$1.2M Awarded for Big Cancer-Research Ideas at Ohio State Through Pelotonia Grant Program  

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Posted: 7/13/2014

$1.2M Awarded for Big Cancer-Research Ideas at Ohio State Through Pelotonia Grant Program


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Projects designed to understand the genomics of metastatic cancers; implement a do-at-home HPV test for cervical cancer prevention; validate a wearable surgical navigation system to better determine tumor margins; and develop a personalized algorithm for defining optimum medication dosing with minimum toxicities are among the 11 new projects awarded funding through the 2014 Pelotonia Idea Grants Program at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).


These two-year grants are primarily funded by dollars raised through Pelotonia, a grassroots bicycle tour that since 2009 has raised $61 million for cancer research at the OSUCCC – James. The 2014 ride will take place Aug. 8-10.

To date, 61 OSUCCC – James research teams have received Pelotonia Idea Grants totaling $6.4M. Awardees are selected through a peer-review process conducted by both internal and external scientists not competing for grants in the current funding year.

Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, director of the OSUCCC and CEO of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. “Every year we have the privilege of funding some of the most innovative research ideas thanks to the thousands and thousands of Pelotonia riders and donors. Each rider helps bring us closer to our shared vision of a cancer-free world, and for that we are immensely grateful and humbled.”

Project summaries and principal investigators are listed below. To learn more about the Idea Grant program, visit cancer.osu.edu. To learn more about participating in the 2014 Pelotonia bike event, visit pelotonia.org.

Summer 2014 Pelotonia Idea Grants

Tackling Treatment-Resistant Prostate Cancer
When prostate cancer returns after surgery, it often no longer responds to drug treatment. For this study, OSUCCC – James researchers will use Pelotonia funds to identify genes that treatment-resistant prostate tumors need to grow and that could be potential new targets for prostate cancer drugs. The findings could lead to new treatments for prostate tumors that currently have no effective therapy.

Awardees: Qianben Wang, PhD; Steven Clinton, MD, PhD

Preparing for Resistance

Cancer happens in part because changes in certain genes cause cells to grow and divide when they shouldn’t. One of these genes is called the fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR). Researchers at the OSUCCC – James have designed a phase II clinical trial to test a new drug, called ponatinib, which inhibits hyperactive FGFR genes. However, cancer cells often develop resistance to the drugs that are used to treat them. Anticipating that resistance might develop in some patients during the ponatinib trial, the researchers have received a Pelotonia grant that will enable them to collect biopsy samples from each trial participant’s tumor before and after treatment. The grant will also enable the researchers to sequence 20,000 genes in each sample and look for new gene changes that could cause ponatinib resistance. The findings will provide a foundation for further research on how cancer cells become resistant to FGFR inhibitors and for the development of drugs to counter the resistant cells.

Awardee: Sameek Roychowdhury, MD, PhD

A Plant Component That Might Help Immune Cells Control Cancer

A Pelotonia grant is enabling an OSUCCC – James researcher to learn whether a substance from edible plants boosts the cancer-cell killing activity of a type of immune cell. The Pelotonia-funded study will investigate the ability of the plant substance, called phyllanthusmin C (PL-C), to stimulate the activity of natural killer (NK) cells. Ultimately, the researchers hope to show that PL-C in the diet will help NK cells control acute myeloid leukemia and perhaps other cancers.

Awardee: Ji

anhua Yu, PhD

Probing a New Target in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. It is defined by the absence of estrogen, progesterone and HER2 receptors. These molecules are targets for the drugs used to treat other forms of breast cancer. Without those targets, the usual breast cancer drugs are rendered ineffective, leaving no good treatments for TNBC. For this study, Pelotonia funding is enabling OSUCCC – James researchers to conduct laboratory studies to learn whether drugs that inhibit a molecule called Mps1/TTK are a promising treatment for TNBC and other aggressive forms of breast cancer.

