Growing up in Windsor, Colorado, Elijah Johnson thought he would grow up to be a professional musician. He never considered a career as a biomedical researcher. But that all changed when his mother was diagnosed with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS), a rare genetic mutation that increases the risk of cancer.
Xander Bradeen began his undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado Boulder planning to major in neuroscience as a pre-med student, the first in his family to pursue a college education. Then he learned about prairie voles.
For Isaiah Richardson, conducting research as an American Cancer Society Diversity in Cancer Research Intern this summer was an important academic and professional experience, but it was also personal.
The future of cancer research and care got a little brighter on April 22 as more than 50 biomedical science students from Denver-area high schools came to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus for Learn About Cancer Day.
This was another exciting year for the University of Colorado Cancer Center, and we were able to share more than 80 stories spotlighting our members and their research. We also shared the cancer journeys of some of our patients.
When you ask a classroom full of middle schoolers what they want to be when they grow up, you’re likely to get a range of answers, from “pro athletes” and “astronauts” to “musicians” and “movie stars.”
Actor Dustin Diamond, best known for playing the nerdy character Screech on teen sitcom “Saved By the Bell,” died Monday at age 44. Diamond died just weeks after being diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma, a type of cancer that commonly occurs in the lungs but can also originate in the prostate or gastrointestinal tract.
For the past 20 years, the Union for International Cancer Control has designated February 4 as World Cancer Day — a day to raise awareness, improve education, and catalyze personal, collective, and government action around the deadly disease. The organization hopes to reduce the number of premature deaths from cancer and noncommunicable diseases by one-third by 2030.
The Colorado Cancer Screening Program (CCSP) for Patient Navigation is working with the safety net clinics throughout Colorado to help respond to the coronavirus and COVID-19.
“We are responding to the urgent request from our clinics, community partners and state agencies, indicating navigators need support to best serve clients in the front line and to help support patients with acute chronic conditions” says Andrea (Andi) Dwyer, Director of CCSP.
Within the CCSP program, feedback from the clinics note that their navigators have had to turn their efforts to working with COVID-19 as the priority.
“The cancer prevention aspect is not lost as the navigators and clinics, as we work on sharing the importance of rescheduling colonoscopies and if patients have signs and symptoms, they still need to be seen urgently, but we need to support the dire needs of our partners and their patients,” says Dwyer.
Working with Dr. Patricia Valverde, the Primary Investigator (PI) of the Patient Navigator Training Collaborative (PNTC) and the statewide Alliance for Community Health Workers and Patient Navigators, Dwyer and the teams are helping inform the development of supports such as telephone scripts, workflow and assessment tools, technical support and education modules and sessions to better support navigators who are now adapting their positions to work in remote settings, on the front lines and in a much different context.
“Having the expertise and input from clinicians, programs partners, bio-ethic professionals and policy experts is helping us create the best support for our Colorado navigators,” says Valverde.
On a sunny fall Saturday after a CU Buffs win, my 13-year-old, Leif, and I walked down to Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall to talk with strangers about cancer. Among others, we spoke with a mid-60s visiting Arizona State football fan, a very cute eight-year-old girl, and some guy with dreadlocks named Carl. We asked them three questions: What is cancer, How do you get cancer, and How do you treat cancer? I also asked these same questions of University of Colorado Cancer Center researchers including Nobel Laureate, Tom Cech, PhD, director of the CU Boulder BioFrontiers Institute, and D. Ross Camidge, MD, PhD, Joyce Zeff Chair in Lung Cancer Research and Director of the CU Thoracic Oncology Clinical and Clinical Research Programs. Can you guess who said what?
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is hosting a symposium to explore the impact of personal control of genomic data sharing to research, clinical care, and patient well-being and engagement.
NCI welcomes advocates, researchers, policy leaders, and the public to this symposium, held under the auspices of the Cancer Moonshot.
The symposium will host sessions on the following topics: • Motivations for and perceptions of participants controlling their own data; • Facilitating personal control of data sharing – existing approaches and platforms; • Risks and benefits to participants and their communities; and • The role of individuals who wish to share their data in clinical practice and healthcare.
