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Funds Support New Cancer Research Seeking Better Testing, Therapies

The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital is among supporters providing funds for seven new projects aimed at accelerating the pace of innovative cancer research and programs in a variety of areas including breast, blood, cervical and esophageal diseases. Thanks to this funding, the Siteman Cancer Center disbursed $2.1 million in new grants on January 1, 2019. The projects are described below:

Improving colon cancer screening in rural communities

Colon cancer mortality is higher in Midwestern rural areas where screening for this type of cancer is relatively low.  To increase testing and improve follow-up diagnostics, Aimee James, PhD, and her team are partnering with Southern Illinois Healthcare to develop a multi-level intervention at primary care clinics in rural Southern Illinois.

Therapy to treat acute myeloid leukemia

This project focuses on completing the required pre-clinical studies needed to launch a trial of a two-drug combination aimed at treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Both drugs are FDA approved, are orally available and have well-characterized and tolerable side effects, but have not yet been tested together in a human clinical trial.  The principal investigator is John Welch, MD, PhD.

Bacteria as a predictor of esophageal cancer

Cancer of the esophagus, the long, hollow tube that runs from the throat to the stomach, has increased almost seven-fold over the last four decades in the U.S.  Known as esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC), it is highly lethal, with 80 percent of EAC patients succumbing to the disease within five years. This research, which is divided into two projects, will examine the relationship between bacteria in a patient’s oral cavity and the risk of developing EAC or Barrett's esophagus, a precancerous condition.  The principal investigator is Yin Cao, ScD.

Obesity and the efficacy of cervical cancer radiation treatment

Principal investigator Julie Schwarz, MD, PhD, and her team will explore why obese patients treated with radiation therapy for cervical cancer have better response rates than other patients. They will study why cervical cancer cells take up fatty acids after radiation, resulting in cell signaling changes that can destroy the tumors. The ultimate goal is to identify a dietary supplement or drug that can be given to patients to promote better treatment responses.

Lidocaine to reduce chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy

The chemotherapy drug oxaliplatin is a key agent used to treat colorectal cancer, however it injures sensory nerves in 72 percent of patients receiving treatment. This nerve damage, called peripheral neuropathy (PN), can cause substantial pain, numbness and sensory changes such as extreme sensitivity to cold.  PN leads to dose reduction or early discontinuation of oxaliplatin in 50 to 70 percent of patients, decreasing their survival time. Principal investigator Simon Haroutounian, PhD, and his team will study whether intravenous lidocaine, which is used to treat pain, can reduce the occurrence and severity of oxaliplatin-induced PN.

Genetics of triple negative breast cancer cells

Treatment of triple negative breast cancer is challenging because of a lack of new and highly effective therapies. This subset of breast cancer patients has a high risk of disease recurrence and death when traditional chemotherapy is used. Principal investigators Rebecca Aft, MD, PhD, Mark Watson, MD, PhD, and, Leonel Hernandez-Aya, MD, have developed a very sensitive molecular biomarker test that can identify triple negative breast cancer patients whose tumor cells have spread to their bone marrow and have a high risk of cancer recurrence. In this project, researchers will isolate and further characterize the genetics of patients’ tumor cells to better understand how to develop new therapies to destroy cancer cells and prevent metastatic disease.

Advancing therapies for incurable lymphomas

Principal investigators Todd Fehniger, MD, PhD, and Brad Kahl, MD, are conducting studies in a number of areas aimed at finding better treatments for incurable lymphoma and predictors of different forms of lymphoma.  The projects include investigating new immunotherapy and chemotherapy treatments and translating genetic findings into ways to develop personalized lymphoma-specific vaccine therapies. The hope is that these projects will include or lead to new clinical trials for lymphoma patients.

To support the Siteman Cancer Center and leading-edge research please call 314-286-0600 or make a gift online.

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