Purdue, IU Health Arnett launch colorectal cancer research partnership

September 12, 2012  


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University and Indiana University Health Arnett on Wednesday (Sept. 12) announced a joint clinical research study on colorectal cancer, focused on broadening participation from patients in more rural parts of the state.

Research teams from the two universities are working with colorectal cancer data to develop tools for helping improve prevention, treatment and care of those with cancer. With the clinical data, researchers are refining statistical and engineering simulation models to predict how to treat and possibly prevent cancer.

"This is another terrific example of how great things can happen when IU, Purdue and the private sector collaborate on a major challenge facing our world - in this case, colorectal cancer," said Vic Lechtenberg, acting executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at Purdue. "This partnership between IU Health Arnett and Purdue widens the bridge for our scientists and clinicians."

Added Dr. Wael Harb, director of Oncology and Research for IU Health Arnett in Lafayette and a partner in the Purdue-IU research advocacy effort: "Cancer won't be eradicated in a single laboratory by an individual researcher. We all must come together to assist the research that's being done to give doctors the tools they need to better diagnose and treat cancer."

This research partnership, with a goal to consent 100 cancer patients, expands the university-led Cancer Care Engineering project, which was launched by Purdue in partnership with the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in 2006 through $5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, the Walther Cancer Foundation and the Regenstrief Foundation.

"Here in a community setting like Lafayette-West Lafayette, that's where 90 percent of cancer patients are treated," said Marietta Harrison, associate vice president for research at Purdue and director of Discovery Park's Oncological Sciences Center who is leading the Purdue portion of the partnership with IU Health Arnett.

Since the clinical study gained federal approval on July 31, the cancer study has gained more than a dozen participants.

The key to conquering cancer is early detection, Harrison said. A focus of the Cancer Care Engineering project is to discover biomarkers in individual's blood and tissue that will predict susceptibility to colon cancer, its early onset and which treatment is most likely to work. This research requires this type of partnership with the medical community and help from local individuals who wish to participate in research studies.

"Partnership with IU Health Arnett in this clinical trial on colorectal cancer will help our researchers from Purdue and IU gather samples that will give us a more complete picture of the progression of cancer in patients," Harrison said.

According to Dr. Harb, more than 1,000 drugs designed to treat cancer are in the pipeline. But it can take 15-20 years of regulatory hurdles and other steps for a single drug to reach a patient. At the same time, 5 percent or fewer of all cancer patients currently participate in clinical trials. That percentage must climb if the medical community stands any chance of defeating cancer, he said.

"People are still dying of cancer, and that's not acceptable. So we need to find answers," Harb said. "Research is the only way to find a cure for cancer. Without research, we'd have zero chance to treat cancer."

In conjunction with this partnership, Purdue and IU Simon Cancer Center received a $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health this spring to launch a regional Research Advocacy Network for educating the public about the role they can play in cancer research.

The community-based project, awarded to Purdue and the IU Simon Cancer Center through their joint Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute project, is housed at IU Health Arnett in Lafayette. It involves the Dallas-based Research Advocacy Network (RAN), which is a nonprofit organization formed in 2003 to bring together participants in the research process with a focus on educating, supporting and connecting patient advocates with the medical research community.

"We can't change what has already happened. But we can make a difference in how cancer is fought for those yet to come," said project partner Lori Miller, outreach coordinator for the Lafayette-based Community Cancer Network in north central Indiana. "Cancer is survivable. And we can make it so for more people."

Miller knows that firsthand. She has battled three separate cancers in the past decade and today is cancer free. Now, she spends her time encouraging people to participate in cancer research. Even those not currently suffering from cancer can help in this cause.

"Without more people participating in these trials, drugs that researchers at Purdue and elsewhere will not get the approval in time to help people," Miller said.

The Cancer Care Engineering project is applying systems-engineering principles, data visualization and statistical modeling to the broad spectrum of cancer prevention, treatment and care delivery. The multi-institutional project brings together oncologists, health service researchers, engineers, biologists and others in the war on cancer.

Included are Purdue researchers from the Oncological Sciences Center and the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research, Bindley Bioscience Center, Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering and the Rosen Center for Advanced Computing along with collaborators from the IU Simon Cancer Center, IU Health Arnett, Regenstrief Institute/Indiana University Center for Health Services & Outcomes Research, Notre Dame and the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The Oncological Sciences Center, created through a gift from Lilly Endowment in 2005 and housed in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, is the Discovery Park arm of the Purdue Center for Cancer Research. It builds on existing research areas and is expanding Purdue's thrust into nanotechnology, drug delivery, and cancer care and prevention.

The Indiana CTSI is a statewide collaboration of IU, Purdue and Notre Dame, as well as public and private partnerships, which facilitates the translation of scientific discoveries in the lab into clinical trials and new patient treatments in Indiana and beyond.

Led by Anantha Shekhar, the principal investigator of the Indiana CTSI and professor and associate dean for translational research at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indiana CTSI was established in 2008 with a $25 million Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health, together with nearly $60 million from the state, the three member universities, and public and private donors.

The Indiana CTSI is a member of a national network of 55 CTSA-funded organizations across the United States.

Media Contacts: Carrie North, 765-448-8846, cnorth@iuhealth.org

Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Sources: Vic Lechtenberg, 765-494-9095, vll@purdue.edu

Dr. Wael Harb, wharb1@iuhealth.org

                

Marietta Harrison, 765-494-1442, harrisonm@purdue.edu

Lori Miller, 765-446-5464, ccnlori@gmail.com

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