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Research and Clinical Trials

Our basic scientists, clinical researchers, epidemiologists and cancer specialists are working to discover innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Because of this, we can provide our patients with the unique opportunity to participate in research studies developed by our own faculty as well as national clinical trials.

Our outstanding basic science program is complemented by a growing emphasis on translational research – those critical efforts to “translate” laboratory discoveries into new knowledge and new therapies – and a robust clinical research program, which gives patients access to promising new therapies.

The Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center is committed to bringing new research findings from the “bench to the bedside.”

Here are some of our pioneering research initiatives that hold enormous promise for tomorrow’s cures:

Bone Neoplasia Program

This program is chaired by Marc Hansen, Ph.D. The group is comprised of faculty from multiple disciplines and interacts with the Musculoskeletal Signature Program. The Bone Program is organized to understand primary bone tumorigenesis and secondary metastasis to bone in the context of normal bone development and remodeling. Bone is both a storage source of cytokines critical to tumorigenesis and an important developmental process. It is also the only developmental process that is regulated by gravitational stress and loading.

As a storage source of cytokines, bone is an important site of metastasis for breast and prostate as well as other types of cancer. Both breast and prostate cancer subvert normal bone signaling pathways to facilitate their metastatic phenotype. Primary bone tumorigenesis appears to arise as a result of the deregulation of the normal bone developmental process. A better understanding of the normal regulatory processes that take place during bone remodeling, a time during which rapid proliferation of osteoblasts and osteoclasts occurs, and the role of the extracellular matrix laid down during bone development will improve our understanding of these same processes that are unregulated during both primary tumorigenesis as well as secondary metastasis.

 

Cancer Immunology Program

This program is led by Pramod Srivastava, Ph.D., M.D., and includes doctorally-prepared scientists and physician-scientists engaged in basic and translational research.

Investigators in the Center for Immunotherapy of Cancer and Infectious Disease study basic mechanisms of immune response, and their application to treatment of cancers. The research addresses NK cell function, T cell priming, induction of tolerance, innate immunity, antigen processing and presentation.

This program serves as the paradigm for translational research. There are vaccine trials in CML, ovarian cancer, renal cell, melanoma and cervical pre-invasive neoplasia.

 

Genetics/Developmental Biology Program

This program is led by Marc LaLande, Ph.D. There are several doctorally-prepared scientist engaged in basic research and clinical service throughout the Genomics and Molecular Cores. The Gene Targeting and Transgenic Facility is focused on the development of mouse models of human disease.

Departmental faculty also supervises an institutional Genomics Core comprised of a cDNA microarray core facility and a Molecular Core. The Microarray Core facility provides access to a state-of-the-art technology for gene expression profiling, a powerful tool for simultaneous monitoring of the expression levels for very large sets of genes. The Molecular Core offers full service automated DNA sequencing.

 

Molecular Medicine Program

This program is led by Andrew Arnold, M.D. There are several doctorally-prepared faculty engaged in human disease-oriented laboratory research in the Center for Molecular Medicine.

Dr. Arnold's laboratory investigates the molecular genetic basis of tumors of the endocrine glands. The cyclin D1 oncogene, initially discovered by Dr. Arnold in parathyroid tumors, has a broad role in human cancer and its action in breast cancer is specifically being investigated. Dr. Arnold's laboratory is also pursuing their recent discovery of the major genetic basis of parathyroid gland cancers.

Dr. Jennifer Tirnauer is uniquely merging her scientific expertise in microtubule and cytoskeletal biology with her commitment to cancer research, and is investigating the role of microtubule defects in the abnormal cellular architecture found in breast and colon cancer, among others.

Dr. Marc Hansen investigates the molecular basis of tumors of bone, including study of a new tumor suppressor gene discovered in his laboratory. Center for Molecular Medicine investigator

Dr. Anne Delany participates in the Bone Program as well, and is investigating the molecular mechanisms by which tumors, particularly prostate cancer, metastasize to bone.

Dr. Daniel Rosenberg is active in colon cancer research, as further described in the Molecular GI Cancer Program.

 

Oral Oncology Program

The Oral Oncology research program is centered in the School of Dental Medicine and Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center. Laboratory and clinical studies are being conducted relative to causes and treatment of oral cancer as well as management of effects of high-dose cancer therapies on the mouth. The collaboration includes clinical and research faculty and staff in the School of Dental Medicine, School of Medicine and Graduate School at UConn Health, as well as researchers from the Graduate School at UConn, Storrs.

This multiprofessional approach continues to identify novel ways to successfully manage cancer patients. Patients treated in the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center may qualify for participation in state-of-the-science oral oncology clinical trials in this context. The research model is directly linked to the University of Connecticut research mission that in turn is designed to improve the health of Connecticut citizens.

 

Vascular Biology Program
The Center for Vascular Biology conducts state-of-the-art research in the area of tumor angiogenesis, lipid mediators, signal transduction, vascular proteomics, post-transcriptional gene expression, vascular developmental biology and cell invasion/metastasis.
Cancer Vaccine Clinical Study for Patients with Ovarian Cancer

Principal Investigator: Angela Kueck, M.D.

UConn Health is planning to initiate a clinical study for patients with advanced stage (stage III or IV) ovarian cancer, in which personalized cancer vaccines will be developed for each patient. Blood and cancer samples will be obtained from patients at the time of surgery, compared, and vaccines will be made based on the genetic differences between the blood and cancer samples. The patients shall get the vaccines by an injection in an outpatient setting, once every month for 6 months, after they have undergone surgery and chemotherapy.

An application for approval of this study has been filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We expect a response from the FDA by the end of October 2014. If the response is positive, an application will be submitted to the UConn Institutional Review Board (IRB) to initiate the study. If all approvals are received, we will be able to start accruing patients in December 2014. If there is a delay in approvals, either from the FDA or UConn IRB, the patient accrual will be correspondingly delayed, perhaps by an additional 1 to 2 months. We will keep the website updated with the most current information concerning this study.

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