2002 & 2003

2002

In 2002, the Summer Research Participation Program – the nation's oldest, continuous summer research program for talented and gifted high school and college juniors – celebrates its 50th anniversary.

A research team at RPCI, led by Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, Department of Gynecologic Oncology, identified beta 1,4-galactotransferase (b1,4GalT) as a potential biomarker for detecting early recurrence of ovarian cancer after primary therapy.

A team of researchers led by Margot Ip, PhD, Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, RPCI, reports that conjugated linoleic acid CLA, a fatty acid found in meat and dairy products, appears to be a non-toxic approach to prevent breast cancer development in animal models.

A novel chemotherapy agent (taxoid IDN-5109), first evaluated at Roswell Park, has been found to be superior to other taxoids (paclitaxel and docetaxel) in treating P-glycoprotein (Pgp)-expressing, multidrug-resistant breast and colon tumor cell lines. Ralph J. Bernacki, PhD, Michael R. Vrendenburg and others from the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics worked on this project.

Data from a study, coordinated by Kirsten Moysich, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, RPCI suggest that regular use of acetaminophen, but not aspirin, may be associated with a lower risk of ovarian cancer.

A new clinical study at RPCI examines the feasibility, safety and effectiveness of treating patients who have inoperable or recurrent sarcoma (soft tissue cancer), melanoma (a type of skin cancer), breast cancer and ovarian cancer with a combination of low-level whole body hyperthermia (LL-WBH) [increasing the body’s temperature to the fever range] and the chemotherapeutic agent Doxil.   The study also compares the pharmacokinetics (how the body absorbs, distributes, metabolizes and excretes a drug) of Doxil given alone and in combination with LL-WBH, and evaluates the effects of the combined therapy on the immune system and response rates.

The marketing tactics from the tobacco industry’s corporate sanctum are dissected in Tobacco Control, a journal edited by K. Michael Cummings, PhD, MPH, Chair, Cancer Prevention, Epidemiology and Biostatistics. The supplement is devoted to discoveries and disclosures from corporate documents released from the major tobacco companies under an agreement with several state attorneys general.

2003

In 2003, a team of cancer researchers, including Hiroki Nagase, PhD, Department of Cancer Genetics, identified functional genetic variants of a gene called Aurora2 that may increase susceptibility to cancer development. The results offer an example of a method to identify common genetic variants that increase the likelihood of cancer developing in an individual.

The incidence of childhood thyroid cancer, while rare, has increased up to 200% in children exposed to nuclear fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl accident. RPCI researcher Lesleyann Hawthorn, PhD, is leading an international effort to genetically profile childhood thyroid tumors in search of a genetic link to this increased incidence. RPCI will genetically profile tumor samples from pediatric patients exposed to radiation by scanning their genome for alterations in gene expression patterns. In addition, tumor samples will be scanned for chromosomal abnormalities using novel microarray technologies available at RPCI.

A minimally-invasive surgical technique, video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), may prove to be optimal therapy for frail and high-risk lung cancer patients, according to a study by Todd Demmy, MD, Chief of Thoracic Surgery, RPCI. Each year, more than one million surgical chest procedures are performed in the United States for heart and lung diseases and other serious illnesses. With VATS, patients experience less pain, less scarring, shorter hospital stays, and in many cases return to normal activities sooner.

A new study by Stephen B. Edge, MD, Chair of Breast and Soft Tissue Surgery, suggests that surgeons are routinely performing an investigational procedure called sentinel node biopsy on women with early-stage breast cancer, which, the investigators say, may be affecting the generalizability of ongoing trials of the procedure.

Marwan G. Fakih, MD, Department of Medicine, is the principal investigator of two Phase III clinical studies which compares standard chemotherapy with and without the drug, PTK787/ZK 222584, for patients with colorectal cancer. RPCI is one of over 100 centers nationwide and 21 centers around the world participating in the trials.

In August 2003, RPCI announced that the US Food and Drug Administration approved PHOTOFRIN photodynamic therapy (PDT) in the treatment of high-grade dysplasia associated with Barrett’s esophagus. Thomas J. Dougherty, PhD, and colleagues at RPCI, developed PHOTOFRIN and PDT and Hector Nava, MD, RPCI, was the first to apply PDT with PHOTOFRIN to patients with this potentially life-threatening disease.The clinical study for the FDA showed that patients receiving PDT were more likely to achieve complete reversal of their pre-cancerous lesions in Barrett's esophagus compared to those who did not receive PDT. Two-year follow-up data indicated that patients had an 80% chance of being cancer-free after PDT, whereas patients who did not receive PDT had a 50% chance of being cancer-free.

Previous cancer treatment in childhood and adolescence does not seem to impact the ability of men to father children and have healthy offspring, according to a study published by lead investigator Daniel M. Green, MD, Department of Pediatrics.

More than 8.6 million Americans currently suffer from one or more serious illnesses due to cigarette smoking, according to a study published recently in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The study, conducted by RPCI researchers provides a national estimate of the number of people who have serious illnesses caused by smoking. The shows that for every death from smoking, there are another 20 people living with at least one serious illness caused by smoking, said Andrew Hyland, PhD, Department of Health Behavior and lead author of the study.

RPCI is now offering an innovative treatment option to select patients with gastrointestinal and other abdominal cancers that have spread to the peritoneum. In some studies, intraperitoneal hyperthermic chemoperfusion has at least doubled the survival rates in diseases that were previously fatal within one to two years following diagnosis.

African-American men are known to be at greater risk for developing and dying from prostate cancer. A pilot study authored by principal investigator James Mohler, MD, Chair, Department of Urologic Oncology, reports that racial differences in the androgenic stimulation of the prostate could be the reason prostate cancer occurs at a younger age and progresses more rapidly in African than Caucasian Americans

RPCI is evaluating the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine in patients with ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancers. Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Department of Surgery, is the principal investigator of the studies.

Initial data from the Gene Expression Nervous System Atlas (GENSAT) BAC Transgenics Project published recently in Nature are revealing new information about brain development, and providing a rich resource that will allow a broad array of investigations not previously available to the neuroscience community. Norma Nowak, PhD, director of the Microarray and Genomics Facility, RPCI, and director of Scientific Planning for the Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics, University at Buffalo collaborated with researchers from around the United States on this large-scale effort to identify gene-expression profiles of individual neurons in genetically-engineered mice and create a demographic atlas of the brain.

RPCI is offering an innovative treatment option for patients with inoperable liver tumors. Radio frequency ablation (RFA) uses high-energy radio frequency sound waves to “vibrate” tumor cells. The alternating current of radiofrequency heats and destroys tumors in the liver. This technology has a low complication rate, does not require major surgery and is considered quite safe.