Written by admin
October 19, 2012

The V Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board members presented the most recent cancer breakthroughs and a progress report on V Foundation-funded cancer research.

 The V Foundation has awarded over $115 million in 500+ grants to fund breakthroughs in cancer research. The medical doctors and scientists presenting at the Research Symposium are, without a doubt, the absolute experts in their field, and the V Foundation is thankful for, and honored by, their presence and continuing contributions.

Dr. Robert Bast


Dr. Robert Bast, chairman of the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, opened the symposium, which was attended by over 200 people, by announcing the Board’s renewed focus on Translational Clinical Research to facilitate the transition of research projects from the laboratory to the clinic. Translational researchers seek to apply basic knowledge of cancer and bring the benefits of the new basic-level understandings to patients more quickly and efficiently. Dr. Bast is Vice President for Translational Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He is also a founding member of The V Foundation Board of Directors and the Scientific Advisory Board.

Dr. Bast described the three kinds of Research Grants that The V Foundation provides:

  • Designated Grants – 300 in the last 16 years, $100K each, committed to researching new ideas on a specific type of cancer.
  • V Scholar Grants – 100 in the last 16 years, $100K for 2 years to younger researchers with new ideas.
  • Translational Grants – 100 in the last 16 years, $200K for 3 years to innovative researchers who have discovered a cancer breakthrough in the lab, and will now move their solutions from the lab to clinical trials to determine if their solutions are effective on cancer patients.

Dr. Bast then described the results of a V Foundation Translational Grant that was made to find cures for melanoma, a very common skin cancer. Through specialized research that provided deeper understanding about the cells and molecules affected by this cancer, success was measured in 50% of the patients who have had abnormal DNA from a single gene. By combining targeted therapies with new immunotherapies, there has been an 80% success rate and the skin cancer has not returned. There is more research to be done, but the progress in combating melanoma is continuous.

Dr. Bast then introduced Sylvia Plevritis, PhD., Associate Professor, Department of Radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Plevritis, a very senior research professional who has already received multiple grants from the National Institute of Health, described her work in breast cancer computer modeling. She received a Translational Grant from The V Foundation to study genomic therapies and the value of early screening and detection of breast cancer. She and her team have created an on-line Decision Support Tool which is publically available at http://brcatool.stanford.edu/ . This decision support tool is designed for joint use by women with BRCA gene mutations and their health care providers. The goal of this tool is to inform discussion between providers and patients about options for reducing cancer risk. Dr Plevritis also discussed her Systems Biology Research, which is based on a “tsunami of molecular data” available in the public domain, from all of the cancer research that has been carried out, and the challenge of integrating and synthesizing this complex data to inform better outcomes. The specific purpose is: 1) to identify cellular networks of cancer and the drivers of initiation and progression, 2) to identify potential therapeutic targets and mechanisms of action, 3) to identify prognostic and predictive biomarkers, with the ultimate goal of accelerating benefits from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside.

Dr Bast then opened the Cancer Symposium to Q & A, after first introducing the entire V Foundation Scientific Advisory Board who were in attendance, to provide specific answers to questions from the attendees. A summary of the discussion is below (see the YouTube videos for the complete discussion):

  • Q. Is pancreatic cancer growing in our society? A. Pancreatic cancer is increasing consistent with the aging population in the US, but there is a lot of new research to combat this cancer.
  • Q. How can cancer be prevented? A. There is no cure for abnormal genetics. People need to understand their genetic history and share that information with health providers who may be able to provide early screening. Diet and metabolism need to be understood, and a healthy lifestyle is important for preventing cancer. Tobacco still causes one third of the cancers today.
  • Q. Is there an increase in brain tumors?  A. There doesn’t appear to be an increase in brain cancer in adults, but there may be an increase in children.
  • Q. How is the National Comprehensive Care Center Database kept current so that the patients who want to do personal research know that they are getting the best information? A. They are very rapidly updated.
  • Q. Are more Cancer Centers using integrated therapies to enhance the wellbeing of patients? A. Yes, there is a lot more being done, but these do not necessarily improve outcomes. However, some of the Chinese medicines have proven useful in curing some forms of cancer.

To view the Cancer Research Symposium in its entirety, visit the V Foundation Wine Celebration’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/winecelebration. The V Foundation works with the best and brightest scientists and doctors to fight cancer. Their goal is to use all of the cancer fighting therapies, in combination, to create a personal therapy to respond to the unique cancers that exist.

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