Archive for January, 2011


Jan 28 2011

A Busy Week, Despite the Snow

by at 3:54 pm

The snow may have crippled DC and much of the region, but here it’s been a busy week.

On Monday I attended my first clinical operations meeting chaired by John Marshall, and involving Lombardi’s clinical team. My involvement is a direct outgrowth of Lombardi’s expanded relationship with MedStar Health, and I am very pleased with the warm reception I’ve received in my new role. This is a truly exciting time as we plan for renovations and upgrades to our facilities that will be essential in the expansion of our clinical operations.

On Monday evening my lab carried on the long-held lab tradition of holding holiday parties in mid to late January. The party was at Cactus Cantina, and a great time was had by all.  I had hoped my 4-month-old grandson Isaac—whom we were babysitting—would be able to join us, but he ended up staying at home with Harriet because it was too cold for him to go out. When I got back home later that evening, Harriet asked me to hold Isaac, and he and I both promptly fell asleep for the night.  I lost an evening of work, and am not sure if I can blame the baby or the margaritas. Either way, it was the best possible investment of my time.

On Tuesday, I attended a kickoff meeting for the Men’s Event to benefit prostate cancer research, scheduled for June at Morton’s steakhouse. Last year’s event grossed $96,000 and netted about $50,000—and we expect an even bigger and better event this year.

On Wednesday evening I was scheduled to attend the basketball game between Big East Rivals St. John’s and Georgetown as part of a development event, but our event ended up being cancelled due to the snow.  Happily, Georgetown won that game despite—or perhaps because of—my absence.

I spent Thursday in clinic, and had the opportunity to be shadowed by Victoria Churchville, a scientific writer from the Office of Advancement who is writing a profile of me for use by development officers. It’s always interesting to interact with people whose job it is to observe your work and describe it to others. It is a reminder of something that’s easy to lose sight of: that what we do when we see patients is something different and special.

Enjoy the weekend—I hope you thaw out!

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Jan 21 2011

Balancing Work and Play

by at 8:34 pm

I hope you enjoyed a restful holiday weekend and a productive week.

I spent the first part of the week in Jamaica participating in the Breast Cancer Think Tank, a wonderful conference packed full of interesting data. I was joined by other Lombardi faculty: Craig Jordan; Anton Wellstein; Michael Johnson and Bob Clarke. The sessions are organized like a Gordon Conference, with great content in the mornings and evenings, leaving the afternoons free for diving, golf, or whatever other warm-weather activity you’d want.

I presented an update on our siRNA libraries we use to identify determinants of survival in breast cancer cells, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to talks from my colleagues around the country.  Even though I am still on the mend from the persistent respiratory infection I’ve been battling for nearly two weeks, I made it through my presentation in one piece.

Perhaps more miraculously, I also managed to shoot an 82 on the golf course—my personal best score. I have witnesses, namely the other members of my foursome: Joe Gray from UCSF; Steve Shak from Genomic Health; and Shaomeng Wang from University of Michigan. The lesson I learned is that I should never play with my own clubs and golf shoes again, the rental clubs and sneakers seemed to produce a much better outcome. Despite a great game, I think I’ll keep my day job.  

And my day job is keeping me busy. I came back a few days early from Jamaica to attend a meeting with President DeGioia to discuss fundraising activities. I have also begun to interact more closely with our MedStar colleagues on a regional strategy for oncology service delivery. I’ve attended one major strategic meeting and several smaller operational ones.

Believe it or not, we are already ramping up in preparation for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, a two-day event April 30-May 1 that raises awareness and funds to combat breast cancer. Avon is an important partner for Lombardi and the Capital Breast Care Center, and the cause is certainly a priority for us, so it’s essential that we have a strong Lombardi showing. If you are interested in walking as part of the Lombardi team or helping cheer the team on, contact Jeanne Mandelblatt at You’ll be hearing more about this in the months to come.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your weekend!

