August 2016 — ‘Starving’ Immune Cell Discovery Points to Cancer Immunotherapy-Boosting Strategies
The microenvironment that supports a cancerous tumor also starves the immune cells that the body sends in to destroy the cancer, UPCI scientists revealed in a discovery that holds the potential to significantly boost the performance of breakthrough immunotherapy drugs. The UPCI team, led by Greg Delgoffe, PhD, showed that when immune T cells enter the tumor microenvironment, their mitochondria begin to shrink and disappear, indicating that the T cell is out of fuel and can’t properly function to destroy cancer cells. The finding, recently reported in the journal Immunity, opens the door to several potential clinical approaches that could help keep T cells functioning and boost the body’s ability to fight cancer.
Watch Dr. Delgoffe discuss his findings in the video below, and read the press release here.
July 2016 — Pennsylvania Cancer Consortium Established to Conduct Phase 2 Clinical Trials under New Award from the National Cancer Institute
UPCI’s Phase 1 clinical trials team, under the leadership of Edward Chu, MD and Jan Beumer, PharmD, PhD was recently awarded a three-year supplement to their UM1 Phase 1 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to support the conduct of Phase 2 clinical trials of novel anti-cancer agents and/or combination regimens in solid tumors and hematologic malignancies. UPCI is one of only twelve lead academic centers in the US that is part of the NCI Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network (ETCTN). For this new Phase 2 effort, UPCI has formed a partnership with the Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) at the University of Pennsylvania to establish the Pennsylvania Cancer Consortium (PCC), which represents a collaborative effort between the two largest NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Watch Dr. Chu discuss this new collaboration in the video below.
June 2016 — New NCI Grant Funds Collaborative Effort to Improve Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer
A majority of pancreatic cancer patients (>80%) present with a surgically unresectable primary tumor with distant metastasis at the time of diagnosis due to the lack of associated symptoms and lack of methods for early detection. While the overall 5-year survival rate of pancreatic cancer is low, significantly better outcomes have been reported for early stage, smaller tumors.
Supported by a newly funded grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Randall Brand, MD, Professor of Medicine, Academic Director of the GI Division at UPMC Shadyside, and Director of the GI Malignancy Early Detection, Diagnosis and Prevention Program, and his colleagues both at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Nebraska are developing novel biomarker-based blood tests that may detect pancreatic cancer earlier and distinguish between dangerous and benign pancreatic cysts. Specifically, the research team has conclusively established that overexpression of the glycoprotein mucin is a hallmark of pancreatic cancer, and has identified several biomarkers (MUC5AC and its 2 glycoforms, MUC4 and a glycoform of endorepellin) that hold promise for clinical benefit in pancreatic cancer detection and risk prediction. Watch Dr. Brand discuss these studies in the video below.