AACI Update | June 2020

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Abstract Winners Selected for CRI Virtual Meeting

Abstract Winners Selected for CRI Virtual Meeting

The AACI Clinical Research Innovation (CRI) Steering Committee, with the assistance of peer reviewers from the CRI community, have selected three abstracts from 77 submissions for formal presentation at the 12th Annual AACI CRI Meeting, July 7-8. Winning abstract authors represent Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center; University of Hawai'i Cancer Center, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa; and Mays Cancer Center, UT Health San Antonio. The three winning abstracts will be presented individually during a virtual session on Wednesday, July 8.

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'Generational Humorist' to Deliver CRI Keynote

'Generational Humorist' to Deliver CRI Keynote

Meagan Johnson will deliver the keynote presentation, "Zap the Generational Gap," at 1:35 pm eastern time on Tuesday, July 7 during the 12th Annual AACI CRI Meeting. Johnson, a "generational humorist," challenges audiences to think differently and act decisively when working across generations. Since 1997, she has worked with a variety of organizations and associations to help employees find common ground and build on the unique strengths and values of each generation. 

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AACI and AACR Call for Increased Funding for NIH, NCI in Next COVID-19 Supplemental Package

AACI and AACR Call for Increased Funding for NIH, NCI in Next COVID-19 Supplemental Package

For a joint virtual day of action on Friday, June 5, AACI and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) have drafted a letter for our associations' members to share with their representatives. The letter builds on AACI's previous request for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in fiscal year (FY) 2021, with additional requests related to COVID-19. 

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Register Today for CRI's Shared Investigator Platform Webinar

AACI's Clinical Research Innovation (CRI) will host "Implementing the Shared Investigator Platform" at 2:00 pm eastern on Thursday, June 18. Members of AACI's Shared Investigator Platform (SIP) Task Force will share experiences and suggested workflows for the successful implementation of the SIP. For members who may have questions about the utilization of the SIP platform, a representative from Cognizant will address technology solutions and ways centers can move forward with SIP implementation.  

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Recognizing and Preventing Cyber Attacks

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of social engineering attacks across the nonprofit industry. The attacks range from email phishing to ransomware attacks and can cost organizations significant resources. This is especially relevant now, when many individuals are working remotely and defenses may be lowered due to a focus on COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Submit Your Cancer Center News for July

Thank you to the communications professionals who consistently provide AACI with news from their cancer centers — especially during the COVID-19 crisis. The July 2020 issue of AACI Update will be published on Wednesday, July 1. The deadline to submit your cancer center news is Friday, June 26. Please send your cancer center news to aaciupdate@aaci-cancer.org.

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News from the Centers

Nusse Receives Gairdner International Award

Nusse Receives Gairdner International Award
Stanford Cancer Institute

Roeland Nusse, PhD, professor of developmental biology, is the recipient of Canada’s Gairdner International Award for his work on understanding the role of the Wnt signaling pathway in normal development and in cancer. Nusse plans to donate his award to UNICEF to help provide protective equipment for health care workers caring for children amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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Conaway Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Conaway Elected to National Academy of Sciences
The University of Kansas Cancer Center

Joan Weliky Conaway, PhD, an investigator at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research and member of The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s Cancer Biology research program, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences for her distinguished and continuing achievements in original scientific research.

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Rogel Members Elected to National Academy of Sciences

University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

Two University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center members were recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Arul Chinnaiyan, MD, PhD, is a molecular pathologist and physician at the leading edge of translational cancer research and precision oncology. Janet L. Smith, PhD, focuses on understanding biological processes through knowledge of the structures of key protein molecules. 

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Chiang Honored by ASCO

Chiang Honored by ASCO
Yale Cancer Center, Yale School of Medicine
Anne Chiang, MD, PhD, has been named a fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Dr. Chiang is an associate professor of medicine (medical oncology) at Yale Cancer Center and chief network officer and deputy chief medical officer at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven.
 

