Illustration of cancer cells

Memorial gift to fund cutting-edge cancer research

The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center (Case CCC) received a $250,000 gift from brothers Lorne and Eric Novick to fund a cutting-edge, collaborative research study. The Andrew Novick Study on Artificial Intelligence and Epigenomics for Cancer Disparities, which honors the Novicks’ late father, pairs the work of two renowned researchers in oncology: Anant Madabhushi and Peter Scacheri.

“Our center has done a lot of work in artificial intelligence (AI), and Dr. Scacheri is a national leader in the area of epigenetics,” says Madabhushi, the Donnell Institute Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University and director of the Center for Computational Imaging and Personalized Diagnostics. “This study will represent one of the first times that AI and imaging are being coupled with epigenetics and molecular profiling to identify patterns and features that are key to cancer risk stratification and outcomes.” 

In addition, combining these very powerful technologies will help the researchers gain a deeper understanding of cancer disparities between different patient populations.

“Our work should complement each other very well,” says Scacheri, the Gertrude Donnelly Hess Professor in Oncology in the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and a member of the GI Cancer Genetics Program at Case CCC. “Dr. Madabhushi’s work can provide information on pathological features that define tumors and tumor behavior, and our work can be layered upon that to provide molecular-level insights into those features. That combination is important to making inroads in understanding and treating cancer.”

Lorne Novick, who earned his JD/MBA from Case Western Reserve University in 2000, acknowledged that a memorial gift to fund the two-year study is a fitting tribute to his father, a pioneer in kidney transplant and renal reconstructive surgeries. He died from complications of lymphoma in 2008.

“My father’s entire professional career was focused on helping others and saving lives,” says Lorne Novick. “My brother and I were looking for an opportunity to honor his life’s mission in an impactful way that also aligned with what ultimately contributed to his death: cancer. We wanted to fund something significant and, hopefully, transformational.”

After meeting Madabhushi and Scacheri, Lorne and Eric Novick realized the study combining AI and epigenomics—a field in which researchers chart the locations and understand the functions of all the chemical tags that mark the genome—was an ideal fit. 

The Case CCC is one of just 51 National Cancer Institute-certified comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. Scacheri’s work there focuses on mechanisms that switch on genes that drive the formation of cancer and its progression to overt metastasis. Madabhushi leads a team of more than 65 researchers at the Center for Computational Imaging and Personalized Diagnostics who are developing and applying novel AI and machine learning approaches for the diagnosis, prognosis and prediction of therapy response for a variety of cancer indications.

While the Andrew Novick Study on Artificial Intelligence and Epigenomics for Cancer Disparities will focus on lung cancer, it could have a broader impact on the issue of cancer disparities. Recent studies have revealed differences in the appearance of cancer, risk stratification and response to treatment among different populations, such as Black and white Americans.