Please note that registration is complimentary. There will also be an opportunity to submit abstracts for poster presentation during the symposium
The symposium will take place from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM ET on September 26, 2019 and from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM ET on September 27, 2019. This event will take place in Masur Auditorium in the Clinical Center on the main NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland.
The University of Colorado Cancer Center Cancer Research Summer Fellowship (CRSF) program provides the opportunity for about 40 undergraduate students to learn the basics of cancer research over the course of 10 weeks working in the laboratories of scientific mentors. In addition, the program helps participants explore the range of careers related to cancer science. One of these activities aimed at opening students’ eyes to career possibilities is the Explore Biotech Fieldtrip. This July, students visited the Biosciences 2 building, just north of the Anschutz Medical Campus, to see biotech in action.
“The biosciences buildings are incubators for startups, many of which are built around technologies that investigators discovered or developed here at CU. Because of my experience working in Tech Transfer with CU Innovations, I had an appreciation for how ideas become companies, and how innovations within companies get brought into public use,” says Education Manager, Jill Penafiel, who pioneered the Explore Biotech Fieldtrip in 2011.
The first stop was theCU Center for Surgical Innovation, where students observed third-year neurosurgery residents exploring new surgical techniques while operating on cadaver heads. In fact, one of the residents operating that day was a past participant of the CRSF program in 2012.
“It was really neat to see Dr. Timothy Ung in the surgical center!” Penafiel says. “Here was someone who was in the program many years ago as an undergraduate, now showing our current students one of the career paths open to them.”
Next, the group visited theGates Biomanufacturing Facilitywhere students learned about the manufacturing of cell lines, cell-based therapeutics, and biologic proteins used in basic science and clinical trials.
“Each area that we went today was amazing. It is great to see other facets of science/health care and to be reminded why I am excited for the future of medicine,” wrote one student about the experience. Another commented, “I earned a great deal, and it was definitely motivating to see so many cool applications of science.”
Then it was on to Touch of Life Technologies (ToLTech), the startup built around the innovative project by Vic Spitzer, PhD, to “thin slice” a human body to build a high-resolution digital representation of human anatomy.
“Students had the chance to experiment with two virtual reality setups of the visible human – they could remove and look at body parts within this virtual human standing directly in front of them,” Penafiel says. “I put on the VR mask, I walked into the back of the head of the person, and I could see the muscles holding the eyeballs in place. I also looked down through the body and saw the pelvic bones and interior structure. It was incredible!”
On a survey following the fieldtrip, 70 percent of students said they would consider a career in biotech. 100 percent of students asked that the field trip continue to be offered as part of the Summer Fellowship Program in future years. In fact, due to the success of this outreach, Penafiel plans to expand students’ opportunities to interact with area biotech, offering half-day, hands-on experiences as part of the summer 2020 program.
“My hope for an experience like this is to offer the possibility of additional careers for our students that are not only going into medical school. There is so much that can be done!” Penafiel says. “It definitely opened their eyes to the opportunities within biotech.”
Inspiring the next generation of cancer scientists is the idea behind the University of Colorado Cancer Center’s annual “Learn About Cancer Day.” One hundred twenty students from five high schools in the Denver metro area participated.
The University of Colorado Cancer Center is always looking for unique approaches to advance cancer science and advanced ways to strengthen our programs. A powerhouse in the field of immunology is now part of the CU Cancer Center leadership team. Eduardo Davila, PhD, co-leader of the Tumor Host Interaction program, will lead our efforts to understand the role of the immune system in the development and progression of cancer.
“This is an exciting time for the University of Colorado,” says Davila. “The camaraderie and the support from colleagues, both clinicians and basic researcher scientists, is just simply incredible.” The University of Colorado School of Medicine conducted a nationwide search for a scientist with expertise in cancer immunology and immunotherapy. “I find the immune system to be incredibly complex, but incredibly effective at keeping our bodies safe – safe from cancer, safe from infections and safe from autoimmunity,” says Davila.
CU Cancer Center member Christopher Lieu, MD, and Namrata Vijayvergia, MD, of the Fox Chase Cancer Center conclude their discussion with considerations for managing immunotherapy-related toxicities in patients with metastatic hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), along with a review of the available evidence regarding the duration of immunotherapy treatment.