Research Programs

The Cancer Consortium is organized into nine highly collaborative research programs that are discipline or disease specific, bringing together over 650 faculty with research interests in basic, clinical/translational, public health sciences and global health.
 

Biostatistics & Computational Biology

Program Leaders — Phil Bradley, PhD; Charles Kooperberg, PhD

Associate Program Leader — Patrick Heagerty, PhD

The Biostatistics and Computational Biology Program is a collaborative entity that carries out quantitative and computational research in a variety of areas relevant to understanding a variety of issues related to cancer. Program interests span a range of activities, from the technical development of quantitative or experimental methodologies to activities that emphasis substantive research programs in epidemiology, to biological research programs that use experimental approaches alongside computational methods.   Program strengths include the development of rigorous statistical and mathematical methods for personalized medicine and molecular diagnostics, understanding the molecular biology and the adaptive immune response, and the development of a variety of statistical, computational and experimental approaches that address high impact opportunities in cancer research – including methods for the analysis of complex association studies and longitudinal data, and experimental/computational methods characterize variations in quantity, sequence, and structure of the human genome, transcriptome, and proteome. 

 

Breast & Ovary Cancers

Program Leaders — Nancy Davidson, MD; Liz Swisher, MD
Associate Program Leaders — Barbara Goff, MD; Julie Gralow, MD 

Cancers of the breast and ovary together account for a high proportion of cancer deaths in women. These cancers share a number of common themes including derivation from hormonally responsive tissues in women, shared genetic susceptibility, increased risk based on reproductive behaviors, defects in DNA repair, and overlapping molecular alterations and therapeutic targets. Both breast and ovary cancers represent a heterogeneous group of cancers that are increasingly treated according to specific histological and molecular subtypes. Ovary cancer actually represents a group of cancers arising in the fallopian tube, ovary, and peritoneum. The most lethal ovary cancer, high-grade serous, is often compared to the most lethal breast cancer, the so-called triple-negative breast cancer (hormone receptor negative and non-HER2 overexpressing). These two cancers are frequently caused by inherited susceptibility, often secondary to mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, and commonly have defects in homologous recombination directed DNA repair, increasing their susceptibility to PARP inhibitors, ionizing radiation, and specific cancer therapeutics, including platinum compounds. Other subsets of breast and ovary cancer are oncogene driven (HER2, MYC, PIK3CA), and rare cancers have defects in DNA mismatch repair. We can increasingly apply clinical strategies across breast and ovary cancer according to their molecular defects.

Our catchment area has higher than average rates of both breast and ovary cancers making our research and clinical efforts of critical importance to our population. Survivors of breast and ovary cancers share many of the same challenges, and we are increasingly investigating and applying common interventions for survivors of either cancer including exercise, stress reduction, and cognitive rehabilitation. Importantly genetic risk recognition is critical and similar between these cancer types and often identifies our breast cancer survivors to be at risk for ovary cancer and vice versa. While commonalities between breast and ovary cancers are clear, there are important distinctions that represent clinical challenges. Effective early detection exists for breast but not ovary cancer, and most women with ovary but not breast cancer present with advanced stage (III or IV) disease, resulting in a higher mortality to case ratio.

Cancer Basic Biology

Program Leaders — Jonathan Cooper, PhD; Ray Monnat, MD
Associate Program Leaders — Barry Gumbiner, PhD; David MacPherson PhD

This program has a sharp focus on cancer basic biology and translational science and active research and accomplishments in many of the key areas and growing points for cancer biology and translational cancer medicine.  The Cancer Basic Biology Program aims to understand the basic nuclear and cellular mechanisms that regulate the normal and transformed phenotype; to develop new molecular approaches and tools to advance disease diagnosis and therapy; and to develop with other Consortium programs the intellectual and technical infrastructure to advance translational cancer research. 

