Archive for June, 2010


Jun 25 2010


by at 11:16 am

I hope everybody is staying cool during this hot weather! We had a lovely retirement celebration for Susette Mueller on Tuesday; it is sad to see her go, though we are all happy for her and take some comfort in knowing that she’ll be back frequently. Hopefully, she’ll bring her banjo.

I had the opportunity to speak at the Wellness Community on Monday evening, and was inspired by the wonderful services that are provided as well as the dignity and tenacity of the many wonderful survivors with whom I interacted. So, it was particularly poignant for me when I saw one of my patients in clinic on Thursday. He is a young man who has been fighting colon cancer for 15 years, and came here after receiving care at Johns Hopkins because his doctor had run out of treatment options for him. Fortunately, he was eligible for Mike Pishvaian’s clinical trial employing temazolomide and a PARP inhibitorm, and he has actually been doing a bit better since he started therapy. It was maddening to hear him blurt out, in tears, about how he was going to have to sell or close his business, not because of his illness, but because his health insurer has increased his premiums by more than 1,000 percent (no, that is not a typo!) over the past few years. He is being punished for being ill, and he can no longer afford to pay the $60,000 (!) yearly premium. I could go on and on, but won’t. But this was a painful moment for me.

Have a nice weekend.

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Jun 18 2010

Looking to the Future

by at 5:25 pm

It is a bittersweet day as we say goodbye to Allison Whitney and wish her well in her new job in the city by the bay. We will miss her. While she cannot be replaced, we are actively interviewing candidates for Director of Communications, and expect to complete that process in the near future.

I had an interesting experience as an ad hoc reviewer last week in the CII Study Section. Anybody who plans to put in a new grant should certainly check with those of us who have reviewed grants in the last few months, since the review criteria have evolved rapidly.

I write this blog from an airport lounge in Buffalo, where I served on Roswell Park’s EAB. It is always interesting to see how other cancer centers conceive of and organize their science.

I had a really interesting meeting with the Hematology/Oncology fellows yesterday morning. In the coming year, we are going to collaborate to write a few translationally-oriented clinical trials. I think this will be a practical and useful training exercise, and may be a way to get a few extra investigator-initiated studies up and running. I plan to tap many of you from time to time to contribute ideas and expertise at our monthly meetings.

Have a great weekend!

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Jun 10 2010

Taking the Time to Reconnect

by at 9:27 am

I attended ASCO last Friday through Sunday, and it was very interesting. It is an unbelievably huge meeting making it impossible to take in more than a tiny sliver of the many simultaneous session. It takes so long to get from one end of the convention center to the other, especially if one knows a lot of people. Combine that with the meetings that surround the ASCO meeting and it is all a bit overwhelming. That said, it was good to reconnect with colleagues and friends from around the country.

I left half way through ASCO’s annual meeting to attend the Georgetown University Executive Committee meeting which was held at the Aspen Institute Wye River Conference Center located in Maryland. I really enjoy these meetings because they remind me of the general excellence of our University and the commitment of its leadership to sustaining that excellence. Many of you may take this association for granted, having always been based at a university. However, I spent 23 years at a freestanding comprehensive cancer center, while that undiluted focus on cancer has its advantages; there are so many unexpected and delightful opportunities that emerge at a university based cancer center.

I returned to Lombardi on Wednesday just in time to attend the Shared Resource Symposium. I was delighted to see how much of a success the symposium was. Steve Byers told me it had something to do with free lunch. Personally, I thought it had more to do with the free pens with the cool logos…

Thursday and Friday will be dominated by my attendance as an ad hoc member of my old study section (CII). I have found the new grant format and review criteria to be challenging but have found the process to be perfectly reasonable and fair. I know this experience will make it easier when it’s time for me to prepare my R01 renewals. On Monday, I look forward to the eleventh annual Mens’ Event, which, like the Women and Wine Event held in April, raises money for Lombardi and provides a rallying point for many of our strongest supporters. The Mens’ Event focuses on prostate cancer, while Women and Wine emphasizes breast cancer. The two events are competing this year to see which one can raise the most money. I am rooting for both of them to win! The event will be held at Morton’s, and I am sure the steaks will be great. Whoever figures out a way to spike steak sauce and condiments with statins will no doubt make a fortune.

Have a great weekend.

