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CORE LAB FUNCTIONS DURING COVID 19
The threat of COVID-19 is one more thing cancer patients have to worry about. While the world attempts to defeat the virus, cancers are marching on, threatening lives. Over 25,000 people in Louisiana this year alone. Patients with cancer can be at higher risk should they contract the virus and the self-distancing order has the potential to disrupt treatment schedules and oncology visits.
Overcoming this constant threat of cancer is the motivation of the more than 200 scientists who are members of the Louisiana Cancer Research Center faculty, a consortium of Tulane School of Medicine, LSU Health Sciences New Orleans, Ochsner Health System and Xavier University of New Orleans. They are continuing their cancer research, all the while adhering to their institutions’ and government precautionary instructions.
Melyssa Bratton, PhD was not going to let the citywide lockdown stand in the way of the critical work she does as assistant director of the BiospecimenCore Lab at the LCRC, a repository of thousands of tumor specimens donated by patients to further cancer research.
The core lab has been able to accommodate requests for samples during this down-time. It took some logistical coordination to deliver the samples during a lockdown but Dr. Bratton’s team came through. “Each week, my team members, including myself, all come in at least one day a week to perform essential duties, including checking on the liquid nitrogen tanks to make sure they are operating and filled, cutting slides from tumor samples for internal quality control purposes, and general maintenance/office work,” she explained.
Dr. Bratton took over management of the lab in late 2019 and immediately started working on a major software upgrade. Thanks to the quick work of LCRC information technology specialist Alan Shoemaker, Dr. Bratton’s team is able to access the database from home.
“Before our team went remote, I sent them home with about six month’s worth of pathology reports that must be entered manually into the program. That should keep everyone very busy for the foreseeable future,” Dr. Bratton said.
Preserving Cancer Research
The current COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of the importance of medical and basic research. Scientists around the world are working to meet this challenge building on years of advances in the areas of infectious disease and vaccine development.
The research activities conducted and supported by the LCRC are mission critical to our partner institutions. They have transitioned to distance learning and remote work as much as possible and we at the LCRC have suspended some daily activities while prioritizing essential services to support them.
The LCRC building remains open for research staff, employees, necessary vendors, and critical delivery personnel only. For those who have to come to work to conduct essential activities, we are enforcing social distancing and following all the recommendations of the Centers of Disease Control and federal, state, and local guidance. Despite the threat of COVID-19, the LCRC remains a critical resource for our state’s largest consortium of cancer researchers.
We all need to do our part to protect the most vulnerable during this time. In addition to older members of our community and those with underlying conditions, cancer patients who have received certain treatments that compromise the immune system are more vulnerable. The National Cancer Institute has provided helpful information and resources for cancer patients during this evolving situation. Please share this information as we all work to minimize exposure to the virus.
LCRC Chief Administrative Officer
LCRC MEMBER INSTITUTIONS CANCER RESEARCH TOTALS REACH HIGH MARK
Cancer-related research grants awarded to member scientists of The Louisiana Cancer Research Center (LCRC) partners totaled over $28.4 million from the National Institutes of Health, according to the LCRC’s 2019 annual report. This brings the total research funding received to over $30 million.
The LCRC is a nonprofit public-private partnership of the state’s biggest research entities working together to compete for and win millions in research funding with a goal of attaining the prestigious designation of a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center. Cancer researchers from LSU Health New Orleans, Tulane University School of Medicine, Xavier University and Ochsner Health System collaborate and utilize LCRC resources in their work.
Of the $28.4 million of NIH funds awarded in 2019, $12 million was funded by the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health. Since its creation by the Louisiana Legislature in 2012, LCRC scientists have amassed $380 million in federal cancer research dollars.
“2019 saw an increase in LCRC faculty research awards. This continuing trajectory is a very positive factor as we embark on the critical step of actively recruiting a scientific director for the LCRC, one of the key requisites for NCI Center designation,” said Sven Davisson, LCRC Chief Administrative Officer and Interim Chief Executive Officer. Over 200 PhDs and MDs statewide are LCRC faculty members.
Highlights of 2019 include:
LCRC institutions provided access to clinical trials for 1,437 new patients in the region, a 34% increase from the prior year.
A five-year $13.6 million NCI Grant to LCRC partners LSU Health New Orleans, Ochsner Health System and other Louisiana research centers greatly expanded clinical trial access, increasing the number of sites from 22 to 42.
Research led by Tulane University showed that the genetic risks associated with prostate cancer have been underestimated and provides support for expanding testing to include an increased number of patients.
