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Research Highlights for May 2023

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Research Highlights

Huntsman Cancer Institute research highlights shine the spotlight on new discoveries and cutting-edge cancer research. This past month, researchers found a better treatment practice for patients who have melanoma. They also created a model for adrenocortical carcinoma, a rare cancer that originates in the outer portion of the adrenal gland. Learn more about a new brain cancer medication being fast-tracked for FDA approval and how Huntsman Cancer Institute was selected to conduct clinical trials for cancer patients with HIV.

Clinical trial suggests changes to melanoma patient care

A study recounting a clinical trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that three cycles of immunotherapy before surgery, followed by immunotherapy for one year, decreases the likelihood of stage III melanoma recurrence. This strategy improved outcomes compared to the current standard of care. 

Immunotherapy enables the patient’s immune system to have a stronger response to cancer. John Hyngstrom, MD, oncology surgeon at Huntsman Cancer Institute and associate professor of surgical oncology at the University of Utah, was the site principal investigator of the Southwest Oncology Group 1801 trial at Huntsman Cancer Institute. 

Researchers study adrenocortical carcinoma and find differences between sexes

A new study is providing hope for those with a rare adrenal cancer. The research, published in the journal Nature Aging, uncovered new information about adrenocortical carcinoma, a rare, highly-aggressive cancer with no effective therapies. Huntsman Cancer Institute researchers Kate Warde, PhD, principal investigator Kaitlin Basham, PhD, assistant professor of oncological sciences at the University of Utah, and fellow researchers found that in their model, female mice were more likely to develop adrenocortical carcinoma compared with males. 

This was particularly striking because in humans, this cancer is also more common in women than men. The researchers found that male mice, who were more protected from aggressive adrenal tumors, had a stronger myeloid immune response. This protective immune response in males was enhanced by male sex hormones called androgens. This study has opened up exciting avenues for further research and new potential therapeutic interventions to improve cancer care.

First oral medication to treat brain cancer in over 20 years shown to be effective

Researchers found the first oral medication in over two decades to treat low-grade gliomas, slows their growth. Low-grade gliomas are a type of slow-growing brain tumor. The medication in this phase III clinical trial targets a mutation to help control the cancer. Huntsman Cancer Institute was a top institution in providing patients to this global clinical trial with neuro-oncologist Joe Mendez, MD, also an assistant professor in the department of neurosurgery at the University of Utah, as the principal investigator.

The findings of the clinical trial show that the medication slows the tumor growing, and therefore could delay the treatment of more aggressive therapies, like radiation and chemotherapy. Because of these results, researchers and doctors will be working on getting a fast-tracked approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

AIDS Malignancy Consortium brings clinical trials to patients in the Mountain West

Huntsman Cancer Institute is now an AIDS Malignancy Consortium site, a National Cancer Institute-supported group that provides clinical trials to cancer patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Previously, patients with HIV had limited access to cancer clinical trials. This international clinical trial cooperative group is closing the gap. Gita Suneja, MD, MS, physician-scientist at Huntsman Cancer Institute and associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Utah, is the lead investigator of this initiative that will greatly benefit people living with HIV in the Area We Serve.

Media Contact

Heather Simonsen
Public Relations
Huntsman Cancer Institute
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801 581-3194

About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah is the National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center for Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming. With a legacy of innovative cancer research, groundbreaking discoveries, and world-class patient care, we are transforming the way cancer is understood, prevented, diagnosed, treated, and survived. Huntsman Cancer Institute focuses on delivering the highest standard of care and the most advanced treatments, ensuring world-class cancer care is available to all communities in the area we serve. We have more than 300 open clinical trials and 250 research teams studying cancer at any given time. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center. Our scientists are world-renowned for understanding how cancer begins and using that knowledge to develop innovative approaches to treat each patient’s unique disease. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.

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