Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

WRNMMC’s participation in APOLLO program furthers cancer research

Two groups of vials on a table Vials containing DNA samples from studies of the genetic risk for cancer at the Cancer Genomics Research Laboratory, part of the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. (Photo by Daniel Sone, National Cancer Institute.)

Recommended Content:

Research and Innovation | Health Readiness

As cancer survivors, oncologist, researchers, providers and family members celebrated World Cancer Day today, the researchers, providers and support staff at the John P. Murtha Cancer Center (MCC) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland remain focused on the studying not only the effects of the deadly disease, but also best possible treatment options.

The MCC serves as the preeminent cancer research and treatment facility within the Department of Defense, and has been since the 1990s. In 2012, the center was renamed after Congressman John P. Murtha, a 30 year Marine Corps veteran and long-time advocate for cancer research within the Department of Defense.

The current Director of MCC and its Research Program, Dr. Craig Shriver, is focused on the threat cancer poses on the readiness of the United States Armed Forces. According to Shriver, there are more than 1,000 active duty service members diagnoses with cancer each year, and there are more than 8,000 active duty service members living with a cancer diagnosis. Researchers at the MCC are keenly interested in how cancer affects younger people, since most active duty service members are under the age of 35, Shriver explained.

To combat the effect cancer has on the readiness of the DOD’s mission, MCC has done research into the genetic causes of cancer. According to Shriver, MCC centers have been sequencing the genome of tumors for different cancer since the 1990s. According to Shriver, since the DoD has a disproportionately high number of African American’s compared to the general U.S. population, sequencing of tumors from African Americans with prostate cancer has shown certain genetic risk factors that had not been found previously. “This is research that not only benefits African American service members, but people of African descent worldwide,” says Shriver.

Currently the MCC is using genetic sequencing as part of its participation in the APOLLO (Applied Proeogenomics Organizational Learning Outcomes) research program. According to the National Cancer Institutes’ webpage, APOLLO is part of the Cancer Moonshot initiative, a tri-federal research program that began in 2016 under the leadership of then Vice President Joe Biden. APOLLO brings together the DOD through MCC, the departments of Veterans Affairs; and the department of Health and Human Services through the NCI. According to Shriver the three agencies work together in sharing research and information, as well as publishing the results of the program.

A group of medical researchers in a line, sitting down in front of monitors
Researchers at the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at WRNMMC study the genetic makeup of cancer cells. As part of the APOLLO research program, the Murtha Cancer Center is undergoing studies related to the genetics found in the tumors of cancer patients. The genetic sequencing of these tumors is leading to new discoveries in the treatment of cancer within active duty service members in the DOD. (Photo courtesy of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.)

APOLLO studies the genetic components of tumors from cancer patients. According to Shriver, every newly diagnoses cancer patient in on of the Murtha facilities are given the option to join the research program. If a patient opts in, their tumor is run through all available molecular platforms looking at its DNA, RNA, and Protein structure.

According to NCI, the data from the APOLLO program will be “curated and made available publicly through the Genomic Data CommonsProteomic Data Portal, and Cancer Imaging Archive.  Using all of the data available (analytical, invasive, noninvasive, and clinical) will enable researchers to study the relationships among these data, validate results, and develop predictive and prognostic models to improve patient care.”

According to Shriver APOLLO uses precision oncology where researchers look to see if there are any special molecular signatures of an individual’s cancer that be targeted with available drugs. Shriver says that tumors of the same cancer type can have different genetic attributes, which might require different treatments. “We don’t treat every patient with colon cancer the same. You identify any unique aspects of the tumor and say, ‘okay this tumor is special in this way, we identified it through the molecular signature found in the APOLLO program’, and we treat it that way,” said Shriver.

After sequencing the genetic makeup of their tumor, a patient’s blood is then sequenced to find the DNA unique to that person. According to Shriver, many young people with cancer have a genetic germline mutation that could cause cancer. And there are 50 different genes that can lead, in isolation or combined, to an increased risk of cancers.

The APOLLO program also shares any information from their research back with the patient. “We have a very unique, almost unprecedented, genetic return of results program,” Shriver said adding “If we identify that service member X has a germline genetic mutation that could affect them, and their children, for increased cancer risk, we tell the patient that. This is unusual for a research program.”

Shriver says that this information sharing is called translational research. The gap between clinical care and research is translated and provides real benefits to patients and their providers through the genome sequencing of the patient’s blood.

The research from the APOLLO program is already starting to have real benefits to not only the DOD, but the United States population at large. According to Shriver, researchers in the program identified a new genetic signature that can distinguish between patients with lung cancer who will do well with a specific treatment from those who may not do well with said treatment. “If 20% of the population don’t do well for conventional treatment, and by sequencing the genetic of the tumor, we can find those patients and move forward with more unique options,” said Shriver.

The signature is intellectual property, and as such a patent is being filed so that it can be commercialized, and a test can go to the market. Lung cancer patients can take the panel test and providers can predict if they will do well with treatment or should try something else.

While the APOLLO program is beneficial for a more hidden side of the causes of cancer, Shriver still encourages known preventative measure should be taken by all active duty service members. Shriver says that avoiding or quitting use of tobacco and nicotine products are a good common knowledge practice.

