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Experience with cancer a blessing in disguise for UW physician

May 31, 2017:

Dustin Deming, MD, is a gastrointestinal oncologist at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center (UWCCC) and the William S. Middleton Veterans Hospital with subspecialties in the treatment of colon, rectal, and anal cancers.

Deming’s commitment to the field is no coincidence; his first-hand exposure to clinical oncology opened his eyes to opportunities to apply his lab science strengths. “I had thought I wanted to be a pathologist and focus mostly on basic science research, because I had kind of been a lab rat for the beginning portion of my career. Once I actually got into the clinic, I realized how exciting it was to be involved in many aspects of colorectal research: things as basic as drug discovery, or target-finding through early phase clinical trials and national phase two and phase three trials, and seeing patients in the clinic,” he said. “It has been really rewarding, because, I think, in each aspect, experience in the lab and experience in the clinic can really feed into each other.”
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Big Ten cancer researchers test continuation immunotherapy with chemotherapy in advanced NSCLC

May 26, 2017:

Lung cancer researchers at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center have opened a clinical trial testing the effects of immunotherapy in combination with next-line chemotherapy in patients who experienced some benefit from immunotherapy before their disease worsened.

The single-arm phase II study, known as BTCRC-LUN15-029, will enroll about 35 subjects with advanced non-small cell lung cancer who were treated with a PD-1 (programmed death-1) or PD-L1 (programmed death-ligand 1) inhibitor and experienced either stable disease or a partial or complete response before their disease worsened.

The study is now open to accrual at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. Additional sites will open the study in the near future. Gregory A. Durm, MD, is leading the study, along with co-investigators Nasser Hanna, MD; Shadia Jalal, MD; and Lawrence Einhorn, MD. Read More

Study evaluates safety, efficacy of durvalumab in locally advanced esophageal cancer

May 26, 2017:

A Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium study is evaluating the safety and efficacy of durvalumab (MEDI4736) following multi-modality therapy in esophageal cancer.

The phase II study, known as BTCRC-ESO14-012, is currently open for accrual at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, the University of Illinois Cancer Center, the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa, Michigan State University Breslin Cancer Center, and the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Read More

May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month

May 7, 2017:

The skin protects against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. Skin also helps control body temperature and stores water and fat. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. It usually forms in skin that has been exposed to sunlight, but can occur anywhere on the body.

Skin has several layers. According to the National Cancer Institute, skin cancer begins in the epidermis (outer layer), which is made up of squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes. You can learn more about skin cancer, including melanoma, from the National Cancer Institute.

May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month.  This month, the members of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium are raising awareness about strategies for preventing skin cancer, spearheading promising research, and even cycling to raise money for skin cancer research!
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Big Ten CRC meetings at ASCO

April 19, 2017:

The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium will host meetings for the Big Ten CRC Foundation, Cancer Center Directors, Steering Committee, and Clinical Trial Working Groups during ASCO 2017. Read More

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March 11, 2017:

March is the time to take stock of the number two ranking cause of cancer deaths in the United States: colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum). Since this time last year, it is estimated that 140,000 Americans were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people died from it. During Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, researchers, clinicians, survivors, and patients unite with the common purpose of discovering hope for those facing this cancer. 
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New study combines CDK and androgen receptor inhibitors in triple negative breast cancer

March 3, 2017:

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) represents a relatively small proportion — 15 percent — of all breast cancers. Yet a great deal of attention has been given to TNBC in recent years. While targeted therapies have been developed for breast cancers expressing estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, advances in TNBC have been hampered by a lack of identified targets for the disease. As a result, the only approved treatment for TNBC remains chemotherapy.

Recent discoveries, however, have identified several molecular subtypes of TNBC, and researchers are now developing clinical trials to explore potential ways to treat these subtypes.

