As we wrap up 2013 and begin the new year, we have a lot to be thankful for here at Harper Cancer Research Institute (HCRI)! It has been a wonderful year, with our scientists and trainees participating in work that supports our mission statement to conduct “innovative and integrative research to address the complex challenges of cancer”. Our researchers have been in the news in scientific journals as well as local and national press and I invite you to visit our website’s ‘news’ page to view all of the interesting news items highlighting our accomplishments (http://HarperCancer.nd.edu).
The main highlight of this year is how we have truly expanded our reach to become involved in cancer awareness and education activities, novel collaborative projects, and research not only here on campus, but also in the local community as well as nationally and globally. Some of our campus activities include partnering with the women’s rowing team Erg-a-Thon for pancreatic cancer research, Coach McGraw’s Pink Zone fundraiser and Coach Brey’s Coaches vs Cancer initiative. We hosted a Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Symposium and co-sponsored cancer-themed films at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Locally we have worked with important community organizations including the Kelly Cares Foundation and River Bend Cancer Services. We are also making tremendous progress working with the local clinical community, with our partnering hospitals and their surgical teams enthusiastically participating in our Tissue Biorepository biobanking efforts (South Bend Medical Foundation, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center and Memorial Hospital of South Bend). St. Joe’s has also sponsored pilot projects in breast cancer for several of our investigators.
In the national arena, HCRI scientists continue to collaborate and raise awareness across the country. I traveled to Washington DC this summer to meet congressional staffers to advocate with the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance for increased support for ovarian cancer research. In addition to our ongoing efforts with the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center, we were invited by Loyola University’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center to attend a research retreat last July, co-sponsored by Trinity Health, to identify collaborative opportunities between HCRI and Loyola investigators and clinicians. This event was very fruitful, generating four new funded collaborative projects and several extramural grant applications in the planning stage. We will host Loyola researchers here in Harper Hall in the spring of 2014 to continue these efforts. For an exciting day hosted by Mr. John Jordan II, a team of HCRI faculty traveled with Provost Burish and Dean Crawford to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to discuss collaborative research and novel educational opportunities for our trainees. We anticipate that this interaction will offer additional new opportunities for our faculty and trainees to participate in translational research.
Perhaps most exciting is that our reach has also extended internationally this year. We were fortunate to partner with the Eck Institute for Global Health and the Walther Cancer Foundation to host a research trainee from Moi University in Kenya. The associated hospital sees a surprising number of highly advanced breast cancer cases in very young women, and HCRI researchers are trying to understand how these extremely aggressive tumors develop. In addition to providing important information that may aid women in Kenya, this knowledge may also help US women of African descent as well as identify novel mutations that may cause breast cancer (and may therefore be new drug targets). We are in discussion to collaborate on a similar project with researchers in Mexico. Recently we also participated in discussion with a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks that were visiting campus to raise awareness for the Children’s Cancer Care Treatment Center in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. In the future, we hope to be able to lend scientific expertise to their search for treatments of serious cancers that affect children.
As I mentioned earlier, we have a lot to be thankful for this year. We truly appreciate the caring, generosity, effort and determination of everyone worldwide who has contributed to the success of the Harper Cancer Research Institute. On behalf of the faculty, staff, and trainees of the Harper Cancer Research Institute, I wish you and yours a healthy and contented 2014!