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2020 Annual Report

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This is the 2020 Annual Report for Van Andel Institute.

Erin Dean: Turning

Erin Dean: Turning uncertainty into action and hope Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, but how that diagnosis affects each person varies greatly. When Erin Dean was diagnosed in October 2017, she set down a path that she never imagined. “As a wife and mother to three wonderful and active kids,” Erin said, “how do you fit a cancer diagnosis into your schedule?” Even before her diagnosis, Erin long supported Van Andel Institute’s Couture for a Cure and the Duncan Lake Middle School Cancer Walk, which directly benefit biomedical research at VAI. Being involved took on a new meaning after her diagnosis. “I planned to run the Bee Brave 5K on a good friend’s team that year,” Erin said. “But then I received my diagnosis just a few days before race day, and I needed to step back to understand what this meant for my life.” Erin underwent a variety of treatments and will have ongoing hormone therapy for another seven years. But while 2020 was a trying year for the world, it was also her first year without a major medical issue. She is now training for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on behalf of VAI and was previously honored during the ceremonial puck drop at the 2019 Grand Rapids Griffins Purple Community Game. Her daughter, Emily Dean, joined VAI’s Student Ambassador Program as her own way to give back to the Institute. “VAI’s work means more chances at life,” Erin said. “Even though so many of us get a second lease on life, it’s not without side effects — some of which are long-lasting. Thinking about advancements that one day might make going through cancer a little less horrible? It really gives us hope.” Scientists taking on cancer Scientists recognized for collaborative efforts in cancer research The American Association for Cancer Research awarded 2020 AACR Team Science Awards to VAI Professor Dr. Peter W. Laird, Director’s Scholar Dr. Stephen B. Baylin and Associate Professor Dr. Hui Shen for their pivotal roles in the establishment and success of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a landmark National Institutes of Health-led project that revolutionized our understanding of cancer and is hailed as an exemplar of scientific collaboration. The awards recognize more than 100 individuals who were central to TCGA from its inception through today. Baylin holds a primary appointment at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University. SURROUNDED BY HER FAMILY, ERIN DEAN (CENTER) DROPS THE CEREMONIAL PUCK AT THE 2019 GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS PURPLE COMMUNITY GAME 6 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2020

RESEARCH Newly discovered potential biomarker could ‘flag’ tumors sensitive to metabolic therapy A recently identified potential biomarker could help scientists pinpoint which cancers are vulnerable to treatment with biguanides, a common class of medications used to control blood sugar in Type 2 diabetes. Biguanides have long been of interest to cancer researchers because of their ability to target cellular metabolism, which fuels the growth and spread of malignant cells. The discovery, published by Dr. Russell Jones and collaborators, may give scientists a way to objectively determine which types of cancer are sensitive to biguanide treatment and illuminates how and why some patients may respond better to biguanides than other patients. 1 1 Research reported in this publication was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research under grants MOP-142259 (Jones) and MOP- 123352 (Duchaine); The Medical Research Council under grant MC_UU_0015/2 (Hirst); and funding from ImmunoMet Therapeutics. The Goodman Cancer Research Center Metabolomics Core Facility is supported by grants from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Terry Fox Research Institute. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the granting organizations. Seeking a new test to diagnose pancreatic cancer Pancreatic cancer is a difficult foe and a master of evasion. By the time it is diagnosed, it frequently is far advanced, which limits options and complicates treatment. Adding to the challenge, some pancreatic cancers don’t respond to existing medications. The result often is an agonizing decision: pursue treatment that may or may not work, or focus on quality of life. VAI Professor Dr. Brian Haab wants to change this reality. He and his colleagues are developing a simple, experimental blood test that distinguishes pancreatic cancers that respond to treatment from those that do not. This critical distinction could one day guide therapeutic decisions and spare patients with resistant cancers from undergoing unnecessary treatments with challenging side effects. “Knowing which type of pancreatic cancer a person has is critical to choosing the right treatment strategy for each patient,” Haab said. “We hope that our new test, which detects a marker produced by cancer cells of one subtype and not the other, will one day be a powerful tool to help physicians and patients make the best decisions possible.” The experimental test is slated to undergo additional clinical validation. 2 2 Research reported in this publication was supported by Van Andel Institute; the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award no. U01CA152653 (Haab and Brand) and award no. U01CA226158 (Haab); the Lustgarten Foundation (Tuveson); and the German Research Foundation (Plenker). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the granting organizations. Collaborating in a national initiative against cancer Biospecimens are the bedrock of scientific research — without them, we wouldn’t be able to study cancer or develop new treatments and diagnostics. Last summer, VAI’s Biorepository was awarded a .7 million, two-year subcontract from the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research currently operated by Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc., on behalf of the National Cancer Institute to serve as the biorepository for the Cancer Moonshot Biobank study, a national initiative to transform cancer treatment and prevention through accelerated research. “We are honored to be part of the Cancer Moonshot Biobank study and look forward to doing our part to support research and improve cancer care,” said Dr. Scott Jewell, director of VAI’s Core Technologies and Services, which includes the Institute’s Biorepository. The Cancer Moonshot was launched in 2016 by the Obama Administration. Its strategic aims, determined by a Blue Ribbon Panel of experts, are designed to answer critical scientific and medical questions while ensuring the samples collected represent the diversity of the U.S. population. 3 3 The project has been funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under contract no. HHSN261201500003I, Task Order HHSN26100042 through Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc. under subcontract no. 20X062Q. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government. VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2020 | 7

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