COLUMBUS, Ohio – Eleven additional cancer research projects have received funding from Pelotonia, the annual cycling movement that has raised $157 million for cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).
The 2018 Pelotonia Idea Grants Program projects range from evaluating biomarkers for predicting disease recurrence in endometrial and colon cancer and a new therapy to stop life-threatening muscle loss after cancer, to laboratory research aimed at understanding treatment resistance in numerous forms of cancer.
More than 110 OSUCCC – James research teams have received Pelotonia Idea Grants, which provide funding support for two years. Awardees are selected through a peer-review process conducted by both internal and external scientists not competing for grants in the current funding year.
A total of $1.56 million will be awarded for this latest round of Pelotonia Idea Grants; $12.9 million in funding has been awarded since the program’s inception. This represents the work of investigators across eleven colleges plus Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
“We are able to maintain momentum in moving strong emerging research ideas forward in large part thanks to the funds raised by the dedicated community of Pelotonia riders, virtual riders, volunteers and corporate sponsors, and for that we are extremely grateful,” says Raphael Pollock, MD, PhD, director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and a sarcoma surgeon at the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.
The 11 newly funded research projects are:
Understanding Pathways That Produce Treatment Resistance
Scientists know that cancer cells exploit the body’s natural cellular process of breaking down and recycling cellular material — a process called autophagy — to meet their increased energy needs. Through laboratory experiments, this study will seek to understand specific autophagy pathways that disrupt and undermine the effectiveness of current cancer treatment regimens. The team will look at the impact of “turning off” a specific gene involved in autophagy in an established model of non-small cell lung cancer.
- Principal investigator: Anne Strohecker, PhD, College of Medicine (Cancer Biology and Genetics); OSUCCC – James Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Program
Drug Therapy to Stop Severe Muscle Loss in Patients
The involuntary loss of skeletal muscle and fat tissue associated with many types of cancer is called cancer cachexia. Cachexia occurs in more than half of advanced cancer cases, reducing both the quality and length of a patient’s life. Currently, there are no Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments to combat the disease. OSUCCC – James researchers have discovered a new combination of drugs that shows promise in treating cachexia. For this research project, scientists will seek to understand how this new drug combination can be made most effective while also reducing potential side effects of therapy. The drugs have already undergone some clinical evaluation, and scientists are hopeful this work will result in an early-stage clinical trial to test this combination therapy in advanced cancer patients.
- Principal investigator: Christopher Coss, PhD, College of Pharmacy; OSUCCC – James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Program
Herpes-Based Oncolytic Virus Therapy to Treat Rare Childhood Cancer
Rhabdomyosarcoma is a childhood cancer that resembles skeletal muscle cells. Despite advancements in treating localized disease, existing treatments have harsh side effects, and survival rates for relapsed or metastatic patients remain low. Researchers are testing the use of genetically modified herpes viruses that selectively infect and destroy cancer cells without harming normal cells. These viruses also aid the immune system in targeting cancer, which can help eradicate cancer that has spread and prevent recurrence. In this study, researchers will evaluate a new, improved virus that works in part by changing not just the cancer cells but also immune cells called macrophages.
- Principal investigator: Timothy Cripe, MD, PhD, College of Medicine (Pediatrics); OSUCCC – James Translational Therapeutics Research Program and Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Improving Immune-Based Treatments for Cancer
This project is focused on understanding and improving the mechanisms by which the immune system can recognize and eliminate cancer cells. The team will look at how immune-suppressor cells function and which suppressor cells are elevated in cancer patients. Researchers hypothesize that effectiveness of immune-based anticancer treatments could be improved by eliminating or “turning off” these suppressor cells. Information gleaned from this study may help scientists reduce the side effects patients experience as a result of current and new immunotherapies.
- Principal investigator: William Carson, MD, College of Medicine (Surgery); OSUCCC – James Translational Therapeutics Program
Overcoming Drug Resistance in Small Cell Lung Cancer
Small cell lung cancer has limited treatment options, and most patients develop drug resistance. Earlier detection and more effective treatment strategies are critical to improve survival for patients affected by this disease. In this project, researchers seek to develop new biomarkers for early detection of small cell lung cancer. The team will study cellular signaling mechanisms that drive the aggressive behavior and stem cell-driven drug resistance common in small cell lung cancer. The team will also further develop nanoparticles that could be used to target and overcome drug resistance pathways identified in this study.
