VICC News & Publications Mon, 02 Mar 2015 23:29:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 MDS patient and family forum March 14 Mon, 02 Mar 2015 23:29:14 +0000 The Myelodysplastic Syndrome Foundation, Inc., is sponsoring a patient and caregiver forum on March 14, 2015 at the Marriott Nashville at Vanderbilt.

Michael Savona, M.D.

Michael Savona, M.D.,

The forum will feature a presentation and Q&A session with Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center’s Michael Savona, M.D., about new therapies and treatment options for MDS.

The conference runs from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and will also feature:

  • Patient Support Group Open Discussion
  • Quick Tips for Patients and Caregivers
  • The MDS Foundation’s Building Blocks of Hope

See the agenda for more details

The one-day conference is free, but registration is required.

Register for the event online or contact Deborah Murray at 1-800-637-0839 or for more information.

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‘Stretched’ cells promote cancer Thu, 26 Feb 2015 22:20:43 +0000 Interactions between tumor cells and other cell types in the surrounding microenvironment (stroma) are crucial for tumor cell growth, survival and metastatic spread. Although tumor cells are known to induce mechanical changes in their microenvironment, few studies have examined the effect of mechanical stimuli on stromal cells such as fibroblasts.

Donna Webb, Ph.D., Deyu Li, Ph.D., and colleagues used a microfluidic platform to study the effects of “stretching” human prostatic fibroblasts. They report Feb. 9 in Scientific Reports that mechanical stretching of normal tissue-associated fibroblasts (NAFs) alters the structure of the extracellular matrix protein fibronectin. While unstretched NAFs deposit and assemble fibronectin in a random, mesh-like arrangement, stretched NAFs produce matrix with a more organized, linearly aligned structure. Stretched NAFs also directed co-cultured cancer cell migration and had biochemical changes consistent with those observed in cancer-associated fibroblasts.

The findings suggest that mechanical stress is a critical factor in activating NAFs to generate cancer-associated fibroblasts.

This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (CA155572, GM092914, RR025524).

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Arteaga named a fellow of the AACR Academy Thu, 26 Feb 2015 22:13:43 +0000 Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D., director of the Center for Cancer Targeted Therapies and director of the Breast Cancer Program at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC), has been named a fellow of the AACR Academy. He is among 11 new fellows announced by the American Association for Cancer Research, the largest international cancer organization dedicated to cancer research.

Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D.

Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D.

The AACR Academy serves to recognize and honor scientists whose contributions have propelled significant innovation and progress against cancer. All fellows are nominated and elected through a peer-review process conducted by existing fellows of the AACR Academy and ratified by the AACR Executive Committee. This process involves an assessment of each candidate on the basis of his or her scientific achievements in cancer research and cancer-related biomedical science.

“I am deeply appreciative of this honor and grateful to be included in this internationally recognized group of cancer investigators,” said Arteaga, who is also the Donna S. Hall Professor of Breast Cancer and associate director for Clinical Research at VICC. “I have dedicated my academic life to cancer research and am enormously thankful of being recognized by my peers.”

AACR leaders describe the academy as a brain trust of global leaders in cancer research that is providing invaluable insights into the future of cancer research and patient care.

“Our 2015 class of fellows includes 11 luminaries in the field of cancer research, in honor of the 11 founders of the AACR in 1907. We are delighted to recognize the incredible scientific accomplishments of these illustrious researchers and celebrate how their dedicated efforts have helped accelerate the pace of progress against many of the hundreds of diseases we collectively call cancer,” said Margaret Foti, M.D., Ph.D., chief executive officer of the AACR.

The AACR will formally induct its 2015 class of elected fellows at the group’s annual meeting in Philadelphia in April.

Arteaga is leader of the NCI-funded Breast Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) at VICC and is currently serving as president of the AACR.

He has received many honors and awards, including the AACR-Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award, the American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor Award, the Gianni Bonadonna Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. He is an elected member of the Association of American Physicians and the American Society for Clinical Investigation.

Arteaga received his medical degree in 1980 from the Facultad de Ciencias Médicas at the Universidad de Guayaquil in Ecuador. Following an internal medicine residency at Emory University in Atlanta, Arteaga completed a fellowship in medical oncology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He joined the faculty at Vanderbilt University in 1989.

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Antibiotics with anticancer potential Thu, 26 Feb 2015 22:10:40 +0000 The type II topoisomerases – enzymes that manage tangles and supercoils in DNA – exist in all organisms and are important drug targets. Widely prescribed anticancer agents including etoposide and doxorubicin target human type II topoisomerases, and quinolone antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin target bacterial topoisomerases.

