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The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center is comprised of over 370 members, who span 32 departments of the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Engineering, Applied Social Sciences, and the College of Arts and Sciences at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), located at CWRU, University Hospitals Case Medical Center (UHCMC), Cleveland Clinic, and MetroHealth Medical Center (MHMC).

Member News & Updates

Study Links New Genetic Anomalies to Breast Cancer in African American Families

Dr. Jill Barnholtz-SloanDr. Robert ElstonA team of researchers at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) assisted in a study that uncovered previously unknown segments of DNA shared by African American family members who have breast cancer. The study was led by Dr. Heather Ochs-Balcom from the University of Buffalo, a former postdoc of Dr. Robert Elston.

African American women have different incidence of breast cancer as compared to European American women, in particular the distribution of the known subtypes of breast cancer are different between these groups. Treatment decisions and clinical outcomes are tightly coupled with breast cancer subtype designation.

For the study, Dr. Ochs-Balcom recruited African American women with breast cancer and their family members. Sophisticated statistical analysis was conducted by the team at CWRU and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, including Xiangqing Sun, Yanwen Chen, Jill Barnholtz-Sloan and Robert Elston. Using this analysis, Dr. Ochs-Balcom was able to find novel genetic variants for these families not previously described in European American families with breast cancer. [more]

Madabhushi Named Associate Member of NCI Quantitative Imaging Network

Dr. Anant MadabhushiAnant Madabhushi, PhD of the CWRU Department of Biomedical Engineering, Center for Computational Imaging and Personalized Diagnostics, and Case Comprehensive Cancer Center has been unanimously elected to the National Cancer Institute's Quantitative Imaging Network (QIN) on account of his ongoing NCI funded grant R01CA136535-01, Software to facilitate multimode, multi-scale fused data for Pathology and Radiology.

The Quantitative Imaging Network (QIN) grows from the NCI program announcement "Quantitative Imaging for Evaluation of Responses to Cancer Therapies". The network is designed to promote research and development of quantitative imaging methods for the measurement of tumor response to therapies in clinical trial settings, with the overall goal of facilitating clinical decision making. Projects include the appropriate development and adaptation/implementation of quantitative imaging methods, imaging protocols, and software solutions/tools (using existing commercial imaging platforms and instrumentation) and application of these methods in current and planned clinical therapy trials. The projects are focusing on imaging-derived quantitative measurements of responses to drugs and/or radiation therapy, and/or image-guided interventions (IGI).

As an Associate member of the QIN, Dr. Madabhushi will attend quarterly meetings in Washington, DC and will be contributing his expertise and tools being developed in computational imaging and radiology-pathology data fusion as part of R01CA136535-01 to the consortium.

Groundbreaking Study Sheds Light on Treating Blood Cancers

‌‌Dr. Yogen SaunthararajahIn a new study, researchers explored ways to treat life-threatening blood cancers in a less toxic way. They worked to wipe out cancer cells in the blood without destroying healthy surrounding cells. Yogen Saunthararajah, MD, who treats cancer patients at Cleveland Clinic, led the study. Dr. Saunthararajah, Co-leader of the Developmental Therapeutics Program and Professor, Hematologic Oncology and Blood Disorders, explains how the new approach works by comparing it to a popular arcade game.

"The way the medicine works is like the game Whac-a-Mole™. You have a mallet and you're only getting the moles that happen to be in a particular phase of their growth cycle. You don't want a huge mallet because you're just going to damage the golf green. You want a little mallet and you want to keep on whacking regularly," Dr. Saunthararajah says.

In the same way, the new treatment involves using an existing drug but in a more targeted, repetitive way. The idea is to use more and smaller doses, as though the drug were the mallet you use to strike the cancer cells. [more]

Sharifi Receives Prostate Cancer Center Foundation Challenge Award

Dr. Nima SharifiDr. Nima Sharifi, Associate Professor of Cancer Biology at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of CWRU and Co-Leader of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center GU Malignancies Program, is one of six people to receive a Challenge Award from the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF). These multi-year awards support cross-disciplinary teams of research scientists to advance the treatment of lethal prostate cancer.

According to a PCF press release, Dr. Sharifi's project will develop an FDA-approved prognostic test to identify patients with genetic mutations that predispose them to treatment resistance. An inherited mutation in 3βHSD1 increases the body's production of male hormones, leading to poor clinical outcomes when patients are treated with androgen deprivation therapy. Dr. Sharifi's work will be translated into a new diagnostic test, which may also predict the efficacy of abiraterone (Zytiga®) as an alternative treatment for these high-risk patients. This is Dr. Sharifi's third PCF award; he was named a PCF Young Investigator in 2008, and a co-investigator on a previous Challenge Award.