A new Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium study, led by Ruth O’Regan, MD (pictured), of the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, is taking aim at one of these TNBC molecular subtypes: those that express androgen receptors, including the luminal androgen receptor (LAR) subtype. Read More

New study involves immunotherapy combination in metastatic lung cancer

Feb. 21, 2017:

For more than 25 years, Lawrence Feldman, MD, has been researching and treating patients with lung and head and neck cancers. In all those years, there have been few times that rival the optimism he feels when he considers the recent discoveries and advances in cancer immunotherapy.

“Over the last couple of years, immuno-oncology has been very successful in both lung and head and neck cancer. It’s been a very exciting area,” Dr. Feldman, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said.

The approval of the PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda®) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, first in advanced melanoma, and more recently in advanced non-small cell lung cancer and head and neck cancer, has accelerated progress in the fight against cancer. Pembrolizumab is just one of many immunotherapy agents now being tested. Read More

Danciu joins Big Ten CRC Steering Committee

Feb. 9, 2017

The University of Illinois at Chicago has named Oana Danciu, MD, its representative to the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium Steering Committee.

Dr. Danciu is assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at UIC, and serves as interim director of UIC’s Clinical Trials Office. She specializes in the treatment of patients with breast cancer. Her research interests include development of clinical trials using experimental therapeutics. She is working on identifying molecular pathways and predictive biomarkers for different subtypes of breast cancer.

Dr. Danciu received her medical degree from Carol Davila University in Bucharest, Romania, then pursued a post-doctoral fellowship in cancer biology at Northwestern University in Chicago. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago and a fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

An active member of the Big Ten CRC’s Breast Clinical Trial Working Group, Dr. Danciu is a strong supporter of multi-institutional research and the opportunities available through the Big Ten CRC. She is the sponsor-investigator of the BTCRC-BRE15-016 study.

“We are privileged to be a part of the Big Ten CRC and to network with other world-class institutions, investigators, clinicians, and scientists,” Dr. Danciu said. “As an investigator, participating in the Big Ten CRC offers me the opportunity for mentorship and to be able to share my ideas with nationally recognized breast cancer experts.”

The Big Ten CRC Steering Committee is composed of one researcher from each member institution. The Steering Committee meets on a regular basis to review activities of the consortium and decide matters of policy. The Steering Committee determines the criteria for approving concepts for development with the Big Ten CRC.

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 http://www.bigten.org/.

Bridging two worlds, from bench to bedside

Feb. 4, 2017:

Whether a basic scientist is driven to the clinic to share discoveries or a clinician is driven to the lab in search of answers, frontiers in oncology traverse two worlds: the lab and the clinic. Some researchers, like Sheldon L. Holder, MD, PhD, of the Penn State Cancer Institute, a member of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium, embody the best of both worlds. Through bold curiosity, teamwork, and an interdisciplinary perspective that not only solves problems, but does so with purpose, Holder exemplifies the Big Ten CRC’s commitment to engaging basic scientists in the development of clinical trials.

An empowered curiosity

Holder grew up on the Island of Bermuda, where his interest in medicine was sparked. “It began very early, almost as far back as I can remember. In second grade I came to school on career day dressed as a physician,” he said. “I do remember, specifically, when I became interested in cancer. My mother used to take us through the library weekly when I was in elementary school to get books. We got to choose whatever we wanted, and even then, I had an interest in the human body. I remember checking out a book about the human body that had one chapter on cancer, and I distinctly remember that it sparked an interest in me of what cancer is, how it develops, and how we treat it. I think that was really the initial spark that made me interested in oncology.”

An empowered dream

Holder moved to the United States where he completed undergraduate studies at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Ala. During this time, he focused almost exclusively on his goal of becoming a physician. But as he progressed through his studies, Holder also gained a passion for scientific research. “I had a desire and developed a plan to both train to be a physician and train to be a researcher or scientist. It seemed like a natural fit,” he said.