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Editor Named for Cancer Journal

Editor Named for Cancer Journal
Fox Chase Cancer Center, Temple Health
Christian Koch, MD, PhD, FACP, MACE, director for the Division of Endocrinology at Fox Chase Cancer Center, was recently named a review editor for Frontiers in Cancer Endocrinology, a specialty section in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology
 

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Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine Announced by National Academy of Medicine

Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine Announced by National Academy of Medicine
University of Florida Health Cancer Center

Christopher R. Cogle, MD, a professor of hematology and oncology at the University of Florida, is among the 10 leaders announced by the National Academy of Medicine as 2020 Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine Scholars. Dr. Cogle discovered that adult blood stem cells make blood vessels. He used that discovery to invent and patent new therapeutics for patients with blood cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

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Radiation Oncologist Awarded $1.86 Million NCI Grant

Radiation Oncologist Awarded $1.86 Million NCI Grant
UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute

A five-year grant of more than $1.86 million from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences will fund research aimed at reducing long-term neurological damage caused by a common cancer treatment regimen. Fen Xia, MD, PhD, received the grant for her project titled "The Novel Role of Sirtuin 2 in Regulation of Transcription-Associated DNA Damage Repair."

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Grant Awarded to Study New Ways to Detect Brain Tumors

Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah

Hunter Underhill, MD, PhD, a Huntsman Cancer Institute brain cancer researcher, was awarded a special National Cancer Institute grant to advance his research in brain tumor detection. Dr. Underhill's award will provide approximately $1.75 million over five years to pursue new ways to detect glioblastoma, a type of aggressive and deadly brain tumor.

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$1.6 Million Grant Targets Multiple Myeloma Bone Disease Therapies

$1.6 Million Grant Targets Multiple Myeloma Bone Disease Therapies
Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

G. David Roodman, MD, PhD, has been awarded a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study ways to build bone and decrease tumor growth in multiple myeloma bone disease. Previously, Dr. Roodman and colleagues had shown the importance of the marrow microenvironment on the growth of the tumor cells in the bone destructive process. 

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Yin Receives NCI Early Investigator MERIT Award

Yin Receives NCI Early Investigator MERIT Award
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Zhijun Yin, PhD has received the National Cancer Institute’s Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award for Early Stage Investigators. The award will help Dr. Yin continue his work using machine learning methods to automatically stratify risk across the electronic health record population, based in part on messages sent by patients to the health care team via patient portals such as My Health at Vanderbilt.

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New Leaders to Advance Cancer Immunology

New Leaders to Advance Cancer Immunology
Hollings Cancer Center, Medical University of South Carolina

Shikhar Mehrotra, PhD, and Sophie Paczesny, MD, PhD, have been named co-leaders of the Cancer Immunology program at Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Mehrotra’s appointment began March 2. Dr. Paczesny’s appointment begins July 1. 

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Clinical Care Appointments Announced

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center announces the appointment of new leaders in three key areas of clinical care: Mary Ann Long, RN, MS, returns as senior vice president of nursing; Laurie J. Smith, MA, is the new vice president of clinical research services; and Timothy Quinn, MD, has been promoted to chief of critical care.

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Veterinary Oncologist to Lead Research Program

Veterinary Oncologist to Lead Research Program
Cancer Center at Illinois

Timothy M. Fan, DVM, PhD, professor of veterinary oncology, has been appointed as program leader of the Cancer Center at Illinois research program in Cancer Discovery Platforms Across the Engineering-Biology Continuum. Dr. Fan will co-lead this research program with Brendan Harley, ScD, and he is is the current president of the Veterinary Cancer Society.

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Hull Joins Markey as Associate Director of Population Science and Community Impact

Hull Joins Markey as Associate Director of Population Science and Community Impact
UK Markey Cancer Center

UK Markey Cancer Center announces that medical sociologist Pamela Hull, PhD, will join the center and serve as its associate director of population science and community impact. Dr. Hull’s expertise is in the development, testing and dissemination of behavioral interventions to promote cancer prevention behaviors, and she has more than 15 years of experience conducting community-engaged research. 

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Virology Expert Appointed Associate Professor

Virology Expert Appointed Associate Professor
The Wistar Institute

The Wistar Institute announces the appointment of Italo Tempera, PhD, as associate professor in the Gene Expression & Regulation Program of The Wistar Institute Cancer Center. Dr. Tempera is a molecular virologist with special expertise in the study of the Epstein Barr virus and how it regulates expression of its genes in the host cell during infection. 

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Lieu Named Associate Director of Clinical Research

Lieu Named Associate Director of Clinical Research
University of Colorado Cancer Center

The University of Colorado Cancer Center announces that Christopher Lieu, MD, is now associate director of clinical research. Dr. Lieu was interim associate director for eight months. For the past nine years Dr. Lieu has been an investigator on numerous CU Cancer Center studies, including taking the lead on early-onset colorectal cancer research.

