Scientific collaborations often result in cutting edge research because of the fusion of complementary expertise. The special relationship between Kansas State University’s Johnson Cancer Research Center and the University of Kansas Cancer Center is a good example. It is powerful because K-State’s JCRC expands KUCC’s access to preclinical work, while KUCC can facilitate translation of JCRC’s basic research to clinical trials. Their partnership was an important factor in KUCC achieving National Cancer Institute designation, and currently, the two centers have more than a dozen scientific interactions. 

Among the many collaborations underway is one between JCRC’s Anna Zolkiewska and KUCC’s Fariba Behbod. Zolkiewska has identified a cell surface enzyme, ADAM12, as a marker for breast cancer stem cells. These cells are often not removed when the original tumor is treated, and can lead to later reoccurrence. These investigators are studying the role of ADAM12 in cancer stem cells, particularly from triple negative breast tumors, and assessing its potential as a therapeutic target.

K-State’s Mark Weiss has been studying many uses of stem cells originating from the matrix of the umbilical cord. These stem cells can be obtained from normal births. One project focuses on cases in which immune stem cells have been transplanted from donors to help treat cancers such as leukemia. One frequent problem is that the introduced cells recognize host tissues as foreign and attack them (graft versus host disease). In a model system, Weiss has shown that co-introduction of the umbilical cord stem cells can mitigate this effect. He is now working with Joseph McGuirk and Sunil Abhyankar of the KUCC to bring this approach to human clinical trials.

The success of JCRC researchers Stefan Bossmann in chemistry and Deryl Troyer in anatomy and physiology shows the power of collaboration between physical and biological scientists. This pair is working with KUCC researchers on a variety of projects. In one, Bossmann and Troyer are developing a new approach using simple blood or urine tests for early diagnosis of a variety of cancers via a nanotechnology-based mechanism. Early diagnosis and treatment can greatly enhance success in treating cancers. Collaborations with KUCC scientists Stephen Williamson and Joaquina Barranda are aimed at applying this approach to detecting pancreatic cancer in human subjects. Bossmann and Troyer are also working with Priyanka Sharma and Fang Fan on breast cancer diagnosis.

These and other interactions between the two centers have great potential for bringing new scientific approaches to the bedside.

originally from the Kansas City Area Life Science Institute
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