Eric Rosenthal Reports

Thoughts and observations about issues, trends, and controversies in the cancer community.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stand Up To Cancer Announces Research Initiatives in HPV-Associated Cancers and Pancreatic Cancer, and ‘Innovation in Collaboration’ Awards


SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) announced new areas of cancer research and additional research award recipients last week at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Annual Meeting here.


An HPV Translational Research Team Grant investigating new approaches to developing novel immune therapies for HPV-related cancers, and a second Dream Team dedicated to pancreatic cancer focusing on novel immunotherapies highlighted the research award announcements, which also included naming the recipients of the SU2C-Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Awards.

Ellis L. Reinherz, MD, Chief of the Laboratory of Immunobiology and Co-director of the Cancer Vaccine Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and

Robert I. Haddad, MD, Chief of the Head and Neck Oncology Program, also at Dana-Farber  were named Leader and Co-leader, respectively, of the SU2C-Farrah Fawcett Foundation HPV Translational Research Team, receiving $1.2 million over a three-year period.


Their research project, “Therapeutic CD8 Vaccines Against Conserved E7 HPV Epitopes Identified by MS,” will focus on treatments for patients with HPV-associated cancers -- including anal, cervical, and head and neck cancers -- who have disease relapse after initial therapy.


“Stand Up’s collaboration with the Farrah Fawcett Foundation [with additional support from the HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation] is another example of our breaking down the ‘silos of science and foundations,’” said Sherry Lansing, a SU2C Co-founder and Chair of the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s (EIF) Board of Directors.


It’s also another example of how longtime Hollywood connections can lead to future ventures in medical research. Lansing, Founder of her namesake foundation and former CEO of Paramount Pictures, recalled during an interview that she had first met Fawcett more than 40 years ago when they were both models in an Alberto Culver television commercial: “I was the brunette and she was the blonde and Tom Selleck was my boyfriend in the commercial,” she said. Although she and Fawcett were just acquaintances then, they spent more time together over the years, through mutual friends and at various events.


Lansing said she always respected the deep, loving friendship between Fawcett and Alana Stewart, the actor and talk show host who produced the 2009 NBC-TV documentary Farrah’s Story, and is Founder and President of the Farrah Fawcett Foundation.


Lansing said that she considered that all of Fawcett’s accomplishments as an actor paled in comparison to what happened after her anal cancer had been diagnosed in 2006: “She was extraordinarily brave and did not hide her cancer or complain, and went public and wanted to help others,” Lansing said. 


After Fawcett died in 2009, Lansing said that Stewart asked her advice about setting up a foundation, and their friendship grew from there. Several years later, they entered the formal collaboration that resulted in the translational research team. 


Lansing also credited actor Michael Douglas with increasing awareness about HPV-associated cancers, adding: “No stigma should be attached to anyone with any type of cancer. It is not their fault.”


Other Awards

The SU2C-Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Convergence Dream Team, with additional support from the Fox Family Research Funding Trust, granted $8 million over three years to Team Leader Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, Professor of Oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Co-director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program at the Hopkins’ Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Co-leader Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, Associate Director for Translational Research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center and Hanna Wise Professor in Cancer Research at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.


Their research will work on developing new therapies using pancreatic cancer patients’ own immune cells. The first pancreatic cancer SU2C Dream Team, formed in 2009 and led by Craig B. Thompson, MD, and Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD, focused on “Cutting Off the Fuel Supply: A New Approach to the Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer.”


The inaugural SU2C-Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Awards were made to encourage current SU2C scientists to explore synergistic and innovative collaborations that would further enhance the mission to accelerate new cancer treatments, according to a news release. Recipients are:


  • David B. Solit, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, on the Melanoma Dream Team, and Nikolaus Schultz, PhD, also of MSKCC, on the Prostate Cancer Dream Team, to develop a web-based data management and computational resource as a SU2C-wide tumor genetic and biological data warehouse;
  • Stephen B. Baylin, MD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, on the Epigenetics Dream Team, and James P. Allison, PhD, of MD Anderson Cancer Center, on the Immunology Dream Team, who will focus on combining epigenetic therapy with immune checkpoint inhibition in cancer treatment;
  • Dennis J. Slamon, MD, PhD, of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, on the Breast Cancer Dream Team, and Tak W. Mak, PhD, of the University of Toronto and a member of SU2C’s Scientific Advisory Committee, to work on characterizing novel drugs targeting an important pathway in breast cancer;
  • Dana Pe’er, PhD, of Columbia University, an Innovation Research Grant recipient, and Padmanee Sharma, MD, PhD, of MD Anderson, on the Immunology Dream Team, to develop new computational technology for analyzing and visualizing tumor immune responses in patients treated with experimental immunotherapies; and
  • Roger S. Lo, MD, PhD, of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and another Innovation Research Grant recipient, and Jeffrey A. Sosman, MD, of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, on the Melanoma Dream Team, to develop genome-scale analyses of melanoma treatment sensitivity and resistance.