The WBCS Scientific Review Committee

 Each year, our Scientific Review Committee evaluates proposals from researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) to choose the most promising studies that are aligned with the mission of WBCS. We play an active role as a partner of MCW.  

 The WBCS Scientific Review Committee (SRC) meets annually to review grant proposals and recommend approval and funding by the WBCS Board of Directors.  Ravi Misra, PhD, Dean of the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) Graduate School, chairs the MCW peer scientist review committee that reviews and ranks all proposals before they are presented to the SRC for further evaluation and discussion.  The purpose of the SRC, in partnership with the MCW Cancer Center, is to provide oversight and focus to the allocation of WBCS funds provided by the annual Showhouse for a Cure and its supporting events. 

 2019 Scientific Review Committee
(Seated L-R)  Ellen Irion, Jan Lennnon (chair), Ed Ward
(Standing L-R) Hallgeir Rui, MD, PhD, Ravi P. Misra, PhD, Mark Bosbous, MD, Mark Blake, MD




2019 WBCS Research Awardees:

Marcelo Bonini, PhD, Associate Professor, Medicine-Endocrinology
Research Title: “Metabolic regulation of immunity in the tumor microenvironment” 

Tumors grow because their environment shields them from destruction by the immune system. To create an immunosuppressive environment, tumors recruit macrophages.  Macrophages are immune cells that are capable of both activating immunity to eliminate tumors or creating an immunosuppressive barrier. Somehow, macrophages that become associated with tumors lose their capacity to activate and rather suppress the immune response. The mechanisms used by tumors to make macrophages act this way are unknown. Our novel hypothesis is that cancer cells release lactate, a metabolite produced by them in large amounts, to force macrophages to become immunosuppressive. Our preliminary data indicate that macrophages immersed in lactate lose their capacity for immune activation while assuming an immunosuppressive phenotype. Hence, this application aims at furthering the idea that lactate secretion by tumors serves the purpose of immunomodulation to co-opt tumor associated macrophages to protect rather than attack cancer.

Marja Nevalainen, MD, PhD, Professor, Pathology and Pharmacology & Toxicology
Research Title: "Stat5 and Anti-Androgen-Induced Metastatic Phenotype of Prostate Cancer"

Treatment options for metastatic prostate cancer (MPC) are limited to androgen-deprivation therapy. The new-generation anti-androgen, Enzalutamide dominates the clinical space and is FDA approved in pre- and post-chemotherapy settings.  Resistance to Enzalutamide arises within 3-6 months, with patients developing terminal castrate-resistant (CR)-MPC. There are no effective therapies for CR-MPC. Our data support a novel concept that Stat5 promotes development of Enzalutamide-resistant prostate cancer (ERPC). We previously showed that Stat5 induces metastatic behavior of PC cells. Also, Enzalutamide has been shown to induce metastatic phenotype of PC. Our new data show that Enzalutamide induces Jak2-Stat5 activation in PC. This proposal will test whether Enzalutamide induction of Jak2-Stat5 signaling in PC mediates Enzalutamide promotion of CR-MPC and may result in a new therapeutic strategy for ERPC by exploiting Jak2-Stat5 pathway inhibitors that are in clinical development for leukemias. Our goal is that this project results in development of a new therapy for ERPC.  

 2018 WBCS Researcher Awarded 2nd Year of Funding in 2019: 

Amit Joshi, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Research Title: ““Personalized Nanomedicine Interventions Targeted to Germline Driven Tumor Vascular Heterogeneity” 

Breast cancer affects 1 in 10 US women in their lifetime. Current treatment for breast cancer involves surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. These treatments not only cause undesirable side effects, but there is also a high level of inconsistency in how patients respond to treatment even in similar disease types. We suggest that part of this variation in treatment response might be due to inherited genes controlling the blood vessel development in tumors. Patients with favorable inherited blood vessel behavior in tumors have higher drug delivery to tumors, and favorable treatment response, while in others, genetically inherited factors predispose them to more aggressive and therapy resistant tumors.  In this proposal, we will address both the low efficacy and side effects of current breast cancer treatments by personalizing treatment through a novel nanoparticle based imaging/therapy approach.  We will target inherited blood vessel development controlling genes, to avoid therapy resistance and aggressive behavior in patients with unfavorable inherited genes.   


WBCS, Inc. Establishes Prostate Cancer Research

 Professorship at MCW

In October 2017, WBCS committed to fund a $1 million prostate cancer research professorship in support of MCW's advancement of a Prostate Cancer Center of Excellence. The recruitment of Hallgeir Rui, MD, PhD, in 2014 as the WBCS Breast Cancer Research Professor has had a transformational influence on breast cancer research at MCW.  That success was a critical component in the decision to fund a prostate cancer research professorship. The decision to fund a second professorship places WBCS in the unique position of sponsoring two professorships at MCW.  Both are unique in another way.  Our all-volunteer, grassroots organization has both generous corporate and foundation donors and support by individuals from every walk of life. The funds we raise represent a community of supporters who are transforming treatment and advancing research in ways that would otherwise not be possible.