Hatem Soliman, MD

Funded by Hooters of America, LLC

The goal of this project is to understand experiences of racial and ethnic minority patients with cancer with clinical trials. This is an important topic because racial and ethnic diversity in cancer clinical trials is low. This project will help us to understand difficulties patients have in joining clinical trials. It will also help us to understand reasons that make participating in a trial easier for patients. This project will allow patients to share their views on steps we can take to improve diversity in our trials. We will also compare feedback from medical oncologists and trial coordinators. This project will lead to the creation of an intervention to address to issues identified in this study. If successful, our goal will be to test out intervention in other settings.

Ronny Bell, PhD

Funded by the 2021 Victory Ride to Cure Cancer

Dr. Ronny Bell is a Professor in the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and Director of the Office of Cancer Health Equity at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Bell’s research focuses on disparities that impact health outcomes and health care access for racial/ethnic minority and underserved populations.

Hanlee Ji, M.D.

Funded by Gastric Cancer Foundation

My research interest is cancer genetics with an emphasis on clinically relevant questions that will improve our understanding of the cancer genetics of clinical phenotype and simultaneously improve patient care in oncology.  I have extensive bench research experience in the fields of genome sequencing technology development, human genetic analysis through human genome sequencing and molecular assay development.  My research benefits from the various innovations in genomic and genetic technologies that my group has developed. 

Karen Winkfield, M.D., Ph.D.

Funded by the 2019 Victory Ride to Cure Cancer

African Americans have the highest percentage of new cancer cases in the United States and the worst outcomes. Other diverse populations have difficulty getting to a cancer treatment center or need help figuring out the system one they arrive. Some people die from cancers that can be prevented or treated, simply because they are not aware of all of the treatment options. Cancer care can be very difficult because many times a patient has more than one doctor who is part of their care team. This can be scary and may make some people choose not to get cancer treatment, even if they can be cured. WFBCCC wants to make sure that everyone has access to the best cancer care possible. This may include patients participating in research that may improve outcomes for them but also may help provide information that can help tailor treatments for the next generation of cancer patients. It is important to make sure all populations are represented in studies that look at new treatments or supports for cancer patients. To meet that goal, we created a population health navigator program- people who are from the community who can help people learn about cancer, how to prevent it, what screening is required and what treatments are available. If someone is diagnosed with cancer, the navigator will assist that person by helping to remove barriers to care and will talk with patients about clinical research as part of their care.

James Ford, M.D.

Funded in partnership with the Goldberg Family Foundation

We need better tools to screen for and diagnose cancer earlier and at a curable stage in individuals that carry inherited mutations such as BRCA1/2 and other cancer susceptibility genes that put them at high risk for breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic and other cancersWe propose to use powerful new approaches for “next-generation” DNA sequencing from standard blood samples to identify circulating tumor DNA mutations as a very sensitive marker of early cancers in high-risk individuals.  These “liquid biopsies may prove to be a far easier and more sensitive way to screen for cancer than our current imaging based approaches using mammograms, MRI’s, etc.  To this end, we have been collecting blood samples from our genetically high-risk patients with and without cancer, and before and after prophylactic or cancer surgeries, for liquid-biopsy analyses using technology developed at Stanford.   

Judith Villablanca, M.D.

Funded by the Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund

Only half of children with neuroblastoma that is found to be “high-risk” (HR-NB) live after getting the best known treatments. To change this, we need to know what makes HR-NB grow, and find new targets to attack. The New Approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy (NANT) (www.nant.org) is a team of doctors working with patients and/or in labs to find new treatment ideas and test them in children whose tumor didn’t go away after getting the best known treatments. If NANT’s new treatments are safe and make some tumors get smaller, they are then tested in more children to see if the new treatment is better than the best-known treatments. A little blood, bone marrow, and tumor are also taken from patients on NANT treatments to study in labs to see why our new idea did or didn’t work, and how we can make them better. There are 18 NANT hospitals in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe. NANT is the only group working only on new/better HR-NB treatments.  This grant will support NANT doctors, labs, and the people who work in the NANT office to quickly take new ideas from labs and turn them into treatments being given to children with HR-NB. It also helps us to store patient samples so they can be used to keep finding new and better ideas. Our goal is to find safe treatments that will help more children with HR-NB to live.

