staff, March 30, 2015

Big Ten Cancer Research ConsortiumSpring Break has slowed down activities on many university campuses recently, but members of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (BTCRC), an organization that unites the cancer centers and medical schools of all the universities in the conference, haven?t slowed down in their fight against this destructive disease.

Here?s a look at the latest updates from some of the universities around the Big Ten:

University of Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin medical professors John S. Kuo, M.D., Ph.D., and Jamey Weichert, Ph.D., are spreading the word on new ways to monitor a particularly deadly form of cancer. They appeared on the Larry Meiller Show on Wisconsin Public Radio to discuss recent advances in brain-cancer detection and treatment developed at the university?s Carbone Cancer Center.

University of Illinois

It?s well-known that obese individuals have a higher risk of colorectal cancer than the general population. What?s less well-known is why that?s the case.

There are several hypotheses, and one of the newer ones was developed by Lisa Tussing-Humphreys, an American Cancer Society-funded researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She claims that the higher rate of incidence has to do with how obesity changes the way the body processes iron, and is currently planning tests to support her theory.

?I hope to find something that can help obese people protect against colon cancer,? she said. ?[I]f we find that eating a lower-iron diet has protective effects in this population, then that is ? very much modifiable.?

University of Minnesota

Last year, the Minnesota state legislature session passed a bill allotting nearly $50 million over 10 years for regenerative medicine research, clinical translation and commercialization efforts. Some of that funding was just awarded to Bruce Walcheck, professor at the University of Minnesota?s Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences.

One of six proposals selected to receive financial support out of 90 applications, Walcheck?s research involves engineering human pluripotent stem cells in order to use a patient?s own immune system to help treat cancer.

Pluripotent stem cells self-replicate, but they also can change into almost any other cell in the human body. Thus, they?re an important ?ingredient? in bioengineering new enhanced immune cells. Walcheck and his research team are trying to figure out how to harness these cells more systematically in service of natural cancer-fighting therapies.

University of Nebraska

[btn-post-package]About one in 72 women will get ovarian cancer, which has no standard detection procedure. Cheng Wang, Ph.D., assistant professor in obstetrics/gynecology at the University of Nebraska, recently received a grant funded by Colleen?s Dream Foundation and local efforts in Harlan, Iowa, to study the initiation and progression of this cancer.

Wang?s past studies indicate that the hippo signaling pathway, which controls organ size and how rapidly cells divide, may be responsible for spreading cancerous cells throughout the body. In collaboration with Jixin Dong of Nebraska?s Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, he?s investigating whether that pathway specifically contributes to growth of ovarian cancer.