Cancer Research Science News Updates Archives - NFCR

Cancer Research Science News Updates

WE ARE THE HERETICS: Sequence that cancer!

WE ARE THE HERETICS:  Sequence that cancer!

Heretic: someone who believes or teaches something that goes against accepted or official beliefs

Here’s an important question: Did your friend’s oncologists sequence their cancer?

You’ve heard a lot about targeted cancer therapies recently.  This is all about molecular profiling, i.e., identifying genetic mutations on a cancer that tell the cell how much and how fast to grow. Sometimes the cancer cells have too many copies of these genes with abnormalities. When there are too many copies of these genes, doctors refer to it as “overexpression.” With some forms of gene overexpression, cancer cells will make too many of the proteins that control cell growth and division, causing the cancer to grow and spread.

An example of this is how some cancer cells make (overexpress) too many copies of a particular gene known as HER2. The HER2 gene makes a protein known as a HER2 receptor. HER2 receptors are like ears, or antennae, on the surface of all cells. These HER2 receptors receive signals that stimulate the cell to grow and multiply. But cancer cells with too many HER2 receptors can pick up too many growth signals and so start growing and multiplying too much and too fast. Cancer cells that overexpress the HER2 gene are said to be HER2-positive.

Herceptin works by attaching itself to the HER2 receptors on the surface of cancer cells and blocking them from receiving growth signals. By blocking the signals, Herceptin can slow or stop the growth of cancers that express the HER2 molecule. Herceptin is an example of an immune targeted therapy. In addition to blocking HER2 receptors, Herceptin can also help fight cancer by alerting the immune system to destroy cancer cells onto which it is attached.

Notice I didn’t say anything about breast cancer.  Or lung cancer.

21st Century cancer treatments don’t have anything to do with where the cancers are located.  Even though the FDA approved Herceptin as a breast cancer treatment, Herceptin has nothing to do with breast cancer.  Herceptin targets the HER2 molecule and it will work on any cancer that expresses the HER2 growth factor receptor.   Many lung cancer patient’s cancers express another growth factor receptor, the so-called Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) mutation. And while not all lung cancers carry the EGFR mutation, those that do are sensitive to two drugs that target the EGFR enzyme: Genentech’s Tarceva, and AstraZeneca’s Iressa.

A raft of clinical trials are under way exploring how to capitalize on these findings. Most of them are using Tarceva or Iressa in combination with different chemotherapeutic agents. We have identified 400+ unique genes known to play a role in the initiation and progression of many different cancers, and we are making new discoveries about the significance of these changes almost every day.

For patients and healthcare professionals, genomic insights are helping to transform the way cancer is treated. One-size-fits-all treatment approaches are being replaced by more targeted, personalized approaches. And for certain types of cancer, we can now identify specific genetic and genomic drivers of an individual patient’s disease.

By sequencing your friend’s cancer, the oncologists will have access to genetic and genomic information to match the cancer with a cancer treatment designed to target their specific cancer.  NFCR has funded the scientists who are making all this happen. I am working closely with Dan Von Hoff, co-founder of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) who developed Tarceva; with Dan Haber who is Director of the MGH Cancer Center, and with Raju Kucherlapati, first Scientific Director of the Harvard Medical School-Partners Healthcare Center for Genetics and Genomics.

I ask you about whether your friend’s oncologist had sequenced his tumor?

There are new companies and tests emerging that can rapidly turnaround fast answers to a large array of questions.

(adopted from a letter by NFCR CEO Franklin Salisbury June 2016, after the Albert Szent Gyorgyi prize was awarded to Mary Claire King, PhD.)

Read more

NFCR Scientific Advisory Board

[et_pb_section admin_label=”section”][et_pb_row admin_label=”row”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Intro Text” background_layout=”light” text_orientation=”left” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]


The mission of the NFCR Scientific Advisory Board is to provide scientific, strategic, and clinical guidance and direction for NFCR basic science and translational research programs. Directed by Webster Cavenee, PhD, the NFCR Scientific Advisory Board is comprised of leaders in cancer research who have made significant breakthroughs in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, scientists who are committed to furthering NFCR’s unwavering commitment to funding research that will cure cancer—all types of cancer.

The National Foundation for Cancer Research is an innovative cancer charity with a deep scientific base and a truly collaborative approach to cancer research reaching global dimensions. Research takes time and needs unwavering support. The path from a promising discovery to an effective treatment often takes a decade or more, and the NFCR Scientific Advisory Board will play a key role in guiding and prioritizing NFCR’s global research program, prioritizing the connections between basic and clinical research, translating discoveries in the laboratory into health benefits for patients—giving reason to hope in the progress being made against cancer—new treatments brought into the clinic, patients saved, and cures delivered.

