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Contact: Lauren Riley
American Association for Cancer Research

AACR recognizes contributions of multi-institutional research team against brain cancer

SAN DIEGO -- The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will award the Eighth Annual AACR Team Science Award to the Duke University/Johns Hopkins University/National Cancer Institute (NCI) Malignant Brain Tumor Team at the AACR Annual Meeting 2014, to be held in San Diego, Calif., April 5-9. The award will be presented during the opening ceremony, Sunday, April 6, 8:15 a.m. PT.

The AACR Team Science Award recognizes an outstanding interdisciplinary research team for its innovative and meritorious scientific work that has advanced or will likely advance cancer research, detection, diagnosis, prevention or treatment.

This multi-institutional team, led by Darell Doty Bigner, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation Institute at Duke University School of Medicine, includes 26 faculty members from Duke, Johns Hopkins, and the NCI. The team was selected because of the immense impact their research has had on our understanding of the biology of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and lethal type of brain cancer. Fewer than 4 percent of patients survive to five years following diagnosis.

Working together against this cancer, the team identified several major genetic aberrations in GBM tumors that provided novel insights. One of their first discoveries was the amplification of a gene called GLI in GBMs. This gene has since been found to be a critical component of the Hedgehog signaling pathway and continues to be subject of intense research in both cancer and developmental biology.

Their next major discovery was a deletion mutant of EGFR called EGFRvIII that is exclusively found in GBMs. The team developed, and continues to develop, novel therapeutics targeting these drivers. One of these is an EGFRvIII therapeutic vaccine currently being tested in an international phase III clinical trial. Additionally, they have developed immunotoxins that target both of these drivers. The first clinical trial involving one of these immunotoxins showed that it was safe and that some patients benefited.

They were the first to describe the genomic landscapes of GBMs, reporting the sequence, copy number, and expression of every gene in the human genome in more than 20 cancers. In addition to providing the basic outline of GBM genomics, this work revealed that a gene called IDH1 was mutated in a subgroup of GBMs. They went on to discover that mutations in IDH1, or the related gene IDH2, were mutated in a large fraction of gliomas of various types. IDH1 was the first novel cancer gene to be discovered through unbiased genome-wide sequencing and has had a plethora of diagnostic and therapeutic implications.

One of their latest discoveries was that of mutations in genes (ATRX or TERT) controlling telomere maintenance in both GBMs and lower grade gliomas. In addition to illuminating the biology of these tumors and their potential relationship to normal stem cells, these mutations provide a remarkably simple approach to the diagnostic classification of gliomas based on genetic rather than histopathologic features.

The team also used their molecular analyses of GBM tumors as a foundation to unravel some of the biologic abnormalities that characterize these cancers. This information led them to develop a genetically modified poliovirus that has lost the ability to kill nerve cells and cause poliomyelitis, but retains the ability to kill tumor cells. Early results of a phase I trial testing this oncolytic poliovirus are promising.

The AACR Team Science Award, generously supported by grants from Eli Lilly and Company, is presented with the intent to stimulate change within the traditional cancer research culture by recognizing those individuals and institutions that value and foster interdisciplinary team science. The winning team collectively receives a $50,000 prize and is recognized for its scientific accomplishments and leadership role in fostering team science to advance cancer research.

"On behalf of the Duke/Hopkins/NCI Malignant Brain Tumor Research Team, I wish to thank the AACR, Eli Lilly, and the Selection Committee for honoring us with one of the most prestigious awards in cancer research. I am especially gratified as this award recognizes a 30-plus year collaboration between these three research teams which has meant so much to the field and to me personally. I am so excited about the progress we are making on the development of new diagnosis and treatment modalities for malignant brain tumors; we are on the cusp of making a big difference in the lives of many patients. This could not have been possible without the joint efforts between academia, industry, government, and the private sector," Bigner said.

Honorees are (in alphabetical order):


Press registration for the AACR Annual Meeting 2014 is free to qualified journalists and public information officers: http://www.aacr.org/AM14pressreg.
Follow the AACR Annual Meeting 2014 on Twitter: #AACR14

About the American Association for Cancer Research

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 18,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients, and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration, and scientific oversight of team science and individual grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit http://www.AACR.org. Follow the AACR Twitter: @AACR. Follow the AACR on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aacr.org.

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