University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Take On Cancer

Take On Cancer is what we do at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. In a world where 1 in 2.5 people will hear "it's cancer," we want to make sure that you are able to take on cancer too.

Knowledge is everything - stay engaged, informed and prepared.

breast cancer month

Researchers Find Drug Combo Effective Against Triple-Negative Breast Cancer


Cancer cells treated with the drug combination were less likely to multiply or spread in cell culture and were less viable in an animal model.

In the hunt for novel treatments against an aggressive form of breast cancer, University of Michigan researchers recently combined a new protein inhibitor with a chemotherapy drug.

The result: a powerful combination that led to cancer cell death.

Triple-negative breast cancer is a subtype that does not express hormone receptor, or HER2. It occurs in about 15 percent of patients with breast cancer. This subtype tends to be more aggressive, and targeted therapeutic treatment options are lacking.

Read more about the new drug combo.

labyrinth chip

Labyrinth chip could help monitor aggressive cancer stem cells


A breast cancer clinical trial relies on a hydrodynamic maze to capture cancer stem cells from patient blood.

Inspired by the Labyrinth of Greek mythology, a new chip etched with fluid channels sends blood samples through a hydrodynamic maze to separate out rare circulating cancer cells into a relatively clean stream for analysis. It is already in use in a breast cancer clinical trial.

Tumor cells isolated from blood samples have the potential to revolutionize cancer treatment by enabling doctors to plan customized treatments, monitor genetic changes, and flag the presence of aggressive cells that are likely to spread the cancer. The trouble is that circulating cancer cells account for just one in a billion blood cells, and there weren’t good options for accurately capturing cancer stem cells, which are thought to be especially aggressive and drug resistant.

Read more about the labyrinth chip.

accupressure on foot

Brain Imaging Study Shows How Acupressure Fights Fatigue in Breast Cancer Survivors

Acupressure can help reduce fatigue in breast cancer survivors. A new Michigan Medicine study analyzes how the brain reacts to different types of the therapeutic treatment.

Individual acupressure points linked to specific centers in the brain can offer targeted relief for breast cancer patients with persistent fatigue, according to a new neuroimaging study.

Researchers at the University of Michigan recently examined the effect of two types of acupressure on fatigue in breast cancer survivors using MRI, the first such study of its kind.

Read more about accupressure and breast cancer.

Chang Lee, Ph.D.

Reading cancers chemical clues

A nanoparticle-assisted optical imaging technique could one day read the chemical makeup of a tumor.

A tumor’s chemical makeup holds valuable clues about how to fight it. But today, it’s difficult or impossible to examine the chemistry inside a tumor. A nanoparticle-assisted optical imaging technique could one day enable doctors to read those clues in real time, providing a non-invasive precision medicine approach that could match treatment to individual tumors.

Read more about nanoparticle-assisted optical imaging technique.

Jacqueline S. Jeruss, M.D., Ph.D.

Gaming Cells to Turn Off the Metastases Switch in Breast Cancer

Cancer progression can be spurred by TGF-beta pathway signaling, and Michigan Medicine researchers have found a way to stop the signal from turning green.

It’s like a board game designed for some serious scientists: Switch Land.

The characters are Wicked TNBC, Tricky TGF-beta, Expressive Cyclins, Queen SMAD3, Sassy CDK2 and Prissy Pin1. The players take turns rolling the dice to move along a signaling pathway. The goal is to avoid the mutation mud, steer clear of the polluted phosphorylation pit, don’t stop in the interaction zone and ultimately take Tricky TGF-beta to the showers of CDK inhibitors.

Read more about gaming cells to turn off metastatic breast cancer.

Rhonda Jack, a chemical engineering doctoral student and Sunitha Nagrath, associate professor of chemical engineering

A blood test can predict early lung cancer prognosis

Cancer cells obtained from a blood test may be able to predict how early-stage lung cancer patients will fare, a team from the University of Michigan has shown. This information could be used to determine which patients are most likely to benefit from additional therapies to head off the spread of the cancer to other areas of the body.

Read more about this new blood test for lung cancer patients.

image of person smoking a cigarette

Interactive web tool shows potential impact of tobacco policies

If the minimum age for buying tobacco legally were changed to 21, it could save more than 35,000 lives in Texas, 15,000 in Florida and more than 12,000 in Michigan by 2100, according to a new web application.