Clinically relevant quinolones have no activity against human type II topoisomerases, but a series of experimental quinolones have high activity against both bacterial and human topoisomerases. To understand the basis for this quinolone cross-reactivity, Neil Osheroff, Ph.D., and colleagues analyzed the activity of one of the experimental compounds (CP-115,955) and a series of related quinolones and quinazolinediones against type II topoisomerases from Bacillus anthracis and humans.

They found that CP-115,955 uses different structural features, which they defined, to recognize both bacterial and human enzymes. The findings, reported in the Feb. 10 issue of Biochemistry, suggest that the CP-115,955 series quinolones may be a good starting point for developing novel topoisomerase II-targeted drugs with anticancer potential.

This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (AI081775, AI087671, GM033944) and by a United States Veterans Administration Merit Review Award.

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Cancer survival improvements vary by age, race Thu, 26 Feb 2015 22:05:16 +0000 Improvements in cancer diagnosis and treatment have led to longer survival for most cancer patients in the United States. However, the improvement in survival was substantially greater among younger patients and those who are white in most of the cancers studied, according to new research by Vanderbilt University investigators.

The study was published online recently in JAMA Oncology.

First author and graduate student Chenjie Zeng, MPH, senior author Wei Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., Anne Potter Wilson Professor of Medicine, and their collaborators examined follow-up data from 1990 to 2010 for more than 1 million cancer patients diagnosed with cancer of the colon or rectum, breast, prostate, lung, liver, pancreas or ovary.

Chenjie Zeng, MPH

Chenjie Zeng, MPH

The data was included in nine registries of the National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program.

African-Americans experienced poorer survival than whites for all cancers, but there was variability depending on the type of cancer. For instance, the improvement in prostate cancer survival was greater for African-American men than white men, leading to a reduced racial gap in the survival of this common cancer. But African-American women with ovarian cancer had an increased risk of death over the study period, while there was slight survival improvement for white women with this cancer, widening the racial gap for ovarian cancer survival.

The data also illustrated the dramatic improvement in outcomes in recent years for most cancer among younger patients. For example, patients age 50 to 64 diagnosed with colon and rectum cancer between 2005 and 2009 had a 43 percent lower risk of death, compared with the same age groups diagnosed with this cancer between 1990 and 1994.

Wei Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., MPH

Wei Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., MPH

For patients diagnosed with breast cancer, the reduction in risk of death was 52 percent from 1990-1994 to 2005-2009, 39 percent for liver cancer and 68 percent for prostate cancer.

However, for older patients age 75 to 85, the risk of death was not reduced as much, with a 12 percent lower risk for patients with breast, colon or rectum cancer, 24 percent for those with liver cancer and 35 percent for patients with prostate cancer.

“It is important to identify reasons for the slower improvement in cancer survival in elderly Americans and reduced survival rates of ovarian cancer among black Americans to inform future improvements in cancer care for all,” said Zheng, director of the Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center and chief of the Division of Epidemiology.

The investigators said the data suggest that age- and race-related differences in survival improvements over time may be explained, at least in part, by differences in cancer care across these subpopulations.

The widening gap in cancer survival between younger and older patients may be due to differences in the use of newer treatment for elderly patients. Older patients are less likely to be enrolled in clinical trials, and thus, there is a lack of evidence regarding the efficacy of these new treatments in older patients.

The authors said their findings are a “call to action” and underscore the importance of conducting clinical trials and post-marketing studies of new therapies to identify optimal treatment regimens, necessary dose adjustments and distinct toxic effects for elderly patients.

This is particularly pressing because elderly patients constitute the fastest growing subpopulation of cancer patients in the U.S.

Investigators involved with the study include Wanqing Wen, M.D., MPH, Alicia Morgans, M.D., William Pao, M.D., Ph.D., and Xiao Ou Shu, M.D., Ph.D.

The study was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health (R37CA70867), an Ingram Professorship and the Anne Potter Wilson Chair and the Vanderbilt International Scholarship Program.

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Gene profile predicts metastasis Thu, 12 Feb 2015 22:48:54 +0000 Gene expression profiling has been applied to predict metastatic recurrence, the leading cause of deaths in patients with colorectal carcinoma. However, the biological mechanism is not completely understood, driving poor clinical outcomes.

To address this issue, Dan Beauchamp, M.D., Bing Zhang, Ph.D., and colleagues analyzed the 11 human microarray datasets from 1,295 tumor specimens as well as gene expression data from mouse models. Cells with invasiveness and metastatic capability expressed higher levels of a nuclear factor of activated T cell (NFAT), a family of transcription factors that govern functions as diverse as cell proliferation, survival and invasion.

