ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute is advancing its historic partnership with the Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center at the Wistar Institute of Philadelphia with three new research projects underway. The research will focus on an aggressive form of breast cancer that is more prevalent in Delaware.
The new research projects consist of a population health study targeting triple negative breast cancer. Other projects focus on a new therapeutic target for epithelial ovarian cancer, the deadliest gynecological cancer in the developed world, and on the development of stem cell-derived “mini-organs”.
Delaware has one of the highest incidence rates of triple negative breast cancer in the United States. This very aggressive cancer has few treatment options, as the cells test negative for three known therapeutic targets.
Working with patient data from the Graham Cancer Center, researchers are investigating potential contributing factors such as diet, alcohol consumption and genetic variants in women, and the effects of these factors on cancer metabolism. . The team will also look at relationships between cancer ‘hotspots’ – geographic areas with higher than expected prevalence – and risk factors that can be changed.
The primary resources for the study are blood and tissue samples from the Graham Cancer Center Tissue Procurement Center and its statewide High-Risk Familial Cancer Registry.
The research team will be led by the Director of Population Health Research at ChristianaCare Scott Siegel, Ph.D., and principal investigator Jennifer Sims Mourtada, Ph.D., at the Cawley Center for Translational Cancer Research (CTCR) at the Graham Cancer Center. They will join Zachary Schug, Ph.D., in Wistar’s Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis program.
The latest study supported by the Graham Cancer Center Tissue Supply Program targets KAT6A expression as a novel therapy for ovarian cancer caused by a specific genetic mutation, called PP2R1A.
Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common form of ovarian cancer and the leading cause of gynecological cancer death in the United States. Chemoresistance to currently available platinum-based drugs such as cisplatin represents a major therapeutic challenge, as more than 50% of affected women eventually relapse and die from the disease.
Rugang Zhang, Ph.D. of Wistar, program leader in Immunology, Microenvironment and Metastasis, is focused on developing new therapies for ovarian cancer subtypes that currently have no effective treatment and on improving the current standard of care. .
“Mini-Organs” Offer Hope
Cawley CTCR’s Dr Sims-Mourtada will lead a new organ-specific tissue culture program from stem cells that could change the way diseases are studied and treated.
These so-called “mini-organs” or “organoids” are three-dimensional tissue cultures grown in the laboratory that replicate the complexity and functions of a specific tissue or organ found in the body. Organoids offer scientists a better model of how drugs and other treatments can interact with a patient’s particular tumor type, opening up new avenues for precision medicine.
Advancing a Pioneering Partnership
The Graham Cancer Center made history when it signed a first-of-its-kind agreement in 2011 with the Wistar Institute, combining a National Cancer Institute, an NCI-designated basic research institution, with a community cancer center that is also an NCI Community Oncology Research Center. Program (NCORP).
“Our partnership with Wistar has garnered national recognition as a model of collaboration that leverages cutting-edge research to benefit statewide cancer prevention and treatment,” says Nicholas J. Petrelli, MD, Bank of America has endowed the medical director of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and Research Institute with ChristianaCare. “With Wistar, our productive collaborations over the past decade continue to drive discovery research into clinical trials to benefit patients here at Graham Cancer Center and in communities around the world.”
“The Graham Center has been an ideal partner in our mission,” said Dario C. Altieri, MD, president and CEO of Wistar and director of the Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center. “Our scientists at Wistar have access to the highest quality clinically annotated primary patient samples. As the majority of patients at Graham Cancer Center are treatment naïve, this collaboration provides the opportunity to conduct unique mechanistic and correlative studies to high impact that will ultimately advance important scientific discoveries that will hopefully lead to better cancer therapies.