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SU2C Scientific Research Teams

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Meet the SU2C Scientific Research Teams

In May 2009, SU2C launched its first five scientific Dream Teams. Today, sixteen Dream Teams and two Translational Research Teams teams of incredible scientists are already hard at work, driven by the same principles that laid the foundation of the Stand Up To Cancer model: collaboration, innovation, acceleration, targeted therapy, and translational research. Leaders from across disciplines, institutions, countries, and specialties are finally competing against cancer instead of each other, as research moves from bench to bedside to benefit patients more quickly. Each team in its own way is changing the face of cancer research and pushing the dream of ending cancer closer to reality.

SU2C Scientific Research Teams at a Glance

The SU2C-ACS Lung Cancer Dream Team: Targeting KRAS Mutant Lung Cancers

Team Leaders
Jeffrey Engelman, MD, PhD
Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD

Lung cancer patients with mutations in the KRAS gene, which are notoriously difficult to treat, do poorly on standard lung cancer therapies. Drs. Engelman and Wolchok plan to combine recent remarkable advances in therapeutic approaches that target KRAS mutant lung cancers with immunotherapeutic approaches that use the body’s immune system to attack the cancer. Together, using these two distinct approaches, they hope to develop transformative new therapies for this group of lung cancer patients.

“Drugs targeting mutated KRAS pathways in other cancers are being developed.  We plan to use them in combination with other anti-cancer drugs to develop targeted therapies that can kill these lung cancer cells.” — Jeffrey A. Engelman, MD, PhD

More on the SU2C-ACS Lung Cancer Dream Team: Targeting KRAS Mutant Lung Cancers

SU2C-Ovarian Cancer Research Fund-Ovarian Cancer National Alliance-National Ovarian Cancer Coalition Dream Team: DNA Repair Therapies for Ovarian Canc

Team Leaders
Alan D. D’Andrea, MD
Elizabeth Swisher, MD

Ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage and cancers usually recur despite good initial responses to treatment, leading to high death rates. Drs. D’Andrea and Swisher plan to target a biological process in ovarian cancer cells called DNA repair using drugs called PARP inhibitors. Their research will develop new approaches to improve PARP inhibitor therapy so that more women respond to the drugs. In addition, they will develop web-based genetic testing and counselling strategies for ovarian cancer risk, providing access to more women in the community, and will test fallopian tube removal as a surgical approach to reduce risk that will avoid forced menopause by preserving a woman’s ovaries.

“We now see defective DNA repair as a more general vulnerability of ovarian cancer. We hope to extend the use of PARP inhibitors to many other patients and find combinations with other drugs that will be effective against ovarian cancer.”
— Alan D. D’Andrea, MD

More on the SU2C-OCRF-OCNA-NOCC Ovarian Cancer Dream Team

Tumor Organoids: A New Preclinical Model for Drug Sensitivity Analysis

Team Leaders
Hans Clevers, M.D., Ph.D.
Hans Bos, Ph.D.

The aim of the Sta Op Tegen Kanker Dream Team led by Hans Clevers, Ph.D., and Johannes Bos, Ph.D., is two-fold. First, the Dream Team will establish a novel, genetically diverse ‘living biobank’ of tumor organoids to test new cancer drugs as a first step towards tailored clinical trials. The team will focus on patients with pancreatic, prostate, or colon cancer. They will develop organoids of normal and tumor samples from eighty patients with each cancer type. After having determined the DNA sequence of each of these organoids, the researchers will test their sensitivity to 100 different drugs.

“Our goal [is] to use a recently developed technology that allows tumors to be grown in the laboratory to develop a large ‘living biobank’ for colon, pancreatic, and prostate cancers. We expect to be able to use this biobank to identify new drugs and drug combinations for evaluation in clinical trials.” - Hans Clevers, M.D., Ph.D.

More on the Tumor Organoids: A New Preclinical Model for Drug Sensitivity Analysis

The SU2C-The Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Convergence Dream Team: Transforming Pancreatic Cancer to Treatable Disease

Team Leaders
Elizabeth M. Jaffee, M.D.
Robert H. Vonderheide, M.D., D.Phil.

The Dream Team will use a “convergence” approach by bringing together leading individuals in the fields of immunotherapy, genetics, informatics, biostatistics, regulatory/clinical trials, cancer biology, and pathology. This group of experts will apply their efforts toward understanding and treating pancreatic cancer.

