Sept. 20, 2016:

Every month, we huddle for another edition of Across the Consortium to recap the progress of our member institutions.  This month, we celebrate new advancements that challenge traditional precepts of imaging, point to new modes of suppressing tumor growth, and identify side effects of current treatments.  You will see members procuring serious funding to answer serious questions and meeting the urgent needs of patients head on with brand new clinical trials.  Circle up!

University of Illinois Cancer Center

Traditional imaging assessment criteria might not correlate well with clinical benefit from vascular endothelial growth factor pathway-directed therapy in metastatic renal cancer. Preclinical data suggest tumor growth is preceded by a rise in K(trans) level, a parameter derived from dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that reflects vascular permeability. We thus hypothesized that K(trans) might be a predictive biomarker for pazopanib.

Patients with metastatic renal cancer were treated with pazopanib at 800 mg oral daily until disease progression. MRI of the abdomen and pelvis with a DCE-MRI sequence was obtained at baseline and every 8 weeks.

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Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

It has long been known that certain chemotherapy drugs are associated with hearing loss. But now for the first time, a new study at Indiana University has found a correlation between higher doses of a commonly used drug and increased hearing loss.

The drug in question is cisplatin, widely used for cancer treatment for more than 40 years. Researchers examined the cumulative effects of cisplatin-based chemotherapy on the hearing of testicular cancer survivors through in-depth testing of their ability to hear sounds at different frequencies. The results of the study, conducted at the IU Simon Cancer Center and seven other cancer centers in the United States and Canada, showed that most of the 488 subjects studied not only had varying degrees of increased hearing loss corresponding with increased doses, but 40 percent also had tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.

Read more.

University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

At first it felt like a hamstring pull, but the pain didn’t go away. Then a lump appeared. Trent Phillips’ surgeon in Cedar Falls ordered an MRI, and when the results came back, he had bad news. He told Phillips, a graphic designer from Jesup, Iowa, that the lump might be a sarcoma.

Sarcomas are rare tumors that form in bones and soft tissue, including muscle and tendons. While treatments for many cancers have improved markedly over the past few decades, sarcoma remains stubbornly resistant to new therapies. Almost no progress has been made to increase survival rates for sarcoma in the last 30 years.

Phillips’ surgeon referred him to Mohammed “Mo” Milhem, MD, a medical oncologist and national expert in sarcoma and melanoma at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa. Milhem immediately had a plan. He wanted to enroll Phillips as the first patient in a brand new clinical trial only available at the UI sarcoma clinic.

Read more.

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

A small device implanted under the skin can improve breast cancer survival by catching cancer cells, slowing the development of metastatic tumors in other organs and allowing time to intervene with surgery or other therapies.

These findings, reported in Cancer Research, suggest a path for identifying metastatic cancer early and intervening to improve outcomes.

“This study shows that in the metastatic setting, early detection combined with a therapeutic intervention can improve outcomes. Early detection of a primary tumor is generally associated with improved outcomes. But that’s not necessarily been tested in metastatic cancer,” says study author Lonnie D. Shea, Ph.D., William and Valerie Hall Chair of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan.

Read more.

Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Melatonin, a hormone produced in the human brain, appears to suppress the growth of breast cancer tumors.

Researchers at Michigan State University published this finding in the current issue of Genes and Cancer. While treatments based on this key discovery are still years away, the results give scientists a key foundation on which to build future research.

“You can watch bears in the zoo, but you only understand bear behavior by seeing them in the wild,” said David Arnosti, MSU biochemistry professor, director of MSU’s Gene Expression in Development and Disease Initiative and co-author of the study. “Similarly, understanding the expression of genes in their natural environment reveals how they interact in disease settings. That’s what is so special about this work.”

Read more.

Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota has received $8.2 million from the federal government to create a tool for predicting the migration of cancer cells throughout a patient’s body.

The five-year grant came from the National Cancer Institute, the university announced Thursday. Researchers will put the funding toward developing a simulator that would let health care providers evaluate individual patients and determine how their cancer might spread.

“Just like there are different flight simulators used to ‘fly’ a Boeing 747, Cessna or Lear Jet, our simulator will categorize patients based on their individual cell mechanical parameters that allow their cancer cells to invade and metastasize,” David Odde, a department of biomedical engineering professor in the University’s College of Science and Engineering and and a tumor microenvironment program researcher at the Masonic Cancer Center, said in a news release.

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Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (University of Nebraska)

The construction of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center will create thousands of jobs citywide in construction and other industries. In addition, approximately 1,200 jobs will be needed at the medical center – each with an average salary of approximately $70,000. In total, the project will provide 4,657 new jobs to the metro area, infusing $537 million annually into the economy on an on-going basis.

Meet four highly skilled physicians who were recruited to come the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center to provide the highest levels of care along with participating in some of the most cutting-edge clinical trials for cancer treatment.

See video.

Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Lurie Cancer Center oncologist, Dr. Mark Agulnik, discussed the process of personalizing the treatment plan for each individual patient with other sarcoma experts on OncLive‘s Peer Exchange.

Read more.

Penn State Cancer Institute

Kathryn H. Schmitz, PhD, MPH, professor of Public Health Sciences and associate director of Population Sciences at the Penn State Cancer Institute, discusses benefits that can be reaped from running parallel mouse and human studies.

Schmitz ran both a mouse model and human study to test different interventions that may prevent breast cancer recurrence and found that, while both types of trials have limitations, having the two happen side-by-side can address some of of these limitations. For example, in mouse studies, researchers were able to observe the animal all the way up to recurrence.

See video.

Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Dr. David Nolte says it’s a harsh reality for cancer patients: more than half don’t respond to chemotherapy, and yet every patient suffers through its terrible side effects. As chief scientific officer of West Lafayette-based Animated Dynamics, Nolte says the company will soon be giving doctors newfound insight about which chemotherapies will actually work for which patients. With a recent $1.7 million boost in funding, the company plans to deliver clarity to cancer treatments in less than a year.

“The way that therapy is currently selected for cancer patients is almost a blind process. Because of that, most cancer patients don’t respond to their therapy,” says Nolte, who is also the Purdue University Edward M. Purcell distinguished professor of physics. “I think we can drastically improve the selection of cancer therapy, and I think that’s going to have a lot of benefit for a lot of people.”

Read more.

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Research from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and and other U.S. health and academic institutions shows a diet high in calcium and low in lactose may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in African-American women. The work, which appears in the latest edition of the British Journal of Cancer (doi:10.1038/bjc.2016.289), also found sun exposure in the summer months may reduce the risk of developing the disease in this population.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute.  And while five-year survival rates for this disease have improved in Caucasian women from 35 percent in 1975-77 to 46 percent, rates decreased in African-American females during this period from 42 to 38 percent (Howlader, et al., 2005). Previous studies have revealed positive associations between dairy consumption or lactose intake with the risk of ovarian cancer, and other studies have not.  Given the populations in these previous works were primarily of European ancestry, Rutgers Cancer Institute investigators and their collaborators wanted to focus on the African-American population.

Read more.

University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

One size doesn’t fit all women in clothing, and neither should all women have mammograms on the same schedule, a new national study concludes.

A large computer modeling study led by Dr. Amy Trentham-Dietz of the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center found that the majority of women ages 50 to 74 can benefit if they have mammograms every two or three years. These women at average risk can retain most of the benefit of having mammograms less often and greatly reduce the chances of false positive results and unneeded biopsies and overdiagnosis, the study concludes.

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.