“Research will cure cancer, and NFCR is about research,” said Sujuan Ba, PhD, NFCR President. “This Scientific Advisory Board will be about creating an environment that works to liberate science—an architecture for discovery, and the roadmap to new approaches for treating cancer.” This distinguished group will work closely with NFCR leadership to explore ways to accelerate the development successful treatments and ultimately a cure.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_button admin_label=”Button” button_url=”” url_new_window=”off” button_text=”View Press Release” button_alignment=”center” background_layout=”light” custom_button=”off” button_letter_spacing=”0″ button_use_icon=”default” button_icon_placement=”right” button_on_hover=”on” button_letter_spacing_hover=”0″] [/et_pb_button][et_pb_divider admin_label=”Divider” color=”#ffffff” show_divider=”on” divider_style=”solid” divider_position=”top” hide_on_mobile=”on” divider_weight=”5″] [/et_pb_divider][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text” background_layout=”light” text_orientation=”left” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

Science Advisory Board Members

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_toggle admin_label=”Webster K. Cavenee (Director, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research)” title=”Webster K. Cavenee (Director, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research)” open=”on” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

web caveneeDr. Cavenee is a Professor of Medicine at the University of California at San Diego. Dr. Cavenee’s research is directed at defining the genetic lesions in human cancer, determining their physiological significance and using such information for therapeutic approaches.  His current interests include the malignant progression of astrocytic (brain) tumors, the role of DNA methylation in tumor initiation, the differentiation pathways of astrocytes and the role of fusion transcription factors in pediatric neoplasms.

Dr. Cavenee received his Ph.D. with honors in 1977 from the University of Kansas Medical School and then did postdoctoral work at the Jackson Laboratory, MIT and the University of Utah.  He held faculty positions at the University of Cincinnati and McGill University.  Since 1991, he has been the Director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the University of California at San Diego.

Dr. Cavenee is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine and he is a Past-President of the American Association for Cancer Research, a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, a Fellow of the International Union Against Cancer and an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation.  He serves on the editorial boards of several journals as well as the scientific advisory boards of several companies and private foundations and has also served on the Boards of Scientific Counselors of the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.  He has published over 300 scientific papers and received more than 80 honors, most notably the Rhoads Award of the American Association for Cancer Research, the Charles S. Mott Prize of the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation and the Albert Szent-Gyorgyi Award from the National Foundation for Cancer Research.

[/et_pb_toggle][et_pb_toggle admin_label=”Peter Vogt (Professor, Scripps Research Institute)” title=”Peter Vogt (Professor, Scripps Research Institute)” open=”on” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

vogtPeter K. Vogt is an American molecular biologist, virologist and geneticist. His research focuses on retroviruses and viral and cellular oncogenes.

Vogt received his undergraduate education in biology at the University of Würzburg and in 1959 was awarded his Ph.D. at the University of Tübingen for work done at the Max Planck Institute for Virology in Tübingen. From 1959 to 1962 he was Damon Runyon Cancer Research Fellow in the laboratory of Harry Rubin at the University of California in Berkeley and started work on Rous sarcoma virus. He taught microbiology and molecular biology to medical and graduate students at the University of Colorado in Denver (1962–1967) and the University of Washington in Seattle (1967–1971). In 1971, he joined the University of Southern California as Hastings Professor of Microbiology and in 1980 assumed the chairmanship of the Department of Microbiology at the School of Medicine. Since 1993, he has been a Professor at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. He became Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at Scripps in 2012.

At the beginning of his scientific career, Vogt studied mechanisms of retroviral cell entry and the role of viral surface proteins in determining host range. He defined related groups of viral surface proteins and their corresponding receptors on the cell surface. During his time in Seattle, his focus shifted to the genetics of retroviruses. Together with his associate Kumao Toyoshima, he isolated the first temperature sensitive mutants of a retrovirus and in collaboration with the biochemist Peter Duesberg discovered the first retroviral oncogene, src. His work on mutants of the Rous sarcoma virus enabled Michael Bishop and Harold Varmus to isolate DNA sequences that represent the src oncogene and to demonstrate the cellular origin of oncogenes. In his extensive studies on avian retroviruses, Vogt discovered oncogenes that play important roles in human cancers, e.g. myc (in collaboration with Bister and Duesberg), jun (with Maki and Bos) and p3k (with Chang).

Vogt has received the Irene Vogeler Prize (1976),[citation needed] the Alexander von Humboldt Award (1984),[citation needed] the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine (1985),[citation needed] the Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Award (1987),[citation needed] the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize (1988),[citation needed] the Bristol Myers Award (1989),[citation needed] the Charles S. Mott Prize (1991)[citation needed] and the Albert Szent Györgyi Prize (2010). He holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Würzburg (since 1995) and has been elected to several academies, including the National Academy of Sciences USA, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the American Academy of Microbiology.[citation needed] He is on several scientific advisory and editorial boards, e. g. the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research (since 2005),[citation needed] the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (since 2000) and Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology (since 1967).