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Bona Appointed Director of Benign Hematology

Bona Appointed Director of Benign Hematology
Yale Cancer Center, Yale School of Medicine

Yale Cancer Center announces the appointment of Robert Bona, MD, as professor of medicine (hematology) and inaugural director of the Benign Hematology Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital. He will also join as medical director of Smilow's Hemophilia Treatment Center for the Pediatric Hematology & Oncology Program.

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Pathology Chair, Lymphoma Center Associate Director Named

City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center
City of Hope announces the hiring of Stanley Hamilton, MD, and Alexey Danilov, MD, PhD. Dr. Hamilton brings more than four decades of expertise to his new role as chair of the Department of Pathology. Dr. Danilov is now associate director of the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center.
 

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Wistar Appoints Tian as Professor in the Cancer Center, Co-Director of Center for Systems and Computational Biology

Wistar Appoints Tian as Professor in the Cancer Center, Co-Director of Center for Systems and Computational Biology
The Wistar Institute

The Wistar Institute announces the appointment of molecular systems biologist Bin Tian, PhD, as professor in the cancer center. Dr. Tian focuses on RNA biology and understanding how gene expression is regulated at the post-transcriptional level. His research involves interdisciplinary approaches, including molecular biology, genomics and computational biology, to study RNA biogenesis and metabolism.

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Focused Ultrasound Opening Brain to Impossible Treatments

Focused Ultrasound Opening Brain to Impossible Treatments
University of Virginia Cancer Center

Richard J. Price, PhD, of UVA’s School of Medicine and School of Engineering, is using focused soundwaves to overcome the natural "blood-brain barrier," which protects the brain from harmful pathogens. Gene therapy introduced via focused ultrasound would essentially reprogram faulty cells.

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Immunotherapy Resistance Mechanism Identified

Immunotherapy Resistance Mechanism Identified
Duke Cancer Institute, Duke University Medical Center

Currently available immunotherapies in most cases either don’t work at all, or work, then stop working. The various mechanisms driving why this happens are not fully understood. The Hanks Lab at Duke Cancer Institute, led by Brent Hanks, MD, PhD, is directed at figuring out why this "immunotherapy resistance" is happening.

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Multicenter Clinical Trial Finds New Blood Test Accurately Detects Over 50 Types of Cancer

Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center

An ongoing, multicenter clinical trial involving Cleveland Clinic has found that a new blood test can accurately detect more than 50 types of cancer while still in the early stages – before any clinical signs or symptoms of the disease. In cases where the test detected cancer, the test determined where it was located in the body with 93 percent accuracy. 

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New Advances Toward Safely Targeting Immune Cells to Pediatric Brain Tumors

Stanford Cancer Institute

Stanford scientists have taken important steps toward figuring out how to use immune therapy for a group of severe pediatric brain tumors known as atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors. A new study identifies a molecular target that enables engineered, cancer-fighting immune cells to recognize and attack the tumors while leaving healthy brain tissue alone. Crystal Mackall, MD, is senior study author.

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Anti-Malarial Drug Shows Promise for Brain Cancer Treatment

Anti-Malarial Drug Shows Promise for Brain Cancer Treatment
VCU Massey Cancer Center

Glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of cancer in the brain, is typically fatal. But new findings by VCU Massey Cancer Center and VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine researchers could help increase the effectiveness of the most common current treatments with the addition of lumefantrine, an FDA-approved drug used to treat malaria. Paul B. Fisher, MPh, PhD, FNAI, is principal investigator of the study.

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Benefits of eHealth Services Identified

Benefits of eHealth Services Identified
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami Health System
Electronic health (eHealth) applications can effectively deliver care to cancer patients and survivors, according to Frank J. Penedo, PhD, director of cancer survivorship at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. 
 

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Dearth of Research Seen on Impact of Anti-Cancer Drugs on Aquatic Ecosystems

University of Florida Health Cancer Center

A group of graduate students working on a class project at the University of Florida developed a critical review of what’s known—and unknown—about the effects of certain cancer drugs on aquatic ecosystems. Their conclusion: studies are lacking that characterize these impacts, and more research is needed to inform future regulations.

