Archive for May, 2010


May 21 2010

Future of NCI

by at 3:57 pm

So, I had a fairly interesting week. Last Thursday and Friday I participated in the annual NCI Cancer Center Directors’ Retreat and heard John Niederhuber’s final address prior to the announcement of President Obama’s intent to nominate Harold Varmus as the new NCI director. John was reflective in his comments, not surprisingly. Although he has had a challenging tenure due to budgetary constraints, he has been a strong advocate for the cancer centers program, and provided important support to Lombardi during a period of leadership transition. I wish him well as he moves on to new challenges. I also am interested in learning about how Dr. Varmus will shake up the NCI (if at all) once he assumes his new responsibilities. He is certainly thought to be a friend of R01-based research, but should he choose to invest more resources in that direction, something will have to give, since the NCI budget is not likely to rise appreciably.

On Monday, I attended my first (!) graduate student Ph.D. thesis proposal meeting. Rochelle Nasto is a Drexel University graduate student who is based in the lab of my collaborator, Erica Golemis. Rochelle has spent the past year or so in my lab, devising and conducting screening of an estrogen receptor-targeted siRNA library to identify determinants of survival and drug resistance. Accordingly, I serve on her committee at Drexel. She did very well, so it was a very positive experience for me. Coming from a freestanding cancer center, I never had graduate students before, so I found the whole exercise quite interesting.

On Tuesday I gave a lecture at UMBC at a graduate students’ symposium in their new research building. It was nice to catch up with our old friend, Kevin Cullen, and hear about the nice things that are happening at that cancer center. Wednesday was highlighted by the research seminar given by Dr. Xuefeng Liu, who spoke about papillomavirus, telomerase and cell immortalization. It was a very nice and provocative presentation. Unfortunately, attendance was pretty low, so lots of people missed out on hearing some very good science. I have been as guilty as many others in missing these seminars, but have vowed to make them a priority; it’s a great way for me to learn more about what is going on in our scientific community. Yesterday morning, Vicente Notario met with the Hematology/Oncology fellows to describe his research. I was pleased to hear the many probing and thoughtful questions he received from the group; these trainees can and should be targeted for clinical research-based collaborations by our scientific community.

The rest of the week has been consumed by clinic, lab meetings, grant reviews, a manuscript submission, a chapter submission for the DeVita textbook, budget meetings and senior faculty evaluations. All in all, it’s been a pretty typical week. However, I am looking forward to the weekend!

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May 14 2010

At the Avon Walk Finish Line

by at 1:27 pm

Our team at the finish line

Our team at the finish line

This is the last Avon Walk report you’ll hear from me for some time. But I want to share with you the good news that the Lombardi/CBCC team raised nearly $70,000 and was ranked 6th in terms of money raised going into the Walk. The team of walkers was fantastic and the cheering sections in front of the Hospital and by the finish line were potent reminders that Lombardi is a force to be reckoned with in this region when it comes to supporting breast cancer. Congratulations to all of the walkers and to the team’s co-captains, Jeanne Mandelblatt and my wife, Harriet. I want to particularly thank Jeanne for her dynamic leadership of the team. I also want to thank Gina DeLuca for her behind-the-scenes support throughout the planning process and Peter Shields for leadership of the medical team. Due to the unseasonably warm temperatures, there were many dehydrated and cramping walkers, some of whom had to be transported to local hospitals. While I wasn’t able to walk as much with the team, I was gratified that I am still able to recognize dehydration and order fluids.

I can tell you that the team is already planning next year’s walk and I hope my leg has healed a bit before then.

I went to visit Anton Wellstein a couple weeks ago to talk about some work we’re doing with siRNA library screening. We’ve identified new targets for intervention for pancreatic cancer. And as so often happens with Anton, a spirited scientific discussion arose. It turns out that we are using potentially complementary strategies that could readily be imagined in a program project grant application or other collaborative research grant. Our conversation reminded me about the diversity and depth of the research that we do here and the need to maintain open channels of communication to assure that we leverage our excellence wherever possible. For example, I was

Todd Waldmans Cancer Research Cover

Todd Waldman's Cancer Research Cover

talking with Mike Pishvaian on Monday morning about work he’s been doing with cdk4 inhibitors, building on his research showing that cdk4 interacts with smad3 in several cancer models. He remarked on Todd Waldman’s very nice recent paper in Cancer Research that ended up the cover story for that issue. Although Todd employed a glioblastoma model for his research, he used a reagent that Mike had suggested he employ.

Finally, it is with a mixture of regret and happiness that I have to report that Allison Whitney will be leaving us as of July 1. She has foolishly decided that her best future belongs in San Francisco, where she and her boyfriend will be moving to pursue new opportunities. The source of my regret is obvious, but I am happy for Allison that she is following her dreams. In her four years at Lombardi Allison has transformed the Communications Office and has dragged us (not always kicking and screaming) into the 21st century. Her work to create a modern and useful website will serve us well for many years to come. A search for her successor will commence shortly. Please join me in wishing Allison well as she transitions to her new life.

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