Scientific Focus and Rationale

The Clinical Research Program of the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Wake Forest University (CCCWFU) is organized around 3 themes:


Theme 1: Therapeutic Modulation focuses on novel local, regional, and systemic treatments for cancer, a number of which have been translated from discoveries in the Cancer Center’s 2 basic science research programs (DNA Damage & Cellular Defense and Cell Growth & Survival) into the clinic.

Areas of active investigation include:

  1. Radiation sensitizers for upper aerodigestive tract and colorectal cancers, including both novel chemotherapeutic agents such as gemcitabine and oxaliplatin (without or with targeted agents), and natural compounds such as curcumin and the propolis derivative CAPE 
  2. Recombinant cytotoxins in brain tumors
  3. Vitamin D3 (paracalcitol)-based therapies in prostate cancer, myelodysplastic syndrome, pancreatic cancer, and malignant glioma
  4. Intraperitoneal hyperthermic chemotherapy
  5. Image-guided local therapies including radiofrequency ablation and extracranial stereotactic radiosurgery

Theme 2: Bioanatomic Imaging   is based on the use of anatomic, biologic, physiologic, and functional imaging of cancer and normal tissues for the brain, breast, and prostate cancer as well as other solid tumors.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) based modalities include MR spectroscopy (MRS), diffusion/perfusion MRI, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), white matter tractography, and cardiac MRI.
  • Helical computed tomography (CT) is being utilized for screening and early detection.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) can potentially image normal tissue and tumor metabolism, tumor hypoxia and proliferation, and tissue-specific receptors.

Bioanatomic imaging has potential applications for screening, early detection, diagnosis, staging, treatment planning, and post-treatment follow-up.

Areas of active investigation include:

  1. Positron-emission mammography and MRS as alternative/adjunct modalities to conventional mammography
  2. Cardiac MRI to assess anthracycline toxicity in breast cancer
  3. Implementation of multivoxel 2- and 3-dimensional MRS for radiation therapy treatment planning of brain tumors
  4. PET staging/restaging of locally advanced esophageal cancer following neoadjuvant chemo- and radiation therapy to guide surgical resection
  5. Neuroimaging of human cognitive processes using PET imaging of cholinergic neurotransmission and inflammation in radiation-induced brain injury

Theme 3: Symptom Management includes studies that utilize pharmacologic interventions to reduce the morbidity of cancer and its treatments. There is an emphasis on novel conventional chemotherapeutic agents as well as botanical and natural compounds in the following areas:

  • Appetite and weight loss (megestrol acetate, oxandrolone)
  • Cognitive function (donepezil [Aricept], ginkgo biloba)
  • Fatigue (coenzyme Q10)
  • Hot flashes (St. John’s Wort, soy isoflavones, venlafaxine [Effexor])
  • Mucositis/esophagitis (megestrol acetate, oxandrolone)

Areas of future multidisciplinary and/or interprogrammatic investigations within current clinical research themes include:

  1. Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering in oncology
  2. Nanotechnology and molecular materials in oncology
  3. Canine models of malignant gliomas (with the Virginia Tech School of Veterinary Medicine)
Last Updated: 03-18-2014
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