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Identifying a Sex-Specific Therapeutic Target for Glioblastoma

Identifying a Sex-Specific Therapeutic Target for Glioblastoma
Case Comprehensive Cancer Center

A study led by Justin D. Lathia, PhD, identified sex differences in anti-tumor immune response, which served as the basis for a new therapeutic strategy against glioblastoma (GBM). While previous research has shown that males are predisposed to GBM, the findings uncover sexual dimorphism in immune-suppressing myeloid cell subset, prevalence, and localization as a contributor of disease pathology.

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New Targets for Childhood Brain Tumors Identified

New Targets for Childhood Brain Tumors Identified
Siteman Cancer Center

Children with the genetic condition neurofibromatosis type 1 can develop brain and nerve tumors that may lead to vision loss. New research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicates that the growth of these tumors is driven by nearby noncancerous neurons and immune cells, and that targeting immune cells slows tumor growth in mice. David H. Gutmann, MD, PhD, is the study's senior author.

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Targeted Chemotherapy Shows Promise Against Treatment-Resistant Cancers

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami Health System

A collaborative study between laboratories of Ramin Shiekhattar, PhD, and Stephen D. Nimer, MD, director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Miller School of Medicine, has developed a new anti-cancer approach called "targeted chemotherapy," which encourages tumor cells to commit suicide but does not trigger dormancy. 

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ARCHES Patient-Reported Outcomes Published

ARCHES Patient-Reported Outcomes Published
Duke Cancer Institute, Duke University Medical Center

A group of researchers, including Duke Cancer Institute’s Andrew Armstrong, MD, MSc, FACP, has published patient-reported outcomes on the ARCHES study. The study evaluated the efficacy and safety of enzalutamide, an androgen-receptor inhibitor, in conjunction with androgen deprivation therapy in men with metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer, as compared to ADT alone.

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Researchers Identify Checkpoint Target for Colorectal Cancer Immunotherapy

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

A collaboration between IU School of Medicine cancer researchers Xiongbin Lu, PhD, and Sophie Paczesny, MD, PhD, has identified ST2 as a novel checkpoint molecule that could help T cells become more effective. The finding could provide additional treatments for a larger number of colorectal cancer patients via a new immunotherapy pathway.

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New Treatment Extends Lives of People With Most Common Type of Liver Cancer

New Treatment Extends Lives of People With Most Common Type of Liver Cancer
UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center

Scientists have found a first-line treatment that improves survival for people with hepatocellular carcinoma. A combination of atezolizumab, an immunotherapy drug, and bevacizumab, an anti-angiogenesis drug that inhibits the growth of tumors’ blood vessels, improved overall survival and reduced the risk of death by 42 percent. Richard Finn, MD, is principal investigator.

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Supportive Oncodermatology Interventions Improve Patient Quality of Life

GW Cancer Center

Enrollment in a supportive oncodermatology program is associated with a significantly improved quality of life score, according to a recent survey from GW Cancer Center. Supportive oncodermatology is a growing field that provides treatment and preventive care to oncology patients who experience adverse dermatologic events associated with their cancer treatments.

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Scientist May Have Found First Test for Detecting Lymph Node Metastasis in Pancreatic Cancer

Scientist May Have Found First Test for Detecting Lymph Node Metastasis in Pancreatic Cancer
City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center

For years, surgeons have operated on pancreatic cancer patients to remove what they thought was a localized tumor only to discover that the disease had spread to other, inoperable parts of the body. Now, Ajay Goel, PhD, MS, AGAF, a City of Hope molecular scientist, may have found a way to prevent ineffective surgeries and prolong the lives of these patients.

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Collaboration Aims to Develop Anti-PD-1 Therapy in Rare Cancers

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Innovent Biologics, Inc. has announced a strategic collaboration agreement to co-develop TYVYT® (sintilimab injection), Innovent’s anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody, in rare cancers in the U.S.

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Researchers Find New Insights Linking Cell Division to Cancer

Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah

Scientists at Huntsman Cancer Institute and collaborators at the University of California, San Francisco have published research extending our understanding of the intricate process of cell division. They discovered the protein LEM2 has two important functions during cell division. First, LEM2 creates seals in the protective coating of forming nuclei that keep the two sets of DNA shielded from damage. Second, LEM2 recruits factors that disassemble the apparatus of fibers responsible for separating the DNA sets.

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State Cancer Plan Has Robust Input From Vanderbilt-Ingram

State Cancer Plan Has Robust Input From Vanderbilt-Ingram
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Sixteen physicians, researchers, and educators from Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center have collaborated with the Tennessee Cancer Coalition, Tennessee Department of Health, and other statewide partners to create the Tennessee State Cancer Plan 2018-2022. Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, is executive vice president for research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and director of the cancer center.