- Ramesh Ganju, PhD, College of Medicine (Pathology); OSUCCC – James Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Research Program
Computer Imaging to Identify More Aggressive Colon Cancers
Tumor budding occurs when single tumor cells or small tumor clusters (fewer than five cells) “bud” from the main tumor. In colon cancer, tumor budding has been associated with more aggressive disease progression. Tumor budding has also been independently associated with poor outcomes, disease spread to the lymph nodes and high cancer recurrence. Studying the microscopic anatomy of tumor budding on tumor specimens is important as part of the assessment for disease aggressiveness. The goal of this study is to automatically detect and quantify these important cancer indicators with the help of computer imaging technologies. This knowledge could help oncologists understand characteristics of each patient’s cancer and make tailored recommendations for cancer therapy.
- Wendy Frankel, MD, College of Medicine (Pathology); OSUCCC – James Translational Therapeutics Program
Combating Dangerous Virus Linked to Death in Patients With Compromised Immune Systems
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common infection that occurs in people with compromised immune systems and is linked to an increased risk of death. Treatment options often have unwanted side effects, such as kidney injury and bone marrow suppression. Additionally, these medications may not work if the virus has developed resistance. OSUCCC – James researchers will conduct a clinical trial and correlative studies to assess the safety of CMV-specific infection-fighting T-cells from a half-matched relative (such as a mother, father or child) to treat CMV infection or repair damaged cells in patients who are post solid organ or stem cell transplant.
- Sumithira Vasu, MBBS, College of Medicine (Internal Medicine); OSUCCC – James Leukemia Research Program
Biomarkers to Predict Endometrial Cancer Recurrence
Endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive tract. Following primary treatment, women are at risk of the cancer coming back, most commonly in the vagina. Clinicians need tools to predict which women will experience a vaginal recurrence so that they can provide the most appropriate treatment, no such prediction tools exist. In this study, OSUCCC – James researchers will work to identify molecular biomarkers for disease recurrence by studying vaginal tampon blood samples from patients diagnosed with endometrial cancer.
- Principal investigator: Ashley Felix, PhD, MPH, College of Public Health; OSUCCC – James Cancer Control Program
Evaluating a New Therapy for Rare Lymphoma
Current therapies for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) — a relatively rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma — show limited effectiveness in patients. This preclinical study will evaluate the safety and effectiveness of a new therapy approach that targets a specific protein (BRD4) known to be involved in CTCL. Early laboratory experiments at Ohio State have shown that targeting BRD4 is effective for preventing early-stage mycosis fungoides from progressing into advanced leukemic stage disease. Information from this trial could help scientists design future clinical trials in humans.
- Principal investigator: Anjali Mishra, PhD, College of Medicine (Dermatology); OSUCCC — James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Program
Deepen Understanding of Suppressor Cells’ Role in Cancer Therapy
Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) are known to interfere with the body’s immune response to foreign and transformed cells, and therefore are believed to play an important role in cancer progression. In this study, scientists expect to gain insights on the role of MDSC and an antitumor pathway (IL-27), and to identify molecular targets for the development of therapeutic approaches that capitalize on both mechanisms of action to result in improved cancer therapy.
- Principal investigator: Xue-feng Bai, PhD, College of Medicine (Pathology); OSUCCC – James Translational Therapeutics Program
Improving Antibody Therapy in Adult Leukemia
Researchers know that a cellular receptor called FcγR can limit the effectiveness of antibody therapy in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients. The positive effects of antibody therapy are limited further by the drug ibrutinib, an oral therapy shown to dramatically improve cancer control for many CLL patients. Studies conducted at the OSUCCC – James have revealed that an immune signaling molecule, interferon-γ (IFNγ), can help improve antibody therapy response and overcome ibrutinib-related repression of FcγR. In this study, researchers will test whether a new, more targeted approach to therapy can increase treatment response for CLL patients receiving ibrutinib.
- Principal investigator: Susheela Tridandapani, PhD, College of Medicine (Internal Medicine), OSUCCC – James Leukemia Research Program
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 49 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and one of only a few centers funded by the NCI to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials on novel anticancer drugs. As the cancer program’s 308-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 and has achieved Magnet® designation, the highest honor an organization can receive for quality patient care and professional nursing practice. With 21 floors and more than 1.1 million square feet, The James is a transformational facility that fosters collaboration and integration of cancer research and clinical cancer care. For more information, visit cancer.osu.edu.
Amanda J. Harper
OSUCCC – James Media Relations