Pelotonia Funds Awarded by Ohio State Cancer Program to Seven Research Teams for Innovative Studies

July 15, 2015
Arthur G James Cancer Hospital and Richard J Solove Research Institute

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Seven groups of cancer researchers have received a funding boost to investigate innovative scientific ideas thanks to funds generated through Pelotonia, a grassroots cycling movement established in 2009 to raise money for cancer research at Ohio State.

The 2015 Pelotonia Idea Grants Program research projects range from first-in-human testing of a cancer-fighting virus based on the common herpes virus to laboratory studies aimed at improving our fundamental understanding of the role of stem cells in the most common form of brain tumors (glioma) and adult leukemia (chronic lymphocytic leukemia).

In the past five years, 74 OSUCCC – James research teams have received Pelotonia Idea Grants, which provide 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 $760,000 will be awarded in this latest round of Pelotonia Idea Grants, with $7.4 million in funding awarded since the program’s inception.

“The steadfast generosity and enthusiasm of our community makes it possible for us to fund the ideas of innovative scientists who have come to Columbus, Ohio, to conduct cancer research. For that, we are profoundly grateful and humbled,” says Michael Caligiuri, MD, director of OSUCCC and chief executive officer of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. “There is no routine cancer research, and none of these projects would be possible without the thousands of Pelotonia riders and donors who are bringing us closer each day to creating a cancer-free world.”

Summaries of the spring/summer 2015 Idea Grant projects follow here.

Herpes-Based Virus to Attack Solid Tumors

This team will test a new therapy for treating childhood and young-adult cancer. Oncolytic virus therapy uses live viruses to selectively infect and kill cancer cells, with minimal damage to normal tissue. Once in cancer cells, the anticancer virus is designed to kill cancer cells as it replicates and spreads to adjacent tumor cells. The goal is more complete and precise treatment of the tumor. This Pelotonia Idea grant will support a first-in-human study of a locally developed oncolytic virus based on the herpes simplex virus-1. Part of the Translational Therapeutics research program, this study is the first step toward determining whether the virus can shrink solid tumors outside the central nervous system.

Investigator: Tim Cripe, MD, PhD, College of Medicine and Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Tumor Suppression and Genome Stability

Tumor-suppressor genes protect cells from developing into cancer. When these genes are mutated or silenced they can no longer protect the cell and this contributes to cancer development. Fhit is a tumor-suppressor gene that is lost in most human cancers, but scientists do not completely understand how or why its loss contributes to cancer development. In this study, researchers with the OSUCCC – James Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Research Program will identify Fhit-regulated genes that control cell survival, proliferation and invasiveness with the goal of identifying new targets for drugs that might help treat more than 50 percent of all cancer cases.

Investigators: Kay Huebner, PhD, College of Medicine, and Dan Schoenberg, PhD, College of Medicine

Improving Chemotherapy Effectiveness in Breast Cancer

Many kinds of chemotherapy kill cancer cells by damaging the DNA of rapidly dividing tumor cells. At the same time, some cancer cells survive the treatment due to their ability to repair DNA damage and their use of checkpoint signaling pathways. This study examines ways to disrupt or block DNA repair and cell-signaling pathways that enable cancer cells to survive chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments that are designed to kill them. Specifically, it could define whether blocking a certain signaling pathway in the presence of chemotherapeutic agents could improve chemotherapy effectiveness in breast cancer. This study is also supported by the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research.

Investigator: Alo Ray, PhD, College of Medicine

Stem Cell Resistance in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

Stem cells are cells that give rise to other cells in a tissue. A small proportion of cancer cells also have qualities of stem cells and are thought to play an important role in cancer development and resistance to chemotherapy. Leukemia-generating stem cells are widely accepted in myeloid leukemia, but little is known about the role of leukemia stem cells in the most common form of adult leukemia, CLL. In this study, researchers will evaluate a new technology for identifying potential stem-like CLL cells, determining whether they are true leukemia stem-like cells, and then learning more about their biology. The findings could lead to new and more effective treatments for CLL. The study is part of the OSUCCC – James Leukemia research program.

Investigators: Natarajan (raj) Muthusamy, DVM, PhD, College of Medicine, and L. James Lee, PhD, College of Engineering

Defining Prostate Cancer Aggressiveness Through DNA Sequencing

Male hormones, such as testosterone, are known as androgens. Decades of research have demonstrated that androgens are necessary for the development and progression of prostate cancer.  In addition, antiandrogen hormone therapy has been a critical intervention in prostate cancer treatment. Although dramatic responses are often seen, the antiandrogen therapy ultimately fails as the cancer evolves to a treatment-resistant state. Exactly how androgens stimulate cancer growth and how resistance to antiandrogens occurs is poorly understood. The proposed research of this study — which is based in the Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention research program — will provide a more precise understanding of the molecular and genetic events involved in these processes while helping to define markers that enhance our choices of antiandrogens for patients. This enhanced knowledge could result in the identification of androgen regulated targets and the development of more precise treatment approaches in prostate cancer.

Investigator: Qianben Wang, PhD, College of Medicine, and Steve Clinton, PhD, College of Medicine.

Stem Cells’ Role in Brain Tumor Development and Spread

Gliomas are the most common tumor of the central nervous system and are difficult to treat, resulting in overall poor treatment outcomes. Researchers with the OSUCCC – James Translational Therapeutics and Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics research programs believe that populations of cancer stem-like cells cause these tumors to be resistant to therapy. This project will take a closer look at the tumor microenvironment and cell communication pathways that support these clusters of stem-like cells in an effort to better understand how regulating these pathways could lead to future treatment modalities in glioma.

Investigators: Susan Cole, PhD, College of Arts & Sciences, Ichiro Nakano, MD, PhD, College of Medicine

Mobile Health Intervention for HPV Vaccination

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination in young adults age 18 to 26 is an effective strategy for reducing the burden of HPV-associated diseases like cervical cancer, however, vaccination rates are suboptimal among this population. In a new pilot study, researchers with the OSUCCC’s Cancer Control research program — in collaboration with the Wilce Student Health Center — will test a mobile health intervention to communicate with young adults about HPV-associated diseases and the HPV vaccine in an effort to increase uptake of the vaccine in this high-risk population.

Investigators: Mira Katz, PhD, MPH, College of Public Health, Paul Reiter, PhD, MPH, College of Medicine

About Pelotonia 2015

Pelotonia 2015 takes place Aug. 7-9, 2015. Information and registration is available at

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 only 44 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and one of only four centers funded by the NCI to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials on novel anticancer drugs. As the cancer program’s 306-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. At 21 floors 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.

Media Contact: Amanda J. Harper
Director, Media Relations, OSUCCC – James
614-685-5420 (direct)
614-293-3737 (media main)

Contact Media Staff

Amanda Harper

Director of Media Relations

614-685-5420 (direct)

614-293-3737 (main)

Media staff are available by calling 614-293-3737 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.


If after hours, please call 614-293-8000 (ask the operator to page the hospital administrative manager).