publication date: Feb. 8, 2019

In Brief

Foundation Medicine gets genomic profiling contract from Veterans Affairs

Foundation Medicine Inc. announced a nationwide contract with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Precision Oncology Program to provide comprehensive genomic profiling for eligible Veterans with advanced cancer.

The contract covers all of Foundation Medicine’s available tests, including FoundationOne CDx and FoundationOne Liquid for solid tumors, as well as FoundationOne Heme for hematologic malignancies.

“Foundation Medicine is honored to be awarded a contract to provide comprehensive genomic profiling for veterans with advanced cancer,” Cindy Perettie, chief executive officer at Foundation Medicine, said in a statement. “This decision by the VA as well as Medicare’s National Coverage Determination issued in early 2018 mark important steps forward in access to personalized cancer care.”


Higgins, King, Kilmer, Fitzpatrick to serve as co-chairs of House Cancer Caucus

Leading the House of Representatives Cancer Caucus are co-chairs House members Brian Higgins (D-NY), Peter King (R-NY), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

Brian is a member of the House Budget Committee and the Committee on Ways & Means including its subcommittee on Health.  His district includes Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

Higgins is a founding member and co-chair of the NIH Caucus, a member of the Childhood Cancer Caucus, and an original sponsor of the Cancer Drug Parity Act.

“As a co-chair of the Cancer Caucus, I will continue to advocate for increased investment in cancer research,” King said in a statement. “It is essential we continue to fight hard and provide researchers with the necessary resources.”

“The Cancer Caucus is a leading voice on cancer research and funding in Congress,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “Cancer is indiscriminate, afflicting millions of Americans each year from all walks of life.”


NETRF announces $2.5 million research grants to treat tumors

The Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation announced eight new grants totaling $2.5 million, aimed at neuroendocrine cancer research. With this newest round of funding, NETRF expands its portfolio to include research into lung neuroendocrine tumors, which affect about one in four NET patients.

The eight new projects explore some of the latest advancements in cancer:

  • CAR T-cell therapy combined with antibody-drug conjugates

  • Photodynamic therapy

  • Deciphering the impact of mutations in key genes in NETs

  • Improving outcomes by combining biomarkers and radiomics

  • “Smart” chemotherapy

  • Novel SSTR2 radioligands

  • Alpha-particle emitting agents for the treatment of lung NETs

  • Testing new cancer vaccine on NETs

NETs occur in hormone-producing cells, most commonly forming in the lung, pancreas, and gastrointestinal tract. Despite appearing in different sites, tumors forming in this cell type are classified as neuroendocrine and require different tests and treatments.

Two U.S. cancer centers will receive their first NETRF grant: Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and Moffitt Cancer Center. Two international organizations will also receive their first NETRF grant: BC Canada, Vancouver, Canada, and Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, Netherlands.

Other institutions funded in this grant cycle include the University of Pennsylvania, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Stanford University, and the University of California.

The NETRF grant process is a competitive and structured peer-review process, which starts with an annual call for letters-of-intent in late spring.


Chien-Chi Lin wins $1.5M grant in pancreatic cancer

The School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis said NIH has awarded a four-year R01 grant of $1.5 million to Chien-Chi Lin, associate professor of biomedical engineering. Lin’s research is focused on pancreatic cancer.

Lin’s project, “BRAVE Hydrogels for Interrogating Cell-Matrix Interactions in Pancreatic Desmoplasia,” focuses on tumor-tissue interactions using hydrogels with engineered properties.


ADEPT System Cancer Imager wins Illinois Tech’s $1 million Nayar Prize Competition

Illinois Institute of Technology announced a cancer imaging research team is the winner of the final round of the university’s Nayar Prize, which includes a $500,000 personal award to team members. Including previous rounds, this brings the total amount won by this and other teams in the first Nayar Prize competition to $1 million.

The team of Kenneth Tichauer, Illinois Tech associate professor of biomedical engineering; and Jovan Brankov, Illinois Tech associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and of biomedical engineering, and director of the Advanced X-ray Imaging Laboratory developed the Agent-Dependent Early Photon Tomography Cancer Imager with the goal of finding tumors in lymph nodes of breast cancer patients at earlier stages.

The ADEPT System Cancer Imager dyes the entire lymph node, as opposed to a small sample. The combination of the special dyeing process and camera improvements provides a sharper picture of the tissue sample at the molecular level.

The result is a system that allows pathologists to find smaller tumors and prescribe a precise and personalized drug treatment for the patient. Team members estimate 40,000 more women will be properly diagnosed annually using the ADEPT imager.

The team is planning a clinical trial of the ADEPT system, in a partnership with Sanford Research in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and the University of Chicago Department of Pathology.

The ADEPT Cancer Imager team was selected as one of three finalists for the inaugural Nayar Prize when the competition was announced in 2015, earning $100,000 to continue its research. It was selected from that pool as the sole phase II finalist, earning an additional $200,000 for further research. The team members can use the final, personal $500,000 award at their discretion with no restrictions.

Team members include Miles Wernick, Motorola Endowed Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, director of the Medical Imaging Research Center and professor of biomedical engineering; Lori Andrews, distinguished professor of law and director of the Institute for Science, Law, and Technology at Chicago-Kent College of Law; and Yongyi Yang, Harris Perlstein Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and professor of biomedical engineering.


Christiana’s Boman receives $900K grant for stem cell research

Bruce Boman, senior research scientist, at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute of Christiana Care Health System, has received a $917,000 grant award from the Lisa Dean Moseley Foundation to further stem cell research into the origins of colon cancer.

The three-year grant will enable Boman and his team at the Center for Translational Cancer Research at Christiana Care to continue building on their discovery that stem cell overpopulation is the mechanism that drives cancer development and growth in the colon.

Boman’s team will take a multidisciplinary approach drawn from tumor biology, cancer genetics, pathology, medical oncology and molecular biology to discover how stem cells are regulated in the normal healthy colon and how gene mutations contribute to stem cell overpopulation in tumors.

Specifically, they will study how inactivation of the adenomatous polyposis coli tumor suppressor gene leads to stem cell overpopulation that drives colon cancer development and growth.

Earlier this year, Boman published findings that the retinoic acid signaling pathway acts to induce differentiation of colon cancer stem cells and reduce cancer stem cell overpopulation. Boman’s findings suggest that treatment with retinoid drugs, which are derived from vitamin A, could provide a therapeutic strategy to selectively target cancer stem cells and decrease the number of highly resistant cancer cells.

Conventional research over the last 50 years has been that tumors undergo a series of genetic mutations that lead to the unchecked growth of tumors and their progression to metastatic cancer. Traditional therapies designed to kill the bulk of cancer tumor cells continue to fall short of a cure for advanced, drug resistant colon cancers.

“Our thinking has shifted to the insight that cancers originate in tissue stem cells through dysregulation or malfunction of the self-renewal process and that cancer stem cells drive tumor growth,” Boman said in a statement. “It follows that the optimal way to treat cancer (especially advanced cancer) is to eliminate cancer stem cells.”

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