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2013 Summary

Director's Message: 2013 Second Half in Review

‌Dear Members of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center community:

The year 2013 was outstanding for our Center, and was full of scientific accomplishments and accolades. There are so many in fact, that it would be difficult to cover them all. I would like to take the time however, to discuss some highlights for the latter half of the year:

  • Derek Taylor was honored with the New Innovator Award by the NIH. The NIH awards this grant to scientists proposing highly innovative approaches to major contemporary challenges in biomedical research, under the agency’s High Risk-High Reward program.
  • A team led by Susann Brady-Kalnay received a $1.9 million Provocative Questions Grant from the NCI. Their unique approach uses molecular imaging agents that recognize tumors using conventional MR scanners. The research team includes Mark GriswoldVikas GulaniZheng-Rong Lu, and David Wilson.
  • A team at the Cleveland Clinic led by Eric Klein and collaborating with the National Cancer Institute, University of Chicago and Thomas Jefferson University, is the recipient of a $600,000 Special Challenge Award from the Prostate Cancer Foundation to investigate the role of abnormally high protein levels in prostate tumors. Additional team participants include George StarkAndrew Stephenson, and Robert Silverman.
  • A group led by Efstathios Karathanasis received nearly $1.7 million in funding from the NCI and Ohio Cancer Research Associates to study ligands that enable nanochains injected into a patient's blood to home in on micrometastases; and increase the efficiency and rapid dispersal of chemotherapy drugs the nanochains tote inside the metastases. Other researchers involved include Vikas GulaniChris Flask, and Bill Schiemann. The grant builds on work previously performed by Karathanasis, Mark Griswold and Ruth Keri.
  • Paul L. Fox, received a four-year, $1.3M R01 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) for his grant, "A Protein-Directed RNA Switch that Regulates Translation." The project goal is to understand how interactions between elements in noncoding regions of vertebrate mRNAs and their cognate binding proteins integrate signals from disparate stimuli to control translation.
  • Jeremy Rich received a five-year $2.7 million award from the NCI to study the evaluation of H-ferritin down-regulation as an adjuvant therapy in brain cancers. This proposal will also provide new data into the role of ferritin in tumor propagation and survival.
  • Justin Lathia was awarded $1.7M over five years from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke/NIH for a new R01 grant titled "Novel Adhesion Mechanisms in Glioblastoma Stem Cells." The goal of the project is to uncover the critical role of CSC interaction with the niche via junctional adhesion molecule-A (JAM-A) and evaluate potential therapies to Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) which disrupt niche related communication.
  • The Cleveland Clinic announced it will study feasibility and Clinical Impact of Next Generation Genomic Sequencing. For the next year, cancer patients with one of 15 specific solid tumors with historically poor prognosis or limited treatment options will have the opportunity to participate in a study where their tissue samples will be sent for targeted genetic sequencing to Foundation Medicine, a molecular information company specializing in comprehensive genomic analysis of tumors. This effort will be led by PI Davendra Sohal.
  • Cynthia Owusu published a paper in CANCER that found many older women with newly diagnosed breast cancer have difficulty accomplishing daily tasks, and African-Americans seem to be disproportionately affected. The study's results suggest that many breast cancer patients could benefit from receiving therapy to improve their physical function.
  • Mikkael Sekeres published a study in Blood on his discovery of a link between smoking's impact on how myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) progresses in patients. For the first time, specific genetic changes in MDS have been linked to a type of environmental exposure.
  • Nima Sharifi published in Cell on his discovery of a genetic mutation in a drug-resistant form of prostate cancer. The mutation occurs in the androgen-synthesizing enzyme 3βHSD1 in castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). This mutation enables the tumor to make its own supply of androgens, a hormone that fuels the growth of the prostate cancer.
  • Scott Welford and I received a NASA Space Radiation Grant, "Contribution of GCR Exposure to Hematopoietic Stem Cell Dysfunction and Oncogenesis." We will be investigating the cellular damage that astronauts may be exposed to by galactic cosmic rays (GCR), and specifically, the effect of heavy ion radiation on hematopoietic stem cells using a DNA repair deficient mouse model.

In addition to those named above, there many stand-out publications. Below is just a sampling of the impressive research publications coming out of our Center and across the institutions:

I continue to be amazed by the level of science that comes out of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. You should all be very proud of the work that you have accomplished, and I look forward to seeing what we will do in the coming year.

Stanton L. Gerson, MD
Director, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center