Holder completed medical school and his PhD at Loma Linda University. At Loma Linda, Holder worked in the lab of Michael B. Lilly, MD, and focused his dissertation on PIM1 kinase inhibition. “PIM1 kinase has been implicated in the development of several tumor types,” Holder said. “The idea is that if you develop inhibitors for PIM1, you can help treat some of these tumor types in new ways that we haven’t been able to treat them before. We were successful in developing and identifying some inhibitors, and I have continued to be interested in PIM1 as an oncogenic kinase and something we can target through new therapies.”

Holder then completed an internal medicine residency at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and a hematology/oncology fellowship at Vanderbilt University. After his fellowship, he was invited back to the Penn State Cancer Institute as a member of the faculty. He continues to investigate PIM1 in the lab, while seeing patients in clinic. “I see patients with genitourinary malignancies like kidney cancer, bladder cancer, or prostate cancer. So naturally, I’m investigating primarily PIM1 in those tumor types but not necessarily restricted to those. There are other malignancies which I think targeting PIM1 could be of clinical therapeutic benefit.”

The perfect fit

Acclimating to both the lab and clinic was natural for Holder. “For me, it is the perfect fit because I am able to satisfy my scientific curiosity, but at the same time I am able to see patients and make immediate impact on people who need medical attention.”

As a member of the Big Ten CRC’s Genitourinary Clinical Trial Working Group, Holder has found a natural camaraderie with fellow investigators at Big Ten CRC member institutions. “I get to meet with other clinicians and scientists who are also involved in cancer research,” he said. “It is a great benefit to talk to other people about your problems, your ideas, and how you are approaching those problems. There are ideas and different approaches that I have not thought about before.”

Through his work, Holder has observed some unique strengths of the Big Ten CRC. “One of the great benefits of the Big Ten CRC is that it is the perfect size to have enough critical mass to really get things done, but also it is intimate enough that you really know the other people with whom you are working,” he said.

“The consortium allows for collaboration,” Holder continued. “Sometimes there are things that other scientists or clinicians are doing at their institutions and already doing well. Rather than trying to duplicate that at my institution, we can collaborate to get the work done faster and not try and reinvent the wheel.”

Each Big Ten CRC clinical trial working group allows investigators to submit a letter of intent for the committee’s review. Concepts approved by each working group may then proceed to development as Big Ten CRC studies. Holder said committee approval can be helpful when identifying sources of funding for a study. “I think it helps when you need third party approval or support to be able to have the backing of the Big Ten CRC,” he said. “It helps to make a stronger application when you go to a drug company because they can see that you are not just one institution; it is multiple institutions that have a wide array of expertise, a track record of success in opening and completing trials, and an infrastructure that has already been proven.”

Holder recently brought a concept to the working group based only on benchwork and preclinical data. “I presented it to the working group, and then talked about the clinical trial I would like to open based on that benchwork and pre-clinical data,” he said. “There is definitely the opportunity for investigators who have preclinical research to translate that into a clinical trial through the working group.”

Holder’s translational perspective shapes his expectations for the future of oncology. “In the next five to ten years we’re going to do an even better job at identifying what is driving an individual’s cancer to continue to grow and then targeting that abnormality with some kind of therapy that works specifically because it targets that specific abnormality and that person’s cancer,” Holder said. “I think what it is actually going to be is a combination of targeting whatever the abnormality is that’s making the cancer grow but also immunotherapy – recruiting the immune system to help kill the cancer. I think we will be doing both and find ways in which combining both strategies is going to be better than doing either one by itself.”

Click here to join a Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium Clinical Trial Working Group.

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 http://www.bigten.org/.

University of Illinois

University of Illinois

Indiana University

Indiana University

University of Iowa

University of Iowa

University of Michigan

University of Michigan

Michigan State

Michigan State

University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota

University of Nebraska

University of Nebraska

Northwestern University

Northwestern University

Penn State University

Penn State University

Purdue University

Purdue University

Rutgers State University

Rutgers State University

University of Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin

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