Colorado State University, University of Colorado celebrate 20 years as the region’s cancer research powerhouse

On Wednesday, leaders and researchers from two of the nation’s top cancer research centers will celebrate more than 20 years of collaboration. For at least the past two decades, the researchers from the Colorado State University Cancer Supercluster and University of Colorado have partnered on research that has lead to breakthroughs in cancer treatment for humans and companion animals.

UCCC is the Rocky Mountain region’s National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, one of just 40 in the United States. UCCC, a consortium of six member institutions and eight affiliated organizations, exists to allow Colorado cancer scientists and clinicians to share equipment, faculty, technicians and expertise with one another, rather than duplicating efforts.

The University of Colorado’s cancer research enterprise includes more than 325 scientists and clinicians from UC Denver, University of Colorado Boulder and University of Colorado Colorado Springs. The CSU Cancer Supercluster consists of more than 70 cancer-research members from five colleges and 12 departments, including the Animal Cancer Center-the largest companion animal cancer research center in the United States. Other programs at the university also research various areas of human cancers.

"The collaboration between our institutions has led to some exciting discoveries," said Robert Ullrich, PhD, UCCC Carcinogenesis Program director and chief research officer of the Colorado State University Cancer Supercluster. "Our members have worked together to develop new ways to identify and characterize cancers, which we can use for better diagnosis, better treatments, and better monitoring of how effective the treatments are. Together, we’ve also developed a graduate training program in cancer biology."

The genes of dogs, cats and horses more closely resemble human genes than do genes of mice typically used in medical research. Because people love their companion animals and wish to cure their cancer, CSU’s Animal Cancer Center offers many clinical trials that can help these pets while answering questions that may lead to human benefit.

"This collaboration between human and animal cancer centers has been going on for more than 20 years, and it is unprecedented in the United States," said Paul A. Bunn, Jr., MD, director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center and professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Colorado Denver. "We are very distinct universities, located miles apart, who have decided that our cancer research collaboration will not only benefit the people of Colorado, but all Americans. We are making great strides in cancer research together."

Emily Brown is proof of this point. Now 21, the Colorado Springs native was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma in her mid-spine when she was 10. Emily went to Sky High Hope Camp, a camp for kids with cancer outside of Fort Collins, and met Dr. Steve Withrow,  director of the CSU Animal Cancer Center and the chief scientific officer of the university’s Cancer Supercluster, who volunteers there.

"He knew of a study for dogs that involved implanting these radioactive seeds near the tumor," said Brown, who is now a student at UCCS. "It was the seeds that saved my life the first time. Later, they found a metastatic tumor in my right lung. At CSU they had done research on an immune booster, and my doctor, Lia Gore, put me on the clinical trial. They think that’s a reason my metastasis went away."

Brown and Gore, who is a member of UCCC’s Developmental Therapeutics program and director of Developmental Therapeutics at The Children’s Hospital-also a UCCC consortium member-will tell their story in a video to debut at a celebration of the collaboration on June 25.

The event will be held at 5 p.m. at the Anschutz Outpatient Pavilion lobby, 1635 N. Ursula Street, Aurora. Leaders from both institutions will attend, as will Brown and many researchers.

"This landmark partnership between Colorado State and the University of Colorado focuses on translating groundbreaking scientific research into practical solutions, quickly delivered to the people who need them the most," said CSU President Larry Edward Penley. "Our research scientists are working tirelessly to deepen our knowledge of cancer and pioneer new frontiers in cancer treatment. Ultimately, this commitment serves both families and individuals affected by cancer and the state of Colorado, which benefits economically from the strength of its research universities in this area."

"As the two largest institutions of higher education in the state of Colorado, CU and CSU are charged with helping to make the lives of Colorado citizens better through teaching, research and clinical care," said Bruce Benson, University of Colorado president. "We are also charged with making discoveries that will benefit society in general. By working together, we are a powerhouse in the area of cancer research."

Building on more than 35 years of excellence in cancer research and biomedicine, Colorado State University named its Cancer Research and Treatment Supercluster, along with NeoTREX, an embedded business enterprise dedicated to speeding the transition of life-saving cancer research from the academic world to the global marketplace, in August. It builds on cancer research currently funded by organizations such as NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, Morris Animal Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy. Research and training within the program includes carcinogenesis, chemoprevention, cancer risk assessment, cancer diagnosis, experimental therapeutics, medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, and core related sciences including genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, bioinformatics and pharmacokinetics. The university’s Animal Cancer Center, the largest center of its kind in the world, is devoted to caring for animals with cancer and researching cures and preventative medical interventions for the disease. Going beyond the veterinary profession, the Animal Cancer Center has an international reputation for its collaborations with human cancer institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, the National Cancer Institute and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The University of Colorado Cancer Center is the Rocky Mountain region’s only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center. Headquartered on the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, UCCC is a consortium of six institutions (UC Denver, Colorado State University, University of Colorado at Boulder, The Children’s Hospital, University of Colorado Hospital and National Jewish Research and Medical Center) and eight affiliate organizations dedicated to cancer care, research, education and prevention and control. For more information, visit, or visit the University of Colorado Denver newsroom,