H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute recognizes May as National Cancer Research Month, as declared in 2007 and 2011 by the United States Congress. Moffitt also supports the American Association for Cancer Research and its efforts to "facilitate progress and speed translation of new scientific discoveries for the benefit of cancer patients and the 13 million cancer survivors living in America today."
Moffitt Cancer Center's sole mission is "to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer." Moffitt began its research efforts in 1993 and by 1998 achieved National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation. Today, research at Moffitt includes more than 135 investigators organized around six scientific programs, all with an emphasis on translation.
The NCI has highlighted several of Moffitt's strengths, including the expansion of basic research, especially in the areas of cancer prevention and control; the growth and maturation of translational and clinical research; active collaboration between bench and clinical scientists; and careful recruitment of basic scientists in molecular and cancer genetics.
Moffitt Research Highlights
- Designer Lymph Nodes
Moffitt scientists have developed in the laboratory platform technology, supported by NIH and private foundation grants, leading to the creation of fully-functioning designer lymph nodes created "at will" anywhere in the body that directly incorporate or are combined with therapeutic cancer vaccines, producing a "tailored" immune response to combat cancer. The technology could construct a patient's own immune system organ(s) to combat cancer with fewer side effects, more efficacy and specificity. A phase I, proof-of-concept clinical trial in advanced melanoma patients is near completion.
The resulting benefit from these designer lymph nodes is that they may be utilized by patients to provide an enhanced, unified or diversified immune system to fight cancer. In addition, the patented technology extends into the area of gene profiling and personalized medicine. Molecular gene signatures have been identified that predict the presence of lymph nodes within human solid tumor masses that are associated with better patient prognosis (survival). The signatures may be used for preselecting cancer patients for immunotherapy interventions by identifying the presence of tumor-localized, lymph nodes without any supervision.
- Molecular Test for Predicting Response to Radiation Therapy
Several years ago, researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center developed a unique molecular diagnostic assay that identifies differences in tumor radiosensitivity, which allows the appropriate selection of patients most likely to benefit from radiation therapy. Radiation Therapy is the single most common agent used in cancer therapeutics and up to 60% of individuals diagnosed with cancer receive radiation therapy.
However, clinicians are unable to distinguish differences in radiosensitivity across tumors when prescribing radiation therapy. This molecular test utilizes a proprietary algorithm to generate a radiosensitivity index derived from the expression of ten specific genes. Importantly, it has been clinically-validated in four different disease sites (head and neck, esophageal, breast and rectal cancer) in hundreds of patient samples. A National Cancer Institute-sponsored trial is currently underway to prospectively validate the assay. A faculty startup called CvergenX is currently further developing this diagnostic assay.
- HPV Infection in Men
Moffitt's Anna Giuliano, Ph.D., has led two published studies about HPV infection in men. The multi-national study investigated the efficacy of quadrivalent HPV vaccine against HPV infection and disease in males. Human papillomavirus (HPV) and diseases caused by HPV are common in boys and men. The group evaluated the safety of the vaccine and its efficacy in preventing the development of external genital lesions and anogenitcal HPV infection in boys and men. The vaccine was shown to reduce the incidence of external genital lesions related to HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18.
Dr. Giuliano also led another international study with the goal of estimating incidence and clearance of type-specific genital HPV infection in men, and to assess the associated factors. Their findings showed that about 50 percent of men have genital HPV infection of one type or another. However, of those infected, only 6 percent had the strain that causes most (90 percent) HPV-linked head and neck cancers. In 90 percent of people, the virus goes away on its own. But it may persist in men more than women. The study provides data for establishing realistic cost-effectiveness models for male HPV vaccination internationally.