University of Chicago
Medicine Sarcoma Research

Achievement Report for the Ted Mullin Fund

Because of the support of the Ted Mullin Fund, sarcoma research at the University of Chicago Medicine is progressing each day. Unlike research for some cancers, where clinical trials enable investigators to gain insight into effective treatments, breakthroughs for sarcoma patients come from basic and multi-disciplinary research—the kind taking place at UChicago.

Contributors to the fund have a reason to celebrate as UChicago reached its first anniversary of the Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Program this year. The program, which initially focused on leukemia and sarcomas, now addresses lymphoma and will soon add germ cell tumors, which originate inside the ovaries and testes.

Additionally, Drs. Kenan Onel and John Cunningham are using DNA-sequencing to identify the genetic basis of these germ cell tumors. Over a two-year period, they will sequence 40 tumors and anticipate that the results will lead to new therapeutic drugs to treat children and adults with these devastating diseases.

Ted Mullin Fund Scholars

This summer, thanks to the generosity of so many of you, UChicago once again hosted Ted Mullin Fund Scholars in pediatric cancer laboratories. These collegiate Ted Mullin Fund Hour of Power participants advanced their interest in science and cancer biology. The goal of the program is to foster the next generation of physician scientists devoted to pediatric cancer research.

In addition to these advancements, several faculty members at the University of Chicago Medicine are making headway into sarcoma research. Among them are:

  • Dr. Navin Pinto—Pinto is an expert in experimental drug therapies. He is extending the University of Chicago’s Center for Personalized Therapeutics 1200 Patients Project, which explores how a patient’s genetic makeup can inform the choices physicians make about their patient’s medications. The project, initially aimed at adults, now includes children. Ultimately, the goal is to reach higher cure rates for children and adults.
  • Dr. John Cunningham is opening a new stem cell transplant study that will use a patient’s own immune system to attack residual tumors. The study is for patients with resistant diseases.
  • Drs. Samuel Volchenboum and Andres Morales have identified a new approach to treating neuroblastoma. With new technology, they aim to identify patients likely to have poor outcomes. They will also be exploring this approach for other tumors such as sarcoma.

Other new work underway at the University of Chicago

  • In collaboration with the University of Texas Southwestern and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, UChicago continues to build a national consortium to develop new molecular and biologic therapeutics for sarcomas.
  • Dr. Yusuke Nakamura, who was recruited from Japan in 2012, is a leading authority in large-scale cancer genomic screening studies. He has developed numerous cancer therapies, including a synovial sarcoma antibody drug currently being studied in clinical trials in France. He hopes to bring this and other trials next year as he builds new collaborations with UChicago’s pediatric oncology faculty.
  • UChicago also recruited Dr. James LaBelle, a physician scientist, who uses novel drug therapies in combination with the University’s molecular engineering skills to develop new drugs. His goal is to extend options for children with resistant tumors.