fbpx

VAI Voice

The official blog of Van Andel Institute
6 May 2019

Combating cancer from the lab to the clinic

May is Cancer Research Month, which raises awareness for the efforts underway to prevent, treat and, ultimately, cure cancer.

When it comes to combating cancer, collaboration is one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal. That’s why we teamed up with Stand Up To Cancer and other leading organizations, scientists and physicians four years ago to form the VARI–SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team — to see what we can do when our collective expertise and resources are combined.

The results to date are eight clinical trials at sites across the country and abroad, all aimed at developing new therapies that better fight cancer and that improve quality of life for people battling these diseases.

Here’s a snapshot of the cancers targeted by our trials:

Non-small cell lung cancer | 228,150 new cases each year (all lung cancers)
Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer, and accounts for more than 80 percent of cases. Lung cancers are a major public health problem and claim more lives annually than any other type of cancer.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) | 21,450 new cases each year
AML is aggressive blood cancer that is notoriously difficult to treat and has poor long-term survival. It occurs when the bone marrow begins producing malignant red blood cells, platelets or myeloblasts (a special type of white blood cell).

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) | 10,000 new cases a year (estimated)
MDS is a group of blood cancers marked by abnormal blood cells in the bone marrow. If left untreated, MDS can progress to AML, a more aggressive form of blood cancer. People who have previously undergone chemotherapy or radiation therapy often have an elevated risk of developing MDS.

Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) | 1,100 new cases each year
CMML is a rare form of MDS in which the bone marrow produces too many myelomonocytes, a type of white blood cell, which then crowds out other important cells. If left untreated, CMML can progress to a more aggressive form of blood cancer.

Bladder cancer | 80,470 news cases each year
Bladder cancers are the sixth most common type of cancer diagnosed in the U.S. They are typically diagnosed in people older than 55, and occur more frequently in men than in women.

Pancreatic, liver, bile duct and gallbladder cancers | 56,770 new cases of pancreatic cancer each year; 20,000 new cases of liver and other biliary tract cancers each year
The biliary system comprises the pancreas, liver, gallbladder and bile ducts. Pancreatic cancer in particular poses a challenge to diagnosis and treatment; because it has few obvious early symptoms, it often is not caught until a more advanced stage, making it much more difficult to fight.

Colorectal cancer | 101,420 new cases of colon cancer each year; 44,180 new cases of rectal cancer each year
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the U.S. While the overall prevalence for the disease has steadily dropped since the 1980s, much of this decrease has been in older people, who frequently are screened for the disease. In younger people, the prevalence is rising and, since screening typically does not begin until age 50, these cancers often aren’t detected until a later stage when treatment is more challenging.

Hope for new and better treatments
These trials are a critical step on the road from the laboratory to the clinic and ensure the treatments being tested are safe and effective. If successful, the drug combinations being studied could help improve the lives of people suffering from these devastating diseases.

Learn more at www.vai.org/clinical-trials.