Investigators from Xavier University will gather evidence regarding decision aid training to African American men about PSA-screening, a population with the highest incidence of prostate cancer among all male cancers in the U.S.
Thanks to the efforts of The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco Free Living, an LCRC-funded program, 29 Louisiana municipalities are now smoke-free. The rise of vaping-related illnesses and deaths in our state poses a serious health threat to communities and is a new focus.
(For more details, please see our Fact Sheet)
Clinical Trial to Study Health Disparities and Prostate Cancer Screening
Prostate cancer has the highest incidence and the second highest mortality rates among all male cancers in the country and the incidence of prostate cancer is about 60% higher in black men than in whites. Although the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood exam has been the standard screening for early detection, due to concerns about over-diagnosis and side effects associated with unnecessary treatment, the 2018 revised clinical guidelines recommend against routine PSA-screening. The guidelines now recommend a shared decision making process where men are educated about prostate cancer risks and screening, discuss the benefits and limitations of PSA-testing with their healthcare providers, and then make an informed personal choice about whether to be tested.
Considering providers’ time restrictions during medical encounters and differences in patient-provider communication approaches (particularly with minority patients), LCRC researchers at Xavier University of Louisiana are conducting a 4-year-randomized clinical trial led by Dr. Margarita Echeverri and funded by the National Institutes of Health. The goal is to provide evidence regarding the applicability of a shared decision making process during the clinical encounters of African American men.
The project will assess the efficacy of a decision aid (training) about PSA-screening, among 200 African American men, 40+ years old, with no history of prostate cancer, and who receive primary care services at different clinical sites (Tulane Medical Center, University Medical Center and Access Health Louisiana).
Investigators expect that the results of this project can be scaled to primary care practices across the U.S. and may be adapted to other types of cancer where guidelines have included decision-making. Most importantly, this study should result in more effective prostate cancer screening practices of African American men that will reduce cancer mortality.
February 2020 newsletter: Sharing Research on Thursdays. Read about our cancer research efforts @ https://bit.ly/39jUaSs
“New Orleans eyes key component to becoming health care ‘destination'”
Published in the January 16, 2020 Edition of New Orleans City Business
Click HERE to read more.
The Louisiana Cancer Research Center welcomes a new Biospecimen Core Lab Manager, Dr. Melyssa Bratton. To read more, click HERE.
GIVING THANKS AND BEST WISHES
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE LCRC
The generosity of our donors and supporters is truly heartwarming. Last month, the LCRC received over $100,000 thanks to our annual Research for the Cure gala at Canal Place.
This month, we received an early holiday present from Nu-Lite Electrical Wholesalers in New Orleans. The company donated over $13,000 to the LCRC as part of its annual charity program funded by vendors who donated a portion of their sales.
We are grateful for these acts of kindness that support cancer research efforts at the LCRC. Thank you!
The Facts About Vaping. Don’t be fuuled. Vaping is the new nicotine buzz. Read more in this month’s newsletter. Click HERE to continue reading.
2019 LOUISIANA YOUTH TOBACCO SURVEY SHOWS ALARMING RISE IN YOUTH E-CIGARETTE USE
Both Middle and High School E-Cigarette Use Doubled Since 2017
New Orleans, LA (October 31, 2019) – Today, the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL) released a shared report on e-cigarette use among Louisiana’s youth. Data from the 2019 Louisiana Youth Tobacco Survey (LYTS) shows an alarming rise in e-cigarette use among middle and high school students.
In 2019, approximately 32 percent of high school students and 15 percent of middle school students used vape products more than once. These numbers have doubled since 2017 and tripled since 2015. The Louisiana data follows the national trend of increased vape use among youth and young adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has labeled youth vape use an epidemic and is currently investigating more than 1,600 cases of lung injury and 34 deaths connected to vape use.
“We strongly encourage Louisiana’s educational leadership and policy makers to heed these alarming youth vape statistics,” said Tonia Moore, director of TFL. “Without regulations for vape products at the state level and addiction counseling at the school and community level for our young people, they will continue to receive misinformation from Big Tobacco and vapor industry influencers that puts their health in immediate jeopardy.”
Additionally, the survey asked students to identify the brand they utilized. Fifty-five percent of high school students who have ever used a vape product reported using a JUUL product. The next leading brand accounted for 16 percent of high school students’ use. JUUL is by far the most well-known brand among youth, and “JUULing” is often synonymous with “vaping.”
