Five oncologists at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland will receive a $25,000 salary supplement for one year, allowing them to reserve time to pursue promising research ideas.
Uma Borate, M.D., M.S.
Michael Heinrich, M.D.
Matthew Taylor, M.D.
Gina Vaccaro, M.D.
Jacqueline Vuky, M.D.
The Knight Cancer Institute’s Clinical Research Scholar Awards aim to help physician-scientists advance discoveries with the greatest potential to improve cancer therapy, early diagnosis or prevention.
HPV vaccination coverage in Oregon varies by county. Numbers in this map show the rate of three-dose completion for teen girls and boys combined.
A safe and effective vaccine to prevent cancers caused by human papillomavirus became available more than 10 years ago, yet today less than half of Oregon teenagers complete the series of shots recommended for 13- to 17-year-olds. And that coverage looks even worse when examined by geography. Rates of completed vaccination in rural Oregon counties were as low as 16 percent for teen girls and 6 percent for teen boys as of May 2016.
OHSU researchers are aiming to improve HPV vaccination rates by exploring the unique reasons for high and low uptake in adjacent rural areas. “We want to understand both the barriers to vaccination and also the factors that may be informing and driving the successes,” says project leader Jackie Shannon, Ph.D., a professor in the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health and the Knight Cancer Institute’s director of community engaged research.
Serving Oregonians. Delivering discoveries. Developing talented clinicians and scientists. Leading the way. Here’s a look back at accomplishments by the staff and faculty of the Knight Cancer Institute. They reflect a mission of delivering compassionate care and scientific discoveries that will end cancer as we know it.
Michael Heinrich, M.D., meets with Victoria Castle of Sacramento, California, who was diagnosed with gastrointestinal stromal tumor in 2009. Her cancer became resistant to existing drugs, and she enrolled in a clinical trial of BLU-285, a targeted therapy agent designed to overcome resistance. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)
Targeted therapy drugs transformed the outlook for people with the rare cancers known as gastrointestinal stromal tumors, enabling some to survive a decade or longer. A fraction of GIST patients, however, never respond to treatment. And most of those who do respond eventually relapse because cancer cells evolve and become resistant to the drugs designed to stop them. It’s the big limitation of targeted therapies.
But researchers now have found a way to retarget GISTs that have evaded targeted therapy. The new agent is being tested in a phase 1 clinical trial at OHSU and other medical centers, and the company developing it has announced plans to begin a phase 3 trial in the first half of 2018.
“We have seen many patients with a good response to treatment, even after many failed prior treatment attempts with conventional drugs,” said Michael Heinrich, M.D., an OHSU Knight Cancer Institute scientist and VA Portland Health System oncologist. “Some of the lesions disappear. It’s really quite dramatic.”
For many cancers, five-year survival rates approach 99 percent if the disease is detected early, when tumors are small and not yet spreading.
But efforts to detect cancers early have led to a quandary. Current screening tests too often fail to find high-risk cancers while at the same time raising too many alarms about essentially harmless growths. The technologies used for early detection can’t reliably distinguish aggressive, life-threatening abnormalities from those that are unlikely to ever become dangerous.
Sadik Esener, Ph.D.
Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 at 7 p.m.
Register to attend
At the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, Sadik Esener, Ph.D., is building a multidisciplinary team seeking to overcome this dilemma. In a Marquam Hill Lecture in November, he’ll explain how Knight Cancer Institute scientists are probing cancer’s initiating events and early malignant changes, and applying this knowledge to develop low-cost screening tests, determine which cancers to vigorously treat, and direct precision therapies to minimize toxicity.
Esener is the Wendt Family Chair professor of biomedical engineering in the OHSU School of Medicine and director of CEDAR, the Knight Cancer Institute’s Early Detection Advanced Research Center.