AACI Update | April 2020

Headlines

AACI Announces Member Forum for COVID-19 Discussion

AACI Announces Member Forum for COVID-19 Discussion

AACI continues to closely monitor the coronavirus outbreak. To facilitate communication around this rapidly-evolving topic, AACI launched a Slack workspace as a forum for AACI cancer center members and National Cancer Institute leaders to share challenges and best practices related to COVID-19 and cancer. To ensure confidentiality and encourage open discussion, all requests to join the forum require administrative approval from AACI. 

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COVID-19 Concerns Prompt Meeting Changes

The health and well-being of AACI meeting attendees, exhibitors, and cancer center patients is our top priority. With that in mind, we have been closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak that has led to COVID-19 infection across the United States. Due to mounting concerns about COVID-19 transmission and travel restrictions, AACI has postponed its annual Hill Day and is exploring options for its upcoming meetings.
 

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AACI Urges Immediate Implementation of Defense Production Act

In a March 23 letter, AACI implored President Donald Trump to immediately invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to marshal American manufacturing to forcefully confront the COVID-19 emergency. As of March 23 the president had yet to fully invoke and utilize the DPA, while cancer centers continued to weigh in with their members of Congress on their respective situations as they related to personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies. Signed by the leaders of 97 AACI cancer centers in the United States, the letter noted that patients with cancer are particularly susceptible to serious complications and poor outcomes from COVID-19, and that some cancer center patients have already contracted the virus and died from respiratory failure. In a March 27 presidential memorandum, President Trump directed his administration to use "any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize Federal contracts for ventilators." 

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Submit Your Cancer Center News for May

Thank you to the communications professionals who consistently provide AACI with news from their cancer centers — especially during the COVID-19 crisis. The May 2020 issue of AACI Update will be published on Friday, May 1. The deadline to submit your cancer center news is Tuesday, April 28. Please send your cancer center news to aaciupdate@aaci-cancer.org.
 

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News from the Centers

Cukierman Named AGA Fellow

Cukierman Named AGA Fellow
Fox Chase Cancer Center, Temple Health

Edna Cukierman, PhD, co-director of the Marvin & Concetta Greenberg Pancreatic Cancer Institute at Fox Chase Cancer Center, has been named a fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). Her induction as a fellow is notable because historically AGA has been a medical association. Though Dr. Cukierman is not a medical doctor, she joined AGA to better understand the medical side of gastroenterology.

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Fang Elected Fellow to the Society of Behavioral Medicine

Fang Elected Fellow to the Society of Behavioral Medicine
Fox Chase Cancer Center, Temple Health

Carolyn Fang, PhD, a researcher at Fox Chase Cancer Center, has been elected as a fellow to the Society of Behavioral Medicine. Much of Dr. Fang’s research focuses on understanding how behavioral, biological, and psychosocial factors may contribute to increased risk for cancer or other chronic diseases. Some of her work is focused specifically on underserved Asian American populations.

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Innovative Platform for Landmark Study Created, Opening Data to More People

City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center
A $12 million federal grant enabled City of Hope and collaborators to deploy a novel cloud-computing platform, making an immense amount of data from a historic 25-year study more accessible and user-friendly. The ongoing California Teachers Study that first began in 1995 has already given researchers a bevy of data on how to better prevent and treat cancers, heart conditions, and Alzheimer's disease. 
 

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Additional $5 Million in Funding From State of Kansas to Support Ongoing Research

Additional $5 Million in Funding From State of Kansas to Support Ongoing Research
The University of Kansas Cancer Center
The University of Kansas Cancer Center will receive an additional $5 million from the state budget for the KU Cancer Center Research Fund, approved by the Kansas legislature and signed by Governor Laura Kelly. "These funds will be crucial to the KU Cancer Center's competitive application for National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center designation," said Roy Jensen, MD, director of KU Cancer Center.
 

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$3 Million Grant Funds Study of Osteoporosis Drug for Breast Cancer Prevention

$3 Million Grant Funds Study of Osteoporosis Drug for Breast Cancer Prevention
Siteman Cancer Center

A new $3 million grant is supporting a clinical trial to investigate whether an osteoporosis drug can reduce breast density in premenopausal women with dense breasts. Women with dense breasts have four- to six-times higher risk of developing breast cancer than women with lower breast density. Adetunji T. Toriola, MD, PhD, is principal investigator.

