 2005, ANN INC. has donated more than $31 million to BCRF.

Read more.

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Vitamin C has a patchy history as a cancer therapy, but researchers at the University of Iowa believe that is because it has often been used in a way that guarantees failure.

Most vitamin C therapies involve taking the substance orally. However, UI scientists have shown that giving vitamin C (also known as ascorbate) intravenously—thus bypassing normal gut metabolism and excretion pathways—creates blood levels that are 100 to 500 times higher than levels seen with oral ingestion. It is this super-high concentration in the blood that is crucial to vitamin C’s ability to attack cancer cells.

Read more.

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3-rich foods improved fatigue and sleep quality in breast cancer survivors, a U-M study finds.

There’s a reason other than weight loss for breast cancer survivors to load their plate with fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds.

A new study finds that this diet — full of healthy foods known to decrease inflammation— led to reduced fatigue and better sleep quality for this group.

Read more.

Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Michigan State University researchers have discovered that a chemical compound, and potential new drug, reduces the spread of melanoma cells by up to 90 percent.

The man-made, small-molecule drug compound goes after a gene’s ability to produce RNA molecules and certain proteins in melanoma tumors. This gene activity, or transcription process, causes the disease to spread but the compound can shut it down. Up until now, few other compounds of this kind have been able to accomplish this.

Read more.

Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Inside the golden-yellow spice turmeric lurks a chemical deceiver: curcumin, a molecule that is widely touted as having medicinal activity, but which also gives false signals in drug screening tests. For years, chemists have urged caution about curcumin and other compounds that can mislead naive drug hunters.

Now, in an attempt to stem a continuing flow of muddled research, scientists have published the most comprehensive critical review yet of curcumin — concluding that there’s no evidence it has any specific therapeutic benefits, despite thousands of research papers and more than 120 clinical trials. The scientists hope that their report will prevent further wasted research and alert the unwary to the possibility that chemicals may often show up as ‘hits’ in drug screens, but be unlikely to yield a drug.

Read more.

Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Although 2016 was a very exciting year for multiple myeloma, with the approval of four new drugs, the reality is that the majority of patients will become resistant to all available drugs. Therefore, it is still vitally important that new treatment strategies and new drugs are developed. At the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), there were many exciting presentations discussing new treatments. Here I will review some of the key studies exploring new treatments for relapsed/refractory myeloma.

Read more.

Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered the genetic driver of a rare and lethal childhood leukemia and identified a targeted molecular therapy that halts the proliferation of leukemic cells. The finding also has implications for treating other types of cancer.

Mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) primarily strikes newborns and infants. Less than 10 to 20 percent of those children (300 cases are seen in the United States per year) live no more than five years after being diagnosed.

Read more.

Penn State Cancer Institute

A Retro94-based compound may prevent a common and sometimes fatal virus, human cytomegalovirus (CMV) from reproducing and protect immunocompromised patients, like those with HIV, on chemotherapy, with transplants and infants from the effects of the disease, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers.

Read more.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

A gene known to suppress tumor formation in a broad range of tissues plays a key role in keeping stem cells in muscles dormant until needed, a finding that may have implications for both human health and animal production, according to a Purdue University study.

Shihuan Kuang, professor of animal sciences, and Feng Yue, a postdoctoral researcher in Kuang’s lab, reported their findings in two papers published in the journals Cell Reports and Nature Communications. The results suggest modifying expression of the PTEN gene could one day play a role in increasing muscle mass in agricultural animals and improve therapies for muscle injuries in humans.

Read more.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

A five-year, $1.8 million grant (R01CA203965) from the National Cancer Institute awarded to Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey resident research member Wenwei Hu, PhD, will support research to further elucidate the mechanisms behind the  most frequently mutated gene in human tumors – p53. The aim is to explore how chronic stress impacts cancer development, especially when cancers containing a mutation in p53, and identify molecular targets that would disrupt the effect of chronic stress on cancer development.

Read more.

University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

A clinical trial being conducted by the UW Carbone Cancer Center is looking at whether coaching, support and fitness trackers can change the activity level of cancer survivors.

The 12-week randomized trial will enroll 50 breast and colorectal cancer survivors.  Half will make up a control group while the remaining will participate in an intervention group.  Patients in the control group receive standard follow-up care and a survivorship plan.

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.