Director's Message

The summer of 2014 was a busy time here at the Harper Cancer Research Institute (HCRI).


Among the many highlights was the 2nd Indiana-Illinois End Epithelial Ovarian Cancer Coalition (IIEEOCC) workshop. This event, generously sponsored by the Leo and Anne Albert Charitable Trust, is designed to foster collaboration and resource sharing among regional ovarian cancer researchers. The workshop opened with two inspirational keynote speakers and ovarian cancer survivors, Nancy White and Colleen Olund, who shared the stories of their personal battles against ovarian cancer. The event continued with a lively poster session that included enthusiastic conversations of progress in research, along with podium presentations and discussions. The workshop has already generated several exciting collaborative projects and the 2016 IIEEOCC is in the planning stages.

Locally, HCRI continued to promote cancer awareness by working with community organizations. We were pleased to sponsor Jazz Around the Bend, in support of RiverBend Cancer Services, featuring regional jazz musicians and auctions with proceeds going to RiverBend’s programs to support cancer patients and their families. We also appreciated the opportunity to assist in sponsoring Football 101, hosted by the Kelly Cares Foundation, in celebration of breast cancer survivorship. Ten women from HCRI participated in the event, learning from the Fighting Irish football players how to tackle, kick and throw the football. Football 101 provides a fun opportunity to gain more overall knowledge of the sport while supporting a great cause.


On the academic side, we hosted a group of distinguished visitors from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to explore opportunities for Notre Dame undergraduates to obtain hands-on research training in M.D. Anderson summer programs.  We were also pleased to award pilot funding to a number of innovative cancer-focused projects.  The goal of these awards is to enable investigators to generate strong and novel preliminary data to strengthen applications to external funding agencies.  The generous support of the Walther Cancer Foundation (WCF) provided a number of awards:


• The WCF Advancing Basic Cancer (ABC) Research Grants are designed to establish new collaborative teams focused on targeted deliverables. This year’s awardee teams are professors Siyuan Zhang, Brandon Ashfeld, Jeremiah Zartman for their innovative project using engineering approaches to better understand breast cancer brain metastasis and Matthew Ravosa, Glen Niebur and Timothy Ovaert for their team approach to understanding a serious side effect of chemotherapy that results in painful damage to bones of the jaw.

Harper Mission Statement

• The WCF Engineering Novel Solutions to Cancer’s Challenges at the Interdisciplinary Interface (ENSCCII) Training Project focuses on preparing the next generation of cancer researchers by providing inter-disciplinary training to pre- and post-doctoral fellows.  Awardees are Ricardo Josue Romero-Moreno (mentors Laurie Littlepage and Glen Niebur), Patricia Skallos (mentors Siyuan Zhang and David Hoelzle), Wei Huang (mentors Reginald Hill and Amanda Hummon) and Volker Kurz (mentors Greg Timp and Jenifer Prosperi). These trainees are designing experiments to better understand breast cancer bone and brain metastasis and to combat chemoresistance in pancreatic cancer.

• The Seeding Research in Cancer (SRC) program provides pilot funds to seed the development of new projects or to generate key data needed for an external grant application.  SRC grants, sponsored by both the WCF and the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, were awarded to Professors Niranjan Awasthi, Karen Cowden-Dahl, Richard Dahl, Reginald Hill, Laurie Littlepage, Oleg Kim, Ryan Roeder and Zachary Schultz.  A great array of projects are supported, focusing on chemotherapy resistance and metastasis in breast, pancreatic and ovarian cancers; novel methods for cancer detection and drug delivery; and progression of leukemia.

Please join me in congratulating these investigators, and look for updates on their research progress in future installments of Harper Highlights.