Chainbreaker ride funds cancer research team studying gut “bugs” and cancer at U of MN

August 7, 2018

The Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, announces recipients of $1.2M Breakthrough Grant funded by the inaugural Chainbreaker bike ride.

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (08/07/2018)

We live with a world of “bugs” (bacteria, viruses, fungi) in our gut. Collectively, these microorganisms likely influence susceptibility to cancer and its treatment. But as recently as March 2018, the journal Cell noted, “practical application of this knowledge is still in its infancy.” Funded by the rider-raised donations of the 2017 inaugural Chainbreaker bike ride, the Chainbreaker Breakthrough Cancer Research Grant will support a multi-disciplinary team of researchers focused on the topic of microorganisms and cancer.

The Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota is pleased to announce the first Chainbreaker Breakthrough Cancer Research Grant awarded to a team of 13 Masonic Cancer Center faculty who will study the role of the microorganisms as a cause of cancer and a major influence on the success of cancer therapy. The team will be co-led by Timothy K. Starr, PhD, Assistant Professor, Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health, and Alexander Khoruts, MD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, both from the University of Minnesota. The diverse team of faculty project leaders includes researchers and clinicians from the UMN Medical School (Departments of Surgery; Pediatrics; Biomedical Sciences, Duluth Campus; and Medicine’s Division of Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation), College of Biological Sciences, College of Science and Engineering (Department of Computer Science & Engineering), College of Pharmacy (Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology), and The BioTechnology Institute.

The team will explore the role of the intestinal microbiome both on colon cancer development and on the outcome of bone marrow stem cell transplantation. These two areas represent significant research strengths of the Masonic Cancer Center. This project will bring together an expert research team to clarify how the microbiome influences cancer outcomes.  The projects aim at shifting the current paradigms of cancer care in both diagnostics and treatments.

"Chainbreaker gives us the opportunity to support innovative and collaborative projects that might otherwise not happen," said Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD, vice president for Clinical Affairs and Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School. “Through the support of riders, volunteers, and donors, Chainbreaker funds research that changes lives."

In addition to the research projects, the Starr and Khoruts team will create a University of Minnesota Microbiome Analytics Core staffed with basic and computational scientists who will interact closely with clinicians and cancer biologists to rapidly analyze both samples and the vast quantities of data generated by this research. This resource will be available to all researchers at the U of M and become a center of excellence.

“For most of my career, I thought treating cancer was only focused on killing the tumor with little regard for its ‘neighborhood’.  We now know the microorganisms in our bodies have a substantial impact on cancer occurrence and treatment. We need to understand the relationship between our ‘bugs’ and ourselves to develop new ways to prevent and treat cancer,” said Douglas Yee, MD, breast cancer researcher, medical oncologist with University of Minnesota Health and director of the Masonic Cancer Center. “Masonic Cancer Center’s multi-disciplinary approach, with the help of funds raised from Chainbreaker and the expertise of our faculty, will continue to lead the path forward for cancer research.”

Over 1000 riders will be biking in the 2018 Chainbreaker on August 11-12, 2018, including several members of the Starr/Kohruts team. Project co-leader, Dr. Timothy Starr will be riding 100 miles on August 11, 2018 and this will be his second consecutive year taking part in the ride and raising funds for cancer research.

About Chainbreaker

Born in the Twin Cities, the goal of the Chainbreaker grassroots bike tour is to provide Masonic Cancer Center’s doctors and researchers with the necessary resources to discover cures for all cancers. 100% of rider-raised dollars go directly to the cause. The 2nd Annual Chainbreaker will take place August 10-12, 2018. Learn more at chainbreakerride.org.

About the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

As the Twin-Cities’ only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center, the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota is recognized for preeminent scientific leadership, resources, and the depth and breadth of their research in basic, clinical and population sciences. For more than 25 years, researchers, educators, and care providers have worked to discover the causes, prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer and cancer-related disease. Learn more atcancer.umn.edu.