Awardees: Robert Brueggemeier, Harold Fisk, PhD; Chenglong Li, PhD; Pui-Kai Li, PhD; Yasuro Sugimoto

A New Approach to Cervical-Cancer Prevention
Several types of human papillomavirus (HPV) cause cervical cancer and other types of cancer. Cervical cancer is largely preventable through regular screening, and current guidelines recommend that women ages 30-65 seek a Pap test and an HPV test every five years, or a Pap test every three years. But most women diagnosed with cervical cancer have had few or no Pap tests. One strategy for increasing the number of women screened for the virus is the use of HPV self-testing. Women collect samples by themselves at home and mail them in for testing. Self-testing might be particularly effective for screening women in underserved communities, such as Appalachia. For this study, OSUCCC – James researchers are using a Pelotonia grant to develop a pilot program for HPV self-testing among women in Appalachia who have undergone little if any cervical screening. The study will provide needed information about the value of self-testing for cervical cancer prevention.

Awardees: Paul Reiter, PhD, MPH; Mira Katz, PhD, MPH

Personalizing Multiple Myeloma Treatment
In 2012, 5,000 patients with multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood, were treated using stem-cell transplantation plus high doses of a drug called melphalan. The drug kills the person’s cancer cells, and the transplant rebuilds the person’s immune system. The treatment often prolongs patients’ lives and stops progression of their disease. But patients show dramatic differences in this progression-free period – from six months to 12 years. One problem is that individuals don’t metabolize melphalan the same way, resulting in differences in toxic side effects and differences in effectiveness from patient to patient. For this study, researchers are using Pelotonia funds to begin developing a step-by-step procedure, an algorithm, to personalize melphalan dosing to maximize the killing of myeloma cells while minimizing the drug’s harsh side effects.

Awardees: Mitch Phelps, PhD; Ming Poi, Pharm D, PhD; Craig Hofmeister, MD; Susan Geyer, PhD

A Wearable Guidance System for Better Cancer Surgery
Tools that could help surgeons determine where a tumor ends and healthy tissue begins, and that could help detect hidden cancer cells, could greatly reduce cancer recurrence rates and improve the long-term outcomes of patients after cancer surgery. This Pelotonia-supported project is an initial step in developing such a tool. It will help develop and test a guidance system worn during surgery to identify surgical margins and guide the removal of tumors. The proposed system – the collaborative brainchild of clinical and engineering faculty – includes a fluorescence imaging module, surgical scene-capturing module, Google glass and a host computer. Prior to surgery, a cancer-targeting dye is injected into the patient’s vein. This dye is picked up on the fluorescence camera and fused with background images of the surgical area. Two additional cameras then reconstruct a 3-D topography of the surgical cavity and track the position of the surgical tool. Tumor margin and location information is further processed and projected to the Google glass, providing intraoperative imaging guidance.

Awardees: Ronald Xu, PhD; Michael Tweedle, PhD; Alper Yilmaz, PhD

A ‘Psychological Biomarker’ for Predicting Chemotherapy Side Effects
There is great variability in the side effects breast cancer patients experience with chemotherapy, and it remains difficult to predict a patient’s experience following chemotherapy. Clinicians believe that optimism (a general expectation of favorable outcomes) and coping (an individual’s reaction to perceived harm or threat) influence cancer patients’ quality of life, levels of fatigue, depression and sometimes even disease-free survival. But no clinical trial has yet evaluated whether optimism or coping in women with early-stage breast cancer can predict patients’ sense of chemotherapy-related side effects or of their health-related quality of life during or after treatment. This Pelotonia grant supports a clinical trial designed to learn if there is a correlation between chemotherapy treatment and side effects that include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, sensory neuropathy, pain, depression and insomnia. It will investigate whether mechanisms by which optimism and coping might influence these chemotherapy side effects. The findings could provide initial evidence of a “psychological biomarker” for predicting chemotherapy side effects, and they could assist in planning a larger phase III trial to test behavioral or other interventions that might lessen side effects via changes in optimism or coping.

