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Highmark Health, Allegheny Health Network Break Ground on New AHN Cancer Institute Academic Center at Allegheny General Hospital

AHN new building

$80 Million, State-of-the-art Facility will be Network’s Hub for Leading-Edge Cancer Research and Complex Patient Care; part of $225 Million Investment to Redefine Future of Cancer Care

Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network (AHN) today unveiled plans for a new academic cancer center at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) that will provide patients with access to leading-edge cancer therapies and serve as the nucleus of cancer research, clinical trials and medical education for the AHN Cancer Institute.        

Expected to open in late 2019, the new $80 million, 90,000 square-foot AHN Cancer Institute Academic Center at AGH will be the academic specialty base of an integrated, innovative, and collaborative network that takes high-quality, comprehensive cancer care into communities throughout the western Pennsylvania region.  The facility is part of a $225 million commitment that Highmark and AHN have made to establish a new paradigm in community-based cancer care.

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Targeting Bladder Cancer's Achilles Heel: Stem Cells

--New research discovers two proteins pivotal to maintaining cancer stem cells, which cause chemotherapy resistance.
Two different proteins work separately as well as synergistically to feed a small pool of stem cells that help bladder cancer resist chemotherapy, research led by a Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center scientist suggests. The finding, published online in Cancer Research, could lead to new targets to fight this deadly disease and potentially other cancers as well.

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Johns Hopkins Medicine Expands Collaboration with Allegheny Health Network and Highmark

Officials at Johns Hopkins Medicine announced today an expansion of its five-year affiliation with Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and Highmark, which provide health care services and insurance to people in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware. The newly expanded relationship aims to support the care of patients with rare and complex adult and pediatric cancers and some organ-transplant patients, widen the portfolio of cancer clinical trials available to AHN’s patients, facilitate participation in medical education, and collaborate on genomic sequencing and precision medicine research.

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Awarded Research Grants

Second Round of Grants Awarded: Alleghany Initiative

These two-year grants range in scope from pediatric to adult cancers and include innovative discovery projects in the basic sciences as well as clinically-focused studies. Investigators represent faculty from numerous departments across the University, holding a broad range of academic ranks, including Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor. Grants were reviewed by experts in cancer research, receiving multiple independent reviews.

Project Title: Imaging Immune Cell Responses Using PD-1 Targeted Agents Principal Investigator: Sridhar Nimmagadda, Ph.D.
Co-PI: Leisha Emens, M.D., Ph.D.

Project Title: Combination Immunotherapy Driving Immune Infiltration in Prostate Cancer
Principal Investigator: Charles Drake, M.D., Ph.D.
Co-PI: Angelo DeMarzo, M.D., Ph.D.

Project Title: Adoptive Transfer of Genetically Polarized Myeloid Cells to Favorably Alter Tumor-Associated Macrophages in Glioblastoma Multiform Principal Investigator: Alan Friedman, M.D.
Co-PI: Gary Gilmore, Ph.D. (Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute)

Project Title: Age-related Clonal Hematopoiesis and the Mechanism of Leukemic Transformation using Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplantation Model
Principal Investigator: Lukasz Gondek, M.D., Ph.D.
Co-PIs: Christopher Gocke, M.D.; Vasan Yegnasubramanian, M.D., Ph.D.

Project Title: Rapid, Low-cost Assessment of Intra-tumor Heterogeneity for Predicting and Monitoring Chemotherapeutic Response
Principal Investigator: Jeff Tza-Huei Wang, Ph.D.
Co-PIs: Nilo Azad, M.D.; Thomas Pisanic, Ph.D.

Project Title: A Multiple Biopsy Approach to Assess Static and Dynamic Tumor Heterogeneity in Bladder Cancer
Principal Investigator: Noah Hahn, M.D.
Co-Pi: Shweta Patel, D.O. (Allegheny Health  Network)

Project Title: Mouse models of Oncogenic CARD11 Signaling and Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma
Principal Investigator: Joel Pomerantz, Ph.D.

Project Title:  Targeting the YAP1/COX2/SOX2 Signaling Axis to Enhance Chemotherapeutic Sensitivity of MIBC
Principal Investigator: Mohammad Hoque, M.D.
Co-PI: Shifeng Mao, M.D., Ph.D. (Allegheny Health Network)

Project Title: Development of a Novel Drug to Enhance Immunotherapy
Principal Investigator: Jonathan Powell, M.D., Ph.D.
Co-PI: Barbara Slusher, Ph.D.

Project Title: HPV VLP-based Therapeutic Vaccine for Head and Neck Cancer
Principal Investigator: Raphael Viscidi, M.D.
Co-PI: Carole Fakhry, M.D., M.P.H.

First Round of Grants Awarded: Alleghany Initiative

The first round of research grants has been awarded as part of our collaboration with the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute. The 10 investigator-initiated grants range from discovery projects in the basic sciences to more clinically focused studies. Funded grants include faculty from numerous departments across the university holding a broad range of academic ranks, including instructor, assistant professor, associate professor and professor. These grants were reviewed multiple times by experts in cancer research.

Josh Lauring, M.D., Ph.D., along with the researchers mentioned below are amoung the 10 investigators awarded for their research. He explains his research "Engineering chromosomal amplifications to identify cooperating oncogenic drivers in breast cancer." He explains: "Amplifications frequently cause tumors to make abnormally high levels of proteins encoded by genes within the amplified region. Some of these amplifications are very complex, however, and we hypothesize that what is driving tumor growth in this case is the cooperation among multiple genes within the amplified region. Funding from this collaboration comes at a really critical time, as we are trying to expand upon our proof-of-principle with this technology. This funding will enable us to further develop this technology and begin to test therapeutic approaches targeting these chromosomal amplifications as we seek further support from the National Cancer Institute."

The research of Linda Resar, M.D., which also involves John Lister from the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute and from Johns Hopkins, Alan Friedman, M.D., to study the high-mobility group A1 (HMGA1) for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Resar says: "This funding provides a unique opportunity to collaborate and begin to test our inhibitors in preclinical studies. We plan to leverage our results to apply for additional funding from the National Institutes of Health to develop new therapies to treat patients with AML."

Marikki Laiho, M.D., Ph.D., will be researching PARP inhibitor therapies. She explains that these therapies "have shown great promise, but pieces are missing that would explain why they work when they do. With this funding we are able, for the first time, to pool the forces of four labs with distinct sets of expertise and experience."