From Ideas to Impact

Discoveries & Initiatives Supported by Pelotonia

Pelotonia funds support far-reaching initiatives and groundbreaking preliminary studies at the OSUCCC – James that produce data and publications that can lead to grants from external sources for larger studies. On average, about one in five preliminary Pelotonia funding awards has led to a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is impressive since the NIH currently funds only about one of every 10 grant applications it receives. Also, more than 105 publications have appeared in scientific journals in relation to Pelotonia-funded projects. Thus, Pelotonia funds help advance cancer treatment and improve patient care. Here are two examples of innovative initiatives, followed by three examples of impactful research projects.

Statewide Project to Save Lives Sees Enduring Success

A statewide Pelotonia-funded screening initiative for colorectal cancer (CRC) patients and their relatives has been highly successful in saving lives – enough so that Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake, MD, featured it in a June 24 panel discussion during his Summer Tour stop in Cincinnati.

The event included representatives of TriHealth Good Samaritan Hospital, the OSUCCC – James and a patient in the Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative (OCCPI), a project led by the OSUCCC – James to screen newly diagnosed CRC patients and their biological relatives for Lynch syndrome (LS). LS is a cancer-causing condition that occurs when a person inherits a mutation in one of four genes. Individuals with LS are very likely to develop CRC, uterine, ovarian, stomach or other cancers.

If a CRC patient is found to have LS, the patient’s relatives can also be tested to see if they have inherited LS. If any are found to have the condition, they can undergo heightened surveillance for earlier cancer detection and/ or take other preventive measures. Some $4 million in Pelotonia revenue was allotted to establish a network of 50 hospitals and to conduct this screening project.

OCCPI principal investigator Heather Hampel, MS, LGC, associate director for biospecimen research at the OSUCCC – James, reports that more than 3,000 patients have been enrolled in the study statewide. She also notes that more than 350 relatives have been screened for LS, and over 100 of them have tested positive.

Hampel said the OCCPI has been such a huge success that Pelotonia has agreed to fund another large initiative, to start in 2017, that will involve the same 50-hospital network established by the OCCPI. An announcement of that project was pending.

Based in part on research conducted at the OSUCCC – James from 1999-2008, the Centers for Disease Control’s Evaluation of Genomic Applications in Practice and Prevention work group recommends that all newly diagnosed CRC patients be screened for LS. The OSUCCC – James has done this since 2006 to help reduce morbidity and mortality in CRC patients and their at-risk relatives. It is estimated that the OCCPI will save 639 life years and provide $32 million in benefit to the community. It is also estimated that the study will avert $8.5 million in cancer treatment costs due to cancers prevented.

ORIEN National Cancer Research Collaboration Continues to Expand

Pelotonia funds have helped the OSUCCC – James extend its national reach by contributing to the establishment of the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN).

Founded and co-anchored by Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., and the OSUCCC – James, ORIEN is a national collaboration that now involves 13 member institutions using a protocol called Total Cancer Care® (TCC) to accelerate the development and delivery of more precise cancer treatments, diagnostic tools and prevention strategies through secure research-sharing of de-identified tissue and clinical data from consenting patients.

The TCC protocol is a lifetime partnership between cancer patients and their treatment institution in which patients consent to donate their tissue and clinical data, including corresponding genomic data, for research. ORIEN member institutions then share that data to gain a better understanding of cancer at the molecular level and hasten the development of more targeted and individualized treatments. At the OSUCCC – James, more than 20,000 patients are participating in TCC, or about 96 percent of those who have been approached about the protocol.

ORIEN may also become a component of the national Moonshot Initiative announced last January by President Barack Obama to double progress toward curing cancer. Vice President Joe Biden is leading the initiative. On June 29, OSUCCC Director and James CEO Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, attended a Cancer Moonshot Summit convened by Biden in Washington, D.C., that marked the first time individuals and organizations representing the entire cancer spectrum had converged under the initiative.

Before that, on Jan. 28, leaders from ORIEN member institutions met at the White House with senior officials from the president and vice president’s office to discuss how ORIEN can be a model for national collaboration in cancer research.