An elevated expression level of NFATc1, a member of the NFAT family, is associated with increased colon cancer cell invasion and metastasis and poor prognosis in stage II and stage III colorectal cancer patients.

Thus, the NFATc1-driven transcriptional program represents a novel, biologically anchored gene expression signature for identifying colon cancers with high risk of metastatic recurrence, the researchers conclude in the December 1 issue of Cancer Research.

This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants GM088822, CA095103, CA158472, and CA9060625.

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BlackHawk’s support reaches milestone Thu, 12 Feb 2015 22:33:08 +0000 Blackhaw visit

Members of the country music group BlackHawk recently performed for patients in the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center Chemotherapy Infusion Clinic. Here patient Mark Ridner, left, poses with BlackHawk’s Henry Paul, Dave Robbins and Randy Threet. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Country music group BlackHawk recently presented a check for $20,000 to Harold (Hal) Moses, M.D., Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and director emeritus of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC), in support of cancer research.

Since 2006, the group has raised and donated $100,000 to VICC in remembrance of one of the original members of the multi-platinum band, Van Stephenson, who was diagnosed with melanoma in 1999 and died from the disease in 2001. Melanoma is the most lethal form of skin cancer.

In Stephenson’s memory, his BlackHawk colleagues launched the Van Stephenson Memorial Cancer Research Fund to support cancer research at VICC. The original band members, Henry Paul, guitarist and lead singer, and Dave Robbins, keyboardist and vocalist, along with current guitarist and vocalist Randy Threet, hold fundraising events and solicit donations from the audience during their performances.

“The funds that BlackHawk has raised and donated have made a real difference in our ability to accelerate research and provide better treatments for patients with malignant melanoma,” said Moses, director of the Frances Williams Preston Research Laboratories at VICC.

While about 85 percent of patients with early stage melanoma are cured, the disease still kills nearly 10,000 people in the United States every year.

“There were no advances in treatment for melanoma for nearly three decades, but in the past 10 years VICC investigators have helped lead clinical trials of new targeted therapies and we are currently working on immunotherapy that shows promise of achieving cures,” said Moses.

The recent clinical trials have already resulted in FDA approval of new targeted therapies and immunotherapy.

BlackHawk is currently touring and recently released a new CD, “Greatest Hits & More.” Some of the band’s best known songs include the No. 1 hit “Every Once In A While,” and Top 10 single “Goodbye Says It All.”

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Pink Out! game set for Sunday, Feb. 8 Thu, 05 Feb 2015 23:31:08 +0000 The stands inside Memorial Gymnasium are expected to resemble a sea of pink as fans don pink attire for the Vanderbilt Commodores Women’s Basketball game Sunday, Feb. 8, at noon.

Pinkout mascot

The Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball Pink Out! Game is set for noon on Sunday, Feb. 8, at Memorial Gymnasium.

The Commodores will play the University of Kentucky Wildcats during the annual Pink Out! Game, which is designed to raise awareness of breast cancer and to recognize current patients and survivors of the disease. The color pink has long been associated with breast cancer awareness and Commodores team members will incorporate pink in their game attire.

The “Play4Kay” initiative continues in her memory as women’s basketball teams across the country hold special events to encourage support for breast cancer research and recognition for survivors and those who passed away from the disease. The special Pink Out! event is part of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) “Play4Kay” breast cancer awareness program, named in honor of former North Carolina State University women’s head basketball coach Kay Yow. She was a past president and founding member of WBCA, and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. Yow died in 2009 after her third bout with the disease.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer among women in the United States and the National Cancer Institute estimates that 235,030 women and men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and more than 40,000 people will die from the disease.

Tickets for the Vanderbilt-Kentucky Pink Out! game are $11 for adults and $8 for children. They can be ordered online at or by calling 615-322-GOLD (4653). Tickets are also available on game day at the Memorial Gymnasium box office.

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Grant bolsters Kirschner’s prostate cancer research Thu, 05 Feb 2015 23:26:05 +0000 Austin Kirschner, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Radiation Oncology and Cancer Biology, has received the Urology Care Foundation Research Scholars Award for the study of advanced prostate cancer.

Austin Kirschner, M.D., Ph.D.

Austin Kirschner, M.D., Ph.D.

“I am very honored to receive this important award in support of research to help men with difficult-to-treat forms of prostate cancer,” said Kirschner, who joined the Vanderbilt University faculty in 2014 after completing residency in Radiation Oncology that included postdoctoral research time encouraged by the American Board of Radiology Holman Research Pathway.The $40,000 grant is funded by the American Urological Association, which has given assistance to more than 525 early career researchers.