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Jun 04 2010

2010 ASCO Annual Meeting

by at 12:05 pm

Greetings from Chicago! I am at the annual ASCO meeting and am looking forward to the dizzying array of sessions and meetings awaiting me over the next few days. I’ll be discussing two abstracts at the GI cancer oral session on Sunday morning; these abstracts describe the use of adjuvant cetuximab (an anti-EGF receptor antibody) in patients with colorectal cancer. Of course, there will be a number of other presentations by Lombardi investigators:

Craig M. Kessler, MD
Oral Presentation
“Diagnosis and initial treatment of VTE in cancer patients”
Friday, June 4
1-3:15pm, E354a

Michael J. Pishvaian
Poster Discussion
“Final reporting of a phase I clinical trial of the oral PPAR-gamma agonist, CS-7017, in patients with advanced malignancies.”
Saturday, June 5
8am-12pm, E450a
1-2pm, E354b

Bruce D. Cheson, MD
Oral Presentation
“Lymphoma and Plasma Cell Disorders”
Sunday, June 6
7:45am, E Hall D1

Jeffrey Toretsky, MD
Education Session
“Targeting protein products of sarcoma specific translocations with small molecules”
Monday, June 7
8-9:15am, S406 (vista room)

Claudine Isaacs, MD
Poster Session Discussion
“Breast Cancer – Local-Regional and Adjuvant Therapy”
Monday, June 7
2-6pm, S403
5-6pm, N Hall B-1

Minetta Liu, MD
Oral Presentation
“Circulating Tumor Cells in Breast Cancer: Where are We?”
Monday, June 7
3-4:30pm, N Hall B-1

Aziza T. Shad, MD
Panel Discussion
“Palliative Care and Cancer in the Future”
Tuesday, June 8
9am-12:00pm, S504

If you’re at the meeting, remember to stop by and support your colleagues! I’ll have to leave Chicago the first thing Monday morning to return to DC for the Georgetown University Executive Retreat so I’ll miss the last half of the ASCO meeting.

I’ll be back in the office on Wednesday, just in time for the Shared Resources Day. We are lucky to have so many terrific Shared Resources, and the more you learn about them, the more opportunities you’ll have to make use of these facilities.

I’ll have to remember to try an authentic deep dish pizza this weekend; I’ve never had one in Chicago. I’ll let you know how that turns out in next week’s blog.

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Jun 01 2010

The Lombardi Gala

by at 10:07 am

I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. I had an interesting week, as usual. As many of you know, we are gearing up for the Lombardi Gala in November and I had the privilege of meeting with the Gala Corporate Executive Committee last Wednesday. I was inspired by the passion of our volunteers and especially want to thank our four co-chairs for this year’s event Marc DeLuca, Brian Katz, Barry Scher and Paul Schweitzer for donating their efforts; I am especially grateful to Paul for his continuing commitment to Lombardi. It also was great to see Howard Adler, one of last-year’s co-chairs, at the breakfast. As some of you know, the theme of this year’s Gala is “Color the Cure”, and it should prove to be a valuable and memorable theme as it is fully developed. Thanks to Allison Whitney for the inspiration that led to this theme.

Later in the week I received excellent feedback from my GI cancer colleagues as I prepare to deliver an oral presentation (a discussion on two abstracts related to cetuximab-based adjuvant chemotherapy for colorectal cancer) at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meetings, which start this coming weekend. Because of this meeting I won’t be available to attend this Friday’s Grand Rounds in the Research Auditorium by Doug Hanahan, from UCSF. Dr. Hanahan is a true innovator in the field; his paper on the Hallmarks of Cancer [Cell. 2000 Jan 7;100(1):57-70], with Bob Weinberg, is one of the really seminal reviews of the past decade. I urge everyone to attend.

On Wednesday we have another very interesting seminar, which will be given by Skip Garner, the recently installed Director of the Virginia Tech Bioinformatics Institute. As many of you know, Lombardi and VBI have a number of collaborations through both Tony Dritschilo and Bob Clarke. Skip is very cancer-focused, and will be discussing a new technology he has developed that could be useful to many of us. The title of his talk is “Global Microsatellite Signatures Classify Cancers and Facilitate Biomarker Discovery”. Again, I urge everyone to attend what promises to be a very interesting presentation.

That’s all for now. Have a wonderful and productive week.

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