COLUMBUS, Ohio – A dozen research teams have received pilot research funding to pursue promising new cancer research concepts through the Pelotonia Idea Grants Program. The research grant program is made possible through funds raised by Pelotonia, a grassroots cycling event that has generated more than $184 million for cancer research conducted at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).
Since 2010, Pelotonia funding has allowed the OSUCCC – James to fund more than 300 investigators across 11 colleges and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Projects span laboratory research in cells and tissue to increase fundamental knowledge about cancer development and progression to clinical trials that evaluate experimental treatment approaches in humans.
Winter 2019 Pelotonia Idea Grant awardees and projects include:
Impact of Black Raspberries on Microbiome
Investigators: Steven Clinton, MD, PhD, and Daniel Spakowicz, PhD, of the OSUCCC – James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Research Program, and David Carbone, MD, PhD, of the OSUCCC – James Translational Therapeutics Research Program
Microbes that live in and on humans have been shown to affect our health in many ways, including cancer risk. Some bacteria are thought to cause more inflammation – which has been linked to cancer; other bacteria lower inflammation. Few studies have been conducted, however, to determine if intentionally altering bacteria to decrease inflammation is associated with reduced cancer risk. In this study, researchers will evaluate whether a concentrated black raspberry nectar can alter the microbiome in people at an increased of developing lung cancer.
New Immunotherapy Approach for Lung Cancer
Investigator: Dwight Owen, MD, of the OSUCCC – James Translational Therapeutics Research Program and College of Medicine
Immunotherapy – which trains the body’s natural defense mechanisms to recognize and then specifically attack cancer cells – has transformed lung cancer treatment; however, there is still no curative treatment for lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. In this clinical trial, researchers will study a new form of immunotherapy – known as PBF-1129 while in testing – that works differently than existing approaches and is one of the first oral formulations of immunotherapy. This study will determine whether a routine blood test can help identify patients that would be most likely to respond to this new treatment approach.
New Targeted Therapy for BRCA2-Associated Ovarian Cancer
Investigator: Qi-En Wang, PhD, of the OSUCCC- James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Research Program and College of Medicine (Radiation Oncology)
PARP inhibitors are a new class of anti-cancer drugs that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat BRCA1- and BRCA2-mutated recurrent ovarian cancer. Although this type of targeted drug therapy has proven less toxic to many patients, the majority of patients receiving PARP inhibitor drugs still eventually develop resistance to therapy. This laboratory research project is focused on understanding the specific molecular mechanisms that lead to treatment eventually failing.
Predicting Immunotherapy Outcomes in Melanoma
Investigator: Christin Burd, PhD, of the OSUCCC – James of the Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Research Program and College of Arts & Sciences
Cancer immunotherapy relies on the body’s own immune system to attack and kill tumor cells. Science has shown that immune system function declines with age but how this process impacts the effectiveness of existing immunotherapies is unclear. Burd’s research team has identified a blood-based biomarker (p161NK4a) to measure “immune fitness” – an individualized measure of immune system strength and functionality unique to a specific person. In this clinical trial, the team will determine whether this biomarker can be used to predict patient responses and/or drug toxicity in a subset of melanoma patients undergoing immunotherapy treatment. Results of this study could ultimately help oncologists identify and improve the outcome for patients at risk for severe drug side effects or disease progression.
Pancreatic Cancer Immunosuppression and Disease Progression
Investigator: Thomas Mace, PhD, of the OSUCCC – James Translational Therapeutics Research Program and College of Medicine (Internal Medicine)
Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, and the disease has limited treatment options. Newer immunotherapy treatment options are ineffective in the disease. In this preclinical study, researchers will investigate how a specific protein (CD200) – which is expressed specifically in the pancreatic tumor microenvironment – promotes cancer growth. Knowledge gained through this study will help scientists develop ways to interrupt this molecular pathway as a means of stopping pancreatic cancer’s progression. By increasing our understanding of immune responses specific to pancreatic cancer, scientists hope to build rationale for new immune-stimulating combination treatment approaches that can more effectively treat the disease.
Patient-Specific Responses to Breast Cancer Treatment
Investigator: Jennifer Leight, PhD, of the OSUCCC – James Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Research Program and College of Engineering (Biomedical Engineering)
Cancer drug screening is often performed using isolated cancer cells cultured in plastic dishes. While this approach is a fundamental tool in biological research, these methods do not capture several critical aspects of living tissue that regulate tumor cell function and treatment response. To address this need, Leight and her team are developing a 3-D technology that will allow scientists to perform cancer drug screening in samples that more accurately mimic human disease. Researchers expect this new technology to increase the accuracy of cancer drug screening and better enable personalized medicine.
