SU2C Scientists In The News
Scientists Develop Blood Test That Spots Tumor-Derived DNA in People With Early-Stage Cancers
Scientists supported by Stand Up To Cancer have developed a test that spots tiny amounts of cancer-specific DNA in blood, allowing them to identify people with early-stage colorectal, breast, lung, and ovarian cancers. “This study shows that identifying cancer early using DNA changes in the blood is feasible and that our high accuracy sequencing method is a promising approach to achieve this goal,” says Victor Velculescu, MD, PhD, professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and co-leader of the SU2C-Dutch Cancer Society Dream Team on Molecular Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer (MEDOCC). A report on the research, performed on blood and tumor tissue samples from 200 people with all stages of cancer in the U.S., Denmark and the Netherlands, appears as the cover story in the Aug. 16, 2017, issue of Science Translational Medicine, a major scientific journal.
SU2C Advisor Talks Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
Jeffrey E. Gershenwald, MD, a surgical oncologist from MD Anderson Cancer Center and a member of the SU2C-MRA Dream Team JSAC, published an op-ed in Newsweek highlighting that skin cancers (including melanoma, a more aggressive form of skin cancer) are on the rise – and are readily prevented with proper sun safety practices. In the article, Dr. Gershenwald discusses the need to increase use of sunscreen, protective clothing, limiting exposure and public policy to allow children access to over-the-counter sun screen use while at school, and to restrict minor’s access to indoor tanning beds.
SU2C-supported Research Yields New Insights Into Melanoma
Scientists on the SU2C-Cancer Research Institute Immunology Dream Team and the SU2C-Melanoma Research Institute Melanoma Dream Team have separately reported findings that provide new insights into melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. More than 75,000 cases of melanoma, and more than 10,000 deaths, are reported in the United States every year. While the new immunotherapy drugs are highly effective against melanoma in some patients (like former President Jimmy Carter), they are not effective in all cases. An SU2C-supported team at UCLA has reported findings on its research into the mechanisms of resistance which could lead to more effective immunotherapy.
SU2C Scientist, Dr. Baylin, Elected to National Academy of Sciences
Congratulations to Stephen Baylin, M.D., co-leader of the Van Andel Research Institute-Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetics Dream Team, who has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences! Dr. Baylin focuses on the field of epigenetics, and is currently investigating potential new therapies for colorectal cancer, acute myeloid leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome and chronic myelomonocytic leukemia.
SU2C IRG Recipient says there is no ‘time to waste’ to find cancer cure
Melissa Skala, PhD, a 2016 recipient of an SU2C Innovative Research Grant, says the IRG program, with its quick turnaround and emphasis on results, is “the way science should be.”
Allison Named to Time’s List of 100 Most Influential People
James P. Allison, PhD, leader of the SU2C-Cancer Research Institute Cancer Immunology Dream Team, has been named to Time Magazine’s list of the 100 “most influential people in the world” for his pioneering work in cancer immunology. “It was Allison who figured out how to switch immune cells on to target malignant tumors,” says an essay written by Alice Park, Time’s senior health writer. “The drug he created is now spawning a new generation of immunotherapy treatments that experts hope will be less toxic and more aggressive than what’s available now. His discoveries have already saved thousands of lives — and they’re also forever changing what it means to have cancer.” Allison is chairman of the immunology program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He was named leader of the Dream Team in 2013, along with Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD, of UCLA, and co-leaders Drew Pardoll, MD, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center and Cassian Yee, MD, of MD Anderson. The team has studied the immunology methods known as checkpoint inhibitors and adoptive cell transfer, building on work by members of the team that contributed to approval of two new checkpoint inhibitors, pembrolizumab and nivolumab, by the U.S Food and Drug Administration.
World Renowned Medical Oncologist Named Head of the Division of Solid Tumor Oncology
Dr. Diaz, Team Leader of the SU2C-Colorectal Cancer Dream Team: Targeting Genomic, Metabolic and Immunological Vulnerabilities of Colorectal Cancer, has been named Head of the Division of Solid Tumor Oncology in the Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering
SU2C Innovative Research Grant recipient leads research on melanoma vaccines
Catherine Wu, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who received an SU2C Innovative Research Grant (IRG) in 2011, is developing vaccines to help keep melanoma from returning in patients after surgery, according to Science magazine. Findings from the study were presented at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Dr. Wu’s team sequenced the DNA from the patients’ tumors and used computational methods to create a personalized vaccine intended to stimulate the immune system to attack returning cancer cells, Science said. The vaccines appear to have prevented early relapse in 12 patients with melanoma, reported the magazine, which is published by the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). While attending the AACR Annual Meeting, Dr. Wu also took time to address the latest class of IRG recipients, telling them how much SU2C support meant to her career as a cancer researcher and urging them to continue their work.
