Nov. 14, 2014:

Today, the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium introduces a new monthly feature highlighting news from our member institutions. We are proud to highlight each of our members, as we work together to improve the lives of all patients with cancer.

Several BTCRC member institutions were profiled in US Airways Magazine’s October issue in an extensive feature on the Association of American Cancer Institutes. The featured institutions include the University of Illinois Cancer Center, the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center.

Following are selected updates from our member institutions.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

A federal prescription-subsidy program for low-income women on Medicare significantly improved their adherence to hormone therapy to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer after surgery, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. Read more.

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

The Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center has been recognized again as a premier cancer center by the National Cancer Institute following an in-depth peer review. The NCI renewed the IU Simon Cancer Center’s Cancer Center Support Grant and the prestigious designation following a multi-step competitive process. Overall, the NCI rated the cancer center’s research activities as “excellent” and awarded it a five-year, $7.8 million support grant — an increase of 20 percent from the previous award in 2008. Read more.

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

George Weiner, MD, director of the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, the C.E. Block Chair of Cancer Research, and professor of internal medicine, is now president of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI). The AACI comprises 92 leading cancer research centers in the United States. Dr. Weiner’s term as president will last two years, and he has been serving as the association’s vice-president/president-elect since Jan. 1, 2013. Read more.

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

A new comprehensive analysis of thyroid cancer from The Cancer Genome Atlas Research Network has identified markers of aggressive tumors, which could allow for better targeting of appropriate treatments to individual patients. The finding suggests the potential to reclassify the disease based on genetic markers and moves thyroid cancer into a position to benefit more from precision medicine. Thomas J. Giordano, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology at the University of Michigan Medical School, is co-lead for TCGA thyroid cancer analysis. Read more.

Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine has expanded its medical education and public health programs in Flint with a $2.8 million grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The expansion builds on a partnership the university has had in Flint for decades with third- and fourth-year students doing clinical work in Genesee County hospitals. Read more.

Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota will help anchor an unprecedented federal effort to diversify the field of biomedical research, part of a broader effort to narrow the nation’s health “disparities” and improve care for underserved and minority ­Americans. The National Institutes of Health said last week it will award $31 million this year to more than 50 institutions — and $240 million over the next five years — to recruit a more diverse bench of researchers to medical and biomedical professions. The University of Minnesota will receive a proposed $20 million of funding over five years through the program. Read more.

Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

Amr Soliman, M.D., Ph.D., an epidemiology and cancer prevention expert in the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center and professor and chairman of the department of epidemiology in the UNMC College of Public Health, has been elected president-elect of the American Association for Cancer Education (AACE). He will serve his term as president in 2015. AACE is the preeminent professional association for educators from U.S. medical, public health, nursing, and dental schools who are interested in professional, patient, and public cancer education. Read more.

Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Scientists have discovered a new way to kill the treatment-resistant cancer stem cells that lead to the disease’s spread and recurrence. In a new paper published by Nature Communications on November 4, Lurie Cancer Center member Marcus Peter, PhD, reveals that cancer stem cells are specifically targeted by a form of cell death discovered earlier this year. DICE, or cell death induced by CD95 receptor or ligand elimination, is a seemingly counterintuitive approach in which the gene CD95 or its binding ligand CD95L is removed from cancer cells. It’s considered counterintuitive because CD95L plays a crucial role in helping the immune system kill potentially cancerous cells by infiltrating them and initiating a type of cell death known as apoptosis. Dr. Peter, however, discovered that CD95 is also required for cancer cells to survive — which is not the case for healthy normal cells, meaning the gene can be removed without harm. Read more.

Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute

As part of National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, Niraj Gusani, MD, who heads the Program for Liver, Pancreas and Foregut Tumors at the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, recently participated in a SoundHealth podcast to discuss pancreatic cancer — one of the most dreaded cancer diagnoses. It often proves deadly because it’s typically aggressive, yet causes few or no symptoms until the late stages. As with many forms of cancer, there is hope for a cure when it’s caught early. Listen to the podcast.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Officials at a life sciences startup based on a Purdue University innovation say their technology could help pharmaceutical companies find more effective drug candidates and improve the results of personalized cancer care. David Nolte, PhD, and John Turek, PhD, created technology that uses holography and lasers to study a cell’s phenotype, or the observable traits that result from how cells in tissues interact with their environment. The technology was highlighted in a letter of the peer-reviewed Journal of Biomedical Optics. Read more.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

In the mid-1970s, only half of all children diagnosed with cancer survived beyond five years. Fast-forward four decades and that figure has improved to 80 percent thanks to advances in pediatric cancer treatment and research. To help further propel these advances, a $1.5 million gift has been given to establish the Embrace Kids Foundation Endowed Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. The pledge is the single largest gift ever given by Embrace Kids Foundation. It will enable the Cancer Institute of New Jersey to recruit an internationally distinguished faculty member to lead the team that manages the care of the youngest of patients with cancer and blood disorders and is accelerating pediatric cancer research efforts, especially in the area of precision medicine. Read more.

University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics has adopted a new technology that has the potential to help physicians tailor and individualize treatment for cancer patients. The hospital’s Clinical Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory introduced a new cancer gene mutation panel that is able to simultaneously analyze 50 cancer-related genes using next generation DNA sequencing. Before the new technology, each of the 50 genes was sequenced one at a time. The testing turnaround for one gene was about two weeks, the time it now takes to test all 50 genes using the new method. 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.