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Jan 14 2011

Honoring a Friend’s Memory

by at 5:51 pm

I hope everybody has settled back into their routines now that the holidays have ended.  My week was shortened when I was felled by some flu-like upper respiratory infection that knocked me for a loop.  However, we continue to make a lot of progress in program reorganization and I hope to send out more information in that regard in the next week or so.

I must say that the last week or two have been difficult for me for a reason unrelated to my temporary viral misery.  Many of you who read the Cancer Letter may have noted that Gary Kruh, director of the University of Illinois Cancer Center died quite tragically about 10 days ago at the age of 59.  Cancer Center directors are something of a band of brothers and sisters, and although we are competitive we really do pull for each other.  So, from that perspective, Gary’s death was a sobering event.  But, more than that, he was a real friend. I first met Gary about 20 years ago, when he moved to Fox Chase from Stu Aaronson’s lab at NCI, and established a lab across the hall from me.

Over the years, we became friends, and I was the beneficiary of his piercing intellect and thoughtful approach to scientific problems.  I was an all-too frequent recipient of his incomparably awful yet funny jokes—and occasionally the target of some of them.  Over the years, as our careers progressed, he moved to a larger space in an adjacent building, and I began to assume administrative responsibilities.

Through it all, we remained friends.  He left Fox Chase to assume his position as director of a fledgling cancer center a few months before I moved to Lombardi, and we always tried to make time for a drink or a dinner together when we were in each other’s city.  So, when I learned that he had suddenly collapsed in a supermarket due to intracranial bleeding, I was deeply shaken; a nationwide network of friends and colleagues instantaneously developed to provide information and support while we waited for the inevitable news of his death.

Life is a gift, not a right.  I intend to honor Gary’s life and commitment to cancer research by always remembering that it is up to me to make my life count as much as possible—when I work, when I am with those I love, and when I am at play.  I am sure that Gary would approve, as long as the ideas are big, the wine is good, the friends are genuine, and I finally decide to take up sailing.  Rest easy, my friend.

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Jan 07 2011

Announcing a New Addition to Lombardi’s Senior Leadership

by at 3:18 pm

I am delighted to announce that Yu Shyr, Ph.D., an extremely well-regarded cancer-focused biostatistician and informatician, will be joining Georgetown University Medical Center and Georgetown Lombardi effective this July.  I look forward to welcoming Dr. Shyr as he assumes his new roles as chair of the Department of Biostatistics, Bioinformatics and Biomathematics (DBBB), as director of Lombardi’s Biostatistics & Bioinformatics Shared Resource and as founding associate director for quantitative biology.

Dr. Shyr is currently chief of the Division of Cancer Biostatistics and director/founder of the Cancer Biostatistics Center at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC). Throughout his career, he has been instrumental in positioning biostatistics as an essential scientific collaborative discipline that enriches basic science, translational research, data analysis and clinical trials.

Yu Shyr, PhD

Yu Shyr, PhD

Dr. Shyr has a very impressive record of scientific accomplishment. His CV lists 234 peer-reviewed publications, and he has secured substantial funding for his work over the course of his career. He was honored with election to the American Statistical Association in 2010. His current research interests have included traditional multivariate analysis, with an emphasis on the analysis of high-dimensional data. He is also active in the statistical design and analysis of clinical trials.

In addition to his research, Dr. Shyr has built an impressive record of academic leadership, earning accolades from students for his teaching and mentorship in biostatistics, epidemiological methods and clinical trial design and analysis.

I expect his vast scientific expertise, his demonstrated leadership and his commitment to building consensus will prove tremendous assets to the work of Lombardi and GUMC investigators. Needless to say, he will be critically important as we move towards the resubmission of our Cancer Center Support Grant application.

There will be ample opportunity in the coming months to learn more about Dr. Shyr and for him to meet many Lombardi members before he officially starts in July.

I also wish to take this opportunity to thank Chris Loffredo for his stellar stewardship of the DBBB as interim chair of the department. Not surprisingly, Chris has provided steady leadership for DBBB members, and I look forward to continuing to work with him in his ongoing role as program leader of Lombardi’s Carcinogenesis, Biomarkers and Epidemiology program.

Enjoy your weekend!

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