My Turn: How TGen could take the pain out of cancer
Thanks to SU2C Dream Team Leader Dr. Daniel Von Hoff’s clinical leadership, TGen is becoming a bigger player in precision medicine. Clinical trials for rare and common cancers are available for patients in Arizona, while working to gain approval by the FDA.
Dream Team Leader Becomes President-Elect of AACR
Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, leader of the SU2C-Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team, has been elected president-elect of the American Association for Cancer Research, SU2C’s Scientific Partner. Dr. Jaffee, who is deputy director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore; will become president of AACR one year from now. She is an internationally recognized expert in cancer immunology, with specific expertise in preclinical and early clinical development of immunotherapies for breast and pancreatic cancers. The Dream Team was launched in 2014 and is developing new treatments for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), the most common form of cancer of the pancreas.
SU2C scientists probe patient response to cancer immunotherapy
In research supported by SU2C, F. Stephen Hodi, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and colleagues investigated whether a serumbiomarker could predict the response of patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors, a type of immunotherapy. This is very important to improving the utilization ofimmunotherapies. According to a paper published in a journal published by SU2C’s Scientific Partner, the American Association for Cancer Research, Hodi’s team found that serum levels of a protein called ANGPT2 predicted response to, and influenced the outcomes of,immune checkpoint inhibitors in patients with advanced melanoma.
Scientific Advisory Committee member, Dr. David Tuveson, named director of Cold Spring Harbor cancer
David Tuveson, MD, PhD, a leader in pancreatic cancer research, and member of SU2C’s Scientific Advisory Committee has been named the new director of CSHL’s cancer center, a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated research facility. In addition to his roles at Cold Spring Harbor Lab, where he is a professor, and as one of our SU2C scientific leaders, Tuveson is a clinician who treats pancreatic cancer patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and is Director of Research for SU2C collaborator, the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Research.
SU2C scientist named a 2016 Giant of Cancer Care
Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, physician-in-chief and Distinguished Professor at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) at Mayo Clinic and leader of the SU2C-CRUK-Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team, was named a 2016 Giant of Cancer Care. This prestigious award honors the achievements of exceptional leaders in the field of oncology research and clinical practice.
SU2C-supported researchers find novel strategy in combination drug therapy
A research team supported in part by SU2C has published findings that show how we may be able to kill cancerous cells more effectively by combining drugs that work together to significantly disrupt a cancer cell’s ability to survive DNA damage. These findings are the first to show this combination drug therapy as a novel approach for treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and potentially, many other cancers.
Immunotherapy in early stage lung cancer shows promise in a clinical trial supported in part by SU2C
Checkpoint inhibition is a form of immunotherapy that releases the anti-cancer function of patients’ own immune cells. It’s transformed the treatment of a number of cancers. Patrick Forde, MBBCh, assistant professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, reported promising data from a study of nivolumab (Opdivo), a checkpoint inhibitor, in early-stage lung cancer at the 2016 Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Oct. 7.
SU2C-supported researchers gain new insights into immunotherapy, precision treatment
Immunotherapy and precision treatment are two of the biggest trends in cancer research and treatment today. Studies published recently in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine show that SU2C-supported researchers are at the forefront of these remarkable trends. These studies deal with immunotherapy in advanced melanoma and targeted therapy in metastatic prostate cancer.
SU2C-supported Immunotherapy Research Aids Children with Leukemia and Adults with Melanoma
Through the work of its Dream Teams on pediatric cancers and immunology, SU2C is at the forefront of immunotherapy, one of the most exciting developments in cancer treatment today. Recently published research shows that SU2C-supported scientists are continuing to help improve and expand immunotherapy, finding ways to manage a major adverse reaction of a treatment for leukemia and pioneering a combination immunotherapy for melanoma.
SU2C scientist elected to prestigious National Academy of Sciences
Congratulations to Peter Jones, PhD, DSc, a member of the SU2C scientific community, who has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences! The Academy advises the government and the nation on scientific issues. An expert in epigenetics at the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dr. Jones was co-leader of the SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team and is continuing his work as leader of the VARI-SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team. Also serving as team leader is Dr. Stephen Baylin of VARI.
