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SU2C-supported Scientists Report Progress in Potential Treatments for Prostate Cancer and Leukemia

A drug that is effective against some women’s cancers also has antitumor activity in certain cases of prostate cancer, potentially opening the way to new, targeted treatments of the most common cancer among males,
according to the lead article in the Oct. 29 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. It reported findings from a clinical trial, a study supported in part by the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C)- Prostate Cancer Foundation Dream Team grant, which may allow doctors to predict ahead of time which patients will benefit from the treatment. The New England Journal of Medicine is considered the most widely read, cited, and influential general medical periodical in the world.

Published on the same day was a report on chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. The treatment, which is still in development, has saved the lives of children with severe leukemia but is foiled in some cases by the development of resistance.
The SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Foundation Dream Team on pediatric cancer identified causes of the resistance in a paper published in Cancer Discovery, a leading journal of cancer research that is published by the American Association for Cancer Research.

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An Innovative Research Grantee explores leukemia cell metabolism for new therapeutic approaches

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common childhood cancer in the U.S. Looking for new ways to treat a subtype of this disease that affects T cells (T-ALL), Adolfo Ferrando, PhD, and colleagues investigated the metabolic systems used by leukemia cells to process nutrients. They found that a common genetic change in T-ALL enables leukemia cells to use a key metabolic pathway for energy and, in laboratory tests, blocking that pathway shuts down the cancer cells’ metabolism, stopping their growth. They also discovered that another genetic change can activate rescue pathways allowing the cancer cells to develop resistance to the anti-metabolic treatment and continue to thrive. By understanding the fundamentals of tumor cell energy use in this way, the researchers hope to improve treatment and overcome drug resistance in T-ALL. Dr. Ferrando is a 2011 SU2C Innovative Research Grant recipient.

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Overcoming resistance

One of the biggest problems in cancer treatment today is the development of resistance to targeted therapies. Victor Velculescu, MD, PhD, and colleagues looked at tumors from patients with metastatic colorectal cancer to find out why some are resistant to a particular targeted treatment. They found a number of genetic changes in the resistant tumors and, based on that information, tested new drug combinations that overcame the drug resistance in laboratory tests. The hope now is to take this approach into the clinic so that doctors can select the right combination of drugs based on the genetic makeup of individual patients’ tumors. Dr. Velculescu is co-leader of the
SU2C-Dutch Cancer Society Dream Team on Molecular Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer and served as a principal on the SU2C Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team that just finished its grant term earlier this year.

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Malaria to treat cancer

A “trick” used by the malaria parasite when it infects a pregnant woman has given scientists new ideas for treating cancer. Malaria-infected red blood cells use a protein “hook” to latch on to a type of sugar molecule found on the surface of placental cells. Mads Daugaard, PhD, Paul Sorensen, MD, PhD, and colleagues, have discovered that the placental sugar is also on the surface of many cancer cells, but not on normal healthy cells. By fusing the malarial protein “hook” to toxic agents, the researchers were able to target the toxic agent to the cancer cells without harming healthy cells that do not have the sugar, thus stopping tumors in laboratory mice. The researchers now hope to develop this new type of anti-cancer therapy further for use in cancer patients. Drs. Daugaard and Sorenson, young investigator and principal, respectively, and co-corresponding authors, are members of the
SU2C- St. Baldrick’s Foundation Dream Team on Immunogenics to Create New Therapies for High Risk Childhood Cancers.

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Keys to development of treatment resistance in melanoma found in SU2C-supported research

A research team led by Roger S. Lo, MD, PhD, of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), has tracked the changes in advanced melanomas that become resistant to some of the new targeted therapies, in the hopes of finding out how drug resistance occurs. In 2011, Dr. Lo received the Allan H. “Bud” and Sue Selig SU2C Melanoma IRG, named after the former commissioner of Major League Baseball and his wife, who have been major supporters of SU2C.

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SU2C affiliated researcher led study to find long-term remissions in leukemia

A pioneering immunotherapy approach to treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common form of leukemia in adults, has shown long-term beneficial effects in a clinical trial with patients whose disease was not controlled by other therapies, according to a paper published in
Science Translational Medicine. Carl H. June, MD, director of the Translational Research Program at Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), was leader of the clinical trial team.

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Potential approach to strengthening immunotherapy set out by SU2C-supported researchers

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Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team shows hope for Vitamin D to help treat pancreatic cancer

The SU2C-Lustgarten Pancreatic Dream team has made some important findings in the fight against pancreatic cancer. The researchers part of this team are testing the impact of adding vitamin D to the treatment regimen for some pancreatic cancer patients.

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Possible therapeutic targets found in comprehensive #genome study in small cell #lungcancer; research supported by SU2C

An international team of scientists have published a report that presents a comprehensive picture of the genetic alterations (or mutations) involved in small cell lung cancer (SCLC), a particularly deadly form of the disease. The research was supported in part by an Innovative Research Grant made by SU2C in 2009.

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Scientists supported by SU2C have made important findings in advanced prostate cancer

The Wall Street Journal has reported on a paper from the SU2C-PCF Prostate Cancer Dream Team that was published in the prestigious journal Cell. The Cell paper reported that up to 90 percent of samples from patients with advanced prostate cancer harbored some kind of genetic anomaly that was clinically actionable, meaning we have potential treatments to target that specific aberration. The WSJ article focuses specifically on the presence of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which may be treatable with drugs called PARP inhibitors.  Dr. Arul Chinnaiyan of the University of Michigan and Dr. Charles Sawyers of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, co-leaders of the Dream Team, discuss the significance of the team’s findings in the Journal article, with comment from SU2C SAC Vice-Chair Dr. William Nelson, director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.

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