Hanlee Ji, M.D.

Funded by the Gastric Cancer Foundation

Project 1: My research interest is cancer genetics with an emphasis on clinically relevant questions that will improve our understanding of the cancer genetics of clinical phenotype and simultaneously improve patient care in oncology.  I have extensive bench research experience in the fields of genome sequencing technology development, human genetic analysis through human genome sequencing and molecular assay development.  My research benefits from the various innovations in genomic and genetic technologies that my group has developed.

Project 2: Based on a series of recent discoveries using cutting edge tools in genomics, we have (1) identified a new targeted way of treating metastatic gastric cancer and (2) pioneered a new way of determining how gastric cancer cells control normal cells in the surrounding stomach tissue.

Our overall goal for this project is to use single cell genomic sequencing to identify new drug targets by analyzing primary gastric cancers from metastatic patients.

Project 3: Based on a series of recent discoveries using cutting edge tools in genomics, we have (1) identified a new targeted way of treating metastatic gastric cancer and (2) pioneered a new way of determining how gastric cancer cells control normal cells in the surrounding stomach tissue.

Our overall goal for this project is to determine if our new discovery of a drug combination will improve the treatment of metastatic gastric cancers with the FGFR2 defect.

Michael Kastan, M.D., Ph.D.

The Duke Cancer Institute and the College of Veterinary Medicine at N.C. State University formed a Comparative Oncology Consortium (COC), taking advantage of their expertise and national leadership in their respective disciplines and their geographic proximity. The goals are to collaborate in pre-clinical and clinical cancer research activities in order to advance our understanding of both cancer causation (a high incidence of specific cancers in specific dog breeds provides opportunities to identify new cancer susceptibility genes and environmental factors in cancer causation) and of behaviors and genetics of specific tumor types, as well as to coordinate clinical trials in humans and canines so that novel therapies can be tested in both settings, with information gained in one setting informing the other. In addition to response outcomes of these cancer therapies, the ability to use biomarkers and pharmacology in the canine models can be a novel addition to the characterization of these new cancer therapies and these insights could result in significant enhancements of clinical trial designs (including dosing, scheduling, and combination therapies) when these treatments are tested in human clinical trials. Cost savings and improved clinical trials design would help encourage pharmaceutical companies to use the canine models as part of the assessment process and would benefit the canine patients by giving them access to these novel therapies.

Pavani Chalasani, M.D.

Funded by Hooters of America, LLC

The goal of “Campaign to Improve Access to Clinical Trials” at the University of Arizona Cancer Center (UACC) is to increase the clinical trial access to a diverse population in Arizona. Dr. Chalasani, Breast Cancer Disease Oriented Team Leader, will oversee the campaign to improves access by involving the breast multidisciplinary team, patient navigators and physician liaisons to develop educational materials and outreach programs. Patients and community physicians will be targeted through proposed outreach programs by developing targeted educational materials. Materials and training will be provided to introduce and educate about clinical trials to patients early by various members of their cancer team. The goal of this campaign is to become a model for other disease teams and cancer centers to implement to improve clinical trial enrollment.

Hatem Soliman, M.D.

Funded by Hooters of America, LLC

Only a small percentage of patients with cancer in the US enroll on to clinical trials. This is creating a bottleneck for the development of new treatments.  Efforts to improve how patients are identified for clinical trials are important to overcome this problem.  One such effort which is showing promise is to use an individual known as a “pre-screener” to aid the clinical team in identifying eligible patients. The pre-screener functions as an extra set of eyes to review information generated from our electronic medical record as their records come in from referring physicians.  They will be trained to look for patients meeting certain eligibility criteria and then notify the clinical team about the matches ahead of their visit. This will allow the team to better prepare and notify the coordinator for the study to be available at that time. The pre-screener will also serve as a resource for patients using our clinical trial education center in the clinic waiting area to help them navigate through the available information to identify a potential trial option to discuss with their physician during their visit.

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