Read more about this new ineractive web tool.

image of Dr. Chinnaiyan and colleagues

Comprehensive sequencing program shows promise of precision medicine for advanced cancer

The average metastatic cancer has more genetic mutations than are seen in early stage tumors, a new study finds. What that means: To make precision medicine a reality in cancer care, you need a real-time, comprehensive approach that looks at the metastatic tumors and sequences to a level of detail beyond most commercial tests.

Read more about precision medicine in advanced cancer.

image of doctor talking to a patient

Does every cancer need immediate treatment? The case for active surveillance for low-risk cancers?

In a new perspective piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers look at whether active surveillance could be a strategy to reduce overtreatment in certain patients.

Read more about active surveillance for low-risk cancers.

image of glioblastoma cells

Immunotherapy, Gene Therapy Combination Shows Promise Against Glioblastoma

In a new study, gene therapy deployed with immune checkpoint inhibitors demonstrates potential benefit for devastating brain cancer. That's how leading researchers describe the present outlook for malignant brain tumors. The median survival rate for patients with glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM, is a mere 14.2 months.

Read more about this gene therapy.

image of genetic coding

Researchers propose new approach to identify genetic mutations in men with prostate cancer

Researchers studied prostate cancer patients with multiple cancer diagnoses, many who would not be recommended for genetic tests following current guidelines, to identify genetic mutations that may influence cancer treatment and cancer risk assessment for family members. Their findings are reported in the June issue of the journal Cancer.

Read more

image of Alexey I. Nesvizhskii, Ph.D. with lab member

Grant establishes proteogenomics center at U-M

Researchers at the University of Michigan will lead one of five nationally funded centers dedicated to accelerating research into understanding the molecular basis of cancer and sharing resources with the scientific community.

Alexey Nesvizhskii and colleague at a computer in the labU-M researchers received a grant from the National Cancer Institute to establish a Proteogenomic Data Analysis Center. The center will comprehensively characterize cancer tumor samples to integrate and analyze proteogenomic data to improve researchers’ ability to develop more targeted cancer therapies.

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image of woman talking to doctor

Study finds rate of mastectomies decreases with adoption of breast tumor margin guidelines

In a dramatic shift since the publication of margin guidelines for breast cancer surgery, lumpectomy rates have substantially increased and more-aggressive surgical options have been used less often, according to research findings from a new study presented at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago. The study will also be published in a corresponding issue of JAMA Oncology.

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image of thyroid gland

Complications from Thyroid Cancer Surgery More Common Than Believed, Study Finds

As thyroid cancer rates rise, more people are having surgery to remove all or part of their thyroid. A new study suggests complications from these procedures are more common than previously believed.

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breast cancer cells

Looking beyond cancer cells to understand what makes breast cancer spread

To understand what makes breast cancer spread, researchers are looking at where it lives -- not just its original home in the breast but its new home where it settles in other organs. What's happening in that metastatic niche where migrated cancer cells are growing?

Read more

anatomical image showing larynx

The Best Treatment for Laryngeal Cancer? This Approach Helps Decide

Even as treatment options for laryngeal cancer seemed to improve, survival rates did not. For the most advanced patients, 50 percent survival was the norm, whether patients had surgery to remove the voice box or alternative treatment with chemotherapy and radiation to try to avoid surgery.

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image of woman

Doctor Communication Key to Managing Breast Cancer Patient Risk Worries

Nearly one-third of early stage breast cancer patients overestimate their risk of cancer recurrence -- believing it to be more than double their actual risk. And that overestimation is affecting their quality of life, according to two recent studies. The good news? A more nuanced approach to doctor-patient communication may help improve patients’ understanding.

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outline of woman against a dark background

Half of Breast Cancer Patients Experience Severe Side Effects

While it might be expected for women undergoing chemotherapy, researchers found one-third of women who didn’t receive chemotherapy experienced severe side effects of treatment as well. Overall, side effects led to additional doctor’s appointments, trips to the emergency room, delays in treatment and reduced dosages.

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anatomical sketch showing the pancreas

Study Challenges Potential Pancreatic Cancer Target

PDX1, a transcription factor critical for pancreatic development, has distinct roles at different stages of pancreatic cancer: keeping cancer at bay in normal cells, then eventually contributing to the cancer's growth once a tumor forms and also preventing the tumor from becoming more aggressive.

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archery target with arrows near bullseye

Can the Cancer Moonshot Work? Complicated Factors Are in Orbit

In January 2016, President Barack Obama announced a "Cancer Moonshot" to achieve a decade's worth of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment in five years.

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For more articles on cancer research progress, please visit our News Archive.