Clinicians, Researchers Probe Link Between Cholesterol Synthesis Pathway and Disruption of Cancer Metabolism

When the first commercial statin was FDA-approved in 1986 for the treatment of elevated cholesterol, researchers began to investigate what other effects the compound might have. For the past three years, researchers at Penn State Cancer Institute have continued their investigation into the effects of statins in the treatment of cancer, studying the use of the isoprenoid pathway modulators, which are responsible for the synthesis of cholesterol. Raymond J. Hohl, MD, PhD, director, Penn State Cancer Institute, and medicinal chemist Jeffrey D. Neighbors, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and medicine at Penn State College of Medicine, are currently engaged in multiple research efforts. One of these is a preclinical study funded by the Four Diamonds Foundation examining the smaller isoprenoid geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate (GGPP) synthase inhibitors as potential treatments for osteosarcoma, a pediatric cancer. Continue reading “Clinicians, Researchers Probe Link Between Cholesterol Synthesis Pathway and Disruption of Cancer Metabolism”

Upgraded Gamma Knife Technology Treats Previously Inaccessible Brain Tumors

Frameless option now available

Photo of Leskell Icon Gammaknife
The Leksell Gamma Knife® Icon™ uses a motion-tracking mask, an alternative to the head frame, that allows for new treatment options that were not possible in the past.

Treatment of malignant brain tumors can now be performed via precision radiosurgery using a flexible, removable mask placed over the face. This type of motion tracking technology has long been used to treat other types of cancers, such as lung and liver. This fall, Penn State Cancer Institute was one of the first in the country to utilize a new upgrade for Leksell Gamma Knife® Icon™ radiosurgery, using a motion-tracking mask in addition to the conventional headframe option. The radiation sources and beam technology are unchanged. According to James McInerney, MD, professor of neurosurgery, “By adding an alternative to the head frame, it allows for new treatment options that were not possible in the past.” This translates into hope for patients who had certain types of brain tumors that might have had fewer options before, due to challenges with precise access to certain tumors. Continue reading “Upgraded Gamma Knife Technology Treats Previously Inaccessible Brain Tumors”

Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium: Leveraging Scientific and Clinical Expertise in the Fight Against Cancer

Penn State Cancer Institute has joined forces with the nationwide Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (BTCRC), an organization that pools resources from 12 major educational institutions. Without the bureaucracy typically associated with larger cooperative groups, the BTCRC strives to advance the fight against cancer with greater speed and agility.

Overall study schema for Concurrent Durvalumab and Radiation Therapy
Overall study schema for Concurrent Durvalumab and Radiation Therapy (DUART) Followed by Adjuvant Durvalumab in Patients with Urothelial Cancer (T2-4 N0-2 M0) of the Bladder

This is evidenced in the ability of members to share their resources for clinical trial research, benefiting patients of member institutions by allowing them to gain access to clinical trials being conducted throughout the Consortium. The BTCRC was first established in 2011, and all current members, including Penn State Cancer Institute, were members by 2013. It arose as a result of the diminishing research opportunities for junior faculty and greater demands to pre-screen large populations to identify small, molecularly-enriched subsets.1 “Our membership in BTCRC allows access to new research ideas, often proposed by more junior investigators, in front of a national audience far more quickly than would otherwise be possible,” says Raymond Hohl, MD, PhD, director, Penn State Cancer Institute. Continue reading “Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium: Leveraging Scientific and Clinical Expertise in the Fight Against Cancer”

Groundbreaking Research Demonstrates New Mode of Carcinogenesis Hope for Far Less Toxic Treatment

An immunofluorescent image displaying two distinct subclonal populations of cells (red and green) that may cooperate in this chimeric tumor.
This immunofluorescent image shows two distinct subclonal populations of cells (red and green) that may cooperate in this chimeric tumor. (Image reprinted with permission from Allison Cleary and Edward Gunther.)

Penn State Cancer Institute has established a novel mode of breast carcinogenesis by discovering how communication between genetically distinct subclones contributes to tumor growth in Wnt-driven mammary cancers, a widely used murine breast cancer model.1 Although subsequent studies also have described cooperative interactions between certain tumor cell subpopulations, suggesting subclonal cooperation may be a common mechanism for the maintenance of tumor cell heterogeneity, this study, published in Nature, was the first to recognize the possible relationship. “As cancer biologists and clinicians have long known, cancers evolve,” says Edward J. Gunther, MD, professor of medicine, Penn State Cancer Institute. “But this idea that there are multiple subclones evolving in concert is new. Eventually, this broadened understanding will lead to a further evolution of cancer treatment strategies.” Continue reading “Groundbreaking Research Demonstrates New Mode of Carcinogenesis Hope for Far Less Toxic Treatment”

Group Unites Research and Clinical Care: Gynecologic Malignancy Specialists, Scientists, Nurses Work Together for Patient-Centered Solutions

Schematic of gynecologic malignancies group, with the patient at the center.
Schematic of gynecologic malignancies group, with the patient at the center.

Despite advances in surgical and chemotherapeutic options, patients with gynecologic malignancies continue to have poor survival statistics.1 This will only be improved when basic research translates into clinical practice and research focus is informed by actual clinical needs, believes Rébécca Phaëton, MD, assistant professor, gynecologic oncology, Penn State Cancer Institute. Dr. Phaëton and colleague, Nadine Hempel, PhD, associate professor, pharmacology, have started a gynecologic malignancies working group (GMG) at Penn State Cancer Institute to enhance interactions between clinical and basic researchers, and to utilize cross-disciplinary research resources, including pre-clinical disease models and clinical specimens, and patient data. Continue reading “Group Unites Research and Clinical Care: Gynecologic Malignancy Specialists, Scientists, Nurses Work Together for Patient-Centered Solutions”

Introducing the Cancer Report: Sharing Research and Developments

Photo of the Penn State Cancer Institute building entrance.On behalf of the physicians and faculty at the Penn State Cancer Institute, I’m pleased to present the inaugural issue of the Cancer Report, a new publication developed to share innovative treatment solutions and advanced research, and to highlight how they work together to enhance the care of individuals with cancer. I envision the Cancer Report as a way for our clinicians and scientists to share research findings, ongoing trials, developments in biomedical engineering and new collaborations between Penn State Cancer Institute and many of our peers in the field.

Penn State Cancer Institute strives to advance the study of cancer by utilizing the many resources afforded by the clinical and research faculty at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and the Pennsylvania State University. We treat more than 2,000 individual cases each year, including a large, underserved rural population.

Each day, innovative technologies are applied to treatment options and decisions for individuals with cancer, with special emphasis on the precise delivery of radiation therapy. In addition, biomedical engineering and material sciences have given rise to our strong nanotechnology program, pioneering novel methods of drug delivery. As treatment modalities improve, we are at the forefront of academic medical centers. We are developing a rapidly growing survivorship program, which offers an integrated approach to cancer education, prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care. Continue reading “Introducing the Cancer Report: Sharing Research and Developments”