July 10, 2020
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From the Associate Director for Clinical Research
An Update on Clinical Trial Activity during COVID-19
Mikkael Sekeres headshot
Mikkael Sekeres, MD
Associate Director for Clinical Research, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center
As COVID-19 swept across the world and hit the United States in force this spring, hospitals had to make critical decisions about everything from appropriate staffing and bed allocation to securing medications that were in short supply and how much of medical care could be put on hold, or changed to a virtual platform. Within the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center (Case CCC), we also needed to decide how we would manage clinical trials, and whether or not to keep those trials available for patients to enroll. Collectively, we chose to keep treatment trials open for our patients, many of whom have few other therapeutic options, and because we were confident that we could do so safely even amidst the pandemic.

As a result, while new patients entering cancer clinical trials were down 60% across the nation and the world (and those entering Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials in the U.S. were down by almost 50%), in the Case CCC we actually saw a rise in enrollment to treatment studies of 11% by the end of June, compared to the same period last year. This occurred despite approximately 8-10% of treatment trials being suspended due to COVID-19 by the sponsors. Anecdotally, we heard from patients who sought out Case CCC institutions for their treatment because cancer centers in their home cities had shut down clinical trial operations. We are so proud of how our clinical research staff quickly adjusted to their own virtual worlds, adopted new processes for remote monitoring and direct shipment of trial medications to patients, and managed to open new trials while meeting the needs of our cancer patient population.
Member/Center Highlights
Cancer Prevention Program Members Conduct Big Data Studies to Uncover Disparities in Access, Improve Patient Outcomes in Cancer 
Following Medicaid Expansion Individuals with Low-Income Less Likely to be Diagnosed with Advanced Cancers

A new study published in CANCER ( Kim, CANCER, 2020) indicates the expansion of Medicaid led to earlier detection of cancer in individuals with low-income. Their findings suggest Medicaid expansion will have widespread meaningful health impact. 

In 2014, in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, many states began to expand Medicaid coverage to adults with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. At that time, Medicaid enrollment significantly increased with many new enrollees reporting they were previously uninsured. With this new coverage, people were more likely to receive consistent medical care and be screened for cancer, improving patient outcomes. 

The team of investigators from the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, Uriel Kim BS, MD/PhD Candidate , Siran Koroukian PhD , Abby Statler PhD, MPH and Johnie Rose MD, PhD , compared data before Medicaid expansion (2011 to 2013) and after Medicaid expansion (2014 to 2016), noting whether patients were diagnosed with early (non-metastatic) or advanced (metastatic) cancer. They found individuals who were diagnosed after the expansion had 15% lower odds of having advanced disease compared with those who were diagnosed before the expansion.

Based on these results, the team concluded Medicaid expansion is associated with closing the gap in cancer outcome disparity in adults from low-income communities. They also noted that because stage of diagnosis has such a large predictor of patient survival, their findings suggest Medicaid expansion will have a meaningful public health impact.  
Koroukian receives American Cancer Society Flatiron Health Real-World Data Impact Award
Siran Koroukian, PhD is a recipient of a Real-World Data Impact Awards from the American Cancer Society (ACS) and Flatiron Health. Dr. Koroukian is already funded by the ACS and will receive additional funding and access to Flatiron's national de-identified oncology datasets to study equitable access to genomic testing and personalized treatments in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

According to a news release, ACS and Flatiron designed the program to advance patient-centric research among investigators currently funded by the ACS with experience in health services or outcomes research. "We are excited to support these research efforts that will apply cutting-edge analytic methods to answer questions relevant to health equity and populations commonly underrepresented in clinical trials," said Neal J. Meropol, MD, vice president and head of Medical and Scientific Affairs at Flatiron Health.
Targeting WISP1 Shows Early Promise in Treating Glioblastoma in Preclinical Model
Shideng Bao
A team led by Shideng Bao, PhD, recently published findings in Nature Communications about a potential new approach for treating the most common and lethal type of brain tumor, glioblastoma (GBM). Dr. Bao’s team found that using carnosic acid (a naturally occurring compound found in some plants) to block the Wnt/β-catenin-WISP1 signaling pathway markedly reduced tumor growth and extended lifespan in a preclinical model of glioblastoma. “Our study suggests that blocking this signaling cascade may help slow disease by disrupting the maintenance of both glioma stem cells and tumor-supportive macrophages, and by interrupting the pro-cancer cross-talk that happens between glioma stem cells and the tumor microenvironment,” said Dr. Bao.

Bao is Director of the Center for Cancer Stem Cell Research, a staff member in the Department of Cancer Biology at Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute and member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center's Molecular Oncology Program.
Jin, Wang receive $3.7M grant from NCI to support research exploring mysterious link between cancer, HIV/AIDS
Jin, Ge headshot
Ge Jin, PhD
Bingcheng Wang, PhD
From The Daily: Research has found that those living with HIV have a higher risk for certain kinds of cancers—such as lung cancer. Now, with a new five-year, $3.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), researchers from Case Western Reserve University hope to find out why.

