The Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research is devoted to advancing research and finding a cure that we can pass along to our children. Currently, the most talented and experienced researchers in the world are working to find a cure at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. And these researchers carry with them Stefanie’s dream of a cancer-free world.
New and innovative drugs are being developed at the OSUCCC – James with the help of the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research, breakthroughs in cancer treatments are being made and the goal of ending cancer is closer to reality. The cancer research staff at the OSUCCC – James have uncovered new cancer markers and developed new drugs to combat cancer.
Our team will help explain their research techniques and how they will help fight the battle against cancer – the same battle we are all fighting with Stefanie in our hearts.
But any team – from the Buckeye football squad to our cancer researchers – needs a great venue to perform, all-star players led by outstanding coaches who have a game plan on how to achieve success and, most importantly, the support of loyal fans like you.
The Game Plan
The Spielman Research Fund advances breast cancer research in numerous ways. Here are three examples:
- The creation of the Tissue Archive Services and the Tumor Bank, collections of both healthy and cancerous breast tissue samples used for comparison and analysis that can help scientists uncover key elements of cancer formation and lead to innovative and more successful treatment methods.
- The development of sophisticated imaging technologies that detect cancer earlier when it’s most easily cured. The identification of new treatment targets and the development of drug treatment regimens to save lives and provide patients with the highest quality of life possible.
Charles Shapiro, MD, director of Breast Medical Oncology, credits how the Fund helped make the Spielman Breast Cancer tissue bank possible.
“This invaluable resource provides thousands of breast cancer samples from women who received care at The James, along with the types of treatments they received and the results of their outcomes,” says Dr. Shapiro.
The Tissue Archive Services and the Tumor Bank allows for promising genes or proteins that first are discovered in the laboratory using cell lines or animal models to be quickly tested for their importance and relevance to human breast cancers that come from patients.
Examples of research conducted using these resources include the molecular factors associated with basaloid, or estrogen receptor negative, progesterone receptor negative and HER-2 negative (or “triple negative”) breast cancers, and the molecular factors associated with tamoxifen resistance.
OSUCCC – James research teams, made up of breast cancer researchers and breast cancer clinicians, have made important discoveries using these banks, which have led to grants from the National Cancer Institute to further support the research.
Supported by the Spielman Fund, we are further defining different breast cancers and, in doing so, are also identifying new drugs that target these cancers. These new treatments may be more effective and have fewer side effects.
The lab of Michael Tweedle, PhD, professor and Stefanie Spielman Chair in the Cancer Imaging Department of Radiology, has developed a drug that not only detects cancer but also treats it with a radioactive isotope, Lutetium-177, upon discovery. “It’s like a dirty bomb. It kills cancer within just a small space—a millimeter or two. We can’t afford to waste time with later stage cancer—the patient doesn’t have time,” says Dr. Tweedle.
There is a never-ending need for drugs that treat cancers that have escaped the initial diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Tweedle’s discovery provides a lifesaving opportunity for patients while providing the OSUCCC – James with groundbreaking research that other labs around the world will work behind.
Kay Huebner, PhD, professor in the Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics, is redefining how we look at breast cancer. Her team is utilizing the tissue bank to further break down triple-negative breast cancer into subtypes.
“Breast cancers are divided into distinct subtypes based on genes and proteins they express; each cancer type has a different prognosis, outcome and targeted treatment,” says Dr. Huebner, whose lab is identifying these subtypes based on their expression of hundreds of small genes called microRNAs.
“We already have evidence, through work supported by the Spielman Fund, that this method will identify at least five subgroups of triple negative breast cancer,” shares Dr. Huebner.
“If we can divide those breast cancers into specific subtypes and figure out exactly what signal pathways have gone wrong in those subtypes, then we have a chance to find targeted proteins that will help us to at least suggest potential markers that could be targets for treatment.”
The hope for Dr. Huebner’s research is that it will allow the OSUCCC – James to develop personalized treatment plans for patients with cancer.
Building on the research done by other members of the breast cancer research team, Nancy Lill, PhD, and her team are taking what we know about cancer to a new level. Her research involves a protein known as the epidermal growth factor receptor and how it can signal a variety of tumor types.
“Triple-negative breast cancer presents a particular clinical challenge. Because they lack estrogen and progesterone proteins, they are resistant to many successful breast cancer treatments,” says Dr. Lill.
Dr. Lill’s team is looking for ways they can manipulate the triple-negative breast cancer cells to attack their own defenses, by fooling them into taking up poisons or chemotherapeutic agents more thoroughly. By doing so, Dr. Lill will be able to selectively destroy a specific population of cancer cells while leaving the rest of the cells in the patient unaffected.
This will reduce the adverse effects in patients but with greater clinical efficacy of the drugs that we are using. This research is expanding our immense knowledge of breast cancer in a way no other lab in the world is.
Innovation is a consistent and continuing standard at the OSUCCC – James. Ching-Shih Chen, PhD, and his team are developing several new drugs that target triple negative breast cancer. It is hoped that they will stop the disease from spreading, inhibit cancer growth and enhance the effectiveness of current therapies.
“In collaboration with Dr. Shapiro, our research focuses on developing new therapeutic strategies to enhance the outcomes in triple negative breast cancer patients,” says Dr. Chen.
The goal of Dr. Chen’s lab is to not only find therapeutic agents that kill the triple negative breast cancer cells, but also to reduce the aggressiveness of these cells, which are highly metastatic. Dr. Chen and his team are trying different agents that can slow that aggressiveness and prevent them from moving to other parts of the body organ.
“With the support from the Spielman Fund, we have developed drugs that target different molecular defects in cancer, which enhances current treatment, stops the spread of triple negative cancer cells and kills existing cells,” says Chen. “Currently, these drugs are undergoing preclinical development.”
And finally, Dr. Chen is organizing and conducting research that will hopefully result in an agent that can kill what are called cancer “stem cells.” This is the Holy Grail of a cancer drug discovery. Through the investigation of these stem cells, we have a good lead in finding such an agent.
Our opponent is cancer. Our goal is to eradicate cancer to protect the lives of our families, our loved ones and millions of people who are our past, present and future. The advancements in cancer care that have been outlined here will not only improve care here in central Ohio, but will also save lives around the world. And improvements in breast cancer treatments will be translated to the care of other patients with other forms of this devastating disease.
We haven’t reached our goal yet, but we are making progress. Thanks to your support, our goal is in sight and we are offering new hope to millions of breast cancer patients.