“The vice president was frustrated that people are not collaborating more and sharing data through a single platform,” Caligiuri said following the Jan. 28 meeting. “Senior members of (his) staff were delighted to hear about ORIEN, and I can see it emerge as the datagathering platform to solve the Moonshot issue.”

E-Health Program to Reduce Obesity in Appalachia

A 2010 Idea Grant enabled a team of OSUCCC – James researchers to develop and implement an intervention to reduce obesity and cancer incidence by promoting a healthy diet, exercise and screening in impoverished areas of America, including Ohio Appalachia.

The project developed a faith-based healthy eating and physical activity intervention called Walk by Faith. The goal was to reduce weight and cancer risk among overweight and obese residents of Ohio Appalachia by encouraging greater physical activity and dietary changes.

Results indicate that participants lost weight, especially if they walked, participated in the educational sessions and used a pedometer to track daily steps. 

“The effort has helped many people lose weight, enabling them to discontinue some medications,” says Electra Paskett, PhD, MSPH, associate director for population sciences at the OSUCCC – James. “In the screening education arm of the study, one person was diagnosed with early-stage melanoma, which probably would have been diagnosed at a later stage without our study.”

In addition, Paskett says, “The procedures and interventions we developed can be used in the community to contribute to living in a cancer-free world.”

Reducing Chemotherapy-Induced Cognitive Deficits

In 2012, Maryam Lustberg, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the Division of Medical Oncology, and Courtney DeVries, PhD, professor of Neuroscience and Psychology, received an Idea Grant to investigate why nearly a third of breast-cancer patients who receive chemotherapy report problems with memory, concentration, attention and understanding during and after treatment.

Chemotherapy-induced cognitive deficits, sometimes called “chemo brain,” can be a problem for patients treated for malignancies that include breast, ovarian and prostate cancers.

Chemotherapy, commonly used to treat women with breast cancer, can have mental side effects that can last up to 10 years and affect social interactions, work performance and the ability to read or drive, the researchers say.

Lustberg and DeVries used the Idea Grant to investigate how chemotherapy activates brain cells called microglia, which are implicated in the problem. They believe that certain chemotherapy regimens can lead to localized inflammation that involves the microglia and alters braincell structure and function, which in turn causes cognitive problems. They also believe their research is the first to test the idea that inflamed neurons contribute to the development of cognitive impairments in chemotherapy patients.

The data from their Pelotonia-supported studies enabled them to obtain a multi-investigator, four-year, $2.15 million National Cancer Institute grant led by OSUCCC – James researcher Tonya Orchard, PhD, RD, assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State. The study investigates whether omega-3 supplementation would reduce chemotherapy-induced cognitive deficits.

“We hope to find that high omega-3 fatty acids will reduce neuroinflammation and lessen chemotherapyinduced cognitive deficits,” Lustberg says. “These are the first steps in establishing a strategy for preventing chemotherapy-induced cognitive dysfunction.”

Learning Whether Black Raspberries Can Inhibit Oral Cancer

An Idea Grant awarded in 2012 has helped a multidisciplinary team of OSUCCC – James researchers led by Yael Vodovotz, PhD, professor of Food Science and Technology, to further develop a food-based approach for preventing oral cancer in people at high risk for these diseases and for improving their treatment.

The research team also included Steven Clinton, MD, PhD, in the College of Medicine, Christopher Weghorst, PhD, in the College of Public Health, and Steven Schwartz, PhD, in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Cancer of the oral cavity is a devastating disease that can affect speech and swallowing, as well as often being fatal.

The researchers studied the use of a highly concentrated form of black raspberries, which research has shown have significant anticancer activity. The team’s Pelotoniafunded grant supported a two-week clinical trial of 60 healthy adults who consumed black raspberry confections at two doses and in three forms.

The researchers wanted to learn which form most effectively releases the berries’ natural cancer-fighting phytochemicals into the mouth, and which form the trial participants found most palatable.

A gummy form was found most acceptable. It released black raspberry phytochemicals at an acceptable rate and also provided users with an acceptable texture and sensory experience.

The grant led to a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study whether a black raspberry drink will help prevent oral cancer. The study focuses on how the bacterial communities in the mouth— the oral microbiome—might influence the effect of the berries.

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