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Member Feature: Purdue University Center for Cancer Research

Dec. 19, 2016:

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Andrea L. Kasinski, PhD

Investigator Spotlight

Andrea L. Kasinski, PhD

Educational Background: PhD, Emory University (2009), Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale University

Research Interests: My laboratory works on non-coding RNA biology and therapeutics. Specifically, we focus on identifying biologically important RNAs whose misexpression drives the tumorigenic process. We then utilize this information to design, develop, and implement RNA-based therapeutics. Specifically, evidence-based approaches are being developed to identify microRNAs that drive the process of tumorigenesis, or to identify microRNAs that are required for tumor cell maintenance or therapeutic resistance. Using this data, we then develop various strategies to alter the concentration of theses microRNAs in vivo using either small molecule inhibitors, or novel targeting approaches that deliver microRNAs in the absence of toxic delivery vehicles. Our overarching goal is to generate substantial knowledge that will lead to the clinical utility of non-coding RNAs.

Fun Facts: I have a loving and supportive husband, Scott Haymond, and two incredible step-children, Abby and Parker.

Growing up in a traditional blue-collar family, I had little knowledge on what a PhD was. A great deal of my scientific success is due to the late Dr. Dean Danner at Emory University, a fantastic mentor that recognized my strengths and recommended that I pursue my doctorate.

Originally I wanted to be a cardiac transplant surgeon; however, after I got involved in research I recognized that my passion was in research and discovery.


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Member Feature: University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center

Nov. 2, 2016:

Investigator Spotlight

Natalie Callander, MD, is a hematologist at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center who focuses on the treatment of patients with multiple myeloma, the second most common formcallander_natalie_md of blood cancer. She serves as co-chair of the BTCRC’s Multiple Myeloma Clinical Trial group, along with Dr. Craig Cole of the University of Michigan. “Our mission at the BTCRC is to foster collaboration between researchers and industry partners in order to develop novel therapies, particularly for patients with relapsed myeloma,” Callander said. “We also hope to provide young investigators a venue to explore new treatment paradigms.”

Callander is the Medical Director of the Myeloma Clinical Program at UW, where she has worked to increase the number of high quality myeloma clinical trials. Under her leadership, UW has become the one of the top accuers for myeloma clinical trials in ECOG (the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group). She also assembled a myeloma translational research group on campus, including Shigeki Miyamoto, PhD, Peiman Hematti, MD, Fotis Asimakopoulos, MB, PhD, and Alan Rapraeger, PhD, which has been working together now for nearly a decade. One of her projects involves collecting bone marrow samples from myeloma, patients, so that their tumor cells can be studies in a variety of ways. One investigation involves the study of how drug resistance develops and to identify new biological markers that could serve as therapeutic targets. Their group is also researching a personalized approach to treatment, where they test drug therapies on both cancerous and healthy cells culled from these donated bone marrow samples to accurately recapitulate the marrow microenvironment. “We hope that this approach will lead to a real time method of helping to decide the best treatments for relapsed patients, and ultimately spare them from ineffective and potentially toxic drugs,” Callander said. Read More

Member Feature: Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Oct. 2, 2016

Investigator Spotlight

Stephen Hecht, Ph.D., is a Carcinogenesis & Chemoprevention Research Program member at screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-4-35-14-pmthe Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, and a Wallin Land Grant Professor of Cancer Prevention at UMN Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. Dr. Hecht and his laboratory are focused on understanding the ways tobacco smoke constituents cause cancer. To do this he and his colleagues study the mechanisms by which these compounds enter the human body, are metabolized, and ultimately bind to DNA, causing mutations that result in cancer. The goal of Dr. Hecht’s research is two-fold: first, to provide evidence in support of ongoing regulation of tobacco products due to their harm to human health, and second, to find ways to identify the susceptible smoker.

Dr. Hecht has had more than 800 manuscripts published in scientific journals, was elected American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow in 2014, received the Joseph Cullen Award from the American Society of Preventative Oncology in 2012 and selected as editor-in-chief of Chemical Research in Toxicology in 2012, among a long list of other awards and recognitions.
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Member Feature: Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center

Sept. 15, 2016:

Investigator spotlight

jean-grem-oncology-2013Jean Grem, MD, is professor of medicine and joined the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in 2003. Prior to joining UNMC, Dr. Grem was senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute, in Bethesda, Maryland since 1986. She became the gead of the Gastrointestinal Malignancies Division, Cancer Therapeutics Branch at the National Cancer Institute in 2001. Dr. Grem is known nationally as an expert in gastrointestinal malignancies and is currently exploring several novel therapeutic approaches in both colon and pancreatic cancer at UNMC including targeting metabolic alternations to improve survival in pancreatic cancer as project four in UNMC’s pancreatic SPORE.
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Member Feature: Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

July 1, 2016:

A conversation with Leonidas Platanias, MD, PhD, Director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, which is a member of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium.

Q: How do you think cancer research will change in the next 10 to 20 years?

This is an exciting time in oncology, and we see tremendous opportunities to advance cancer prevention, diagnostics and therapeutics in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Immunotherapy and genomics, two of the most compelling areas of research today, will provide unprecedented opportunities to control – and in some cases cure – treatment-resistant cancers.