Cancer Epidemiology, Prevention & Control

Program Leaders — Kathi Malone, PhD; Marian Neuhouser, PhD
Associate Program Leaders — Peggy Hannon, MPH, PhD; Scott Ramsey, MD, PhD 

The goals of the Cancer Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control Program are to reduce cancer incidence and mortality through research on genetic and environmental causes of cancer, risk reduction, early detection, and improved treatment outcomes among both general and targeted populations.  An important aspect of this research is translation of findings into practice.  The scientific goals for the CEPC Program are as follows:

  1. Discover and characterize genetic and environmental causes of human cancer and its progression, with expanded research emphasis on the identification of underlying mechanisms.
  2. Identify and evaluate cancer screening and surveillance methods that can be readily translated into clinical practice and health policy, with an emphasis on underserved populations.
  3. Develop and implement strategies to enhance cancer survivorship and improve cancer treatment effectiveness.
  4. Conduct rigorous clinical and community-based intervention studies in targeted and general populations to identify ways to reduce cancer morbidity and mortality.

Cancer Immunology

Program Leaders — Marie Bleakley, MD, PhD; Cameron Turtle, MBBS, PhD
Associate Program Leaders — McGarry Houghton, MD

Over the past decade, immunotherapy has emerged as an established modality that is revolutionizing the treatment of many cancers. This program focuses on genetically manipulating T cells, applying new principles of synthetic biology, and combining engineered T cells with small molecules and antibodies to broaden the applications and improve the safety and efficacy of adoptive immunotherapy. Despite the success achieved with immunologic approaches in treating some malignancies, major gaps exist in our current understanding of the complex relationship between progressing tumors and host immunity. The CI program aims to systematically tackling these barriers to eradicating tumors using a variety of immunotherapeutic modalitie alone and in combination. 

Hematologic Malignancies

Program Leaders — Fred Appelbaum, MD; Geoff Hill, MD
Associate Program Leaders — Janis Abkowitz, MD; Hans-Peter Kiem, MD, PhD

The Hematologic Malignancy Program focuses on non-transplant molecularly targeted therapies, transplantation biology and clinical transplantation.  The goal of the Hematologic Malignancy Program is to develop a better understanding of, and treatments for, hematological malignancies. Four areas of focus predominate: (1) Myeloid Leukemia Biology; (2) Developmental Therapeutics; (3) Preclinical Transplantation Biology; and (4) Clinical Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.

Pathogen Associated Malignancies

Program Leaders —Denise Galloway, PhD; Paul Nghiem, MD, PhD 

Associate Program Leaders — Nina Salama, PhD; Hootie Warren, MD, PhD

The overall focus of this program is to study pathogen-associated malignancies (PAM) to better prevent, diagnose, and treat these cancers. We place an emphasis on studying host-pathogen interactions to identify novel vulnerabilities caused by the pathogens and will use this information to design prevention or treatment strategies. This program is focused on anogenital and oropharyngeal cancers caused by human papillomaviruses (HPV), Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) caused by Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV), gastric cancers caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), Kaposi sarcoma and other lymphomas caused by Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV), liver cancers caused by hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV, HCV), and both lymphomas and epithelial cancers caused by Epstein Barr virus (EBV). Additionally, we study the role that specific bacteria or the microbiome play in promoting cancer and in modifying response to treatment modalities.

Prostate Cancer

Program Leaders — Dan Lin, MD; Pete Nelson, MD 

Associate Program Leader — Ruth Etzioni, PhD

The primary objective of the Prostate Cancer Program is to advance and exploit scientific knowledge that will lead to a reduction in the morbidity and mortality attributed to this common and complex disease and to an improvement in patients’ quality of life. The program endorses integrated approaches involving basic scientists, population scientists and clinical investigators devoted to exploiting a fundamental understanding of cancer (and host) biology.  Thematically, the program has three primary areas of focus: 1) understanding the heritable and environmental risks contributing to prostate cancer risk and lethality; 2) targeting mechanisms contributing to castration-resistant prostate cancer progression; 3) distinguishing lethal from indolent prostate cancer through discovery and validation of prognostic biomarkers and a treatment plan that affords longitudinal assessments of risk.

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