U-M researchers develop new strategy for attacking aggressive cancer mutation


Human KRAS protein. Mutant RAS proteins may play a role in one third of all human cancers.

Mutation of the KRAS gene drives up to 30% of all human cancers, and is especially prevalent among aggressive and hard-to-treat forms — like pancreatic, colon and lung cancers. For decades, researchers have tried to develop drugs to shut down the mutated gene, but a lack of success by pharmaceutical, biotech and academic laboratories has earned this cancer mutation a reputation for being “undruggable.”

New research conducted at the University of Michigan, however, offers a new strategy for disrupting the mutations’ unchecked spread — by attacking a protein complex that protects and supports it. The approach, detailed in a forthcoming article in Neoplasia[DI1] , comes as efforts to combat the mutation have been in the national spotlight. Recently, the National Cancer Institute announced a $10 million-a-year initiative to target KRAS, for which it is repurposing a new high-tech lab at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research. Continue reading

Microfluidic technology reveals potential biomarker for early pancreatic cancer

Researchers capture circulating pancreas cells in the bloodstream during early stages of pancreatic cancer

Dr. Andrew Rhim

Dr. Andrew Rhim

Cancer cells are on the move in the bloodstream in the very early stage of pancreatic cancer, and can be detected before cancer is diagnosed.

Working with a state-of-the art microfluidic device, cancer researchers have been able to capture circulating pancreas epithelial cells in 33 percent of patients with early pancreatic lesions. The patients had no clinical diagnosis of cancer.

The findings, published in Gastroenterology, suggest that circulating pancreas cells (CPCs) seed the bloodstream before tumors can be detected using current clinical tests such as CT and MRI scans. This detection of pancreas cells in the blood may be an early sign of cancer.

“While there is much work that still needs to be done, there is great potential for using this technology to identify who is most at risk for developing pancreatic cancer,” says lead author Andrew Rhim, M.D., an assistant professor of internal medicine at the U-M Health System  and gastroenterologist at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s  Multidisciplinary Pancreatic Cancer Clinic. Continue reading

HPV in head and neck cancer

U-M researchers find best way to detect HPV, which will help with treatment choices

A hand is holding a microscope slide

Researchers study tumor slides to look for markers of HPV

As researchers have found that the majority of throat cancers are linked to HPV, the human papillomavirus, they have also found that patients with HPV-positive cancer tend to respond better to treatments than those with HPV-negative cancers. In fact, research is ongoing to see if reducing the intensity of these treatments in HPV-positive patients could result in equally good outcomes with fewer toxic side effects.

Continue reading

Volunteer for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study-3

ACS prevention study3What if there was something you could do to prevent someone you love from hearing the words “you have cancer”? If you have never been diagnosed with cancer (not including basal or squamous cell skin cancer), THERE IS! Consider volunteering for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study-3.

If you have access to the U-M campus, including University Hospital, you can make an appointment for one of three enrollment sessions:

October 30, 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., University Hospital Cafeteria

October 31, 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., North Campus Research Complex on Plymouth Road Continue reading

Progress in ovarian cancer research

Detecting ovarian cancer early is the key to surviving this disease

ovarian risks

Ovarian cancer is an aggressive disease that has a profound impact on the women who battle it and the families who support them

Approximately 1 in 70 women, or 1.4%, will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime. In most cases in the United States, a woman’s ovarian cancer is not diagnosed until it is in the later stages of the disease.  At that point, few women are able to live longer than five years. In contrast, women whose ovarian cancer is diagnosed at earlier stages have up to a 90% chance of long term survival. As a result, ovarian cancer research continues to focus on ways to detect ovarian cancer when it is still in the earliest stages to give women the best chance to survive.

Ovarian cancer and early detection

There are many challenges to detecting ovarian cancer early. Each year in the United States approximately 1 in 2,500 women Continue reading

Supreme Court ruling on gene patents could mean more opportunities for patients

Dr. Merajver (right) and genetic counselor Kara Milliron meet with a patient.

Dr. Merajver (right) and genetic counselor Kara Milliron meet with a patient.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled unanimously that isolated human genes cannot be patented. The gene patents case involved Myriad Genetics, the company that holds patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are linked to high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

We talked to Sofia D. Merajver, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Breast and Ovarian Risk Evaluation Program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, who has been doing research on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer for 20 years.

mCancer Partner: What does this ruling mean? Continue reading