Oct. 19, 2016:

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and this month’s Across the Consortium illustrates why the BTCRC member institutions are leading the way.  The team is heading off drug resistance at the pass, streamlining preventative measures, developing imaging technology, studying the role of diet, and pioneering treatment strategies where no targeted therapies presently exist.  Catch up with the consortium that’s transforming cancer research through collaboration.

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Jim Wang can’t reduce a person’s emotional pain, but he’s working to eliminate physical discomfort.  Wang, professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutics, conducts studies on understanding the mechanisms of chronic pain and drug addiction, and developing new pharmacological treatments for the conditions — combining molecular pharmacology, neurobiology, pharmacogenetics and targeted delivery approaches.

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

Melanoma tumors switch to an alternative energy system when they develop resistance to chemotherapy, making that alternative system an attractive target for new treatments, according to researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Malignant melanoma is one of the most lethal forms of cancer, responsible for 95 percent of skin cancer-related deaths. When the cancer has not spread, surgery is an effective treatment option. If it has spread, drugs that block the activity of the mutated gene successfully shrink the tumors, but the tumors eventually develop resistance to the drugs, leaving physicians without effective treatment options.

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University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Getting a mammogram continues to be the best way to screen for breast cancer.

In recognition of national breast cancer awareness month, UI Health Care is offering screening mammography with no appointments necessary during the month of October.

Women can walk in, without an appointment, and have their regular screening mammography done at two UI Health Care locations: the UI Breast Imaging Center of Excellence at UI Hospitals and Clinics (Elevator M, Level 4) and the Mammography Suite at UI Health Care–Iowa River Landing (Level 1). The walk-in service will be available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, from October 1 to October 31. Patients will be responsible for fees not covered by their insurance.

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University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

As part of the Cancer Moonshot, representatives from government, academic, pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies are launching a new partnership in pursuit of creating an open database for liquid biopsies to potentially accelerate the development of safe and effective blood profiling diagnostic technologies for patient benefit.

The group of 20 stakeholders will launch a Blood Profiling Atlas pilot to aggregate, make freely available, and harmonize for further analysis, raw datasets from circulating tumor cells, circulating tumor DNA and other assays. The dataset will include relevant clinical data, such as diagnosis and treatment history. The project will also involve sharing of sample preparation and handling protocols from multiple different groups to create best practices and standards.

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Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Fruit flies may be small, but the genetic secrets they can unlock for humans are mighty.

In the current issue of the journal Development, Michigan State University researchers mapped the signaling processes used by insulin in fruit flies. The significance of the discovery in the tiny Drosophila melanogaster, which have been called “tiny people with wings, genetically speaking,” sheds light on how these processes may be altered by diabetes in humans.

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Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

The number of women who have a double mastectomy for breast cancer has tripled in 10 years, according to new research, even though this aggressive surgery has not been associated with a survival benefit.

Most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer undergo surgery as part of their treatment. There are three types: breast-conserving surgery, such as lumpectomy or partial mastectomy; unilateral mastectomy, which removes the entire breast affected by cancer; and double or bilateral mastectomy, which removes both the affected and unaffected breast.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

When should I start getting mammograms?  How often should I get a mammogram?

The past few years have been very confusing for women and their healthcare providers.

Organizations like the US Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society have issued new mammography recommendations which differ not only from each other but also from organizations such as the American College of Radiology, the American College of Surgeons, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.   In addition, some medical journals, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, have published studies based on flawed trials including the Canadian National Breast Cancer Screening Study, which makes conclusions based on these trials very problematic.

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Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and a member of the Lurie Cancer Center, has been awarded a $450,000 research grant from Susan G. Komen.

The award will be used to conduct a preclinical laboratory study to determine the utility of a potential targeted therapy against triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). A clinically challenging form of the disease, TNBC is the only form of breast cancer for which no FDA-approved targeted therapies currently exist.

The primary focus of Horiuchi’s lab, established in 2015, is on the mechanisms of tumor progression in TNBC, and identifying novel and safer therapeutic targets and treatment strategies in order to significantly lower mortality rate associated with TNBC. According to Horiuchi, the lack of targeted therapies for TNBC is because so little is understood about how TNBC occurs and progresses.

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Penn State Cancer Institute

The incidence of thyroid cancer has tripled in the past three decades, yet the reason for this is not clear. Dr. David Goldenberg, chief of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, notes the diagnostic tools are better, but he can’t get behind recent talk of overdiagnosis as the sole cause for the increase.

“The press that has been given to this is an oversimplification,” Goldenberg said. “What we should be concentrating on is not only why we are discovering more of it, but also which of these newly discovered thyroid cancers are the ones that will kill someone.”

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Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

A new type of imaging technology uses the mid-infrared part of the spectrum and “thermal lensing” to visualize living cells and organisms, an innovation that could bring insights into drug delivery and cancer treatment.

“It’s very important to be able to study and understand the chemistry of living systems for research into drug delivery and disease processes,” said Ji-Xin Cheng, a professor in Purdue University’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Chemistry.

Infrared spectroscopic imaging has been limited to studies of dried tissue samples because water molecules absorb and interfere with the infrared signal. At the same time, the technology has not been capable of high-resolution imaging or visualizing layered sections, which is needed for detailed studies of three-dimensional samples such as a biological cell.

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Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancer in the US. African-American patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer tend to have a worse 5-year survival rate compared to their European-American patients. Therefore, identifying preventive factors in African-Americans women is particularly important.

African Americans tend to consume less calcium and vitamin D from dietary sources, due to a higher prevalence of lactose intolerance, and supplemental intake. Meanwhile, darker color of the skin reduces the synthesis of vitamin D upon sun exposure. They together place African-American women at risk for calcium and vitamin D deficiency. It remains unknown whether calcium, vitamin D, lactose and dairy products are associated with ovarian cancer risk in African-American women and our study aimed to answer this question.

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

A unique study at the UW Carbone Cancer Center is testing that a vegan diet can take away a key nutrient that cells use to protect against cancer-fighting drugs.

See video.

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.