100%… Of All Funds Raised…
by Pelotonia directly support cancer research conducted at the Comprehensive Cancer Center—James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC—James) at The Ohio State University.
A portion of the funds generated by riders and donors have been allocated to the Pelotonia Fellowship Program, which awards grants to Ohio State students in any discipline and at all levels of scholarship who want to conduct cancer research in the labs of faculty mentors. The fellowship awards span multiple colleges and departments, bringing many disciplines together in the fight against cancer while helping to train the cancer scientists of tomorrow.
It is unlikely that a cure for cancer will come from one scientist. Instead, it will be through “team science” that we will get new answers and treatments. With this in mind, the Pelotonia Research Award Program provides two-year “idea” grants that enable creative teams of scientists at Ohio State to embark on research that could lead to discoveries resulting in better treatments and prevention strategies. Funding for the early pursuit of these ideas is difficult to obtain, but this Pelotonia program allows scientists to get started by generating data that could later lead to larger grants from external sources such as the National Cancer Institute. The teams represent collaborations among several colleges and departments, as well as three academic institutions (including Nationwide Children’s Hospital). The awards are issued via a peer-review process conducted by scientists not competing for the grants. In addition, money from Pelotonia has helped Ohio State recruit and retain some of the world’s brightest minds in cancer research and treatment, and to purchase some of the world’s most advanced technology to support the needs of the University’s more than 200 cancer researchers.
These are but a few examples of how the OSUCCC—James is using funds raised by Pelotonia to achieve our shared vision of creating a cancer-free world.
Examples of some of the breakthrough research being done at OSUCCC—James, many of which are funded with Pelotonia raised funds, include the following:
Findings May Result in Blood Test for Lung Cancer
OSUCCC—James researchers identified patterns of abnormal microRNA molecules in the blood of people with lung cancer that might reveal the presence and aggressiveness of the disease, and perhaps who is at risk of developing it. These patterns may be detectable up to two years before the tumor is found by a sensitive method such as spiral computed tomography (CT) scans. Principal investigator Carlo Croce, MD, says researchers showed it might be possible to use the patterns to detect lung cancer in a blood sample. The findings appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
OSUCCC—James Leads National Pancreatic Cancer Trial
The OSUCCC—James is leading a phase II clinical trial on a formulation of the human reovirus that is designed to kill cancer cells. The study, expected to enroll 70 patients with recurrent or metastatic pancreatic cancer at Ohio State and other institutions, will assess results for those who receive the virus Reolysin® plus standard chemotherapeutic drugs, relative to those who receive the standard drugs followed by addition of the virus. Principal investigator Tanios Bekaii-Saab, MD, says Reolysin® is an engineered version of the reovirus that replicates in and destroys cells with mutations that activate the RAS gene signaling pathway. RAS mutations are found in nearly 90 percent of pancreatic cancers, making this pathway a prime therapeutic target.
Novel Agent Active Against Chronic Leukemia
An interim analysis of a phase II clinical trial indicated that an experimental agent for treating chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is active and well-tolerated both in patients undergoing initial treatment and in those who have relapsed and are resistant to other therapy. The agent, PCI-32765, was the first drug designed to target Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, a molecule that is essential for CLL cells to grow and proliferate. Study leader John C. Byrd, MD, says the early findings suggest that this agent is an active oral therapeutic that produces a high rate of durable remissions with acceptable toxicity in relapsed and refractory CLL. He presented the findings at the 2011 American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting.
Scientists Identify Subset of Cells That Leads to Rare Leukemia
OSUCCC—James researchers led by Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, identified a subset of normal white blood cells that gives rise to large granular lymphocyte leukemia, a rare and incurable disease. The subset involves NKT cells, which share features of immune cells known as T lymphocytes and natural killer cells. Researchers found that, in mice and humans, NKT cells responsible for this leukemia are marked by a surface protein called NKp46. They also found that over expression of the interleukin-15 hormone can drive NKT cells, but not others, to become leukemic. In addition, they showed that using an antibody to block interleukin-15 kept this leukemia from developing in a mouse model. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Experimental Cancer Vaccine Study Under Way
An early-phase clinical trial on the safety of a vaccine designed to prevent several types of solid tumors opened in July 2011 at the OSUCCC—James. The vaccine targets two regions of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2), a molecule that occurs at abnormally high levels in up to 30 percent of breast cancers. Another component of the vaccine targets HER-1 (EGFR), a molecule that is overexpressed in many other solid tumors, including ovarian, renal, colon, lung and gastrointestinal cancers. Study leader Pravin Kaumaya, PhD, led development of the vaccine and the protocol for this National Cancer Institute (NCI)-funded trial. Tanios Bekaii-Saab, MD, is the clinical principal investigator, and William Carson III, MD, is co-principal investigator.