New Therapies for Mantle Cell Lymphoma
Investigators: Lapo Alinari, MD, PhD, and Bethany Mundy-Bosse, PhD, of the OSUCCC – James Leukemia Research Program
Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is an aggressive and incurable form of blood cancer. In this study, researchers seek to better understand the role of SUMO pathway in promoting uncontrolled cancer cell growth and survival and to develop a targeted therapeutic strategy to effectively kill lymphoma cells while enhancing the immune-mediated anti-tumor response. The ultimate goal of this study is to move TAK-981, a novel and selective inhibitor of SUMO developed by Takeda, into an early-stage clinical trial for human MCL patients.
Effect of Gut Bacteria on Cancer Treatment Response
Investigator: Daniel Spakowicz, PhD, of the OSUCCC – James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Research Program
More patients with advanced melanoma are living longer thanks to a new class of drugs known as immune checkpoint inhibitors; however, only about half of patients treated with these drugs respond and many experience life-threatening side effects. This clinical study will follow patients with metastatic melanoma as they undergo treatment to determine if changes in the gut microbiome can predict if individuals are more likely to respond to treatment or experience certain side effects. This knowledge could help researchers determine ways to alter the microbiome to improve cancer response.
New Cellular Therapy to Treat Canine Bone Cancer
Investigator: William Kisseberth, DVM, PhD, of the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Dean Lee, MD, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics, Director, Cellular Therapy and Cancer Immunology Program, Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Ohio State’s comparative oncology signature research program pairs oncologists who treat adult forms of cancer with veterinarians treating the same cancers in animal patients. In this clinical study, researchers will test a new cellular therapy to prevent the spread of spontaneously-occurring bone cancer in dogs. Natural killer cells are one of the body’s first lines of defense against viruses and cancer. The findings could lead to new strategies for boosting natural-killer cell activity in adolescents and young adults with sarcoma.
Reducing Neurologic Side Effects of Colorectal Cancer Treatment
Investigators: Anne Noonan, MD, and Shuiying Hu, PhD, of the OSUCCC – James Translational Therapeutics Research Program
The drug oxaliplatin is commonly used to treat colorectal cancer, however, it causes quality-of-life impacting neurological side effects in more than 50 percent of patients. Preclinical studies conducted by the OSUCCC – James researchers have shown that these side effects are linked to a specific protein (OCT2) that regulates drug uptake into the peripheral nerves. In this new clinical study, researchers will evaluate whether they can reduce peripheral nerve damage – which often occurs in the hands and feet – through blocking of OCT2 with combination of Food and Drug Administration-approved drug dasatinib.
Understanding Genomic Drivers to Guide Therapy for Myeloid Sarcomas
Investigators: Alice Mims, MD, and Ann-Kathrin Eisfeld, MD, of the OSUCCC – James Leukemia Research Program
Myeloid sarcoma is a rare form of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) that develops outside of the bone marrow. Patients with this disease, unfortunately, have very poor outcomes because existing AML treatments have limited responses with low chance for cure. This project is aimed at increasing understanding of myeloid sarcoma development to advance potential treatment options for this subset of AML patients.
Exploring Genomic Target for Cancer Prevention
Investigator: Kay Huebner, PhD, OSUCCC – James Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Research Program and College of Medicine (Cancer Biology and Genetics)
To reduce the toll of cancer on human lives, scientists must discover targets for cancer prevention. This study looks at a specific tumor suppressor whose loss promotes cancer development in many types of cancer in association with loss of an enzyme, thymidine kinase, is needed for stable normal DNA synthesis. In this laboratory study, researchers will determine if dietary thymidine supplementation can suppress cancer development. Differences in outcomes based on thymidine supplementation will support planning of similar prevention trials in humans.
About the OSUCCC – James
The OSUCCC – James 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 49 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-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 sponsored by the NCI. As the cancer program’s 344-bed adult patient-care component, The James is one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation as ranked byU.S. News & World Report and has achieved Magnet® designation, the highest honor an organization can receive for quality patient care and professional nursing practice. At 21 floors and with 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 Harper, OSUCCC – James