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Two Doctors Named Top Physicians Under 40 in Pennsylvania

Fox Chase Cancer Center, Temple Health
The Pennsylvania Medical Society released its list of this year’s Top Physicians Under 40. Two Fox Chase Cancer Center doctors were honored: Sanjay S. Reddy, MD, FACS, associate professor in the Department of Surgical Oncology, and Namrata "Neena" Vijayvergia, MD, assistant chief of gastrointestinal medical oncology in the Department of Hematology/Oncology.
 

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Industry Partnership Aims to Secure Domestic Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

Industry Partnership Aims to Secure Domestic Pharmaceutical Supply Chain
VCU Massey Cancer Center

To prevent domestic shortages of critical medications, the Medicines for All Institute, based in the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Engineering and led by VCU Massey Cancer Center researcher B. Frank Gupton, PhD, has joined forces with pharmaceutical industry leaders to bring manufacturing of vulnerable pharmaceuticals and their ingredients back to the United States.

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Cancer Center Pivots to Protect Patients, Trial Participants Amid Pandemic

Cancer Center Pivots to Protect Patients, Trial Participants Amid Pandemic
The University of Kansas Cancer Center

During the pandemic, cancer patients undergoing treatment or participating in clinical trials at The University of Kansas Cancer Center don’t have to worry about whether they can get a test for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The research arm of KU Cancer Center stepped up to allow patients to opt in to a study that provided the test and also covered its cost. Roy Jensen, MD, is director of KU Cancer Center and president of AACI.

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Clinical Trial Urged for Blood Pressure Drug to Prevent Lethal Complication of COVID-19

Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University

Researchers in the Ludwig Center at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report they have identified a drug treatment that could—if given early enough—potentially reduce the risk of death from the most serious complication of COVID-19. Prazosin, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved alpha blocker that relaxes blood vessels, may specifically target an extreme inflammatory process often referred to as cytokine storm syndrome that disproportionately affects older adults with underlying health conditions, and is associated with disease severity and increased risk of death in COVID-19 infection.

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Immunotherapy Combination to Be Evaluated in Cancer Patients With COVID-19

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

A unique two-drug immunotherapy combination first evaluated at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center as an approach for treating some cancers will soon be available to cancer patients with COVID-19 through a clinical trial at Roswell Park. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized clinical researchers at the center to conduct a study assessing the safety and effectiveness of giving both rintatolimod and interferon alfa to cancer patients with COVID-19.

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App Calculates Risk of Delaying Cancer Care During Pandemic

University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

A team of data scientists and cancer doctors from the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center and the U-M School of Public Health have developed a free, web-based application—the OncCOVID app—which draws on large, national cancer data sets to help assess the risk from of immediate treatment versus delayed treatment, depending on a patient’s individual characteristics, as well as on COVID’s impact on their local community.

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Creating a Vaccine Against COVID-19

University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center

David Peabody, PhD, and Bryce Chackerian, PhD, at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center, are creating vaccines from particles that are the opposite of Trojan horses: they look deadly on the outside but are harmless on the inside. The spherical virus-like particles can be engineered to display viral epitopes on their surfaces, inciting the immune system to produce antibodies against the epitope. The technology has been used to create vaccines that target human papillomavirus, malaria, and even metastatic breast cancer cells.

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Researchers Co-Leading 'Pick-the-Winner' Clinical Trial for COVID-19

UK Markey Cancer Center

Clinical leaders from the University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center, College of Medicine, and College of Pharmacy have launched a clinical trial for experimental therapies to treat patients infected with COVID-19. The trial will investigate the effectiveness of azithromycin, ivermectin, and camostat mesylate —drugs that could inhibit replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease. The three will be tested either as stand-alone therapies or in combination with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

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During COVID-19, Telehealth Reconnects Patients With Health Care Providers

UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center

Prior to COVID-19, video visits at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center were used sparingly. UC San Diego Health had completed just 870 telehealth appointments in the preceding three-year period. But days before California issued a stay-at-home ordinance, a plan was put in motion to provide health care providers with the tools and training they needed to convert in-person appointments to video visits. In just four days, 1,000 face-to-face clinic appointments were converted to telehealth visits.

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Associate Vice President, Cancer Programs
Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, UT Southwestern Medical Center
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