“We intend to convert the immune-suppressive environment of the tumor into one that fosters rejection of the tumor by the immune system.” - Elizabeth M. Jaffee, M.D.

More on the SU2C-The Lustgarten Foundation Dream Team

SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Cancer Dream Team: Immunogenomics to Create New Therapies for High-Risk Childhood Cancers

Team Leaders
John M. Maris, M.D.
Crystal L. Mackall, M.D.

The Stand Up To Cancer-St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Dream Team led by Maris and Mackall will bring together world-class researchers in two highly impactful disciplines, genomics and immunotherapeutics, to establish a collaborative, scientifically rigorous, multidisciplinary program to develop novel, targeted immunotherapeutics for childhood cancers that are among the most challenging to cure. The aim of this project is to establish the foundation for a sustained effort to maximize pediatric cancer cure rates through a genomics-anchored immunotherapeutic program.

“In the past 20 years, very few new therapies have been developed for pediatric cancer. This Dream Team has deep expertise in each of the most lethal pediatric cancers and includes thought leaders in the fields of genomics and immunotherapeutics. It is our goal, indeed our expectation, that we will initiate a sustained effort to maximize pediatric cancer cure rates through a genomics-anchored immunotherapeutic program.”
— John M. Maris, M.D.

More on the SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Cancer Dream Team: Immunogenomics to Create New Therapies for High-Risk Childhood Cancers

SU2C-CRI Dream Team: Immunologic Checkpoint Blockade and Adoptive Cell Transfer in Cancer Therapy

Team Leaders
James P. Allison, Ph.D.
Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D.
Drew M. Pardoll, M.D., Ph.D.
Cassian Yee, M.D.

Cancer immunologists have long hypothesized that specific interventions could stimulate and “re-educate” patients’ own immune systems to attack their cancer. A type of white blood cell called the T lymphocyte can recognize and kill cancer cells, but limited numbers of T lymphocytes are activated and can be blocked by inhibitory molecules called checkpoints, some of which are expressed by the cancer cells themselves. This Dream Team will focus on two approaches to overcome these obstacles: checkpoint blockade, where the checkpoints are removed using antibodies; and multiple adoptive cell transfer (ACT), where a large army of T lymphocytes is generated from a cancer patient’s blood samples and given back to the patient. The clinical impact of this project lies with the potential synergy of combining both of these immunology-based therapeutic approaches to treat a range of tumor types to improve the lives of patients with cancer.

“The patient’s own immune system can be harnessed to treat some cancers. The SU2C-CRI Dream Team grant will help develop this mode of treatment to more broadly benefit patients.”  – Antoni Ribas, M.D., Ph.D

More on the SU2C-CRI Immunology Dream Team

SU2C-PCF2 Dream Team: Targeting Adaptive Pathways in Metastatic Treatment-Resistant Prostate Cancer

Team Leaders
Eric J. Small, M.D.
Owen N. Witte, M.D.

The Stand Up To Cancer Dream Team led by Small and Witte will explore the idea that resistance to hormone therapy is a result of the prostate cancer cells using common cellular responses, called adaptive pathways, to escape current therapies. The team believes that by identifying these pathways and inhibiting them, they will be able to overcome treatment resistance and profoundly improve survival and quality of life for these patients.

“We are incredibly excited about this project.  Despite an unprecedented increase in the number of drugs that have been approved for the treatment of advanced Prostate Cancer, our patients still develop resistance to these agents, and still die from progressive disease.  This project will help identify the causes of resistance in an individual patient, and help us tailor therapy for that patient.”
- Eric J. Small, M.D.

More on the SU2C-PCF2 Prostate Cancer Dream Team

SU2C-PCF Dream Team: Precision Therapy for Advanced Prostate Cancer

Team Leaders
Arul M. Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D.
Charles L. Sawyers, M.D.

Prostate cancer, like other types of cancer, is not a homogeneous disease. For example, up to 50 percent of treatment resistant metastatic prostate cancer (CRPC) patients have a genetic aberration called a “gene fusion” that involves two genes including ETS genes. Another 50 percent of patients may have a “deletion” or loss of an entire gene called PTEN. This diversity of prostate cancer suggests that treatment decisions will require a personalized or precision approach — matching treatment to specific characteristics of a tumor. The premise for this proposal is that information about the genetic makeup of an individual’s CRPC may guide the doctor to choose a “personalized” treatment for that patient.