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$2.7 Million Awarded to Study How AI Can Improve Cancer Diagnosis

UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
Researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have received a $2.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop new techniques to improve the quality of prostate magnetic resonance imaging and new artificial intelligence methods that use prostate MRI to assist cancer diagnosis.
 

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$2.6 Million Awarded to Develop Novel Therapies for Liver Cancer

$2.6 Million Awarded to Develop Novel Therapies for Liver Cancer
VCU Massey Cancer Center
Devanand Sarkar, MBBS, PhD, and Paul B. Fisher, MPh, PhD, FNAI, scientists at VCU Massey Cancer Center and VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine, were awarded $2.6 million to study novel combination therapies to improve outcomes for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common and deadliest form of liver cancer.

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Drug Combination Shows Promise in Women With Recurrent Ovarian Cancer

University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center
Based on early results from a clinical trial at UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is testing a drug combination uncovered by Sarah Adams, MD, in a group of women with recurrent ovarian cancer. Now, using a five-year $1.2 million NCI grant, Dr. Adams hopes to discover a predictive biomarker that will help guide treatment.
 

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Deputy Director Appointed

Deputy Director Appointed
Cancer Center at Illinois
Paul J. Hergenrother, PhD, was appointed the Cancer Center at Illinois (CCIL) deputy director, effective March 1. Dr. Hergenrother currently co-leads the CCIL research program, Cancer Discovery Platforms Across the Engineering-Biology Continuum. He joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign faculty in 2001.
 

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Oto Appointed Radiology Chair

Oto Appointed Radiology Chair
The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center

Aytekin Oto, MD, has been appointed chair of the Department of Radiology at the University of Chicago. His research, which is supported by NIH funding, focuses on the detection of prostate cancer using MRI and utilizes new research in image acquisition and interpretation to guide biopsies and discover prostate cancer earlier and more effectively.

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Sampson Named to New Leadership Role

Sampson Named to New Leadership Role
Duke Cancer Institute, Duke University Medical Center
John H. Sampson, MD, PhD, MBA, chair of the Duke Department of Neurosurgery, has assumed the role of president of the Private Diagnostic Clinic (PDC). The PDC is the physician practice of Duke Health, with 1,850 physicians and additional provider members practicing in Duke University hospitals and more than 140 primary and specialty clinics across North Carolina.
 

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Perkins Named Director of Proton Therapy Center

Perkins Named Director of Proton Therapy Center
Siteman Cancer Center

Stephanie M. Perkins, MD, a Washington University associate professor of radiation oncology, has been named director of the S. Lee Kling Proton Therapy Center at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. She began her new role March 1.

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Director of Community Outreach and Cancer Health Equity Announced

The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center

Gina Curry, MPH, MBA, is the new director of the UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center Office of Community Engagement & Cancer Health Equity. Curry has over 15 years in community-engaged academic research and is well versed in program development, training design, coalition building, and multi-institutional collaborations. In her role as director, Curry will develop and oversee community-based education, outreach, and research programs and serve as a liaison between cancer center investigators and community partners.

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Research Suggests Studies of a Key Tumor Suppressor Protein Need a Second Look

Research Suggests Studies of a Key Tumor Suppressor Protein Need a Second Look
University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center
At a cellular level, the growth of cancer requires both a foot on the gas pedal and a removal of vital braking mechanisms. However, more than 100 studies worldwide involving an abnormal modification in a key "braking" mechanism—the tumor suppressor protein PP2A—likely need a second look, research led by the Rogel Cancer Center has found. Goutham Narla, MD, PhD, is senior study author.
 

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Study Reveals an Inherited Origin of Prostate Cancer in Families

Study Reveals an Inherited Origin of Prostate Cancer in Families
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Vanderbilt researchers have identified ancestral fragments of DNA that are associated with hereditary prostate cancer in a first-of-its-kind genomic study. Researchers analyzed the Nashville Familial Prostate Cancer Study comparing men with prostate cancer, each from a separate family with a history of the disease, to screened men without a personal or family history of prostate cancer. Senior author is Jeffrey Smith, MD, PhD.

