INDIANAPOLIS – In athletics, the Big Ten universities compete against each other, but now many will join together against a common foe: cancer.
Leaders from the universities’ cancer centers will kick off the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium on June 1 in Chicago. They are uniting to transform cancer research through collaborative oncology trials that leverage the scientific and clinical expertise of the Big Ten universities.
“Tremendous strengths exist in the cancer centers of the Big Ten,” said Patrick J. Loehrer Sr., M.D., director of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. “This is a rare opportunity for the universities to work together as part of a regional team science initiative to advance cancer research. The advantage of this, particularly during a time of austerity for research, is that we can build upon the strengths of the institutions and fortify some of the shortcomings. This allows us to be lean, efficient but, most importantly, collaborative.”
Steven T. Rosen, M.D., director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, added: “By uniting to transform cancer research through collaborative oncology trials, we will be able to leverage the scientific and clinical expertise of the Big Ten Universities. The consortium will benefit patients because researchers will work together to turn ideas into potential new treatments. I view this as the beginning of a broad spectrum of potential research, training and care initiatives that will benefit our patients and society.”
The clinical trials that will be developed will be linked to molecular diagnostics, enabling researchers to understand what drives the cancers to grow and what might be done to stop them from growing.
Also, the consortium forms a powerful collaboration because of the impact each university already has made in cancer research and the solid research infrastructure already in place at each university. The consortium also leverages geographical locations and existing relationships among the cancer centers.
“For research to be truly impactful, we must work together,” said Maha Hussain, M.D., FACP, associate director of clinical research at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Collaborating with other institutions gives us another opportunity for a broader and deeper brain trust while allowing implementation of novel ideas in a more representative patient population. The synergy, the collaboration, the implementation all are aimed at one ultimate goal — making a real difference for patients.”
The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium creates a unique team-research culture in which cancer leaders will collaborate with and mentor the research leaders of tomorrow with the goal of improving the lives of all cancer patients. The consortium will provide junior faculty and fellows the opportunity to write, conduct and complete trials, which would not normally be done at a single institution or on a national level for young investigators.
“A critical byproduct of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium will be the creation of a new arena for junior faculty cancer researchers to design and lead potential practice-changing cancer studies,” said Noah Hahn, M.D., executive officer of the consortium, associate professor of medicine at IU School of Medicine and a researcher at the IU Simon Cancer Center. “Opportunities for junior faculty to lead clinical trials have been evaporating in recent years, but the consortium aims to intentionally promote junior faculty participation and leadership in all trials under appropriate senior faculty guidance and mentorship in an effort to address those decreasing opportunities.”
The following universities and cancer centers comprise the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium:
Indiana University (Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center)
Northwestern University (Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center)
Penn State University (Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute)
Purdue University (Purdue University Center for Cancer Research)
Rutgers University (The Cancer Institute of New Jersey becomes part of Rutgers on July 1)
University of Illinois (University of Illinois Cancer Center)
University of Iowa (Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center)
University of Michigan (University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center)
University of Minnesota (Masonic Cancer Center)
University of Nebraska (Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center)
University of Wisconsin (Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center)
The Indianapolis-based Hoosier Oncology Group will serve as the administrative headquarters for the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium. Since 1984, Hoosier Oncology Group has initiated more than 150 trials with more than 4,000 patients.
About the Big Ten
The Big Ten Conference is an association of world-class universities whose member institutions share a common mission of research, graduate, professional and undergraduate teaching and public service. Founded in 1896, the Big Ten has sustained a comprehensive set of shared practices and policies that enforce the priority of academics in student-athletes’ lives and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness and competitiveness. The broad-based athletic programs of the 12 Big Ten institutions sponsor more than 300 teams competing for championships in 25 official conference sports, 12 for men and 13 for women. Big Ten universities provide in excess of $136 million in athletic scholarship aid to more than 8,200 men and women student-athletes, the most of any conference.