[/et_pb_toggle][et_pb_toggle admin_label=”Frederick W. Alt (Professor, Harvard Medical School)” title=”Frederick W. Alt (Professor, Harvard Medical School)” open=”on” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

2_Alt_FrederickDr. Frederick Alt is currently the Director of the Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine (formerly the Immune Disease Institute) at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Alt has been Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School since 1991 and Charles A. Janeway Professor of Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital since 1993. Prior to 1991, Dr. Alt was on the faculty at Columbia University. He earned his Ph.D. with distinction from the Stanford University Department of Biological Sciences in 1977. Dr. Alt is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Dr. Alt has won numerous honors for biomedical research including the Stanford University Medical Center Arthur Kornberg and Paul Berg Lifetime Achievement Award in Biomedical Science, and the National Cancer Institute’s Alfred Knudson Award for “Pioneering contributions that have revolutionized the field of cancer genetics.” Each year the Cancer Research Institute of New York presents the Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Cancer Immunology in his honor. Dr. Alt’s impact extends far beyond his own laboratory, for not only is he an outstanding researcher; he is also an exemplary teacher. In 2003 he received the American Association of Immunologists Excellence in Mentoring Award. Dr. Alt has mentored over 100 students and research fellows, many of whom have become leaders in immunology, genetics, or cancer biology.

[/et_pb_toggle][et_pb_toggle admin_label=”Kanaga Sabapathy (Scientific Director, National Cancer Center, Singapore)” title=”Kanaga Sabapathy (Scientific Director, National Cancer Center, Singapore)” open=”on” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

kangaKanaga Sabapathy obtained his B.Sc (Hons) degree in Zoology from the NUS, and then his Ph.D. in Molecular & Cellular Immunology from the IMCB, Singapore, in 1995. His post-doctoral work was conducted at the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna with Dr Erwin Wagner, studying the c-Jun-N-terminal kinase stress signaling pathway, using genetically-engineered mice. He moved to the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) in late 1999 as the Principal Investigator of the Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis, and since 2013, is the overall Head of the Division of Cellular & Molecular Research, overseeing NCCS’ research activities.

He is also the Research Director of the Academic Clinical Program in Oncology at SingHealth. Dr Sabapathy is a Professor with the Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Program at Duke-NUS; a joint Professor with the Department of Biochemistry at NUS and a joint Research Director at the IMCB. Dr Sabapathy is a Fellow to the Royal College of Pathologists (UK), and was recently awarded the inaugural National Research Foundation Investigatorship award (Class of 2015) in recognition of his work, to further his investigations on ground-breaking, high-risk research.

[/et_pb_toggle][et_pb_toggle admin_label=”Ruggero De Maria (Director, Regina Elena Cancer Center, Rome)” title=”Ruggero De Maria (Director, Regina Elena Cancer Center, Rome)” open=”on” use_border_color=”off” border_color=”#ffffff” border_style=”solid”]

De MariaRuggero De Maria graduated in Medicine in 1989 and specialized in Endocrinology in 1994. Dr. De Maria has been Scientific Director of the Regina Elena National Cancer Institute (Rome, Italy) since November 2011. He was appointed this position by the Italian Minister of Health for a five year term. His main effort is to create a productive synergy between basic and clinical research. Throughout the years, Dr. De Maria has gained international recognition for his research activity on cancer stem cells (CSCs), a rare population of cells responsible for tumor initiation and growth. During his term as Head of the Department of Hematology, Oncology and Molecular Medicine at the National Institute of Health, Rome (Istituto Superiore di Sanità) from 2008 to 2011 his research team was the first to isolate CSCs from colon and lung cancers and develop innovative CSC-based preclinical models of these tumors.

Moreover, he has published several seminal articles on glioblastoma stem cells. De Maria’s current research programs are centred on the molecular characterization of CSCs with the aim of discovering innovative biomarkers and molecular targets to improve cancer management and develop novel cancer therapies. Other research interests comprise the study of microRNA and the microenvironment in solid tumors. From this year 2013, De Maria has also been appointed President of the Italian ACC Association (Alleanza Contro il Cancro/Alliance in the fight against Cancer) until 2018. He currently holds several Editorial Board positions on internationally renowned scientific journals such as Cell Death and Disease; Oncogene; Cell Death and Differentiation. He has published over 140 original peer-reviewed scientific articles and reviews in the most important journals including Nature; Science; Nat Med; Nat Immunal; J Exp Med. De Maria also sits on various prestigious Advisory Board Committees such as the Pezcoller Foundation AACR International Award, AACR INNOVATOR Award, Veronesi Foundation, AIRC and InBev-BAILLET LATOUR Health Prize.


Read more