Division of Hematology and Oncology News & Job Opportunities
Please join us in congratulating Dr. Theresa Keegan who recently received an award to study “Disparities in Late Medical Conditions among AYA Cancer Survivors.” This grant is funded by the Rich and Weissman Family Lymphoma and Survivorship Fund, a St. Baldrick’s Hero Fund. Jared Weissman is a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor thanks to a clinical trial made possible by research. He was diagnosed at the age of 13 and endured grueling but life-saving treatment which inspired this Hero Fund. The fund honors Jared’s survivorship and his grandparents, Terri and Barry Rich who have been his biggest supporters, by focusing on research for new treatment options for cures and less toxic after effects for survivors. To learn more about this St. Baldrick’s Hero Fund visit: https://www.stbaldricks.org/hero-funds/richweissman/.
David R. Gandara, professor and director of thoracic oncology at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, has been named a “Giant of Cancer Care” in lung cancer by OncLive in recognition of his work to advance the field of oncology through his contributions in research and clinical practice.
Co-authors David Gandara and Achim Rittmeyer will have the results of their clinical trial published in the prestigious Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology journal. Their research reveals an improvement in treatment for patients with non- small cell lung cancer (NSCLC.) The results of the trial reveal that using the monoclonal antibody atezolizumab to target PD-L1, a ligand component of the PD-1 receptor, is a valid therapeutic option for patients with NSCLC. An increase in median overall survival was demonstrated, and a long term follow-up of patients will be conducted to evaluate other potential clinical benefits.
Theresa Keegan, PhD receives CRCC Award to study Cancer Disparities in Young Adults with Medicaid Insurance
Improving the quality of cancer treatment and survivorship care for adolescents and young adults (AYAs) diagnosed with cancer between 15 and 39 years of age has become a priority in the US because this group has not experienced the survival gains enjoyed by other age groups over the past two decades. Factors contributing to lesser progress in survival include poor access to health and supportive care, as AYAs have historically been the most highly uninsured in the US.
California studies found an over 50% increased risk of cancer mortality among AYAs without private insurance. Most states extend Medicaid coverage at cancer diagnosis, but this does not address the benefits of early cancer screening or other preventative care. Previous studies have not focused on continuous Medicaid enrollment in the highly uninsured AYA population or compared outcomes to AYAs with private insurance to estimate the potential gap in quality of care. This project will link Medicaid enrollment with California Cancer Registry data for AYAs diagnosed with the twelve most common cancers during 2001-2013 and determine the impact of health insurance and its relation to diagnosis, timing and type of treatment and cancer-specific survival. This information will be used to provide data for studies to address healthcare utilization, effects on cancer outcomes and improve quality of cancer care.
Ted Wun and Theresa Keegan Receive NIH R21 Award to Study Malignancies in Sickle Cell Disease Patients
Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited blood disorder associated with intermittent episodes of severe pain and chronic end organ dysfunction. Although the mutation that causes sickle hemoglobin does not itself cause malignancies, small case series have hinted at increased incidence of cancers in patients with sickle cell disease. There is a plausible link between the high cellular turnover and chronic inflammation seen in SCD and incident cancer. In this R21 grant, funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, a novel linkage between the California Cancer Registry and the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development databases will be analyzed to determine incident cancers in patients with SCD and determine if excess risk exists. As SCD patient survival improves, it will be important to increase our knowledge of SCD complications, including cancer. Findings will have implications for increasing cancer screening and improving overall health management for SCD patients. Drs. Keegan and Wun are co-Principal Investigators of the grant. Ann Brunson, MS, Senior Statistician in the Division of Hematology Oncology will also provide key expertise in analysis of the epidemiological data.
Sutcliffe Team Realizes Long Awaited Goal with eIND approval from FDA
Julie Sutcliffe, along with members of her team, Sven Hausner, Ryan Davis and others, have obtained approval from the FDA to use their peptide in human studies in order to benefit cancer patients. The Sutcliffe laboratory focuses on developing rapid radiolabeling and screening approaches to expedite the translation of radiolabeled compounds for imaging from the bench to the bedside. Their recent efforts in the development of peptide-based molecular imaging agents has led to the identification of a bi- PEGylated peptide that has shown good affinity and selectivity towards the integrin alpha(v)beta(6) with promising pharmacokinetics and tumor uptake in animal models. This compound is the foundation for their first-in-human study.
This novel molecular imaging agent targets the integrin αvβ6, which is an epithelial-specific cell surface receptor that is undetectable in healthy adult epithelium but is significantly upregulated in a wide range of epithelial derived cancers. This receptor is often localized to the invasive front and infiltrating edges of tumors and plays a key role in invasion and metastasis and its expression is often associated with poor prognosis. With the unique expression of αvβ6 being a predictor of decreased progression free survival, response rate and overall survival, it is believed that there is an opportunity to utilize αvβ6 for both diagnostic and therapeutic measures vital to the future management of a very wide range of invasive diseases.
Sutcliffe proposes a first-in-human study that will involve PET/CT imaging in a total of 30 human subjects. She and her research team will coordinate this study along with the nuclear medicine team and referring oncologists of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Phase I Malignancies Innovation Group to determine efficacy, biodistribution of compound in tissues of patients and evaluate whether the compound accumulation observed by PET correlates with the expression of αvβ6 in excised cancer tissue for further clinical development.
Theresa Keegan, PhD has been awarded the Tony Phillips Research Award from the Children’s Miracle Network. She has been approved for two years of funding with the aim to improve the health and welfare of children with her research into “Complications, Early Death and Survival Among Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults with Acute Leukemia in California.”
Edward Kim, M.D., Ph.D. has been selected to receive a competitive CTSC Highly Innovative Award entitled: “Sensitization of Pancreatic Cancer Organoids to Arginine Deprivation with miR-1291.” This would test the effectiveness of miR-1291 in lowering argininosuccinate synthetase levels in pancreatic cancer cells and evaluate the therapeutic efficacy of combining miR-1291 and arginine deiminase in human pancreatic cancer patient-derived organoids. This project represents one approach to the goal of developing and advancing novel therapies to satisfy the urgent need for new therapeutic options for pancreatic cancer patients. This project capitalizes on Dr. Kim's existing program to establish a living and renewable biorepository of patient derived pancreatic cancer models called organoids grown directly from patients' tumors. The organoid model is a cost-effective and efficient system for recapitulating patient heterogeneity that can be used to rapidly test new therapies.
Dr. Lara serving as Interim Director of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center
Primo “Lucky” Lara, a medical oncologist with UC Davis Division of Hematology and Oncology, will serve as interim director of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, as a national search is performed for a new director to replace Dr. Ralph de Vere White who recently retired after serving for 20 years. Dr. Lara has been on the faculty at University of California Davis since 1999 and is currently the associate director for translational research. His research fields include therapeutics in lung, prostate and bladder cancer. He also is principal investigator of several national clinical trials. “While it’s impossible to match Ralph’s energy and exuberance our intent is to build on his vision and the momentum he’s created here at the cancer center,” Lara said, in a news release.