From Ideas to Impact

The impact of Pelotonia dollars is perhaps seen most dramatically in discoveries that have been made by teams of researchers funded through Pelotonia over the past three years. While it’s not possible to chart all of that progress in this report, the following helps share stories of impact, discovery and promise.

  • An “idea” grant to study new approaches for treating multiple myeloma (MM), a currently incurable blood cancer, has helped a team of OSUCCC – James investigators publish four papers in scientific journals and submit a large grant application to the American Cancer Society (ACS) for further research. One paper published in the journal Blood by this team – which includes Don Benson, MD, PhD; Steven Devine, MD; Pierluigi Porcu, MD; John C. Byrd, MD; and Robert Baiocchi, MD, PhD – reported on a phase I clinical trial suggesting that a drug called IPH2101 is safe and tolerable and warrants further study for treating patients with relapsed/refractory MM. Another paper in Blood described how the same agent combined with the drug lenalidomide boosts the body’s natural killer (NK) cells against MM. A review paper in the journal Leukemia & Lymphoma summarized the NK cell versus MM effect and characterized promising therapeutic interventions. And a paper in the Journal of Clinical Oncology related the promise of a monoclonal antibody called elotuzumab as a pioneering therapy for MM. Benson notes that the team’s application for a $1 million, four-year grant from the ACS has received an outstanding rating and may be funded in 2013.
  • Peter Houghton, PhD, from Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH), and his lab have made several findings relating to drug resistance in a cancer called low-grade astrocytoma. The findings set the stage for evaluating new therapeutic approaches to prevent or reverse drug resistance in this disease, which is activated by mutations in a gene called BRAF. Houghton’s team made its findings after establishing a mouse model of astrocytoma that harbors an activating mutation in BRAF. Houghton, who directs the Center for Childhood Cancer at NCH and is a member of the OSUCCC – James, conducted this work with support from an “idea” grant to study mechanisms of drug resistance in this disease. His team is applying for a large National Cancer Institute (NCI) grant to support further study.
  • A health disparities team led by Ohio State is partnering with churches in a five-state region to refine and test a previously piloted faith-based intervention program to promote health and reduce cancer risk by addressing obesity. Electra Paskett, PhD, MSPH, associate director for population sciences at the OSUCCC – James, is principal investigator for the project, which is the research component of the larger Appalachian Community Cancer Project (ACCN) funded at $6.13 million over five years by the NCI (including $2.7 million for the research component). The intervention uses community-based participatory strategies aimed at two causes of obesity: sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet. Paskett says part of the intervention involves a two-year e-health computer program that tracks the number of steps taken per day by participants and gives them tailored messages about increasing physical activity and changing their diets. The e-health program was supported by an “idea” grant and “helped us secure NCI funding to do the whole research study in 20 churches throughout the ACCN region,” Paskett says, noting that the full-scale study has started.
  • Pelotonia money has helped the OSUCCC – James launch a statewide initiative that will provide large-scale screening of newly diagnosed colorectal cancer (CRC) patients and their biological relatives for Lynch syndrome (LS) to reveal others who may be at risk of developing CRC so they can take precautionary measures. The Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative (OCCPI) is led by Heather Hampel, MS, CGC, associate director of the Division of Human Genetics, who says about 3 percent of CRC cases result from Lynch syndrome, which is caused by inherited mutations in certain genes. On average, three relatives of each CRC patient with LS will also have the syndrome, heightening their risk for CRC. Based in large part on research conducted at the OSUCCC – James from 1999-2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all newly diagnosed CRC patients be screened for LS. The OSUCCC – James has done this since 2006 to help CRC patients and their at-risk relatives, who can also be screened and advised about increased surveillance if they too are found to have LS. The OCCPI will invite at least 25 hospitals across Ohio with the greatest volume of CRC patients to participate in an LS screening program at their own institutions, where they also will advise patients and their physicians of the results, offer genetic counseling and make cancer surveillance recommendations to patients and family members found to have LS.

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