Ge Jin, PhD professor at the School of Dental Medicine and co-principal investigator on the research team, called the phenomenon “a mystery.”

There are more than an estimated 1.7 million people newly infected with HIV every year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s 1.7 million people who are more likely to get cancer—and get it at an earlier age and at a higher frequency—than 1.7 million people who do not have HIV, Jin said.

“We want to look at the molecular events involved in these processes, and find out why,” he said. “We need to find a better way to detect cancer in these patients at an earlier stage.”

Jin is partnering with co-principal investigator Bingcheng Wang, PhD the John A. and Josephine B. Wootton Endowed Chair of Research and Professor at the School of Medicine, who’s also a researcher at MetroHealth System. They found that the immune cells from HIV patients secrete exosomes—think tiny nanoparticles—and attack lung cells, thus promoting the growth of cancer. Drs. Jin and Wang are members of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center's Molecular Oncology Program
Metheny to Chair, Gupta Co-Chair Case CCC Protocol Review and Monitoring Committee
Leland Metheny
Effective July 1, Leland Metheny, MD will serve as Chair of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center's Protocol Review and Monitoring Committee (PRMC) and Shilpa Gupta, MD will serve as Co-Chair.

The PRMC reviews all new cancer-related trials conducted at the institutions affiliated with the Case CCC and also provides feedback to assist in protocol development.
Countdown to Virtual Velosano
It's here! The hottest month of the year and typically one of the most exciting events the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center participates in each July - VeloSano! Team Case CCC currently has 38 passionate members dedicated to the cause and we hope you'll join or support our efforts! Our wonderful riders and virtual riders join us from all Case Comprehensive Cancer Center partners - University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic and represent a wide spectrum of professions... physicians, researchers, physician-researchers, hospital administrators, graduate students, even family and friends!

Next Friday, July 17, Virtual VeloSano participants will complete and log their chosen activities for the year-round fundraising initiative (if they haven't done so already). Many will continue on their bikes, while others have chosen to log runs, walks, kayaking... even gardening!
Here's a look at Virtual VeloSano weekend - we can't wait to see your pictures!

Virtual elements will make it easy to participate from wherever you are, including but not limited to:

  • Virtual Kickoff Party streaming live the evening of Friday, July 17. Save the date and tune in!
  • Virtual VeloSano “Day” on Saturday, July 18
  • Virtual “starting line” to kick things off on Saturday, July 18
  • Participate in your activity of choice wearing your VeloSano 7 jersey or T-shirt
  • Share on social media using #VirtualVeloSano and be featured throughout the day (and beyond!) - be sure to tag @caseccc or #TeamCaseCCC, too!
  • Share your pictures with the Case CCC communications team so we can compile a group photo! Simply send them to cancer@case.edu
  • Virtual “Group Photos” for Big Wheeler, Living Hope and frontline caregivers
  • Share your “Why I VeloSano” message on the Dedication Wall on velosano.org
Case CCC COVID-19 Resource Hub
As the COVID-19 outbreak progresses, the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center (Case CCC) has centralized COVID-19 related news, resources and funding opportunities for our cancer center community. Content is updated regularly.

To have a cancer-focused resource added to the page, please email  cancer@case.edu.
What's Coming Up
Mark Your Calendar
Virtual VeloSano 2020
July 17-18, 2020

VeloSano is more than a fundraising event. It's more than simply a bike ride, and this year, it has gone virtual! VeloSano is a movement with the goal of bringing an entire community together to help one another. The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center (Case CCC) is honored to participate for its sixth year in a row. Together, our team of Case CCC employees and friends are once again joining the movement to raise money for the cause. Team Case CCC is made of passionate individuals who are committed to cancer research, prevention, treatment, and cures! 100% of the money we raise will support lifesaving cancer research in Northeast Ohio's top-tier hospitals and research institutions.

Virtual VeloSano has no fundraising minimums or registration fees and "riders" are able to track their participation in their favorite activity such as biking, hiking, swimming, even gardening any time between now and October 1. VeloSano's signature "Bike to Cure" weekend will still take place virtually, complete with a streaming Kickoff Party and more!

Although we won't be able to unite in person, the need to fund cancer research remains more important than ever. We look forward to seeing our team's virtual participation through photos and videos on social media using hashtag #TeamCaseCCC or tags to @caseccc as we train and rally together remotely. Our continuing goal is to bring sustainable funding to cancer research by enlisting the passion and energy of thousands of people who wish to give back…including YOU! We raised nearly $94,000 last year and our team's participation has collectively brought more than $1,500,000 back to the Case CCC for funding of 31 pilot research projects. We are truly grateful for your commitment to the cause and hope you will join or support our efforts this year!
Don't Forget to Register: Virtual Annual Scientific Retreat
July 23-24, 2020

The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center invites all members and trainees to join us Thursday, July 23 and Friday, July 24, 2020 for our annual scientific retreat! This year's retreat will be held virtually.

Thursday's events are scheduled from 12-2:30pm including TED-style talks from prominent Cleveland researchers and a cancer center update from Director Stan Gerson, MD. All are welcome to attend Thursday's session, though registration is required to receive virtual access.

