Abramson Cancer Center Research Accomplishments of the Past Decade 2000 to 2010
At the Abramson Cancer Center we are dedicated to only one purpose – the eradication of cancer as a cause of human disease and suffering.
Every day our scientists learn more about the causes of cancer as well as, better ways to detect and treat cancer. We continue to be on the cutting edge of designing novel treatments for all types of cancer.
Our accomplishments over the past decade include:
- Some chemotherapy resistance may result from inefficient drug delivery. In a mouse model of pancreatic cancer, ACC investigators showed that combined therapy using gemcitabine and an inhibitor disrupted a pathway in cancer stem cell maintenance. The disruption subsequently led to vascular remodeling and enhanced drug delivery. This suggests that some solid tumor resistance to chemotherapy may result from inefficient drug delivery. A clinical trial to test this concept has been designed.
- Discovery of a new diagnostic marker for mutations found in over seventy percent of gliomas and twenty five percent of Leukemia. ACC investigators showed that a recurrent mutation reported in over 70% of gliomas creates an onco-metabolite (2-hydroxyglutarate). Through screening for the metabolite, they found close to 25% of leukemia patients also have this mutation. Testing to measure the metabolite via MRI, blood and cerebrospinal fluid are being developed to image the accumulation of this metabolite in brain tissue. These tests provide a potential diagnostic marker to follow disease progression.
- Important breakthrough in the understanding of stem cells. ACC investigators established for the first time the basis by which a cell undergoes division in which one daughter maintains the stem cell fate while the other takes on a differentiated phenotype and in understanding stem cell maintenance during division. The techniques developed are widely applicable to stem cell studies of other cell types and provide an important breakthrough in understanding stem cell maintenance during the division of seemingly symmetric cells. This article was cited as one of the top 10 discoveries of 2007 in Science.
- The first evidence that metformin has an inhibitory effect on the growth of tumors. The basis of metformin (oral drug used to treat type 2 diabetes) reducing the incidence of cancer in diabetic patients has been the subject of debate. ACC investigators provide the first evidence that metformin directly inhibits the growth of tumors. This study has paved the way for testing whether metformin is an effective way to reduce or prevent cancer in patients at risk.
- Phase I clinical trial provides proof of concept for BRAF mutation as therapeutic target for human cancer (melanoma) and is basis for further study. Nine out of 16 melanoma patients with BRAF mutant tumors responded to PLX4032 with greater than 30% reduction in their tumor. Patients without BRAF mutations had no response. This study provides evidence that PLX4032 has selective toxicity to tumors with BRAF mutation.
- First known oncogenic mutation in the germline identified in families with inherited form of neuroblastoma. Investigators at ACC identified mutations in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK). These mutations account for familial neuroblastoma.
- Slow progressive weight training did not increase the incidence or worsen symptoms of lymphedema in breast cancer survivors. ACC investigators demonstrated that, contrary to previous thinking, lifting more than 5 lbs, upper body exercising or lifting did not increase risk or worsen lymphedema in breast cancer patients.
- Financial incentives could increase the rate of smoking cessation. ACC investigators completed a clinical trial to determine whether incentives play a significant role in smoking cessation studies. This is the first sufficiently powered study to examine the use of incentives, and has spurred further studies on the cost effectiveness of such approaches. .
- Transoral robotic surgery (TORS) offers excellent access for resection of carcinoma of the tonsil. Researchers at the ACC have shown the feasibility and acceptable acute morbidity of this new surgical technique for radical tonsillectomy. The approach used by the ACC researchers has been subsequently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat benign tumors and select malignant tumors in adults. Future research will focus on long-term oncologic and functional outcomes.
- Potential of MRI use to enhance breast cancer screening in high risk individuals. The use of MRI to identify small and/or developing lesions in contralateral breasts in women with established breast cancer provides an important demonstration of the potential use of MRI to enhance breast cancer screening in high risk individuals.