LACTATE AND CANCER: AN ODD COUPLE A MESSAGE Cancer research is based on som e fundam ental questions: How does a cancer FROM OUR start? And what does it need to survive? CEO/DIRECTOR AND Researchers in the lab of HCI investigator Kevin Jones, md, set out to study a rare PRINCIPAL BENEFACTORS sarcom a, and the answers they found to these questions Cancer is the greatest challenge of our generation. may help redefine how it’s treated. No strangers to challenges, Jon and Karen Huntsman and their fam ily have m ade eradicating cancer their life’s work. It is an audacious goal, on par with the vision of curing polio, walking on the m oon, or m apping the hum an genom e. The people who took on COLLABORATING those challenges were called unrealistic and perhaps even crazy. But we live in a world where polio is eradicated, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and FOR A CURE m apping the hum an genom e has ushered in a new era of precision m edicine. Clinical trials and collaboration are pivotal We believe the next, greatest accom plishm ent of hum ankind is within reach: to cure cancer. to the war on cancer. In 20 14, the two What’s m ore, we believe Huntsm an Cancer Institute (HCI) will lead the way. had a big win. An effort led by David Our mission is to understand cancer from its beginnings—from the first anomaly in a cell all the Gaffney, Md, Phd, got HCI nearly way to risk assessment and prevention through treatment and survivorship. Years before it was $3.6MM from the National Institutes of widely understood that cancer is a genetic disease, our predecessors at HCI boldly developed Health to subsidize efforts in advancing the Utah Population Database, linking genealogies of families to medical records, revealing cancer treatm ent studies and expanding the patterns of cancers across generations. Cancer researchers in Utah were among the first to network of collaborating researchers. This identify genes that are now known to be implicated in a number of common cancers, including offers cancer patients across the country colon, breast, ovarian, and melanoma. Now families ravaged by cancer for generations have m ore access to the m ost progressive care tools to detect it at its earliest, most treatable stage, or to prevent the disease outright. and boosts research potential. Cancer is a complex collection of more than 20 0 genetically distinct diseases. Treating these diseases requires teams of experts matched with state-of-the-art technology. This all comes together at HCI, where our world-class facilities link cancer labs with cancer clinics, and cancer COMBATING prevention strategies with the largest population database for genetic research in the world. Cancer moves fast. We need to move faster—and we are. In 20 14, we broke ground on the Primary Children’s and Families’ Cancer Research Center, WAYWARD CELLS which will double our cancer research space. The Huntsman family led the way, shepherding an unprecedented partnership of hundreds HCI researcher Jody Rosenblatt, PhD, of thousands of donors, the state of Utah, The Church of Jesus and her lab found a potential way to reverse the Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Intermountain Healthcare invasive effects of some of the most treatment- to redouble our efforts to defeat cancer. resistant cancers, including pancreatic Eradicating cancer requires a fundam ental cancer. They discovered that when a signaling change to the way we approach this disease, factor that prevents cells from overcrowding a new way of thinking. is significantly reduced, cell masses and abnormal cell movements occur. They’ve also At HCI, we are changing the shown that restoring normal levels of the DNA of cancer care. signaling factor eliminated the cell masses and returned cell movements to normal.
PRECISION MEDICINE: PROMISING THERAPY TARGETS LUNG CANCER Cancer treatment sometimes involves targeting a patient’s specific genetic mutations that m ay be fueling cancer growth. A worldwide phase I clinical trial in which HCI participated studied a new targeted therapy for non-sm all cell lung cancer. The study reported a very STOPPING CANCER prom ising response rate of 80 % in patients whose disease had progressed during treatm ent with the standard targeted therapy or who were intolerant to it. The new treatm ent also received Breakthrough Therapy status from the U.S. Food and Drug Adm inistration. “This IN ITS TRACKS opens a new avenue of targeted therapies and illustrates the prom ise of precision m edicine,” says Sunil Sharma, MD, HCI Senior Director of Clinical Research. Im agine if you could block the cancer-causing activities of a genetic defect. HCI investigators Mary Beckerle, PhD, Stephen Lessnick, MD, PhD, and Sunil Sharma, MD, m ay have found a way to do just that in Ewing sarcom a, a bone and soft tissue cancer of children and young adults. The results show an agent discovered at HCI called HCI2509 halts the biology of the cancer-causing protein that drives Ewing sarcom a. As a result, cancer developm ent is shut down. Find out what this prom ising research m eans for young patients with the disease and for other cancers with sim ilar biology. NEW HOPE FOR DOES KNOWING GENETIC CML PATIENTS About 6,0 0 0 people in the Un ited States are diagn osed with the blood can cer chron ic RISK CHANGE BEHAVIOR? m yeloid leukem ia (CML) each year. Before curren t treatm en ts, on ly about 30 % of patients survived for five years after diagnosis. Now more than 95% make that mark. Medical recommendations about There’s a problem , though—20 -30 % of CML patien ts becom e resistan t to on e or m ore sun safety are identical whether of the available treatm en ts. H CI researchers Michael Deininger, MD, PHD, an d a person carries inherited Thomas O’Hare, phd, and their lab weren’t satisfied that any patients were left genetic risk for skin cancer or with n o treatm en t option s. They set out to challen ge what’s possible for CML patien ts an d not. So HCI investigator established the n ext steps in addressin g drug resistan ce. Lisa Aspinwall, PhD, and her team explored whether genetic tests that identified a heightened risk for melanoma affected participants’ sun safety behaviors. Read about the surprising results.
OF MICE, MODELS, AND GENES HCI investigator Trudy Oliver, Phd, along with a team of researchers, published a report that misregulation of two genes, Sox2 and Lkb1, drives squamous cell lung cancer in mice. The discovery will help uncover new treatment strategies and provides a clinically relevant mouse model in which to test them. Oliver calls it “the most exciting thing we’ve done.” HITTING THE GENE JACKPOT Studies led by HCI researchers Sean Tavtigian, Phd, and David Goldgar, Phd, have added four genes to the list of breast cancer susceptibility genes. Unexpectedly, these findings have significance to more than just families with a high risk of breast cancer—RINT1 increases the risk of other cancers as well. These discoveries may have positive implications for families that carry mutations in these genes, giving them a leg up in fighting the disease. Barefoot to Billionaire: Reflections on a Life’s Work and a Promise to Cure Cancer, HUNTSMAN CANCER FOUNDATION Support. Strength. Fun. Friendship. That’s what Huntsman Hometown Heroes fundraising endurance events mean to Marie Murray. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 20 0 4, Marie ran past the odds of a stage IV diagnosis. In 20 14, FINANCIALS cancer returned. She stays as positive as possible through treatment and continues raising funds for cancer research— totaling more than $ 54,0 0 0 to date. A true cancer hero, Marie intends to run past the odds again. With superhero strength, Ethan Van Leuven battled acute lymphocytic leukemia for three years. He passed away in 2014 just before his fifth birthday. Ethan’s story spread around the world and inspired a generous anonymous donor to establish a matching gift fund that secured $50 0 ,0 0 0 to support pediatric cancer research at HCI.