Kirschner is studying the mechanisms that allow prostate cancer that has already spread beyond the prostate gland to resist two commonly used therapies — androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) which blocks the male hormone testosterone, and the chemotherapy docetaxel.

The focus of this study is a protein (kinase) called PIM1, which influences pathways that affect cancer cells’ ability to survive, proliferate and metastasize to distant parts of the body, and to resist various forms of treatment.

Kirschner hopes to define the interaction between PIM1 and the androgen receptor pathway and its role in tumor resistance to ADT. He is also studying how PIM1 influences tumors to develop resistance to docetaxel.

“Several PIM1 inhibitor drugs are being developed and some are already in early phase clinical trials,” explained Kirschner. “If my research identifies key mechanisms of tumor resistance to treatment, it may lead to clinical trials specifically aimed at the treatment of metastatic prostate cancer.”

The Urology Care Foundation Research Scholars Award is designed to enhance career development by providing protected research time along with mentorship for a urological research project.

Kirschner’s mentorship committee includes Robert Matusik, Ph.D., William L. Bray Professor of Urology, Michael Freeman, Ph.D., interim chair of Radiation Oncology, and Sarki Abdulkadir, M.D., Ph.D., former Vanderbilt associate professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology and of Cancer Biology, who is now a professor in Urology and Pathology at Northwestern University, Chicago.

Kirschner received his B.A. in Biochemistry and M.S. in Chemistry from New York University, and earned his M.D. and Ph.D. at Northwestern University. He completed an internship at Northshore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Illinois and his residency in Radiation Oncology at Vanderbilt.

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New certification focuses on genetics nursing Thu, 05 Feb 2015 23:22:43 +0000 A nurse practitioner at the Vanderbilt Hereditary Cancer clinic is expected to be one of the first nurses in the country to receive a newly created certification in Advanced Genetics Nursing from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Kate McReynolds, APRN, M.Sc., MSN

Kate McReynolds, APRN, M.Sc., MSN

Kate McReynolds, APRN, M.Sc., MSN, helped the ANCC develop the guidelines and scope for the Advanced Genetics Nursing-Board Certified (AGN-BC) credential, and expects to receive her own AGN-BC during the first half of the year. The credential itself was created in December.

“There are exceptional nurse practitioners that consistently go above and beyond to increase their knowledge, expertise and skill in advancing patient care,” said April Kapu, DNP, R.N., associate nursing officer and advance practice director at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“Kate’s commitment to excellence in her practice and personalized medicine is a great example. Her efforts with this certification will have far-reaching effects in the field of genetics nursing.”

As the field is emerging, there are few genetic nurses. The certification aims to attract more nurses into genetics.

“Board certification matters,” McReynolds said. “When a member of the public requests a board-certified physician, they know that the physician has a proven level of expertise in a given specialty area. The same is true for board-certified nurses, including genetic nurses.

“This national credential provides validation that the nurse is qualified to provide genomic-based health care. This portfolio certification allows the nurse to establish competence in genomics by demonstrating that they have completed advanced academic and clinical preparation within this specialty.”

In her role as a genetic nurse, McReynolds reviews patients’ personal and family histories, orders genetic testing to determine their risks for certain cancers, and manages patients for their elevated risk for cancer. Patients at the Hereditary Cancer Clinic are people with cancer or who have a strong family history of cancer who want to determine their risks.

McReynolds looks at three to five generations of family history to determine whether a pattern of particular cancers exists. That helps inform the genetic testing she does. If risks are detected, she informs patients of screening and risk-reducing measures that may be taken, such as prophylactic surgery and chemoprevention.

Cancer genetic testing has made great strides over the last few years, as dozens of new genes that indicate cancer risk have been discovered. Instead of testing for two or three genes, McReynolds regularly tests people for 21 or more genes.

The AGN-BC certification is obtained by submitting a portfolio, which must articulate performance in four domains of practice: Professional Development, Professional and Ethical Nursing Practice, Teamwork and Collaboration, and Quality and Safety.

Applicants must hold an active R.N. license, a graduate degree in nursing and must have completed a certain number of hours in advanced genetics nursing.

Though McReynolds is a nurse practitioner, she notes that nurses do not need to be an N.P. to obtain the genetics certification.

“It really is a truly emerging field,” McReynolds said. “I don’t think we have a picture yet of how many people are going to apply for this, but this is the way medicine is going.”

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