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Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Comprehensive Cancer Center

Jennifer A. Pietenpol, Ph.D., Director

Nashville, Tennessee

Main: (615) 936-8422

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Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center is a matrix center that integrates all of Vanderbilt’s cancer-related expertise and resources to alleviate cancer death and suffering through pioneering research; innovative patient-centered care; and evidence-based prevention, education, and community initiatives. Vanderbilt-Ingram was founded in 1993 and became an NCI-Designated Cancer Center in 1995 and a comprehensive cancer center in 2001. 

Vanderbilt-Ingram is an inclusive, collaborative, interdisciplinary cancer research community with more than 280 members dedicated to advancing discoveries in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for both adult and pediatric cancers. The center is recognized for its strength in discovery, translation, and collaborative “team” science in areas of lung, breast, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary cancers, as well as robust world-leading cancer epidemiology with unique population laboratories for cancer discovery.

Vanderbilt-Ingram investigators have made discoveries in genomics, drug development, precision oncology, cancer epidemiology, health outcomes and control, early detection, prevention, and cancer disparities research that have shifted paradigms and changed practice and guidelines.

Research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Vanderbilt-Ingram has focused efforts on growth and excellence in basic science and drug discovery, precision oncology and cancer immunotherapy, epidemiology, and dissemination of education and interventions. 

Driving these efforts are the center’s eight cancer-focused research programs, which span the spectrum of scientific endeavors—from basic science to clinical and population-based research—and include breast cancer, cancer epidemiology, cancer health outcomes and control, genome maintenance, gastrointestinal cancer, host‒tumor interactions, signal transduction and chemical biology, and translational research and interventional oncology.

Leveraging the unique assets of its investigators, Vanderbilt-Ingram supports:

  • advancing fundamental discoveries by leading basic science research
  • moving discoveries to interventions to prevent, detect early, treat, and control/cure cancers
  • enabling a systems approach to cancer by identifying individuals and populations at high risk of cancer and developing interventions to lower this risk, and by identifying factors that account for individual difference in cancers and treatment response and resistance
  • reducing cancer disparities and their burden by leveraging opportunities in data science and machine learning to open new frontiers in cancer research and increase access to interventions
  • developing, diversifying, and sustaining a workforce capable of affecting difficult-to-treat cancers, by implementing education, behavioral, and prevention strategies, and advancing research in cancer health policy and health literacy

Select Scientific Initiatives at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Vanderbilt-Ingram’s goal is to implement research initiatives with the most significant potential to impact cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment by leveraging the center’s strong culture of transdisciplinary collaboration. This culture is exemplified by several NCI-funded grants, including two NCI Specialized Programs of Research Excellence in breast cancer and gastrointestinal cancer; a long-standing partnership with Meharry Medical College and Tennessee State University to reduce cancer health disparities; the Southern Community Cohort Study, one of the largest and most intensive collaborative studies ever launched to evaluate the determinants of cancer among African Americans and low-income adults regardless of race; and the Cancer Systems Biology Consortium focused on small cell lung cancer.

Vanderbilt-Ingram’s recent successes include:

  • Developing best practices to assess immunotherapy toxicity and implement strategies for prevention and treatment through the Vanderbilt Program for Optimizing Immuno-oncology Therapy (V-POINT). Vanderbilt-Ingram investigators in the Translational Research and Interventional Oncology and Breast Cancer Research Programs were the first to identify and describe immune checkpoint inhibitor-associated myocarditis, a new cardiovascular syndrome triggered by immunotherapy. Through their continued efforts and collaborations with colleagues from other institutions and the Food and Drug Administration, Vanderbilt-Ingram is developing best practices to assess immunotherapy toxicity and implement strategies to prevent and treat it.
  • Playing leadership roles in the national All of Us Research Program and the Vanderbilt electronic health record-based biobank, BioVU. From these large-scale epidemiologic studies and other large population-based cohorts, Vanderbilt-Ingram investigators are investigating patient-reported outcomes, disparities, quality of care, and cost-effectiveness, resulting in guideline-shifting research relevant to the cancers with the highest mortality rates and for which disparities exist in the communities served by the center.
  • Using data from the NCI-funded Southern Community Cohort Study, a prospective cohort study of more than 85,000 adults in the southeastern United States with the highest representation of African Americans (two-thirds) among existing US cohorts, Vanderbilt-Ingram investigators led a study evaluating US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines that determine which smokers qualify for CT screening of the lungs. They determined that these current guidelines excluded significant numbers of African Americans who develop lung cancer. As a result, the USPSTF recently issued a draft recommendation statement to extend eligibility criteria based on these findings.
  • Vanderbilt-Ingram investigators in the Breast Cancer Research Program subtyped triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) identifying unique ontology and differential response to standard chemotherapy. These studies help inform clinical trials investigating whether selection of chemotherapies and immunotherapies can be directed by the knowledge of molecular TNBC subtypes. Further, Breast Cancer Research Program members showed that basal-like TNBCs have a poor prognosis and are more likely to be susceptible to DNA damaging agents such as cisplatin. These data led to a large phase 3 cooperative group trial led by Vanderbilt-Ingram investigators exploring the role of platinum agents in patients with basal-like TNBC and residual disease following conventional chemotherapy.

 

* This profile was provided by the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

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