Archive for March, 2011


Mar 25 2011

Forging Ahead with Regional Oncology Strategy

by at 3:02 pm

I hope everyone is enjoying the Arctic Version of the Cherry Blossom Festival. I can’t imagine that the anticipated snowfall on Sunday morning will be good for the blooms—or for sightseeing.

On Monday evening I chaired the MedStar South Oncology strategy meeting, where we identified and prioritized the diseases that will be the initial foci of our clinical and clinical research efforts. This meeting represented the culmination of a detailed three-month planning process. We plan to lead with GI cancers, where we have a large amount of clinical and clinical research strength, and will follow with breast cancer as soon as we have a sufficient complement of breast surgeons and patient care delivery mechanisms in place to effectively compete in that highly competitive market.

Other areas of prioritization will include lung cancer (emphasizing screening, to start), prostate cancer, neuro-oncology and orthopedic oncology. This does not preclude an interest in other diseases, but these areas will be the focus of marketing, the evolution of complementary research activities and the establishment of clinical care networks. This effort will also require a significant upgrade of clinical care facilities and service delivery. It will be very exciting, and the hard work begins now.

On Wednesday, I participated in a reception to kick off our annual Men’s Event for prostate cancer at Morton’s. This event raised nearly $100,000 last year, and we hope to do even better this year. Of course, this event is also a boon for local cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons, since the mountains of red meat are offset by lobster dripping in butter. We should get a donation from the American Heart Association as a measure of their gratitude.

 On Thursday, I welcomed a delegation of leading French cancer researchers and oncologists to an event organized by Subha Madhavan and Steve Moore; they wanted to learn more about our systems medicine and systems biology efforts. I always enjoy a chance to talk about G-DOC, and I think they learned a lot about our cutting-edge work. Perhaps some collaborations will evolve; that would be a great opportunity to interact with world-class researchers.

I hope you stay warm this weekend. I’ll see many of you at this Monday’s faculty meeting, at noon in Warwick Evans.

Have a great weekend.

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Mar 18 2011

Learning from previous and future generations of researchers

by at 11:49 am

I had to miss my last post as I was out of town last week. First, I was at a meeting in Chicago and then flew to Philadelphia for the AACR’s Stand Up 2 Cancer Young Investigator Review Committee meeting. It was a fascinating experience. The committee initially received 183 proposals—all mid-assistant-level professors. Of these, 18 finalists were identified and invited to Philly to make brief presentations and conduct interviews.  This was a wonderful way to vet the scientific ideas of this important group of young investigators. I expect that more than half of these applicants will receive awards.

Interestingly, the majority of the applications dealt with RNAi approaches or metabolic pathways. I can’t say for sure if these emphases speak to the biases of the initial review panel, or if they represent the collective subconscious judgment of our most talented young investigators regarding the cutting edges of contemporary cancer research. Either way, it is clear that the future of our cancer research is in good hands if these proposals are any indication.

While in Philly, I was fortunately able to walk from the Rittenhouse Hotel, where the meeting was held, to Jefferson Hospital, where my father was undergoing a right-knee replacement. All went well and it was nice to be able to spend some time with him.

Last Monday, I had the privilege of attending a reception for Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center, who received an honorary degree from Georgetown at the Davis Performing Arts Center on campus. I found it truly inspiring to learn how he has done so much to break down the walls of intolerance through the arts. The Kennedy Center has promoted the arts in many of the world’s most dangerous and poverty-stricken regions. There are many ways to make a difference in this world.

On Tuesday much of my day was spent at the GUMC Convocation ceremony activities. It was a true pleasure to meet the guest speaker and the recipient of the Cura Personalis Award, famed pharmacogeneticist Arno Motulsky.  While he was born in Germany, Dr. Motulsky was actually raised in Brussels, Belgium, in the same general neighborhood as my mother. An interesting coincidence, although he did not know her or her family.

While my mother and her family went into hiding to escape persecution and extermination during the Holocaust, Dr. Motulsky’s family attempted to escape aboard the M.S. St. Louis—the German ocean liner that infamously sailed from Hamburg to Havana in 1939, but whose passengers were denied entry when it arrived.

Upon the ship’s return Dr. Motulsky was imprisoned at a camp in Vichy, France, but managed to survive and somehow got an exit visa to the United States. He joined the U.S. army in 1943 and went on to live a remarkable life. Hearing his story and connecting it to my own family’s history reminds me of the essential differences between challenging economic times, such as the current era, and man-made cataclysms such as the Holocaust or natural disasters such as the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

On Friday I was sorry to miss the Visiting Professor Seminar Series, with guest speaker Thomas Hornyak, MD, PhD, from the NCI. I had to attend the ASCO Cancer Research Committee meeting in Alexandria. I’m sure his talk on melanoma was fascinating.

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the spring weather!  It will be the perfect temperature for our Georgetown Lombardi/Ruesch Center team that is participating in the Scope it Out 5K for Colon Cancer Awareness this Sunday in DC.

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Mar 06 2011

Updates from the ICBP Meeting

by at 1:43 pm

On Sunday I flew out to San Diego for the ICBP meeting (you may remember that in my last blog I threatened to extract a round of golf in Ireland from Bob Clarke in exchange for my attendance at that meeting). As luck would have it, he almost got off the hook; it was a very interesting meeting, and I came away energized to consider in vivo shRNA screens, among other ideas. As planned, I got to the airport by 2:00 pm on Monday, well in advance of my scheduled 3:20 pm flight, with a change in Denver, arriving in DC by 12:30 am. I’ll bet you can guess what happened next…

As I checked in (having been lucky enough to be upgraded all the way through to DC, no less), I was informed that the incoming flight had “mechanical problems” but that the problematic part’s replacement would be waiting for the plane when it landed in San Diego. Hopefully, we would get out on time for me to make my tight connection. Just in case, I asked if I could get some contingent alternate routing. The only available flight was the red eye, with no chance of an upgrade. I hate red eyes. I also mourned the loss of extra leg room.

I made it through security, and the plane was still listed as being on time. Then, the fateful announcement: the promised part was still in transit. I had no chance to make my connection, so I had seven hours to kill before I caught the red eye. Much as I love the San Diego airport, I turned around and went back to the meeting, where I attended a really great session on integrative analysis of complex data sets. I tracked down Bob Clarke as if he were prey, no longer believing that my softening stance re: golf in Ireland had been justified. Bob, being a clever and resourceful man, immediately recognized that I required food and drink. We went to a restaurant across the street with a few Lombardi colleagues, including Yuriy Gusev, had a very nice meal, and talked about systems biology, G-DOC and golf in Ireland. I then returned to the airport, navigated security, crammed into a full red eye flight surrounded at least five children under the age of six, and spent the next 5 hours trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to sleep while crammed into a medieval torture chamber hurtling through the air at 500 mph. Fortunately, I had a full day of work on Tuesday, so I didn’t have time to consider how miserable I felt. Thanks, Bob!

I can’t remember anything that happened after that. However, this is my last blog for two weeks, since I’ll be reviewing grants for the AACR Stand Up 2Cancer program in the latter part of next week.

Have a good weekend.

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