Understanding the Moon Shots Program’s Proteomics platform

MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program™ was launched five years ago to increase the speed at which our scientists and physicians turn their research discoveries into new treatment options for patients. The program focuses resources around 13 cancer types, called Moon Shots™, with the goal of using the knowledge we gain to advance treatment of all types of cancer. But what makes this initiative so unique? One reason lies in its 10 research platforms. Each research platform gives the 13 disease-specific Moon Shots access to expertise that drives cancer research forward faster, and the Proteomics platform is no exception. We spoke with Samir Hanash, M.D., Ph.D., to learn more about the Proteomics platform. Here’s what he had to say. What is cancer proteomics? Cells in your body rely on molecules called proteins to carry out bodily tasks. Cancer cells also rely on proteins to do things such as grow and spread. Cancer proteomics analyzes blood, tumor and tissue samples to identify the proteins in cancer cells that differ from those in normal cells. If a protein is made in larger amounts in cancer cells than in normal cells, it suggests that the protein may play a role in causing cancer to develop or spread. How does the Proteomics platform contribute to our mission of ending cancer? When we find proteins that indicate there’s cancer or that play an important role in cancer’s progression, we want to further study the protein to see if it’s a good target for diagnostic tests or treatment options like targeted therapies or immunotherapies, which can help shrink the cancer. What do you and the rest...

Surviving central nervous system lymphoma as a preteen

My name is Mason Ermis. When I was 9 years old, I began a journey that tested my courage and strength in ways I never thought possible. We came to MD Anderson after my primary doctor diagnosed me with Diabetes insipidus, which is sometimes caused by a brain tumor.  After an MRI at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, we learned I had a small “spot” in my brain, near my pituitary gland, and another spot near my optic nerve. The spots were too small for neurosurgeon Dr. Jeffrey Weinberg to biopsy, so all I could do was wait and continue to have MRIs to see if the spots would grow or disappear on their own. In December 2015, after losing my peripheral vision in both eyes, I had another MRI. This time, the spot near my optic nerve was large enough to biopsy. Dr. Weinberg and my pediatric neuro-oncologist, Dr. Wafik Zaky, were confident that they could safely get a biopsy so we could finally determine how to treat whatever this “spot” was. Getting to the spot was not easy, and there were possible negatives to doing the biopsy, including loss of vision or complete blindness, but I knew this was what I needed to do. Surgery took place on Feb. 11, 2016. Although I did suffer some vision loss in my left eye, the surgery was a success overall.  A rare diagnosis: central nervous system lymphoma Eight days later, we met with Dr. Zaky. He told me I had a very rare kind of cancer called central nervous system lymphoma. I had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma growing in my brain....

Life after lymphoma treatment: How I’m focusing on my health

Before my cancer diagnosis, I used to think that death steals life from us. Now I realize that it’s the other way around; death is the constant, and life is ephemeral, brief and easy to lose. While this might sound dark, coming to this conclusion actually has helped me better appreciate what I have and inspired me to lead a healthy lifestyle after cancer. In July 2013, I was diagnosed with stage IE extranodal N/K T-cell lymphoma, a rare cancer in my nasal passage. During my treatment at MD Anderson, my oncologists told me that exercise was an important part of treatment. So I walked a lot – about 5 miles every day. I think this is a big part of the reason my lymphoma treatment was relatively trouble-free. As I entered remission, my doctors continued to stress the importance of physical activity. At that time, I committed to continuing my daily exercise routine. Within three weeks of completing chemotherapy, I’d worked my way up to running 3 miles every other day. How I stay motivated to exercise Four years later, I’m still running every other day and doing between 50 and 150 pushups along my run. On the days I don’t run, I try to get in 10,000 steps on my fitness tracker, and on weekends, I work in a different sort of activity, such as a hike or a mountain bike ride. I’ve found that working out early in the morning helps ensure that I get my physical activity in, and it supercharges me for the rest of the day. I’ll admit, staying consistent can get difficult....

Prostate cancer survivor returns to MD Anderson to spread cheer

Bryan Bump knows the importance of annual physicals. They’ve saved his life — twice. In August 2011, Bryan, then 49, underwent a physical exam through his employer’s wellness program so that he could get a discount on his health insurance premium.   “The doctor wanted to check my PSA levels because my father had prostate cancer,” he says. “I did not want to have the test, but I did it because she was very persuasive.” A prostate cancer diagnosis The results left him in disbelief. “She told me my PSA levels were elevated, and she wanted to refer me to another place for a second opinion,” he says. “I told her I wanted to go through MD Anderson because of its reputation for being a center of excellence for cancer.” On Aug. 29, 2011, Bryan met with Jose Karam, M.D., who confirmed his prostate cancer diagnosis. Bryan underwent a robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy two-and-a-half months later. “They took everything out except for a dirty spot that they couldn’t touch because it was in a sensitive area. They decided to leave it alone and closely monitor it,” he says. A prostate cancer recurrence Bryan showed no evidence of disease for three years. Then, in September 2014, a blood test during another annual physical revealed the presence of prostate-specific antigens. Bryan returned to MD Anderson and learned that his prostate cancer had returned. This time, he underwent seven weeks of radiation therapy with Shalin Shah, M.D., at MD Anderson in Sugar Land. “I was the first appointment in the morning so I could avoid the traffic coming out of Richmond, and...

Breast cancer survivor: My 7-year-old’s quest to end cancer

My husband and I have always taught our children to find the good in everything, even if they can’t see it at that moment. But I was still surprised when I found a plastic baggie in my elder son Brayden’s room a few weeks before Halloween. He’d scribbled “$ for MD Andrson” on it and put a dollar bill and a few pennies inside. When I asked him about it, Brayden said he was collecting money he’d found on the ground or gotten from friends to give to the hospital. “If my mama was never diagnosed with cancer, I wouldn’t be able to help other parents,” he told me. “I don’t want other kids to have to go through this. So we need to end cancer.” How my breast cancer journey motivated my son I was diagnosed with BRCA2+, HER2+ stage III breast cancer in January at age 28. At the time, my biggest fear was that the kids would be negatively affected by it. Instead, Brayden has turned my cancer diagnosis into an opportunity to help others, and I am so proud of him. When my son first mentioned his idea, he was only six (Brayden turned 7 on Dec. 2, 2017), so, I thought, “He’s not going to make anything of this. He’s going to ask a few people for money, then get tired of it and put his can away.” But while we were making our trick-or-treating plans, he asked, “Mommy, do you think I could collect money at houses, too?” I worried people would judge him or question our motives, so I polled my friends...