Madabhushi to Serve on Computer Science Journal Editorial Board

Dr. Anant MadabhushiDr. Anant Madabhushi, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Director of the Center for Computational Imaging and Personalized Diagnostics at Case Western Reserve University, has been invited to serve as associate editor for the Journal of Medical Image Analysis (MedIA), one of the top international journals in computer science. Dr. Madabhushi is also a member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Tesar Recognized with International Stem Cell Award

Dr. Paul TesarThe International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) has named Paul Tesar, PhD of Case Western Reserve University and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center the Outstanding Young Investigator for 2015. The award "recognizes the exceptional achievements of an investigator in the early part of his or her independent career in stem cell research who will be honored with the award at the ISSCR Annual Meeting in Stockholm, Sweden in June 2015."

ASCO's Cancer.Net Provides Free Educational Videos About Clinical Trials

Dr. Neal MeropolASCO’s Cancer.Net is providing free access to a new educational program to help patients and their caregivers learn about clinical trials and address barriers to participation.

The video-based program, Preparatory Education About Clinical Trials (PRE-ACT), is designed to improve patients’ general knowledge and attitudes about clinical trials, and prepare them for considering participation if this option is available. The program was tested with more than 1,200 patients in a phase III randomized clinical trial. 

Cancer.Net licensed the program from the Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, Ohio, where the program was developed by ASCO member Neal J. Meropol, MD, of the Seidman Cancer Center at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, through a grant from the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Meropol began designing PRE-ACT with a team of colleagues when he was a faculty member at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA. [more

Researchers Identify New Gene Mutations Linked to Colorectal Cancer in African American Patients

Dr. Sanford MarkowitzCase Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers have identified new gene mutations unique to colon cancers in African Americans the population with the highest incidence and death rates of any group for this disease.

This discovery – namely, that colorectal cancers appear different on a molecular level in African Americans – offers new hope for these patients. With this groundbreaking knowledge, scientists now will seek to develop treatments that target the distinct nature of the disease in African Americans – and, they hope, begin to reduce the devastation disproportionately wrought on this population.

The findings, published in the Jan. 12 edition of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), only became possible because of technological advances in gene sequencing and computational analysis. The study that revealed this invaluable information ultimately involved review of 1.5 billion bits of data. [more]

Distelhorst Named 2015 Harrington Scholar-Innovator

Dr. Clark DistelhorstClark Distelhorst, MD, PhD, Professor in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at CWRU and University Hospitals Case Medical Center (UHCMC), was recently named a 2015 Harrington Scholar-Innovator by the Harrington Discovery Institute (HDI) at UHCMC. Dr. Distelhorst is one of 11 outstanding physician-scientists in the nation to receive the award, which provides funding and drug development to help bring their research from basic discovery to clinical introduction.

As a recipient of this award, Dr. Distelhorst will receive up to $700,000 over two years to support his research on blood cancer. In addition, he along with his fellow Scholar-Innovators will be given access to HDI's Innovation Support Center, which includes a renowned group of industry experts charged with helping guide drug development. More>

Vinayak Honored as Master Clinician

Dr. Shaveta VinayakShaveta Vinayak, MD, Assistant Professor in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at CWRU and UHCMC, was honored as the inaugural Becky Hennessy Endowed Master Clinician in Breast Cancer Genomics. This endowment recognizes Dr. Vinayak's excellence in patient care and accomplishments, dedication, and clinical research focus on genomic approaches to breast cancer treatment.

First Gene Associated with Familial Glioma Identified

Dr. Jill Barnholtz-SloanA study conducted by the Gliogene Consortium, an international consortium of researchers, has identified for the first time a gene associated with familial glioma,providing new support that certain people may be genetically predisposed to the disease. Study authors found an increased risk of cancer associated with mutations in the POT1 gene. The findings were published last week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

"This discovery is tremendously exciting, as we have known for years that a small subset of families have multiple people with gliomas, yet we have not understood the potential causes," commented study collaborator, Dr. Jill Barnholtz-Sloan. "This new paper sheds light on a potential cause for some of these families." Dr. Barnholtz-Sloan, Associate Director for Bioinformatics at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and Associate Professor in the Division of General Medical Sciences (Oncology) at CWRU, recruited families to the study and is the Ohio Principal Investigator for the Gliogene Consortium.

Huiping Liu, MD, PhD

Liu Named Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation Scholar

Huiping Liu, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pathology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, was named a Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation Scholar. The Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation Scholars Program has assisted the CWRU School of Medicine in attracting young, highly promising research stars in order to build its basic science departments.

