Van Andel Research Institute funds $7.5M to continue stand up to cancer epigenetics dream team

October 20, 2014

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan - The work of one of the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) inaugural Dream Teams, launched in 2009 to focus on epigenetic therapy in cancer treatment, will continue with the commitment of $7.5 million from Van Andel Research Institute (VARI). Peter A. Jones, PhD, DSc, VARI's research director and chief scientific officer, and Stephen Baylin, MD, deputy director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University, will serve as leaders of the Dream Team.

The VARI-SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team will include top scientists from four other leading institutions: Charles Rudin, MD, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York; Jean-Pierre Issa, MD, and Patricia Kropf, MD, Temple University and Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia; Kirsten Grønbæk, MD, DMSc, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen; and Anthony El-Khoueiry, MD, University of Southern California Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles.

"We are extremely excited to build on the foundations already laid by the Epigenetics Dream Team by moving promising therapies into clinical trials," Jones said. "Epigenetics provides untold opportunities to expand our knowledge of the mechanisms underlying cancer and to develop new treatments that positively affect people's lives. By partnering with Stand Up To Cancer, the American Association for Cancer Research, and prestigious research institutions in the United States and abroad, we have the chance to do truly exceptional research that will have a significant impact on human health."

The original Dream Team, with Baylin as leader and Jones as co-leader, has received nearly $11 million in funding from SU2C, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation.

"The SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team has already made significant and important progress in the treatment of cancer, finding that epigenetics can potentially 'prime' cancer cells, making them more receptive to chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy," stated Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, chairman of the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee and institute professor at the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "This substantial support from Van Andel Research Institute will allow their work to continue and bring hope for patients with lung and other cancers."

As before, the team will focus on epigenetic mechanisms in cells, which help control whether genes are turned on or off without changing the DNA sequence itself. The work has involved clinical trials investigating the response of patients with lung cancer to epigenetic therapy alone, or as a way to sensitize patients to subsequent chemotherapy. VARI's support over three years will allow the team to move forward with more extensive clinical trials in other cancer types. It will also allow the team to test additional epigenetic therapy strategies to improve upon the progress already made.

The VARI-SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team will continue within the SU2C scientific structure, a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional team engaged in accelerated translational research seeking patient benefits with rigorous scientific oversight and peer review provided by SU2C and its Scientific Partner, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

Since its inception in 2008, SU2C has funded 12 Dream Teams of researchers and two translational research teams, as well as 26 early-career, innovative scientists whose high-risk, potentially high-reward projects are aimed at ending cancer's reign as a leading cause of death worldwide.
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Media Contacts

Van Andel Research Institute

Beth Hinshaw Hall
616-822-2064
beth.hinshawhall@vai.org

SU2C

Jane Rubinstein
646-386-7969
jrubinstein@eifoundation.org

AACR

Rick Buck
215-446-7162
rick.buck@aacr.org

About Van Andel Research Institute

Established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent research and educational organization based in Grand Rapids, Mich. Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), VAI's research arm, is dedicated to studying the genetic, cellular and molecular origins of cancer, Parkinson's and other diseases and working to translate those findings into effective therapies. Find out more about Van Andel Institute or donate by visiting http://www.vai.org. 100% To Research, Discovery & Hope®.

About Stand Up To Cancer

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) raises funds to accelerate the pace of research to get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. SU2C, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, was established in 2008 by film and media leaders who utilize the industry's resources to engage the public in supporting a new, collaborative model of cancer research, and to increase awareness about progress being made in the fight against the disease. As SU2C's scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and a Scientific Advisory Committee led by Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, conduct rigorous, competitive review processes to identify the best research proposals to recommend for funding, oversee grants administration, and provide expert review of research progress.

Current members of the SU2C Council of Founders and Advisors (CFA) include Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Kathleen Lobb, Lisa Paulsen, Rusty Robertson, Sue Schwartz, Pamela Oas Williams, and Ellen Ziffren. All current members of the CFA were co-producers of the 2012 and 2014 televised specials. The late co-founder Laura Ziskin executive produced both the Sept. 5, 2008, and Sept. 10, 2010, broadcasts. SU2C was formally launched on May 27, 2008. Sung Poblete, PhD, RN, has served as SU2C's president and CEO since 2011.

For more information on Stand Up To Cancer visit http://www.standup2cancer.org.

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 35,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in 97 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 over 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.

Entertainment Industry Foundation

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