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Genetically Engineered Bone Marrow Cells Slow Growth of Prostate, Pancreatic Cancer Cells in Mice

Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University
In experiments with mice, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center say they have slowed the growth of transplanted human prostate and pancreatic cancer cells by introducing bone marrow cells with a specific gene deletion to induce a novel immune response. The results suggest that the technique—a type of adoptive cell therapy—could target such cancers in humans, using patients’ own marrow cells.
 

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Statins Starve Cancer Cells to Death

Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University
More than 35 million Americans take statin drugs daily to lower their blood cholesterol levels. Now, in experiments with human cells in the laboratory, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine have added to growing evidence that the ubiquitous drug may kill cancer cells and have uncovered clues to how they do it.
 

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Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Drug Therapy Shows Promise

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Researchers from Vanderbilt-Ingram discovered a role for MYCN in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and identified a potential intervention for further clinical investigation. MYCN is an oncogene that plays a role in cancer aggressiveness, but is typically associated with neuronal and neuroendocrine cancers. Although there is no way to currently target MYCN directly, investigators determined that experimental drugs called BET inhibitors are effective against TNBC in model systems that overexpress MYCN, especially when coupled with the inhibition of MEK, another oncogene.

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Older Women With Breast Cancer May Benefit From Genetic Testing

Older Women With Breast Cancer May Benefit From Genetic Testing
Stanford Cancer Institute

About 1 in 40 postmenopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 65 have cancer-associated mutations in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, according to a study led by Allison Kurian, MD, MSc at the Stanford School of Medicine. The prevalence of mutations in this group is similar to that of Ashkenazi Jewish women, who are advised to consult with their physicians to determine if genetic testing is warranted.

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Anti-Leukemia Compound Induces Complete Remission in Mouse Models

University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

An anti-cancer compound developed at the University of Michigan has shown "profound" activity in mouse models against two subtypes of leukemia, according to a U-M research team report. The compound, dubbed MI-3454, inhibits the protein-protein interaction between menin and Mixed Lineage Leukemia 1 (MLL1) protein. It induced complete remission in mice transplanted with patient-derived cells containing MLL1 genes with translocations. These genetic rearrangements are found in 5% to 10% of adult acute leukemia patients and in 80% of acute lymphoblastic leukemias in infants.

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Study Provides Guidance to Avoid Unnecessary Thyroid Biopsies

Study Provides Guidance to Avoid Unnecessary Thyroid Biopsies
University of Florida Health Cancer Center
The number of people diagnosed with thyroid cancer has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years. It is a classic case of disease overdiagnosis, with little resulting benefit for many patients, according to University of Florida Health endocrinologist Naykky Singh Ospina, MD. She is the lead author of an analysis of the medical literature on strategies for the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of thyroid nodules.
 

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3D Lung Cancer Spheroids Reveal Hidden Drivers of Disease

Stanford Cancer Institute
In recent months, Michael Bassik, PhD, and his lab members have been busy making millions of tiny round tumor "spheroids." These little round balls of cells are a type of 3D lung cancer model that Dr. Bassik and his team are using to better understand how and why tumor tissue grows.
 

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Pembrolizumab Shows Promise for Some Advanced, Hard-to-Treat Rare Cancers

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

A study conducted by researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center demonstrated acceptable toxicity and anti-tumor activity in patients with four types of advanced, hard-to-treat rare cancers. The open-label, Phase II study followed 127 patients who had advanced rare cancers: squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, carcinoma of unknown primary, adrenocortical carcinoma, and paraganglioma-pheochromocytoma.

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Protein Could Offer Therapeutic Target for Breast Cancer Metastasis

UK Markey Cancer Center
A new study by UK Markey Cancer Center researchers suggests that targeting a protein known as heat shock protein 47 (Hsp47) could be key for suppressing breast cancer metastasis. The study, led by Ren Xu, PhD, found that Hsp47, a protein that assists with collagen production, plays a role in breast cancer metastasis.
 