“Utilizing this Dream Team grant, we will be able to bring together great scientists and clinicians from around the world to join in the fight against metastatic prostate cancer. We hope this unique model of research will lead to patient benefit in the short term.”
— Arul M. Chinnaiyan M.D., Ph.D.

More on the SU2C-PCF Prostate Cancer Dream Team

SU2C-MRA Dream Team: Personalized Medicine for Patients with BRAF Wild-Type (BRAFwt) Cancer

Team Leaders
Jeffrey M. Trent, Ph.D., F.A.C.M.G.
Patricia M. LoRusso, D.O.

The SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team will investigate the utility of personalized target/therapy identification in patients with BRAFwt metastatic melanoma – a subtype of melanoma for which there are currently few treatment options. The team hopes that an individualized medicine approach to the treatment of BRAFwt metastatic melanoma will not only lead to therapeutic benefit for this patient population, but may also be beneficial to many other tumor and disease types.

“Melanoma has been a success story in the past year, but that success affects about half of the patients, at best. We just said, we’ve got to go after that group that just desperately needs our help.” - Jeffrey M. Trent, Ph.D., F.A.C.M.G.

More on the SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team

An Integrated Approach to Targeting Breast Cancer Molecular Subtypes and Their Resistance Phenotype

Team Leaders
Joe W. Gray, Ph.D.
Dennis Slamon, M.D., Ph.D.

The Breast Cancer Dream Team has created a fully integrated translational research approach which is rapidly moving toward more effective, less toxic therapies for the three major breast cancer subtypes.

“What keeps me going is that this is an illness that affects many, many, many people, and my goal in life, along with all of my colleagues, is to turn it from a disease of great concern to a disease that can be readily controlled or even cured so that individuals can go on to live out the rest of their lives.” - Joe W. Gray, Ph.D

More on the Breast Cancer Dream Team

The VARI-SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team ll

Team Leaders
Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Stephen B. Baylin, M.D.

The Epigenetics Dream Team is delivering on the promise of epigenetic therapy in clinical practice. The team is developing biomarkers that can predict and monitor the efficacy of epigenetic therapies, and conducting clinical trials that will bring epigenetic therapy to the forefront of cancer management.

“There’s a time for individual competition and a time for teamwork.  And I think this is the time for teamwork in this particular area.  We’ve competed against each other for years… We really need to get together now and make a big push.” - Peter A. Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc.

More on the Epigenetic Therapy Dream Team

Bioengineering and Clinical Applications of Circulating Tumor Cell Chip

Team Leaders
Daniel Haber, M.D., Ph.D.
Mehmet Toner, Ph.D.

The CTC Dream Team is using a novel and radically different approach to detecting and isolating Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs), pursuing revolutionary diagnostic and treatment strategy tools. The fundamental technology involved takes advantage of microscopic fluid dynamics to construct a chip with 100 times greater sensitivity than existing technology.

”...there’s been almost a combination of all the discoveries over so many years in terms of our understanding of what triggers cancer, and now for the first time we can translate that into tools to treat cancer.” - Daniel Haber, M.D., Ph.D.

More on the CTC-Chip Dream Team

Targeting PI3K in Women’s Cancers

Team Leaders
Gordon B. Mills, M.D., Ph.D.
Lewis C. Cantley, Ph.D.

The PI3K Dream Team is developing clinical techniques that may lead to therapeutic combinations able to hit multiple targets in the complex pathways that contribute to cancer cell growth in a variety of women’s cancers, such as breast, ovarian, and endometrial.

“I’m fully convinced that cancer is a logical disease. That there is a logic to how the cancer develops, and if you understand the logic you can understand how to tackle it. So know your enemy. Cancer is our enemy…” - Lewis C. Cantley, Ph.D.

More on the PI3K Dream Team

Cutting off the Fuel Supply: A New Approach to the Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer

Team Leaders
Craig B. Thompson, M.D.
Daniel D. Von Hoff, M.D.

The Pancreatic Dream Team is attacking the lethal problem of pancreatic cancer with a dual approach: exploring advanced imaging techniques to determine what nutrients pancreatic cancers require to grow and survive; using the results of these tests to design individualized treatment combinations that will cut off the fuel supply to pancreatic tumors with the hope of increasing survival and quality of life for pancreatic cancer patients.

“Every single person on this team has lost somebody to pancreatic cancer… many of us see patients with it every single day… We can do things, we can help with their pain, we can improve their survival some. But we want to do something dramatic.” - Daniel D. Von Hoff, M.D

More on the Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team