Scientist working on clinical study in lab

Cancer Clinical Trials and Research

The Renown Institute for Cancer (RIC) is dedicated to find the causes of cancer and develop better treatments. We research a wide variety of areas. We perform traditional research in the laboratory and translational research with patients, and we look at how we provide counseling and support and clinical trials, in which patients have the option to try new therapies.

We partner with research institutions, including local researchers at the University of Nevada Reno (UNR) and the Desert Research Institute (DRI), national and international researchers, non-profit organizations, and industry to help drive discoveries forward quickly.

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775-982-5050
  • Basic Research
  • Clinical Trials & Research

Laboratory Research

Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD, Ph.D., FRCP, Senior Scientist Renown Institute for Cancer

The Pandolfi lab has conducted research that has led to major breakthroughs in the understanding, treatment, and definitive cures of cancer. This research is currently ongoing at the Renown Institute for Cancer. Laboratory studies have been seminal at revealing the molecular mechanisms and genetics underlying leukemias and solid tumors' pathogenesis, enabling the team to model these cancers in mice.

We have characterized the fusion oncoproteins' function and the genes involved in the chromosomal translocations of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) and major tumor suppressors, such as PTEN p53, and novel cancer genes, such as POKEMON, INPP4B, and WWP1. Critically, our work to uncover the molecular basis underlying APL pathogenesis and modeling this leukemia in the mouse led to the development of novel and effective therapeutic strategies. Based on these findings, APL is now considered a curable disease. Novel therapeutic concepts have emerged from this work and are currently being tested in multiple clinical trials in leukemia and solid tumors such as prostate and breast cancers.

Additionally, discovery platforms have been developed through the systematic use of faithful mouse models of cancers (e.g., the "Mouse Hospital" and the "Co-Clinical" trial project), allowing us to study genetic alterations associated with the disease but can be used for the human/mouse Co-Clinical integrated assessment of new therapeutic modalities. These platforms will now be developed at Renown, leveraging genetic information that stems from the Healthy Nevada Project regarding cancer susceptibility and response to therapy.

Furthermore, more recent work led to transformative studies revealing that non-coding RNAs regulate basic biological processes such as growth and tumorigenesis, thus dispelling long-held beliefs that non-protein-coding genes in the human genome were "junk." This work uncovered a new hidden code whereby these "junk" genes can function and talk to each other. This new scientific dimension is almost mind-boggling in its scope, as the number of genes that encode non-coding RNAs is approaching the 100,000 mark, vastly expanding the size of the functional genetic units present in our genome. These discoveries have already sparked the development of new drugs targeting specific non-coding RNAs to treat disease in patients, including the Covid-19 Pandemic. Once again, non-coding RNAs biology and genetics will be now developed at Renown Institute for Cancer, in collaboration with the Healthy Nevada Project (HPN) team of geneticists and bioinformaticians.

Dr. Pandolfi received both his MD and Ph.D. (Molecular and Cellular Biology) from the University of Perugia in Italy. In 2007, he received an Honorary Master's Degree from Harvard Medical School and is a Distinguished Honorary Professor of Cancer Genetics & Molecular Biology, Molecular Biotechnology Center, University of Turin. From 2013 to 2020, he served as the Cancer Center Director of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center / Harvard Medical School.

Joseph J. Grzymski, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Renown Health; Research Professor Computational Biology and Genetics, Desert Research Institute

Joseph Grzymski, Ph.D., is responsible for expanding DRI's applied research portfolio and has received funding over $50m from a variety of federal, state, and private sector sources. Dr. Grzymski is the Healthy Nevada Project principal investigator and now leads a diverse team of 40 geneticists, data scientists, programmers, engineers, clinicians, and doctors as a part of the Renown Institute for Health Innovation, which functions between Renown and DRI.

The Healthy Nevada Project (HNP) is a population genetics study that has enrolled, consented, and collected DNA and other health determinants data from more than 50,000 participants throughout Nevada. There are two society-scale value propositions for the HNP: 1) increase educational attainment and economic output via population health strategies to improve health outcomes; 2) a prevention strategy using genetics to detect inherited disease risks for conditions, if detected early, lower mortality and morbidity. This risk assessment is poorly ascertained in the current clinical setting.

In Genomic Medicine, the HNP is currently returning results of CDC Tier 1 conditions to the consented participants of the HNP while focusing research efforts on lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, diabetes, liver disease, and addiction. Dr. Grzymski is also the PI of a significant genetics study on NASH risk sponsored by Gilead Sciences and the PI of an NIH R01 grant focusing on gene x environment interactions related to cancer risk.

Dr. Grzymski maintains an active research lab in basic and applied research related to DNA damage and the transcriptional regulation of metabolism related to stress. He works with a variety of federal agencies on population genomics best practices. Dr. Grzymski received his Ph.D. from Rutgers University, was a postdoc at Rockefeller University, was a Fulbright Scholar, and is a graduate of Bowdoin College.

Cancer Clinical Trials & Research

Participating in cancer clinical trials and research allows you to receive the most effective therapy available. These treatments investigate promising new drugs, drug combinations, advances in personalized care, and new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy otherwise unavailable.

To join a clinical trial, talk to a member of your cancer care team. They will know about any current trials for your type of cancer, explain your role in the preparation, and provide information about your protection. Trial participants usually receive the therapy at little or no cost.
If you are considering a trial, consult with your primary care doctor.

At Renown Institute for Cancer, we want to provide our patients with the opportunity to access novel treatments through participation in clinical trials.

For adult patients we offer clinical trials through the National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) (https://ncorp.cancer.gov). Dr. Garrett Green, Renown Health Department of Radiation Oncology, serves as the Principal Investigator and Liaison for the adult oncology team.  For specific information on which trials are currently available at our institution, please call t us at 775-982-5050.

For children we offer clinical trials, including phase 2 and phase 3 studies, through the Children’s Oncology Group (https://childrensoncologygroup.org). Dr. J. Martin Johnston, Chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Renown Children’s Hospital and Senior Investigator, Renown Institute for Cancer, is the Principal Investigator.

The Cancer Research Team

As the most extensive healthcare system in northern Nevada and eastern California, and in partnership with clinical trial sponsors, the National Cancer Institute, and the Nevada Cancer Research Foundation, we can access dozens of open clinical trials. We are here to provide education and guidance in making decisions about your care and treatment. Our specially trained research teams will help you understand the process and explain what to expect with each visit. We are committed to bringing the highest quality of cancer care to you and your loved ones. To learn more about open clinical trials, please reach out to us with this form.

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