Cancer 101

Deconstructing scientific research

Recently, the Forbeck Foundation has been funding Collaborative Research Projects that bring together top cancer researchers from various disciplines around the world.  The collaborations have created major stepping stones for the future of cancer research.  Below are very basic summaries of recent collaborations which should give you an idea of “What does it mean and how does this help in the fight against cancer.”


  • IDH - Isocitrate Dehydrogenase
  • AML - Acute Myeloid Leukemia
  • RCC - Renal Cell Carcinoma

Comprehensive structure-function analysis of mutant IDH

Julie-Aurore Losman M.D., PhD. - Harvard Medical School

Cory M Johannessen, PhD. - Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

IDH is a protein in the body that has been linked to the transformation of normal cells into tumor cells.  Drs Losman and Johannessen have created a comprehensive range of mutant IDH enzymes in the laboratory. These enzymes have been assessed for their ability to turn normal cells into their malignant counterparts.  Drugs that inhibit the production of cancer-causing substances in IDH are showing promise in early clinical trials.  There is further research being done to understand how IDH functions.

These studies have particular relevance to the blood born cancer called (AML) and glioblastoma, a brain tumor, in which it is known that IDH mutations are prevalent.


Identifying Epigenetic Vulnerabilities in Pre-Malignant Hematopoietic Stem Cells

Dr. Grant A. Challen, Ph.D. - Washington University

Dr. Christopher R. Vakoc, Ph.D. - Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Drs Challen and Vakoc have attempted to identify some of the damaged proteins that can occur in blood cells and that may contribute to the generation of pre-malignant cells. They are developing models to investigate how part of a specific protein functions and to see if chemical inhibitors of the protein could be used to kill leukemia cells.

Drs Challen and Vakoc are also exploring molecular tools to increase the response rate to certain kinds of inhibitors in patients with a specific genetic profile in certain subsets of AMLs.  

The aim is to understand how specific proteins regulate the malignant process(es) involved in the evolution of AML so that therapeutic targets can be identified.


Immune cell genomic and metabolomic profiling in renal cell carcinoma

Benjamin Vincent, M.D. - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Kimryn Rathmell, M.D., Ph.D. - Vanderbilt University Medical Center

This collaboration focused on genetic information and metabolic substances within the cells of RCC.  Drs Vincent and Rathmell have discovered that patients with a particular form of kidney cancer, have a worse survival rate if their tumors contain high numbers of a type of immune cell (B lymphocytes) which suppress other cells that normally fight the tumor.  

Drs Vincent and Rathmell compared response rates of the immune cells of RCC patients who were treated with the drug Pazopanib.  The results of this analysis suggest that if an immune response to the tumor develops, the response to pazopanib appears to be better.

Drs Vincent and Rathmell made significant contributions to the overall field of kidney cancer research as a result of this Forbeck Collaborative Research Grant.