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Joint Efforts Critical for New Therapies

Conquest - Summer 2009

News From the 100th Annual Meeting of the AACR

The first symposium involving the nation’s two premier cancer research organizations took place this April at the American Association for Cancer Research’s 100th annual meeting.

With a focus on the inflammatory protein, COX-2, which is implicated in a variety of cancers, this meeting brought to fruition the efforts of past and current presidents of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

COX-2 is best known as a target for preventing dangerous polyps that lead to colorectal cancer, but it also is advancing as a target for treatment of many solid tumors.

“In prevention, inhibiting this enzyme reduced the number of high-risk precancerous colon polyps by 66%. The time is ripe to combine basic science and clinical expertise to advance the therapeutic potential of this approach,” says Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., immediate past president of AACR and provost and executive vice president of M. D. Anderson.

Other important M. D. Anderson findings presented at AACR this spring included:

Isaiah J. Fidler, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Discovering the tricks of brain metastasis

Cancer that spreads to other organs finds a particularly inviting hideout in the brain, where it is usually far harder to treat than in other locations. Two speakers discussing new approaches to dealing with chemotherapy-resistant brain metastases were Isaiah J. Fidler, D.V.M., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Cancer Biology, and Raymond Sawaya, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery.

“Astrocytes are spider-like cells that normally play the important role of providing oxygen and nutrients to neurons, and protecting neurons from naturally occurring toxins,” Fidler says. “We show that brain metastases subvert astrocytes, tricking them into protecting the tumors and that this is the important factor in resistance to chemotherapy.”

Blueprint for targeting bladder cancer

Researchers have discovered genetic variations in the inflammation pathway that reduce the likelihood of recurrence and increase survival of patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) treated with mainstream therapy. Patients with these risk-reducing genotypes were 84% less likely to have their disease recur after treatment with Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, the prevailing immunotherapy to prevent high-risk NMIBC patients from recurrence.

The recurrence-free median survival time among these patients was 96.7 months, compared with 47 months among those with the more typical genotype.

Uncovering more secrets of ovarian cancer

Discovery of genetic variations in the micro-RNA (mi-RNA) processing pathway genes and miRNA binding sites predict a woman’s risk for developing ovarian cancer. They also have the potential clinical application of indicating a patient’s prognosis by showing who will respond to different therapies through analysis of a single blood sample, according to senior author Xifeng Wu, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Epidemiology.

Wu and her colleagues will combine this genetic information with epidemiological findings to build a comprehensive model that predicts susceptibility to ovarian cancer.

— Scott Merville and Sandi Stromberg contributed to this article

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center