“One of TFL’s main goals is to prevent the initiation of all tobacco use among young people,” said Moore. “We will continue to work with school districts around the state to train students, parents, and educators about the dangers of these products and long-term effects they have on the body and brain development.”
As interest around vaping has intensified, TFL has seen an increase in the number of requests for these trainings. The presentations are particularly beneficial because they address common misconceptions about vaping, vaping terminology, and the nicotine content in vape products, among others. To request a training for your school or organization, please email email@example.com. Educational materials and fact sheets are also available for use here in the “Youth and Young Adult Section.”
TFL is also in the process of launching an awareness campaign called “Don’t Get FUULed” which targets youth and young adults. The digital campaign conveys similarities between vaping and traditional cigarette use and the tobacco industry’s involvement in vaping companies. The campaign can be viewed by visiting https://fuul.us/.
The complete data report for the Louisiana Youth Tobacco Survey will be available in 2020. Data from previous years can be found here. Additional resources, including tips for parents, educators, and coaches on how to talk to teens about vaping, can be found here.
2019 Research for the Cure a Success
The Louisiana Cancer Research Center is grateful to the hundreds of friends and supporters who attended last week’s Research for the Cure. Canal Place and shop owners opened their doors for an elegant evening of shopping in between servings of fine cocktails, champagne, cuisine from 25 of the city’s best chefs, two fantastic bands and a silent auction of luxury items. When it was all said and done, the event raised well over $130,000 and donations are still coming in.
Oct. 15, 2019
Research for the Cure Co-chair on Fox8 Morning Show to discuss the upcoming Research for the Cure Gala (click link below):
Oct. 14, 2019
Research for the Cure benefitting the LCRC featured on Eyewitness Morning News (click link below):
Oct. 14, 2019
Biz New Orleans – Daily Biz Minute-Research for the Cure video (click link below if video is not present):
Oct. 7, 2019
Singer, Greenberg co-chairing NOLA Research for the Cure gala
Louisiana Cancer Research Center featured on state-wide TV News show
The collaborative efforts of cancer researchers from Tulane, LSU, Ochsner and Xavier were highlighted by journalist Andre Moreau, host of Louisiana public broadcasting’s Louisiana: The State We’re In. Moreau spent several hours with LCRC faculty to report on what happens when the state’s largest research entities combine their resources to fight cancer. The story is at the 20 minute mark at this link:
Clinical Trials Network Award $13.6 Million Award from NCI
LCRC partners, LSU Health New Orleans and Ochsner, in collaboration with Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center and LSU Health Shreveport Cancer Center, have been awarded a $13.6 million grant by the National Cancer Institute to expand its successful statewide clinical trials network with a special emphasis on minority and underserved cancer patients. Principal Investigator Dr. Augusto Ochoa, Director of LSU Health New Orleans Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center, and his team will develop a new entity by combining LSU Health New Orleans’ previously funded Gulf South Minority/Underserved NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) with Ochsner’s Community NCORP. Click here for more information.
Thank you to our co-chairs and honorees! Organizing our annual gala is a major event and it would never be possible without the hard work of our committee, led by Co-chairs Sue Singer and Barbara Greenberg. We are delighted to honor Angela Hill, Karen Swensen and Carolyn Elder at this year’s event- three women whose lives have been touched by cancer. Tickets are now available at ResearchfortheCure.org. See you on Oct. 16 at Canal Place!
Click HERE to watch a brief video showcasing our committee chairs.
LCRC Collaboration in Action
The collaborative nature of the Louisiana Cancer Research Center has been a boost to the research efforts of Dr. L. Spencer Krane, an Assistant Professor of Urology at Tulane University School of Medicine and LCRC faculty member.
Click HERE to continue reading this article.
Our annual fundraising gala is transitioning to a new event, Research for the Cure. Click HERE to read the official press release.
LCRC’s Biospecimen Core Lab’s Role in Cancer Research
Click HERE to read this article.
LCRC’s Annual Retreat, 2019
Almost 200 researchers gathered at Xavier University in May for the annual Louisiana Cancer Research Center’s scientific retreat. The daylong, off-site gathering has proven to be an effective way to promote additional collaborations among the organization. LCRC member researchers from LSU, Tulane, Xavier and Ochsner presented dozens of posters of their research, from cancer genetics, immunology, molecular signaling, population sciences and clinical and translational research.
Zhe Wang, Phd lectured on “Sulfatase activity measurement in human body fluids for point-of-care cancer diagnosis.”