Friday's member and trainee session will begin at 12:00 pm with a keynote presentation from Timothy Rebbeck, PhD, the Vincent L. Gregory, Jr. Professor of Cancer Prevention at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Dr. Rebbeck is founding director of the Zhu Family Center for Global Cancer Prevention at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and leads the Cancer Outreach and Engagement activities for the Dana-Farber Harvard Cancer Center. He will present, "Confronting Cancer Health Disparities: From Cells to Society."

Following a short break, members will then gather in Zoom breakout sessions for their assigned research programs for discussion of initiatives, collaborations and cancer center support of projects through pilots and shared resources.

Please note there will not be a trainee virtual breakout session on Friday, however a bench-to-bedside retreat is being planned for the Spring 2021. More information is forthcoming.

Retreat registration is now open. Please contact Mary Wright at maw143@case.edu) with any questions.
Early Bird Registration Now Open: Artificial Intelligence in Oncology Symposium 2020
October 19-20, 2020

The second annual Artificial Intelligence in Oncology Symposium will bring together experts in AI and machine learning as well as clinical, industry and federal agency experts in pathology, radiology, drug discovery, and ethics and policy to speak on research developments, regulatory policy, reimbursement and ethics surrounding AI in oncology. For the health and safety of all attendees, this year's symposium will take place virtually.

The symposium will feature four focused sessions, with speakers and panel discussions providing unique perspectives on how AI and machine learning are impacting the major areas of radiology, pathology and -omics in the contexts of precision medicine approaches for characterizing tumors and predicting therapeutic response.

Beyond the science, attendees are invited to view a poster session from some of brightest rising stars in the field of AI in oncology.

Geraldine McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR will present the symposium plenary, "Fostering a Strong Ecosystem for AI in Medical Imaging." Dr. McGinty is an internationally recognized expert in imaging economics, Chair of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors and Chief Strategy and Contracting Officer at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

Additional keynotes in drug discovery, ethics & policy and pathology will be delivered by Russ Altman, MD, PhD of Stanford University, Aashima Gupta, MS of Google, Vinay Prasad, MD, MPH of the University of California, San Francisco, and Yinyin Yuan, PhD of the Institute of Cancer Research, London. Learn more about AIO 2020 speakers.
Additional Upcoming Events
AACR Virtual Meeting: COVID-19 and Cancer
July 20-22, 2020
This special AACR conference will focus on the presentation of emerging data in basic, clinical, and epidemiologic research related to COVID-19 and cancer. The program will feature a mix of keynote lectures and other invited presentations, short talks from highly rated abstracts, virtual posters, and forums that include panels of experts from various fields. It is anticipated that this must-attend virtual event will attract participants from across the international research community.
Funding Opportunities
Deadline: August 1, 2020
To improve the discovery and advancement of innovative cancer therapeutics, the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center (Case CCC) has initiated a Drug Discovery Initiative and is providing seed funding toward the development of novel cancer therapeutics. To access funding, investigators must participate in the decennial Case CCC Drug Discovery Census. All therapeutic approaches and modalities are welcome! Projects at all stages are welcome! BE COUNTED! The Census is simple to complete and open to all Case CCC Members. Applications will be accepted until August 1, 2020.

Award Description
  • Awards will be milestone-based and project-specific.
  • Our aim is to select a number of projects for seed funding and to continue to support projects that achieve key milestones.
  • Total funds committed to this RFA are $250,000.
  • Note that projects proposing small-molecule approaches will be considered for additional funding opportunities.
Deadline: August 3, 2020
The NCI SBIR Phase IIB Bridge Award is open to SBIR and STTR Phase II awardees from federal agencies with projects addressing one of the following areas:

  • Cancer Therapeutics and Preventive Agents
  • Cancer Imaging Technologies, Interventional Devices, and In Vivo Diagnostics
  • In Vitro and Ex Vivo Cancer Diagnostics and Prognostics
  • Technologies for Cancer Prevention and Control, Supportive Care, and Survivorship
  • Tools and Model Systems for Cancer Research.

The SBIR Development Center is hosting an informational webinar regarding the Phase IIB Bridge Award on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at 2 pm ET.
In The News
Oncology Times - June 20, 2020
“Obtaining different perspectives is a key part of good judgment" writes Brian Bolwell, MD, Chairman of Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute and Deputy Director for Cleveland Clinic at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center in his latest contribution to Oncology Times.
Healthcare Finance News - July 7, 2020
"To examine whether Medicaid expansion has led to earlier cancer detection, Dr. Uriel Kim, a medical student and researcher at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine's Center for Community Health Integration in Cleveland, Ohio, and his colleagues at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, analyzed information pertaining to 12,760 people in Ohio between the ages of 30 to 64 who were diagnosed with invasive breast, cervical, colorectal, or lung cancer in 2011 to 2016, and were uninsured or had Medicaid insurance at the time of diagnosis."
From The NIH
Weekly NIH Funding Opportunities and Notices
COVID-19 Funding Opportunities and Notices
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