The Lurie Cancer Center OncoSET (Sequence, Evaluate, Treat) Program, launched in 2015, combines genomic sequencing and molecular diagnostics to identify new, individually tailored treatments and clinical trials. We recently initiated the Lurie Cancer Center OncoSET Clinic, under the leadership of Massimo Cristofanilli, MD, Associate Director for Precision Medicine and Translational Research. The OncoSET Molecular Tumor Board, a multidisciplinary group of physicians and scientists, reviews the results and recommends a personalized treatment plan. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first site-agnostic, molecular pathway-driven clinic in Chicago.

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Member Feature: University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

April 1, 2016:

A conversation with Theodore Lawrence, MD, PhD, director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, and a member of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium.

Q: How do you think cancer research will change in the next 10 to 20 years?

There has never been a more exciting time to do cancer research.

Over the next 10-20 years, I expect that immunotherapy will continue to advance. We’ll start to see greater clarity in patient selection and in combining immunotherapies with other therapies.

Metabolomics is another exciting area of research, and I anticipate that the biological discoveries in this area will begin to be translated into new treatments. Likewise, our growing understanding of the interaction of the microbiome with the causes and treatment of cancer will produce new ways of decreasing the toxicity and increasing the efficacy of cancer treatments.

Biostatistics and bioinformatics are already central to much of our research, and the contributions of these fields will continue to grow. We’ll see a greater emphasis and opportunity to use mobile technologies to record patient reported outcomes.

There will be challenges as well. Our increasing understanding of tumor heterogeneity means that almost all diseases are becoming “orphan” diseases. When I was a medical oncology fellow and a radiation oncology resident, lung cancer was either “small cell” or “non-small cell.” Therefore, you could design a single trial that would apply to large group of patients. Now our protocols are, for example, “erlotinib-resistant EGFR mutated lung adenocarcinoma.” That’s so much more specific of a patient population, and we expect to accrue only a few patients a year. But it’s the same effort in protocol writing and start-up. While I am excited that our outcomes continue to improve, it is certainly a challenge to our clinical trial implementation. Read More

Member Feature: Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center

Feb. 1, 2016:

A conversation with Anas Al-Janadi, MD, associate professor of medicine at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology and medical director of the MSU Breslin Cancer Center, a member of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium.

Q: How do you think cancer research will change in the next 10 to 20 years?

We believe strongly that collaboration is the best possible way to conduct cancer research without expanding the cost, particularly at a time when government funding for medical research has remained stagnant. But collaboration offers many other benefits besides saving money. Read More

Member Feature: University of Illinois Cancer Center

Jan. 4, 2016:

A conversation with Arkadiusz Dudek, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, hematology/oncology, at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. Dr. Dudek is a member of both the University of Illinois Cancer Center and the BTCRC Steering Committee.

Q: How do you think cancer research will change in the next 10 to 20 years?

Portable technology is changing research every day. From apps to scanners, information transmission is faster than ever before. In development at the University of Illinois is a portable blood drop test for lung cancer screening. The way a drop of blood can alter the course of daily treatment for a diabetic, will hopefully have the similar path to recognize lung cancer at earliest stage and aid with patient selection for screening with low dose spiral computed tomography. The UI Cancer Center also works very closely with SAWBO, Scientific Animations Without Borders, which is a global media depository that develops universal tools to understand medical problems, in this case education about a need for cancer screening. This portable technology is another instrument that has the potential to expand comprehension in innumerable ways. Read More

Member Feature: Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dec. 1, 2015:

A conversation with George Weiner, MD, director of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa and the C.E. Block Chair of Cancer Research and professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa, which is a member of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium. Dr. Weiner has led a statewide collaborative to reduce the burden of cancer in Iowa, served on committees within the National Cancer Institute, and is currently serving a two-year term as president of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI), which comprises 92 leading cancer research centers in the United States.

Q: How do you think cancer research will change in the next 10 to 20 years?

Rapid changes in cancer research are taking place in multiple dimensions at the same time. We are learning more every day about the incredible complexity of cancer genetics, cell biology, and how cancer interacts with normal tissues in the body including with the immune system. The big challenge is to continue to accelerate progress in our ability to understand cancer, and to use the information we have found to help as many patients as possible. This is requiring a new team approach to cancer research that includes basic cancer biologists, experts in informatics, clinical investigators, clinicians and many others. These teams are necessary to sort through the complexity of cancer and develop new approaches to cancer prevention, early detection and therapy, and to use the resulting new knowledge to select the right clinical approach for each individual patient. Read More

Member Feature: IU Simon Cancer Center

Nov. 2, 2015:

A conversation with Patrick J. Loehrer, Sr., MD, director of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, which is a member of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium:

Q: How do you think cancer research will change in the next 10 or 20 years?

Cancer therapy, like much of medicine, is quite empiric. Understanding greater details of what drives tumors to grow will be greatly enhanced in the next several years. We are in the onset of the age of cancer informatics and immunotherapy. The information overload will need to be simplified into bite-size pieces of relevant information that can better identify the complex biological engineering of the cancer cell that nature has designed. Immunotherapy is already unleashing tremendous new opportunities, especially for highly mutated tumors from the therapeutic armamentarium. We have so much more to learn about the great potential and the limitations of this approach. These are truly exciting times. Read More

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