Dr. Liu came to CWRU from the University of Chicago, where she worked on microRNAs in human breast cancer in their Transitional Chicago Fellows Program. Currently, she is the primary investigator on a Case Comprehensive Cancer Center pilot genomics study on RNA sequencing of breast cancer stem cells. More >

Justin Lathia, PhD

Lathia Receives Award for Brain Cancer Research

Justin Lathia, PhD, of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute and member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, was recently honored with a Distinguished Scientist Award from the Sontag Foundation. The award is given to young scientists whose research is likely to improve the quality of life of patients with brain cancer. It includes a $600,000 award over four years for a brain-cancer-related research project. Dr. Lathia will use the funds to study how cancer stem cells, a population of cells that drive tumor growth and resistance to therapy, interact with the immune system in glioblastoma, the deadliest type of brain tumor. More >

Ahmed Khalil, PhD

Khalil Selected to Present at Chinese-American Kavli Frontiers of Science Symposium

Ahmad Khalil, PhD, Assistant Professor of Genetics and Genome Sciences at the CWRU School of Medicine and member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, was selected to speak at the 16th Chinese-American Kavli Frontiers of Science symposium. The symposium, co-sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, was held in Beijing October 11-13.

Analisa DiFeo, PhD

Member Spotlight: Analisa DiFeo

Analisa DiFeo, PhD, studies epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC), one of the most lethal gynecological malignancies. Her research focuses on identifying genetic aberrations critical to the development of drug resistance and ovarian cancer progression. The genetic changes she finds will serve as novel biomarkers of ovarian cancer therapeutic response and/or innovative targeted molecular therapies that can work alone or in conjunction with current treatment options. Member Spotlight: Analisa DiFeo

Afshin Dowlati, MD

Dowlati Helps Lead Study on Potential Treatment Approaches that Could Extend Life of Mesothelioma Patients

A common Asian spice and cancer-hampering molecules show promise in slowing the progression of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung's lining often linked to asbestos. Scientists from Case Western Reserve University and the Georg-Speyer-Haus in Frankfurt, Germany, demonstrate that application of curcumin, a derivative of the spice turmeric, and cancer-inhibiting peptides increase levels of a protein inhibitor known to combat the progression of this cancer. Their findings appeared in the August 14 online edition Clinical Cancer Research; the print version of the article appeared October 1. "Mesothelioma is a disease that continues to have a significant burden worldwide, and the treatment option is really suboptimal. We must find better ways to treat it," said senior author Afshin Dowlati, MD, Professor of Medicine – Hematology/Oncology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. "We now understand the mechanisms that drive cell proliferation and growth in malignant mesothelioma."
More >

Mark Griswold, PhD

Radiology's Mark Griswold Earns Medical School's Top Honor

Last week, Mark Griswold, PhD, Professor of Radiology, was awarded the CWRU School of Medicine Medal for Excellence in Health Science Innovation, one of its highest honors, to recognize his extraordinary dedication and accomplishments.
More >

Dr. Michael Vogelbaum

Vogelbaum Appointed to NCI Brain Malignancy Steering Committee

Michael A. Vogelbaum MD, PhD has been appointed to the Brain Malignancy Steering Committee of the National Cancer Institute. This committee functions to review and prioritize adult and pediatric phase II and phase III clinical trials submitted for NCI funding. Dr. Vogelbaum also currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Brain Site Committee and Chair of the Neurosurgery Subcommittee at NRG Oncology, one of four adult clinical trials groups in the NCI's National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN).

Jill Barnholtz-Sloan, PhD

Barnholtz-Sloan Joins Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation Research Advisory Network

Dr. Jill Barnholtz-Sloan, Associate Professor of General Medical Sciences (Oncology) at CWRU and Associate Director for Bioinformatics at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, has been invited to serve as a member of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation Research Advisory Network (RAN). As a member of RAN, Dr. Barnholtz-Sloan joins a group of North American leaders in pediatric brain tumor research and clinical care. More >

Hillard Lazarus, MD

Lazarus Receives July 2014 CTSC Core Utilization Pilot Award

Dr. Hillard Lazarus, Professor in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at CWRU and University Hospitals Case Medical Center, received a July 2014 CTSC Core Utilization Pilot Award for his project, Pre-Clinical Model Using Pluristem Administration For Delayed Engraftment After Hematopoietic Cell Transplant. Clinical and Translational Science Collaborative (CTSC) of Case Western Reserve University Core Utilization pilot program

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