the epidermal growth factor receptor (eGFr)
on cancer cells, influencing the growth and
spread of those cells. Because most head and
neck cancers heavily express eGFrs, drugs
such as erbitux can potentially make these
cancers more sensitive to radiation.
“This has changed the worldwide stan-
dard of care for advanced head and neck
cancer and has become the internationally
accepted regimen for treatment,” says James
Bonner, M.D., lead author of the study and
chair of the UAB Department of Radiation
Oncology. “These findings are extremely
significant because head and neck cancer is
such a difficult disease to treat.”
pREVENtINg skIN CANCER: sUNsCREEN AND AN ARthRItIs DRUg?
In 2010, Cancer Center researchers
showed that the NSAID Celebrex (celecox-
ib) may help prevent some non-melanoma
skin cancers from developing in patients
who have pre-cancerous actinic keratoses
lesions and are at high risk for having the
disease. Led by UAB dermatologist and
Cancer Center senior scientist Craig elmets,
M.D., the study evaluated the efficacy and
safety of celecoxib as a chemopreventive
agent for actinic keratoses, which are pre-
program because of its effectiveness in pre-
clinical animal model breast cancer studies.
Most recently, Dr. Muccio and his team
have been working with the University of
Wisconsin, which has been conducting the
first stages of the phase I trials in humans. “So
far, they have found UAB-30 to show very lit-
tle toxicity and very favorable pharmacology,”
Dr. Muccio says. “The second part of their
trial will be a dose-escalation study to better
determine the toxicity level for patients.”
While the Wisconsin group is examin-
ing the effects of UAB-30 as a preventative
drug, their results will influence UAB-
30’s role in cancer treatment at the Cancer
Center. “Once they have determined the
drug’s toxicity, we will be using UAB-30 in
phase II trials as a treatment for breast can-
cer patients here at UAB,” says Dr. Muccio.
Those trials could begin as soon as fall 2011.
LEADINg thROUgh thE LABORAtORy
In 2009, UAB researchers announced the
discovery of a new and efficient method to
produce and study one of the cancer-causing
strains of human papillomavirus (hPV). Of
the more than 120 strains of hPV, 15 are
cancerous growths on the skin.
Celecoxib is in a class of NSAIDs called
COX-2 inhibitors. Currently, it is used to
relieve pain, tenderness, swelling and stiffness
caused by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis
and spinal arthritis. It also can be used off-
label to treat painful menstrual periods and
pain from other causes and is used to reduce
the number of colon and rectal polyps in
patients with familial adenomatous polyposis.
In animal models, Celebrex has inhib-
ited the development of ultraviolet-induced
pre-malignant skin papillomas, which are
thought to correspond to actinic keratoses.
The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
followed 240 subjects ages 37 to 87 with
10 to 40 actinic keratoses at eight U.S. aca-
demic medical centers over an 11-month
period. At nine months after randomization,
there was no difference in the incidence of
new actinic keratoses developed between the
placebo group and those receiving celecoxib.
Compared with the placebo, celecoxib was
highly effective in preventing non-melanoma
skin cancers from developing in subjects
who had large numbers of actinic keratoses.
“While celecoxib was not effective in
preventing new actinic keratoses, the study
raises the possibility that the drug is effec-
tive in preventing cancer from developing
classified as high-risk because they often cause
cervical cancer. Two of those 15—known as
hPV 16 and hPV 18—cause approximately
two-thirds of all cervical cancers.
International hPV research experts
Louise Chow, Ph.D., and Thomas Broker,
Ph.D., both UAB professors of biochemistry
and molecular genetics, led a study that dis-
covered a laboratory process for producing
hPV 18, the culmination of more than 20
years of work.
Previously, scientists had been unable to
produce hPV 18 in a lab setting, making
it extremely difficult to study the virus and
its effects. The new method discovered by
Drs. Broker and Chow allows researchers to
reproduce the entire infection cycle of hPV
18 in primary human skin cells. By doing so,
this process could potentially unveil prom-
ising targets for drug design and antiviral
agents to treat existing hPV-18 infections as
well as other types of the virus.
A NEw stANDARD fOR hEAD AND NECk CANCER
Since 2000, Cancer Center researchers
have been studying the effects of combining
erbitux (cetuximab) with radiation for the
treatment of advanced head and neck cancer.
In 2010, the results of a decade’s work were
published in The Lancet Oncology—and the
findings were significant.
Researchers found that combining the
two treatments improved the five-year sur-
vival of patients with advanced head and
neck cancer by 10 percentage points, from 36
percent still alive at five years to 46 percent.
The Cancer Center was a leader in the devel-
opment and approval of erbitux, a mono-
clonal antibody that attaches to and blocks
Program leadership recruited: Dr. max Cooper (immunobiology); Dr. Charles bugg (x-ray crystallography); Dr. William Crist (pediatric oncol- ogy); Dr. richard Compans (virology); Dr. Seng-jaw Soong (biostatistics); and Dr. Charles balch (surgical oncology)
lurleen b. Wallace Patient Tower opens.
Supporters board holds first fundraising gala, raising $80,000.
Wallace Tumor Institute occupied. Cancer Center has 94 members with $6.5 million in research support.
uAb demonstrates for the first time that a viral disease can be treated successfully with intrave- nous drugs.
Cancer Center Supporters board orga- nized with lella bromberg as first president.19
77 19 84
Dr. Durant leaves uAb to become president of Fox-Chase Cancer Center. Dr. Albert lobuglio recruited from university of michigan to be center director.
Cancer Center purchases one of the first DNA sequencers in the nation and carries out the first-ever trial of a genetically engineered monoclonal antibody.
uAB reSeArcherS ANNouNced the
diScovery oF A NeW ANd eFFicieNt
method to Produce ANd Study oNe oF the cANcer-
cAuSiNg StrAiNS oF humAN PAPiLLomAviruS (hPv).
In 1967, Alabama
Governor lurleen burns
Wallace battled cancer—
but because there was
no specialized cancer
center in the state, she
was forced to travel
to Houston, Texas, for
After her death in 1968, Alabamians rallied
together in her memory to raise funds for a
cancer hospital in Alabama so that no citizen
would ever have to travel out of state for
the best cancer care. This grassroots effort
was known as the Courage Crusade, and the
campaign garnered funds from people from
all walks of life—from boxes of nickels from
schoolchildren to large checks from prominent
business leaders. by 1970, the Courage Crusade
had raised more than $5 million to build the
lurleen b. Wallace Cancer Hospital at uAb.
That same year, uAb officially formalized its
cancer program with John Durant, m.D., as
the first director. Federal and state money,
along with the National Cancer Act’s planning
grant, would soon be added to the Courage
Crusade funds, and the seeds of the uAb
Comprehensive Cancer Center were planted.
and the Courage Crusade Lurleen B. Wallace
4 u A b C o m P r e H e N S I V e C A N C e r C e N T e r u A b C o m P r e H e N S I V e C A N C e r C e N T e r 5