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Cancer Patients Over 65, on Multiple Medicines, at Higher Risk of Hospitalization

Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health

In the largest retrospective population-based study to date, Jefferson researchers showed that hospitalization increased by as much as 114 percent in patients battling breast, prostate, and lung cancers, when those patients took 15 or more medications prior to chemotherapy treatment.

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OncoMX Knowledgebase Enables Research of Cancer Biomarkers and Related Evidence

GW Cancer Center
The OncoMX knowledgebase will improve the exploration and research of cancer biomarkers in the context of related evidence, according to a recent article from the George Washington University. OncoMX, a knowledgebase and web portal for exploring cancer biomarker data and related evidence, was developed to integrate cancer biomarker and relevant data types into a meta-portal, enabling the research of cancer biomarkers side by side with other pertinent multidimensional data types.
 

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SITC Launches COVID-19 Discussion Forums

SITC Launches COVID-19 Discussion Forums
Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer
The Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC), an AACI sustaining member, has launched two new online communities to rapidly disseminate critical information related to COVID-19. These forums—Implications for Patient Management and Considerations for Basic and Translational Research—aim to spark conversations between professionals on the frontlines of this pandemic to facilitate communication in real time.
 

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Expert Team Tackles Thyroid, Parathyroid Diseases

Expert Team Tackles Thyroid, Parathyroid Diseases
University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center

Nathan Boyd, MD, and his team recently launched The University of New Mexico Thyroid and Parathyroid Surgery Program, housed at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center, to offer state-of-the-art treatments for thyroid cancer and other diseases of the thyroid and parathyroid glands.

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KU Cancer Center Sponsors Vaping Town Hall

KU Cancer Center Sponsors Vaping Town Hall
The University of Kansas Cancer Center

Around 60 teens attended a special town hall meeting on vaping sponsored by The University of Kansas Cancer Center in partnership with the Kansas City Kansas School District and a local television station. Laura Martin, PhD, Matthias Salathe, MD, and Roy Jensen, MD, director of the cancer center, participated in the event. Materials developed for this town hall are available in the AACI Public Policy Resource Library.

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Ohio State Announces Passing of Leukemia Scientist Clara Bloomfield

Ohio State Announces Passing of Leukemia Scientist Clara Bloomfield
The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute
OSUCCC – James has announced the passing of Clara D. Bloomfield, MD, a distinguished university professor at The Ohio State University and a former director and longtime senior adviser to The James. Dr. Bloomfield was 77.
 

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When Treating Bone Metastasis, It Takes a Team

When Treating Bone Metastasis, It Takes a Team
Duke Cancer Institute, Duke University Medical Center
Duke orthopedic surgical oncologists Brian Brigman, MD, PhD, William Eward, MD, DVM, and Julia Visgauss, MD; interventional radiologist Alan Alper Sag, MD; radiation oncologist Nicole Larrier, MD, MS; and orthopedic oncology nurse practitioner Pam Pennigar, MSN, FNP, launched a Bone Metastasis Clinic, focusing on patients whose cancer has spread to their arms, legs, or pelvis.
 

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Collaboration With One-of-a-Kind Drug Production Lab Accelerates Innovation

VCU Massey Cancer Center
Established in 2017 within the VCU College of Engineering, the Medicines for All Institute (M4ALL) at VCU is an internationally distinctive facility equipped to manufacture large volumes of targeted therapeutics for the university to conduct research. In addition, it works on developing new lower cost methods for the preparation of global health drugs associated with HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.
 

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Cardio-Oncology Gets to the Heart of Cancer Patients' Health

Cedars-Sinai Cancer
Experts in the Cedars-Sinai Cardio-Oncology Program work alongside oncologists to encourage heart monitoring before, during, and after cancer treatment. The program is more relevant than ever because cancer patients are living longer than ever. With an uptick in longevity, many cancer survivors are faced with additional health concerns, including heart failure.
 

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Cancer Center Jobs

Cancer Epigenetics Training Program
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami Health System
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CCTO Investigator - Initiated Trial Specialist
Stony Brook Cancer Center
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Director Marketing - Cancer Center
Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, UT Southwestern Medical Center
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Director of Administrative Programs
UCI Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
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Director of Clinical Trials Office - Hem/Onc Clinical Trials
Penn State Cancer Institute
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