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Scientists Map Genomes of Brain Tumors in Search of Targets for Drug Treatment

Ependymomas are a type of brain tumor that is notoriously difficult to treat. Scientists with the SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Foundation Pediatric Cancer Dream Team mapped out the genetic landscape of selected ependymomas to find targets for treatment and reported encouraging preliminary data on the identification of drugs that could have an impact on the tumors. Their report, with Michael D. Taylor, MD, PhD, a principal investigator with the Dream Team, as a senior author, is published in Nature, the highest-ranked journal of general and multidisciplinary science in the world. Our colleagues at the American Association for Cancer Research have prepared the attached Science Update on the paper, discussing its importance in the quest to find treatments for these tumors that occur most often in infants and children. 

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Emily Whitehead is Named One of the “10 People Who Mattered This Year” by Nature

Emily Whitehead, the little girl who was first person ever to receive the CAR-T treatment for leukemia, has been named one of the “ten people who mattered this year” by Nature, the world’s most influential journal of multidisciplinary science, marking FDA approval of the treatment, supported by SU2C research. “A young girl’s battle against leukemia inspired a new generation of cancer therapy,” Nature noted. Crystal Mackall, MD, co-leader of the SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Foundation Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, says the treatment is a “watershed.” Emily’s story is also told in this video from the 2014 SU2C telecast. 

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Bernstein Featured Amongst Three Women Breaking New Ground in Research

Kara Bernstein, PhD, recipient of a 2016 Innovative Research Grant (IRG) from SU2C, is featured in a story on “Meet Three Women Breaking New Ground in Research” in the Media Planet supplement to USA TODAY on Education and Career News. Dr. Bernstein is at the University of Pittsburgh. She is using her IRG to study factors affecting predisposition to cancer.

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SU2C-St. Baldrick Pediatric Team Finds New Target in Neuroblastoma

Scientists supported by the Stand Up To Cancer-St. Baldrick’s Foundation Pediatric Cancer Dream Team have identified a promising new target for possible treatment of neuroblastoma, the most common cancer in infants. “We have built a strong foundation for developing a completely new and hopefully much less toxic treatment for neuroblastoma,” said John M. Maris, MD, a pediatric oncologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) who is leader of the Dream Team and supervised a study published in Cancer Cell, a prestigious scientific journal. Crystal Mackall, MD, associate director of the Stanford Cancer Institute and co-leader of the Dream Team, is also a co-author of the paper. Maris, Mackall,and colleagues identified a protein that occurs on the surface of the tumor cells and then developed a combination of an antibody that zeroes in on the protein and a chemotherapy drug that attacks the DNA in the tumors while sparing healthy tissue. 

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SU2C Dream Team Scientist Featured in Science Magazine for work on Organoids

Hans Clevers, MD, PhD, leader of the SU2C-Dutch Cancer Society Tumor Organoids Dream Team, is featured in Science Magazine for his pioneering work on organoids, which are grown in the lab from small samples of cells taken from tumor tissue. They can be used to study patients’ tumors and to test new drugs. The Dream Team is focusing on colon cancer, breast cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

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Scientists Develop Blood Test That Spots Tumor-Derived DNA in People With Early-Stage Cancers

Scientists supported by Stand Up To Cancer have developed a test that spots tiny amounts of cancer-specific DNA in blood, allowing them to identify people with early-stage colorectal, breast, lung, and ovarian cancers. “This study shows that identifying cancer early using DNA changes in the blood is feasible and that our high accuracy sequencing method is a promising approach to achieve this goal,” says Victor Velculescu, MD, PhD, professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and co-leader of the SU2C-Dutch Cancer Society Dream Team on Molecular Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer (MEDOCC). A report on the research, performed on blood and tumor tissue samples from 200 people with all stages of cancer in the U.S., Denmark and the Netherlands, appears as the cover story in the Aug. 16, 2017, issue of Science Translational Medicine, a major scientific journal.

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SU2C Advisor Talks Skin Cancer Prevention Tips

Jeffrey E. Gershenwald, MD, a surgical oncologist from MD Anderson Cancer Center and a member of the SU2C-MRA Dream Team JSAC, published an op-ed in Newsweek highlighting that skin cancers (including melanoma, a more aggressive form of skin cancer) are on the rise – and are readily prevented with proper sun safety practices. In the article, Dr. Gershenwald discusses the need to increase use of sunscreen, protective clothing, limiting exposure and public policy to allow children access to over-the-counter sun screen use while at school, and to restrict minor’s access to indoor tanning beds.

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SU2C-supported Research Yields New Insights Into Melanoma

Scientists on the SU2C-Cancer Research Institute Immunology Dream Team and the SU2C-Melanoma Research Institute Melanoma Dream Team have separately reported findings that provide new insights into melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. More than 75,000 cases of melanoma, and more than 10,000 deaths, are reported in the United States every year.  While the new immunotherapy drugs are highly effective against melanoma in some patients (like former President Jimmy Carter), they are not effective in all cases.  An SU2C-supported team at UCLA has reported findings on its research into the mechanisms of resistance which could lead to more effective immunotherapy.

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SU2C IRG Recipient says there is no ‘time to waste’ to find cancer cure

Melissa Skala, PhD, a 2016 recipient of an SU2C Innovative Research Grant, says the IRG program, with its quick turnaround and emphasis on results, is “the way science should be.”

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Allison Named to Time’s List of 100 Most Influential People

James P. Allison, PhD, leader of the SU2C-Cancer Research Institute Cancer Immunology Dream Team, has been named to Time Magazine’s list of the 100 “most influential people in the world” for his pioneering work in cancer immunology. “It was Allison who figured out how to switch immune cells on to target malignant tumors,” says an essay written by Alice Park, Time’s senior health writer. “The drug he created is now spawning a new generation of immunotherapy treatments that experts hope will be less toxic and more aggressive than what’s available now. His discoveries have already saved thousands of lives — and they’re also forever changing what it means to have cancer.” Allison is chairman of the immunology program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He was named leader of the Dream Team in 2013, along with Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD, of UCLA, and co-leaders Drew Pardoll, MD, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center and Cassian Yee, MD, of MD Anderson. The team has studied the immunology methods known as checkpoint inhibitors and adoptive cell transfer, building on work by members of the team that contributed to approval of two new checkpoint inhibitors, pembrolizumab and nivolumab, by the U.S Food and Drug Administration.

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