Archive for March, 2009

 

Mar 26 2009

Funding feast and famine

by at 9:00 pm

I’ve had a very busy week, but I believe I will be a lot busier between now and the end of May. Besides the massive amount of work required to get the core grant finalized – and I should note that I am not bearing this burden alone – we are currently being subjected to the perfect storm of funding opportunities from the stimulus package. Everyday it seems that another funding opportunity is released and I am impressed by the vigorous response that many of us at the cancer center are showing to the opportunities being presented. I must say it feels peculiar to have such a potential feast provided to us in the midst of an economic famine at the national and international levels. All I can be sure of is that I will be replacing my blackberry hunch with laptop postural fatigue over the next few months.

Peter Shields, Joe Teague, and I attended a cocktail party hosted by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to support the Capital Breast Care Center. The event was at the Senator’s lovely home in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The attendees responded warmly to our remarks, though I was surprised that so few of them knew about the CBCC, or knew where it was, even though it’s in their neighborhood. This treasure has been buried, but we will do what we can to assure that everyone knows that it is a special resource to the residents of the District.

Please mark your calendars for the reintroduction of the Lombardi Celebration, formerly known as the Lombardi Gala, on November 7th. We have identified and look forward to announcing the names of this year’s co-chairs.

I spent the first two days of this week in New York City chairing a grants review panel for the Israel Cancer Research Fund. Israeli scientists provide us with clear evidence that it is possible to do wonderful science in a resource constrained environment that would make those of us at Lombardi feel as if we were working in opulent splendor.

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Mar 20 2009

Mentoring our junior faculty

by at 11:05 am

We had Program Leader and Associate Director meetings in the past week. After obsessing for the requisite period of time about the core grant submission, we discussed ways to improve program-based mentoring for junior investigators. The goal of these discussions was to find ways to provide support to junior faculty and ensure all of their research ideas are given the advantage of review with a view to identifying more avenues for collaboration and refinement of research strategies.

While we are still working out the details of how this will be implemented, each set of Program Leaders has been encouraged to incorporate research proposal reviews into their regular program meeting structures. Of course, more senior investigators who are looking either for validation or a reality check will be encouraged to take advantage of this new interactive resource as well. Stay tuned for more on these efforts.

One of the highlights of last week was a visit I paid to the Walter Reed Hospital where I met with Colonel Craig Shriver, Director of the Clinical Breast Care Project. He has organized a remarkably comprehensive breast cancer tumor enterprise. There are many opportunities for potential collaborations and Col. Shriver will be leading a delegation that will visit Lombardi in May. I also had a chance to visit John Potter while at Walter Reed. His office is in the original main building, which has enough photographs and paintings to qualify as a major museum in many cities. It’s quite striking.

On Sunday, Harriet hosted many members of the Lombardi/CBCC Avon Walk team at our house. After they met and strategized about ways to raise more money for the team, I had the wonderful opportunity to clean up while the team went out for a soggy and chilly walk. I think I got the better end of the deal.

Monday morning I visited the CBCC and met with Beth Beck and her crew to learn more about the work they do and their future plans. It is a really wonderful facility and provides such an important service to underserved women in the District and in our region. I was excited to learn that a van will shortly be in operation to pick up patients from the community to be transported to the Center for both mammography and patient education. I’m proud that Lombardi has been the driving force behind this wonderful enterprise.

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Mar 12 2009

Stimulating discussions – and the stimulus package

by at 12:28 pm

It was a great pleasure for me to see Stan Gerson when he came to Lombardi to deliver Grand Rounds last Friday. Not only is he an old friend and study section colleague, but he’s also a valued member of our External Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC). As a cancer center director, his perspective and insight is very valuable to me as we head into the CCSG renewal. Even though Stan usually slept during sections on tumor immunology, I forgive him his transgressions and found his presentation on Friday to be interesting and provocative. I was, however, disappointed to be one of only a handful of clinicians in the audience. I don’t see how we could have better speakers at Grand Rounds, so hopefully this will change. Everyone is busy, but the opportunity to participate in exciting academic activities is and will remain a core value of this cancer center.

Harriet and I attended the Pediatrics Gala at the Omni Shoreham Saturday night. It reminded me that Jeff Toretsky and Aziza Shad are hosting a very significant symposium on Targeted Therapy for Childhood Cancers that will feature a great lineup of speakers. It will be held on Friday, April 17 in the Research Building Auditorium. Please remember to put it on your calendar and register for the event.

On Monday we had our first full senior operational team meeting where we welcomed John Marshall into the group. The senior operational leadership team now consists of Peter Shields, Michael Vander Hoek, John Marshall, and myself. I think it’s important to include a strong clinical perspective in these weekly operations meetings, and John’s input proved invaluable to the discussions.

I have also had several meetings related to fund raising in the past week. Aside from my routinely scheduled meeting with Joe Teague, I also met with the University Office of Advancement’s “Discovery Intiative” team, which consists of roughly 20 individuals who interface with Georgetown alumni, friends, and supporters. I was able to share our vision for the future and can assure you that vision was enthusiastically received. Since these people engage their constituents looking for opportunities to create relationships that can benefit the cancer center, I came away quite encouraged.

Finally, you have no doubt been bombarded by a variety of messages regarding stimulus package grant opportunities. We are doing our best to coordinate our activities and provide support to facilitate successful applications. The large construction grants will be handled centrally through the University, but many of the other proposals, including grant supplements, should be considered by all of us. If you have not already done so, please let us know your plans for submitting grants using this form.

Have a great week.

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Mar 05 2009

I spoke too soon

by at 9:25 pm

So it was 13 degrees outside when I left for work yesterday morning. It’s so much fun to live in “semi-tropical” Washington.

Despite the climate, I did have a scientifically interesting week. As I mentioned in my last post, Khaled El-Shami, Carolyn Hurley, and I met last Thursday with investigators from the NCI bone marrow transplant (BMT) program to discuss a really exciting protocol involving the infusion of allogeneic natural killer cells in patients with refractory myeloid malignancies. Key to the protocol will be the prospective haplotyping of natural killer cells by Carolyn; this will help select patients with appropriate mismatches that can drive natural killer cell recognition and attack against myeloid leukemia cells. The protocol is undergoing refinement as a result of our discussions and I’m hopeful to get it started in the very near future.

On Tuesday afternoon I had the pleasure of participating in the annual Spring Convocation in Gaston Hall, and was proud to have the opportunity to congratulate Bob Clarke and Mary Beth Martin for receiving vicentennial medals for 20 years of service to Georgetown. Joseph Neale, professor of biology, gave a thoroughly entertaining review of his life at Georgetown. Following the Convocation, the 1789 Society dinner was held in Riggs Library, celebrating the University’s most generous supporters. It’s reassuring to know that even during these difficult economic times that our core philanthropic support remains strong.

Last night, Harriet and I attended the Friends of Cancer Research annual awards banquet at the Hotel Monaco. It was great to see Ryan Hohman, who now works for Friends of Cancer Research, and we spent the evening with Peter Shields and his wife Leslie. Ellen Sigel, who heads Friends of Cancer Research, is a genuine force in the cancer advocacy world and has focused effectively on legislative remedies including advocacy of the Kennedy-Hutchison bill. Our location in DC and our identity as part of Georgetown University give us many opportunities to be a part of the action and to hopefully play a role in defining our nation’s agenda with respect to cancer research.

Finally, if anyone missed the Town Hall meeting yesterday, I have posted the slides online. I also recommend that everyone peruse the slides from Howard Federoff’s meeting about the stimulus bill.

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