COLUMBUS, OHIO—New treatments that target markers in individual cancers; packaging a novel leukemia drug in nano-sized bubbles of fat; and a national cancer disparities research network are among the nine research projects awarded 2014 Idea Grants at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital & Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).
These two-year grants are primarily funded by dollars raised through Pelotonia, a grassroots bicycle tour established in 2009 to raise money for cancer research at The OSUCCC - James.
In the past three years, 32 OSUCCC – James research teams have received Pelotonia Idea Grants. Awardees are selected through a peer-review process conducted by both internal and external scientists not competing for grants in the current funding year. More than $1M in idea grants will be awarded for the 2014 program, with $5.3M in funding awarded since the program’s inception.
“These pilot grants, funded by Pelotonia, are so critical to ensure that Ohio State stays at the forefront of speeding the development and delivery of treatments that target the molecules and markers fueling each person’s unique cancer,” says Michael Caligiuri, MD, director of OSUCCC and chief executive officer of the James Cancer Hospital & Solove Research Institute. “These projects represent bold, out-of-the box thinking to develop preventions and treatments that target individual cancers. None of these ideas would have been funded —along with so many other big ideas in cancer research—were it not for the thousands and thousands of Pelotonia riders and donors. Each of rider helps bring us closer to our shared vision of a cancer-free world.”
2014 Idea Grant project summaries and principal investigators are listed below. To learn more about the Idea Grant program, click here. To learn more about participating in the 2014 Pelotonia bike event, visit pelotonia.org.
Media Contact: For more information about these projects, contact Amanda J. Harper, director of media relations at The OSUCCC – James at 614-293-3737 (central media line), 614-685-5420 (direct) or Amanda.email@example.com.
2014 Pelotonia Idea Grants
Delivering an AML Drug in Nano-sized ‘Fat Bubbles’
Acute myelogeneous leukemia (AML) affects more than 14,500 Americans annually and has a poor survival rate. The drug bortezomib has potential to help AML patients, but it is only weakly effective against leukemia in its current form. In this project, an OSUCCC – James team from the colleges of engineering, medicine and pharmacy will develop a novel delivery system for this medication by packing the drug into nano-sized bubbles of fat and attaching it to a homing device that seeks out leukemia cells, sparing healthy cells. Preliminary studies suggest this approach effectively targets leukemia cells and results in lower drug toxicities. Data from the study will determine whether this approach is suitable for testing in humans.
Social Isolation’s Role in Breast Cancer Development and Progression
Studies show that women with breast cancer who are socially isolated have worse clinical outcomes. This OSUCCC – James team will examine whether loneliness and isolation alter cancer-related gene activity in breast tissue. The study investigates a molecular mechanism by which the social environment influences breast cancer initiation and progression. The team hypothesizes that a tumor-suppressor gene called PTEN plays a significant role in this process. Information from this study could reveal potential new diagnostic, therapeutic and prognostic tools for breast cancer prevention and treatment. Breast tissue for this study will be obtained from women undergoing biopsy at the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center for possible breast cancer.
Mental Health, Stress and the Response to Cancer Treatment
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most prevalent form of adult leukemia and is currently incurable. This project will assess stress, depression and quality of life in patients receiving an effective new treatment called ibrutinib, which has been studied extensively in clinical trials at The OSUCCC – James. This study examines the relationship between cancer growth factors and patient psychological function. This information could help physicians make treatment decisions by identifying patients at risk for poor outcomes.
Biomarker-Based Two-Drug Therapy for Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Overall survival is low for both pediatric and adult patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) on standard chemotherapy. This study is a phase I (first-in-human) clinical trial to test a two-drug approach that could significantly increase remission in AML patients. Initial studies conducted at This OSUCCC – James, have shown that the drug decitabine is well tolerated in older AML patients and can achieve a 47 percent remission rate. Additionally, patients with higher levels of a substance in the blood called miR-29b had a better response to decitabine than those with lower levels. A second drug, known as AR-42, which was developed by OSUCCC – James researchers, increases levels of miR-29b in leukemia cells. This clinical trial will administer AR-42 first to AML patients as a way to increase miR-29b levels in the blood and possibly improve the effectiveness of decitabine therapy. The findings evaluate an innovative strategy for increasing the number of AML patients who achieve complete remission.
Studying Health Disparities in 100,000-Underserved in America
Despite an overall decrease in cancer incidence and death in many populations, significant health disparities exist in low income, racial and ethnic minority, rural, immigrant, under and uninsured and low-educated populations. This project will establish a cohort of 100,000 underserved people to better understand the causes of cancer disparities in the United States. The cohort will focus on four underserved population groups that studies have shown suffer from disparities: African Americans, Appalachians, Asians and Hispanics. This grant will support the formation of a coordinating center to collect and analyze data and biospecimens from The OSUCCC – James network of collaborating recruitment sites across the United States.
Targeting Oncogenes for New Liver Cancer Drugs
Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States and incidence rates are rising. The liver is designed to keep foreign substances out of the body, so developing drugs that effectively penetrate the liver and successfully target cancerous cells has been challenging. In this study, researchers will conduct preclinical tests to determine the effectiveness of new drugs that target two oncogenes—genes that promote cancer growth when highly expressed—along with a tumor-suppressing microRNA called miR-122, which is critical to maintaining normal liver function. Results from these studies could lead to a phase 1 clinical trial in liver cancer patients.
Understanding Molecular Crosstalk Driving Aggressive Breast Cancers
Research suggests that two molecular pathways in particular play important roles in breast cancer development and how it is spreads, but little is known about the molecular conversations and the chain of events that lead to breast cancer growth and metastasis. A better understanding of this molecular crosstalk could help scientists identify points in the pathway to intervene and put the brakes on cancer development. This project seeks to further characterize the role of proteins in the two targeted pathways to better understand breast cancer growth, blood vessel formation and tumor spread. This information is especially critical for the development of new therapies in triple-negative breast cancers.
Brain Inflammation and Depression and Anxiety in Breast Cancer Patients
Breast cancer survivors commonly experience depression and anxiety—particularly when undergoing chemotherapy. Inflammatory changes in the brain could be a primary cause of these symptoms. This OSUCCC – James team will study whether reducing inflammation in the brain using a readily available and well-tolerated drug called minocycline reduces depression and anxiety during chemotherapy. This study will be conducted in up to 30 postmenopausal women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer at the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center.
Digital Image Analysis, Targeted Therapies for Glioblastomas
Glioblastomas are the most common and deadly of primary brain tumors. Despite aggressive treatment, glioblastoma patients live an average of 15 months. In this project, OSUCCC-James researchers are developing advanced image analysis techniques to help guide critical decisions in patient treatment before and after brain surgery. This technology could also guide personalized treatment options, based on the specific molecular characteristics of each patient’s tumor. Current imaging technologies make it difficult to distinguish between a cancer recurrence and treatment affected by chemotherapy and radiation. The goal of this study is to determine whether computerized image analysis combined with advanced protein analysis can significantly improve diagnostic accuracy and identify potential biomarkers that might help personalize treatment for each patient and provide insights into drug resistance.
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 a “Top Hospital” as named by the Leapfrog Group and one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation as ranked by U.S.News & World Report.
Pelotonia is a three-day experience that includes cycling, entertainment and volunteerism. Pelotonia riders agree to a personal grassroots fundraising commitment that involves requesting donations from friends and family. Over the past four years, thousands of Pelotonia riders have raised more than $42 million for cancer research at The Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. Thanks to the generosity of Pelotonia’s funding partners, the organization is able to direct 100 percent of all money raised by riders and donors to life-saving cancer research.