SU2C Scientists Named to Cancer Moonshot Panel
We are very excited to share with you the news that several scientists and advocates associated with Stand Up To Cancer have been appointed to the new Blue Ribbon Panel that will provide scientific guidance to the cancer “moonshot” initiative headed by Vice President Joe Biden. According to an announcement today from the National Cancer Institute, the panel will serve as a working group of the existing National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB), which is appointed by the President, and will provide scientific guidance from thought leaders in the cancer community. The panel will begin its deliberations immediately, and will deliver a report to the NCAB this summer, according to NCI.
Pediatric cancers: Pediatric Cancer Dream Team scientists report new findings
Researchers from the SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Foundation Pediatric Cancer Dream Team found that if medulloblastoma, a brain cancer more common in children than adults, recurs after treatment, it is likely to be genetically different from the original disease. This could open new avenues for better treatment of the recurrent tumors.
Other scientists on the pediatric team demonstrated ways to improve the process through which T cells, the immune cells needed for adoptive cell therapy (the powerful immunotherapy that has saved the lives of children with leukemia), are collected and modified in the laboratory before they are returned to the patient.
Prostate Cancer Dream Team Members develop “classifier” to aid diagnosis
Scientists with the SU2C-Prostate Cancer Foundation Dream Team have developed a “molecular classifier” for patients with metastatic prostate cancer that has become resistant to the standard hormone treatment. Based on biomarkers, the “classifier” can help identify tumors that are transitioning to a more dangerous form of the disease, potentially improving treatment and benefitting the patient.
Ovarian Cancer Dream Team addresses inherited risk
Researchers on the SU2C-OCRF-NOCC-OCNA Ovarian Cancer Dream Team are part of a group that studied inherited risk in ovarian cancer. They found that nearly one-fifth of the ovarian cancer cases examined are associated with inherited mutations in genes such as BRCA. Armed with this knowledge, the Dream Team is preparing a trial of improved access to genetic testing and risk assessment.
SU2C Dream Team Leader Dr. Ribas talks dangers of tanning beds
More than 1.6 million high school students are estimated to use tanning beds every year, with four times as many girls as boys using indoor tanning devices, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, those who have been exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning are 59 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.
SU2C Scientific Leader Dr. William Nelson on Prostate Cancer
Early-stage prostate cancer: to treat or not to treat? Concern that low-grade prostate cancers may be overtreated once they are discovered has led to controversy about the value of prostate cancer screening and what should be done if low-grade cancer is discovered. Dr. William G. Nelson, vice-chairperson of SU2C’s Scientific Advisory Committee, discusses the question in the blog of the American Association for Cancer Research, SU2C’s scientific partner.
SU2C supported study of immunotherapy that helped President Carter
Scientists supported by Stand Up To Cancer have been instrumental in studying the impact of a new drug that is credited in part with getting rid of metastatic melanoma lesions in the brain of former President Jimmy Carter. MRI scans showed that the lesions were gone, Carter said, leaving him cancer-free just four months after revealing that he had melanoma that had spread to his brain. A portion of his liver had already been removed by surgery.
Leader of SU2C Dream Team shows progress in pediatric cancer
Dr. John Maris, leader of the SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Dream Team authored an editorial published on line Wed, November 18 in the New England Journal of Medicine in conjunction with research findings that hereditary genetic mutations account for 8.5% of childhood malignancies, a higher amount than. Yet they found a family history of cancer in only 40% of children with such mutations. These findings will likely influence new strategies for treating and tracking cancer in children and their families and may likely persuade oncologists and affected families that every child diagnosed with cancer have both normal and tumor tissue sequenced to identify any mutations in genes associated with cancer risk. According to Dr. Maris, “For years we were trained that the family history is the major clue to whether or not a genetic cause should be sought. This paper shows quite definitively that at best it’s an unreliable guide.
SU2C-supported Scientists Report Progress in Potential Treatments for Prostate Cancer and Leukemia
A drug that is effective against some women’s cancers also has antitumor activity in certain cases of prostate cancer, potentially opening the way to new, targeted treatments of the most common cancer among males, according to the lead article in the Oct. 29 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. It reported findings from a clinical trial, a study supported in part by the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C)- Prostate Cancer Foundation Dream Team grant, which may allow doctors to predict ahead of time which patients will benefit from the treatment. The New England Journal of Medicine is considered the most widely read, cited, and influential general medical periodical in the world.