Awardees: Charles Shapiro, MD, and Kristin Carpenter

Reversing Drug Resistance in Ovarian Cancer
Chemotherapy kills cancer cells by damaging their DNA so badly that the cells cannot repair it. Nonetheless, ovarian cancer recurs in up to 80 percent of patients after treatment with chemotherapy. These OSUCCC – James researchers have found that a protein called histone deacetylase 10 (HDAC10) is part of an important DNA repair system in cells. They believe that this repair system allows some ovarian cancer cells to survive the damage inflicted by the platinum-based chemotherapy used to treat the disease. This Pelotonia grant will enable the investigators to examine whether drugs called HDAC inhibitors will knock out the HDAC10-powered DNA repair system and make drug-resistant ovarian cancers respond once more to platinum-based chemotherapy. If successful, the project will lay the groundwork for a new treatment strategy that might prolong the lives and reduce the suffering of women with ovarian cancer.

Awardees: Jeffrey Parvin, MD, PhD, and David Cohn, MD

Arresting a Gene That Might Drive Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is the sixth leading cause of cancer death worldwide, largely because a large majority of cases are diagnosed at late stages of the disease. Research is needed to identify biomarkers for detecting the disease early and to develop new therapies for the disease. Studies by OSUCCC – James scientists have shown that a gene called Orai1, which helps regulate calcium levels cells, is present at abnormally high levels in esophageal cancer cells. The two researchers hypothesize that the hyperactive Orai1 gene causes abnormal changes in calcium levels in the cells and contributes to esophageal cancer progression and that inhibiting that over-activity could help control the disease. Their Pelotonia grant is enabling them to conduct experiments that will reveal more about the role of this gene in esophageal cancer and help them obtain larger grants for studies to learn whether drugs that target Orai1 would improve the treatment of esophageal cancer.

Awardees: Zui Pan, PhD; Tong Chen, MD, PhD

Targeting Two Genes Might Improve Melanoma Treatment
Melanoma, the most deadly skin cancer, accounts for 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths in the United States, and its incidence is rising. Nearly 77,000 new melanoma cases were diagnosed in the nation in 2013. About 40 percent of all melanoma patients have a specific mutation in a gene called BRAF. The gene mutation also increases the likelihood that the cancer will spread to other parts of the body. Drugs have been developed that target mutated BRAF, but they work only in a subset of patients, most of whom ultimately become resistant to the drugs. This study uses Pelotonia funds to investigate BRAF-mutated melanoma and the role of a gene called microRNA-3151, a gene whose importance was discovered at the OSUCCC – James. The team’s initial data suggests that melanoma tumors that have mutated BRAF might respond better to BRAF inhibitors if microRNA-3151 is inhibited at the same time. This project will explore the mechanism of action of miR-3151 and evaluate whether BRAF-inhibiting drugs might more effectively treat melanoma when combined with inhibitors of miR-3151.

Awardees: William Carson III, MD; Albert de la Chapelle, MD, PhD; Kathrin-Ann Eisfeld, MD

About the OSUCCC – James
The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute strives to create a cancer-free world by integrating scientific research with excellence in education and patient-centered care, a strategy that leads to better methods of prevention, detection and treatment. Ohio State is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and one of only four in the United States funded by the NCI to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials. The NCI recently rated Ohio State’s cancer program as “exceptional,” the highest rating given by NCI survey teams. As the cancer program’s 228-bed adult patient-care component, The James is one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation as ranked by U.S.News & World Report. In December 2014, Ohio State will open a new 1.1. million square foot, 21-floor James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. The freestanding hospital will feature the nation’s first fully integrated cancer emergency department and above-ground radiation therapy center as well as a precision cancer medicine clinic and distinct subspecialty care floors with integrated translational research labs.



Media Contact: Amanda J. Harper
Director, Media Relations, OSUCCC – James

614-685-5420 (direct)

614-293-3737 (media main)                                                                                        

Amanda.Harper2@osumc.edu ​​


The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) 460 W. 10th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210 Phone: 1-800-293-5066 | Email: jamesline@osumc.edu