Research Cures Cancer: Sylvester Firsts
Sylvester is leading the way in cancer research, treatment, and prevention. Its teams of cancer experts have developed or are pioneering among the most innovative strategies to fight some of the most aggressive and deadly forms of cancer. Below are examples of the efforts of Sylvester’s brilliant research teams.
Dr. Vinata Lokeshwar has developed several urine- and tissue-based biomarkers for bladder cancer which allow early detection, noninvasive monitoring of recurrence and prediction of metastasis. Florida ranks # 1 in bladder cancer cases. These diagnostic tests, developed with NIH funding, are being tested at multi-center sites.
Breast cancer researchers have been awarded a prestigious Department of Defense Synergistic Idea Award, one of just 12 such grants in the U.S. The two-year grant will examine the genetic differences found in African-American breast cancer patients, who suffer more devastating forms of breast cancer and a higher death rate from the disease.
Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Dr. Mark Pegram and Dr. Richard Cote received a Challenge Grant to study the effectiveness of neoadjuvant platinum in treating triple negative breast cancer, a highly aggressive cancer.
A team of researchers has started the first phase of a $4 million National Institutes of Health-funded study of the effects of stress management in black women with breast cancer. Using a group approach, the study dubbed Project CARE, is designed to help women Cope, Adapt, Renew and Empower one another following their treatment.
Dr. Joyce Slingerland, director of the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute at Sylvester, has investigated molecular causes of resistance to hormonal therapy for breast cancer and found a promising new role for Src inhibitors. Over a decade of research has led to a novel clinical trial combining Anastrozole (an aromatase inhibitor) with AZD0530 (a Src inhibitor). Dr. Mark Pegram is collaborating as they test this new therapy in post-menopausal women with locally advanced, hormone receptor positive and HER2- breast cancer. A completed trial in women with metastatic breast cancer showed this new drug combination is well tolerated and its potential for efficacy is being further evaluated in a Phase II study now underway.
Head & Neck Cancer
Dr. Elizabeth Franzmann has developed and is working with a saliva-based oral rinse to detect early-stage head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. This detection is showing great promise which is very encouraging as most head and neck cancers are detected in late stage, leading to a poorer prognosis.
Dr. Eckhard Podack has developed a novel immune-based therapy for lung cancer. He has devised a vaccine in which a protein called GP-96-Ig presents small bits of protein antigens secreted by lung cancer cells. This is recognized by the immune system, triggering a much stronger immune response. Dr. Luis Raez is leading clinical trials that are underway for end-stage lung cancer patients.
Dr. Joseph Rosenblatt is leading a Phase II multi-site clinical trial of a novel therapy to treat rare anaplastic lymphoma. The therapy, SGN-35, now FDA-approved and sold as Adcentris, began as a monoclonal antibody (SGN-30) developed years ago by another Sylvester researcher. SGN-30 was then sold to a drug company which enhanced it by adding a chemotherapy drug, creating SGN-35.
Dr. Richard Cote, a nationally recognized expert on cellular and molecular markers of tumor progression in cancer patients is developing a nano-scale filter to trap and identify circulating tumor cells in the blood before they reach the liver, brain or lymph nodes.
Under the leadership of Dr. John Goldberg, Sylvester will begin offering the first radioactive MIBG protocol in the state of Florida to treat neuroblastoma. Patients are infused with a radioactive compound, which goes to the tumor, wiping it out before being excreted through the urine over several days. During the course of treatment, the patient is kept isolated in a room with lead shields. Fewer than 10 centers nationwide offer this treatment.
Brain Tumor Vaccine
A brain tumor vaccine, first tested in mice by a Sylvester researcher, has been successfully tested in Belgium. Dr. Goldberg is now enhancing that vaccine and submitting an investigational new drug (IND) application to the FDA. He hopes to begin treating patients by the end of summer with this novel therapy that is funded by Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program.\
Another novel vaccine is being developed to treat sarcoma based on the brain tumor technology and will be ready for clinical trial by the end of this year or the first quarter of 2011. This project involves collaboration with the University of Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center, demonstrating Sylvester researchers’ ability to expand their work in the hopes of reaching more patients. The team is applying for a Bankhead-Coley Team Science Project for funding.
(Note: Sylvester is the only university-based pediatric oncology group in South Florida; its pediatric programs are on the same campus as the cancer center allowing for a more integrated multi-disciplinary approach to fighting cancer in the youngest patients.)
Dr. Rakesh Singal has discovered that a novel mechanism called DNA methylation can lead to cancer cell resistance to the commonly used anti-prostate cancer drug docetaxel. This happens, in part, by shutting down synthesis of the GADD45 protein, a regulator of cancer cell response to DNA damage. Restoring GADD45 synthesis to normal levels appears to make cells susceptible to docetaxel. Dr. Singal has just completed Phase I of a groundbreaking trial using a methylation inhibitor to restore docetaxel sensitivity.
Dr. Glen Barber, Dr. Juan Carlos Ramos and Dr. Edward Harhaj have been awarded a five-year, $8 million, multi-investigator grant from the National Institutes of Health-National Cancer Institute to uncover the mechanisms that suppress the body’s innate immune system from fighting viral-based cancers. The work of these scientists will include a clinical trial and collaboration with researchers in Brazil.