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.”


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.


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.


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.

19 75

19 79

19 86

Wallace Tumor Institute occupied. Cancer Center has 94 members with $6.5 million in research support.

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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.

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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

IN 2009,

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