Loss of Gene Promotes Brain Tumor Development
Research at the OSUCCC—James showed that loss of a gene called NFKBIA promotes the growth of glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and deadly form of brain cancer. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study suggested that therapies to stabilize this gene may improve survival for certain patients. Senior co-author Arnab Chakravarti, MD, says investigators showed that NFKBIA status may be an independent predictor of survival in some patient populations. They also showed that this gene plays a key role in glioblastoma behavior, and that it could be useful for predicting treatment outcomes. Chakravarti, along with Markus Bredel, MD, PhD, and colleagues analyzed data from 790 cases of glioblastoma for this study.
Researchers Look to Understand How Early Breast Tumors Become Deadly
Researchers at the OSUCCC—James have discovered a restricted pattern of molecules that differentiate early-stage breast tumors from invasive, life-threatening cancer. They also found a similar molecular signature that correlated with the aggressiveness of invasive tumors, and with the time to metastasis and overall survival. Researchers say the findings could offer new strategies for treating breast cancer by blocking progression to life-threatening invasive cancer.
The researchers investigated a common type of early-stage breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). DCIS tumors are confined to the milk duct, and, though small, they are detectable by mammography. They can sometimes grow and spread beyond the milk duct into surrounding healthy tissue, a stage called invasive ductal carcinoma. The study compared the pattern of molecules called microRNAs in DCIS to the pattern present in invasive ductal cancer. It identified nine microRNAs that distinguished invasive cancer from DCIS.
Ohio State Hosts National Round table on Drug Development
In May 2011, as part of the cancer program’s drug development innovation, Ohio State hosted a Drug Development Roundtable that enabled national leaders from industry, academia and government to focus on methods of working together to speed drug discoveries to patients. “In particular, we discussed ways to accelerate the development of multi-compound drugs when the compounds are owned by different companies—usually a showstopper for research,” says OSUCCC Director and James CEO Michael A. Caligiuri, MD. “Good conversation and collaboration occurred, and we believe we’ll be announcing progress very soon.”
Drug Development Institute Will Expedite Clinical Research
An effort to create the Ohio State Drug Development Institute got under way in 2011, launched by the OSUCCC—James in collaboration with leaders in the colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy and Business. The institute will create a cancer drug development pipeline for taking new compounds through phase II clinical trials. Timothy Wright, a former executive of several pharmaceutical companies, was recruited to direct this effort in conjunction with Brian Cummings, the University’s lead for technology commercialization.
Ohio State Selected for Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network
The Ohio State University is one of 27 research institutions in North America selected to join the Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network (CITN) funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). William Carson III, MD, associate director for clinical research at the OSUCCC—James, is principal investigator for the project at Ohio State. As a new initiative in immunotherapy, the CITN will establish a group of top academic immunologists to conduct multicenter research on agents that boost patients’ immune systems to fight their cancer.
Cancer Facilities Continue to Expand
An effort to expand facilities for Ohio State’s cancer program was boosted in 2011 by the continuing construction of a 276-bed James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute and the “build-out” of two more floors for cancer research in the Biomedical Research Tower: Steel beams began to rise for the new hospital, which is targeted for completion in 2014. The hospital’s 21 stories will make it the 14th tallest healthcare facility in the nation. Its design integrates research, clinical and education areas to allow greater interaction among researchers, clinicians, patients and families. The University used an $8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to start developing the fourth and fifth floors of the Biomedical Research Tower for additional lab space for cancer research. This work will be finished in 2012.
Please visit The James website for additional information on our efforts in cancer research.