Published on the same day was a report on chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. The treatment, which is still in development, has saved the lives of children with severe leukemia but is foiled in some cases by the development of resistance. The SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Foundation Dream Team on pediatric cancer identified causes of the resistance in a paper published in Cancer Discovery, a leading journal of cancer research that is published by the American Association for Cancer Research.
New approaches to target metastatic cancers
Over 90 percent of cancer deaths are caused by metastases – when the original tumor spreads to other organs. Only a few cancer cells in the original tumor, however, have the power to move and grow into a new tumor. Understanding how that power is gained may provide new tools to treat metastatic disease. Two recent papers, one from Dr. Zena Werb’s group at the University of California, San Francisco and the other from Dr. Owen Witte’s laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles, report that the metastasizing breast and prostate cancer cells “borrow” from the biology of normal development in which immature stem cells obey signals to mature into an adult cell type. The researchers found that aggressive metastasizing breast and prostate cancer cells were genetically very similar to the normal breast and prostate stem cells that seed healthy organ development. By exploiting vulnerabilities in the very specialized programming of cancer stem cells, the researchers hope to develop new ways to treat metastatic disease. Dr. Werb served as a principal on the SU2C Breast Cancer Dream Team. The abstract of her group’s article, is available here. Dr. Witte serves on the President’s Cancer Panel and is co-leader of the SU2C-Prostate Cancer Foundation Dream Team on Precision Therapy of Advanced Prostate Cancer. Several members of the Dream Team are co- authors of the article.
An Innovative Research Grantee explores leukemia cell metabolism for new therapeutic approaches
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common childhood cancer in the U.S. Looking for new ways to treat a subtype of this disease that affects T cells (T-ALL), Adolfo Ferrando, PhD, and colleagues investigated the metabolic systems used by leukemia cells to process nutrients. They found that a common genetic change in T-ALL enables leukemia cells to use a key metabolic pathway for energy and, in laboratory tests, blocking that pathway shuts down the cancer cells’ metabolism, stopping their growth. They also discovered that another genetic change can activate rescue pathways allowing the cancer cells to develop resistance to the anti-metabolic treatment and continue to thrive. By understanding the fundamentals of tumor cell energy use in this way, the researchers hope to improve treatment and overcome drug resistance in T-ALL. Dr. Ferrando is a 2011 SU2C Innovative Research Grant recipient.
One of the biggest problems in cancer treatment today is the development of resistance to targeted therapies. Victor Velculescu, MD, PhD, and colleagues looked at tumors from patients with metastatic colorectal cancer to find out why some are resistant to a particular targeted treatment. They found a number of genetic changes in the resistant tumors and, based on that information, tested new drug combinations that overcame the drug resistance in laboratory tests. The hope now is to take this approach into the clinic so that doctors can select the right combination of drugs based on the genetic makeup of individual patients’ tumors. Dr. Velculescu is co-leader of the SU2C-Dutch Cancer Society Dream Team on Molecular Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer and served as a principal on the SU2C Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team that just finished its grant term earlier this year.
Malaria to treat cancer
A “trick” used by the malaria parasite when it infects a pregnant woman has given scientists new ideas for treating cancer. Malaria-infected red blood cells use a protein “hook” to latch on to a type of sugar molecule found on the surface of placental cells. Mads Daugaard, PhD, Paul Sorensen, MD, PhD, and colleagues, have discovered that the placental sugar is also on the surface of many cancer cells, but not on normal healthy cells. By fusing the malarial protein “hook” to toxic agents, the researchers were able to target the toxic agent to the cancer cells without harming healthy cells that do not have the sugar, thus stopping tumors in laboratory mice. The researchers now hope to develop this new type of anti-cancer therapy further for use in cancer patients. Drs. Daugaard and Sorenson, young investigator and principal, respectively, and co-corresponding authors, are members of the SU2C- St. Baldrick’s Foundation Dream Team on Immunogenics to Create New Therapies for High Risk Childhood Cancers.
SU2C’s MRA Melanoma Dream Team Leader bylines a story on the importance of clinical trials in cancer medicine.
The importance of clinical trials in cancer medicine is explained by Patricia M. LoRusso, DO, Co-Leader of the Stand Up To Cancer-Melanoma Research Alliance Melanoma Dream Team in a MediaPlanet supplement to USA TODAY, on newsstands today. “None of the successful drugs we have today would be available without people enrolling in clinical trials,” she points out.