According to Director of Gynecologic Oncology at WRNMMC, Air Force Col. (Dr.) Yovanni Casablanca, all service members regardless of gender should get the human papilloma virus, or HPV, vaccine which protects against cervical cancer.

Shriver believes genetic sequencing can be helpful to the DOD’s mission in the future outside of cancer research. According to Shriver, genetic sequencing could be utilized at military intake alongside other medical tests, to determine an individual’s genetic risk to certain cancers. “This wouldn’t be us turning someone away based on their sequencing. Instead we can use this information to help a service member who may be higher risk be aware and take proactive steps to mitigate the potential onset of certain cancers,” said Shriver.

For more information about the Murtha Cancer Center, or the APOLLO program, check their websites.

You also may be interested in...

Weed ACH hosted breast cancer awareness event

Article
10/28/2020
Woman in pink hat and shirt, wearing a racing number, speaking to an audience

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a chance to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Combat Support | Women's Health

WRNMMC expands innovation and opens new, permanent drive-thru pharmacy

Article
10/23/2020
Military pharmacist, wearing a mask, looking at bags of prescriptions

The new Prescription Drive-Thru Pick-up will operate similarly as the curbside pharmacy pick-up.

Recommended Content:

Research and Innovation | Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus | Pharmacy Operations Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | TRICARE Pharmacy Program

Air Force Unit provides worldwide medical response capability

Article
10/15/2020
Two military personnel loading equipment onto an aircraft

The 379th EAES crews provide time sensitive in-flight patient care.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Combat Support

DHA priorities focused on readiness, patients, outcomes

Article
10/7/2020
Defense Health Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place speaks at a podium.

Adaptation key to providing outstanding care to beneficiaries.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Access to Health Care | Coronavirus | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program | Quality and Safety of Health Care (for Healthcare Professionals) | Clinical Quality Management | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

MSMR Vol. 27 No. 10 - October 2020

Report
10/1/2020

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Characterizing the contribution of chronic pain diagnoses to the neurologic burden of disease, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2009–2018; Surveillance snapshot: Influenza immunization among U.S. Armed Forces healthcare workers, August 2015–April 2020; Acute and chronic pancreatitis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2004–2018.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

DHA’s Vaccine Safety Hubs emphasize safety

Article
9/29/2020
Soldier filling a vaccine needle

How MHS works to improve “all things vaccine related."

Recommended Content:

Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Toolkit | Health Readiness | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Naval Medical Center Portsmouth's iTClamp wins MHS research award

Article
9/11/2020
Image of a plastic clamp on someone's arm

“Hemorrhage control of bleeding is one our biggest problems in military medicine."

Recommended Content:

Research and Innovation | Innovation | Combat Support

From Ghana to Washington, Sailor provides leadership during COVID-19

Article
9/10/2020
Female soldier with mask

Acquiring supplies, in general, has been a hurdle worldwide.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness | Heroes Behind the Mask | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Army radiology instructor and medic render assistance to crash victim

Article
9/2/2020
Mom and Dad in military gear with their young son.

Their medical training helped with knowing the steps for CPR and how to check responsiveness and breathing.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 27 No. 9 - September 2020

Report
9/1/2020

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Update: Routine screening for antibodies to human immunodeficiency virus, civilian applicants for U.S. military service and U.S. Armed Forces, active and reserve components, January 2015–June 2020; Incidence of inguinal hernia and repair procedures and rate of subsequent pain diagnoses, active component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010–2019; Surveillance of spotted fever rickettsioses at Army installations in the U.S. Central and Atlantic regions, 2012–2018.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

Air Force updates medical courses with COVID-19 content, procedures

Article
8/24/2020
Two technicians in full PPE in a lab

COVID-19 has shed new light on the methods of conducting medical training and education.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness | Combat Support

Air Force updates medical courses with COVID-19 content, procedures

Article
8/7/2020
Two lab technicians wearing full PPE handling vials for testing

COVID-19 has pushed instructors and trainers to be more innovative.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness | Combat Support

Indiana National Guard continues to train in the COVID-19 environment

Article
8/5/2020
Soldiers in the field, wearing masks and testing equipment

Training in a time of COVID-19

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness

TBI Hot Topics Bulletin May 2020

Publication
8/4/2020

Are you a busy health care provider? Not enough time to keep up with research? Stay informed with the TBI Hot Topics Bulletin. We track the latest TBI scientific studies, advances, and discoveries most relevant to health care providers. This issue covers the first quarter of calendar year 2020.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Educators | Provider Resources | TBICoE Research | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources | Research and Innovation

MSMR Vol. 27 No. 8 - August 2020

Report
8/1/2020

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Commentary: The limited role of vaccines in the prevention of acute gastroenteritis; Diarrhea and associated illness characteristics and risk factors among British active duty service members at Askari Storm training exercise, Nanyuki, Kenya, January–June 2014; Surveillance snapshot: Norovirus outbreaks in military forces, 2015–2019; Update: Incidence of acute gastrointestinal infections and diarrhea, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010–2019.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 61 - 75 Page 5 of 44

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.