Yaguang Xi, MD,PhD, spoke on “Sulindac and triple negative breast cancer,” Louis Spencer Krane, MD talked about “Advances in renal cell carcinoma” and LiLi, MD, PhD discussed “Targetable miRNAs in the colorectal cancer extracellular microenvironment.”
Xavier University Professor of Biochemistry and LCRC Associate Director Thomas Wiese told the group that fostering collaboration was “the whole idea” of these retreats. “We are all focused on our research throughout the year and there are a lot of collaborations between the LCRC. As you go through the day and the poster sessions, please look for opportunities for more collaboration.” Wiese prompted fellow Xavier scientists by noting that he had specifically set aside some funding for LCRC- Xavier faculty to develop collaborations with LCRC faculty from other institutions.
“This is the thirteenth year we have held the LCRC Scientific Retreat and it is always well-attended,” said LCRC Chief Administrative Officer Sven Davisson. “LCRC researchers are undertaking impactful cancer research and the opportunity to get them together in a single room, outside of the lab is always very productive.”
Every day, researchers are conducting cancer research in labs at the LCRC. Like Tiffany Kaul, pictured here, who is working with cancer cell lines as part of cancer genetics research.
La. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living’s Response to HB 38
Click HERE to read
Precision Medicine: Tailoring Treatment to the Individual
Click HERE to read this article
THE POWER OF PARTNERING: LOUISIANA CANCER RESEARCH CENTER HIGHLIGHTS STRIDES IN FEDERAL FUNDING AND CANCER-FIGHTING COLLABORATIONS
March 26, 2019, New Orleans, LA – As partner members of The Louisiana Cancer Research Center (LCRC), the state’s esteemed research institutions made important inroads in cancer research, prevention and diagnosis in 2018. The LCRC facilitates and supports the cancer-related research of members LSU Health New Orleans, Tulane University School of Medicine, Xavier University of Louisiana, Ochsner Health System and the LCRC’s smoking cessation program, The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL).
“Working together, LCRC members are generating the cross-institutional critical mass that is needed to qualify for some of the very large cancer research programs and the complex grants that require multiple investigators,” said Augusto Ochoa, MD, Co-Director, LCRC, Director, Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center, LSU Health New Orleans.
“We are stronger researchers when we work together and the LCRC is making it easier to bridge the silos that understandably exist among academic research institutions are located close to one another,” said Prescott Deininger, PhD, Co-Director LCRC and Director, Tulane Cancer Center.
In its annual report released today, the LCRC highlighted its scientific achievements of 2018, particularly clinical trials driven by precision medicine, which involves tailoring cancer treatments to a patient’s unique genetic profile. Other achievements include:
In 2018, LCRC member institutions enrolled 1,071 patients in clinical trials, published 343 articles in scientific journals, and hosted 47 scientific seminars. “This depth of scientific research and collaboration does not happen in a vacuum. LCRC has provided critical core infrastructure, laboratory and meeting spaces that foster collaboration and innovation,” said Sven Davisson, LCRC Chief Administrative Officer.
In Louisiana, LCRC members account for more than 80% of federal cancer research funding. Every $1 in NIH funding generates more than double that in local economic growth for a total economic impact of $64 million in Louisiana last year.
The LCRC also released its Strategic Framework document outlining the center’s plan for attaining designation as a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center, considered a pathway to even more increases in federal research awards. In an introductory letter, LCRC Board Chairs Dr. L. Lee Hamm, dean of Tulane University School of Medicine and Dr. Larry Hollier, chancellor of LSU Health New Orleans stated: Through targeted faculty recruitment and strategic investments, our research programs are stronger than ever. National Cancer Institute funding has more than doubled. Our investigators have leveraged the collaborative infrastructure provided by the LCRC to successfully compete for major federal grants that would have otherwise been unlikely.
The LCRC recently began a search for a scientific director, a key component for NCI-Center designation. “Despite recent decreases in federal funding, the LCRC research grant totals have significantly exceeded pre-Katrina levels. We believe the strength of the LCRC collaboration will appeal to high-level candidates across the country,” Davisson said.
For Quick Facts about the LCRC click here.
About the LCRC
Based in New Orleans, The Louisiana Cancer Research Center was created in 2002 by the Louisiana State Legislature. LCRC’s mission is to promote cancer education and to research the diagnosis, detection and treatment of cancer while pursuing a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation. Website: louisianacancercenter.org; Facebook: @louisianacancercenter Twitter: @CancerLouisiana