Keys to development of treatment resistance in melanoma found in SU2C-supported research
A research team led by Roger S. Lo, MD, PhD, of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), has tracked the changes in advanced melanomas that become resistant to some of the new targeted therapies, in the hopes of finding out how drug resistance occurs. In 2011, Dr. Lo received the Allan H. “Bud” and Sue Selig SU2C Melanoma IRG, named after the former commissioner of Major League Baseball and his wife, who have been major supporters of SU2C.
SU2C affiliated researcher led study to find long-term remissions in leukemia
A pioneering immunotherapy approach to treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common form of leukemia in adults, has shown long-term beneficial effects in a clinical trial with patients whose disease was not controlled by other therapies, according to a paper published in Science Translational Medicine. Carl H. June, MD, director of the Translational Research Program at Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), was leader of the clinical trial team.
Potential approach to strengthening immunotherapy set out by SU2C-supported researchers
A research team supported in part by SU2C has published findings that show how we may be able to sensitize cancer cells to certain immunotherapy-based treatments, making the treatments more effective in killing the cancer cells. The findings indicate that the sensitizing drugs, which are already approved for use against some cancers of the blood, may also help in treating melanoma, ovarian, colorectal, and other cancers.
Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team shows hope for Vitamin D to help treat pancreatic cancer
The SU2C-Lustgarten Pancreatic Dream team has made some important findings in the fight against pancreatic cancer. The researchers part of this team are testing the impact of adding vitamin D to the treatment regimen for some pancreatic cancer patients.
Possible therapeutic targets found in comprehensive #genome study in small cell #lungcancer; research supported by SU2C
An international team of scientists have published a report that presents a comprehensive picture of the genetic alterations (or mutations) involved in small cell lung cancer (SCLC), a particularly deadly form of the disease. The research was supported in part by an Innovative Research Grant made by SU2C in 2009.
Scientists supported by SU2C have made important findings in advanced prostate cancer
The Wall Street Journal has reported on a paper from the SU2C-PCF Prostate Cancer Dream Team that was published in the prestigious journal Cell. The Cell paper reported that up to 90 percent of samples from patients with advanced prostate cancer harbored some kind of genetic anomaly that was clinically actionable, meaning we have potential treatments to target that specific aberration. The WSJ article focuses specifically on the presence of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which may be treatable with drugs called PARP inhibitors. Dr. Arul Chinnaiyan of the University of Michigan and Dr. Charles Sawyers of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, co-leaders of the Dream Team, discuss the significance of the team’s findings in the Journal article, with comment from SU2C SAC Vice-Chair Dr. William Nelson, director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.
New class of drugs show anti-tumor activity, research supported by SU2C scientists
Forbes Contributor, Elaine Schattner, writes about several pieces of research that were presented at the recent Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. A physician herself, Schattner lays out the evidence that the drug olaparib has unexpected anti-tumor activity in ovarian and prostate cancers. SU2C was proud to support the studies presented by Ursula Matulonis, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Joaquin Mateo, MD, of the Institute for Cancer Research in the U.K.
Scientists Supported by SU2C Build Cell Model to Study Colon Cancer
In research supported in part by Stand Up To Cancer, scientists in the Netherlands have created a model using living cells that will help researchers study the processes involved in the development of colon cancer. The model will also help discover which drugs will work against cancerous cells.
Developed in the laboratory of Hans Clevers, MD, PhD, professor at the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht, the model utilizes organoids, which are made from cultured human tissues. SU2C and the Dutch Cancer Society launched a Dream Team headed by Clevers along with Johannes Bos, PhD, chairman of the department of molecular cancer research at University Medical Center Utrecht, to support the organoid work in November 2013. The SU2C Dream Team grants are administered by SU2C’s Scientific Partner, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).
UCLA Scientists Discover How Melanoma Resists Certain Treatment
In a new study, funded in part by Stand Up To Cancer, led by UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center member Dr. Roger Lo, researchers have uncovered how melanoma becomes resistant to a promising new drug combo therapy utilizing BRAF+MEK inhibitors in patients after an initial period of tumor shrinkage. Dr. Lo is a Stand Up To Cancer Innovative Research Grant (IRG) recipient. Dr. Ribas, a co-author of the study, is one of the team leaders of the SU2C-CRI Immunology Dream Team.
Discoveries like this pave the way for development of more effective patient-tailored therapies. “If we understand how a disease fights your therapy, then we can start to design more effective treatment strategies,” Lo said.