Archive for April, 2012


Apr 29 2012

Final Push Before Avon Walk

by at 10:36 pm

It is hard to believe that another week has gone by so quickly. Our grandson stayed with us all week while his mom and dad were at a meeting in Barcelona. It was marvelous but exhausting. I had forgotten that sound sleep is a privilege not afforded to the parents of young children. Still, I would not change a thing – and I can’t wait until the kids have another trip and ask us to watch Isaac. Things were particularly interesting on Thursday evening, when we had someone come over to the house for a closing on a refinancing of our house. Despite our best efforts, Isaac fully participated in the event; fortunately the notary was quite accomodating. But, I would not be exaggerating to state that we were grateful when she left and he was finally able to go to sleep!

The week was quite busy, as usual. For me, the highlight was a chance to speak at a Hope Connections for Cancer Support event in Bethesda about new treatments for cancer. I genuinely enjoy sharing my excitement about the future of our field with patients and their loved ones. The turnout was excellent as were the questions. It made for a long day on Monday, since it did not end until 8:30, but it certainly was worth it.

Speaking of patients, my patient I have mentioned in previous blogs will be evaluated by one of our surgeons to see if this would be a good time to take out his primary lesion in the colon. If this is successful, we will be able to add the anti-angiogenesis agent, bevacizumab, to his treatment regimen.

If you have not yet heard, we will be holding a Scientific Retreat on May 21 for faculty and researchers, and I look forward to drilling down on what we believe will some of our best stories when we put in our CCSG renewal in one year.

Another highlight in May is the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, which will be held next weekend, May 5-6. Once again, Jeanne Mandelblatt has done a masterful job of organizing and motivating a large and effective group of walkers. They have great shirts and hats this year, too. Harriet participated in Saturday’s final training walk in Reston, and I plan to cheer on her and the whole team throughout the weekend. I hope you can join in as well.  If you are interested in particpating as a cheerleader at any point in the weekend, send an email to There is still time to make a financial donation as well — our team is currently in third place in the whole DC region and a surge in fundraising right now could push us up to second and help the team meet its $100,000 goal!  To donate, click here.

Have a wonderful week.

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Apr 22 2012

Baby on Board

by at 11:20 pm

This was a different type of weekend for us. On Friday, our daughter and son-in-law dropped off our grandson, who is staying with us for a week while they are in Europe for a meeting. It has been some time since we cared for a baby in the house for that long. So far, so good. It all seems so familiar, yet at the same time it is a reminder of how challenging it is to mix child care with just about anything else. Isaac is an absolute joy to be with, though he does like to sleep in our bed, so that we spend the night forming an “H” — sometimes I get the foot; other times the head. Sleep is merely an option. So, we pretty much kept to the house, though Harriet had a training session on Saturday morning for the upcoming Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, which is May 5-6.

Lombardi/CBCC team

The Lombardi/CBCC team at the Washington Monument on an Avon training walk.

I did find time to work on a grant proposal for the Keck Foundation. Those of you who attended my research update seminar presentation two weeks ago will remember that I have become interested in considering how to integrate evolutionary biology concepts into the problem of clinical drug resistance. The Keck proposal addresses these ideas. It is only a few pages long, but as you know, the shorter the proposal is, the harder it is to get all of the points across.

Last week was quite intense, but generally rewarding. I had a meeting in New York City on Monday. On Tuesday I attended a welcome reception at Riggs Library for Georgetown University’s new Provost, who has a powerful interest in science. On Wednesday I had a make-up clinic, and had to hold chemotherapy for my young man with colon cancer; his white blood count was too low. Just because someone is young doesn’t mean that he is immune to treatment toxicity. In my opinion this is another good argument for more effective highly targeted therapy.

Wednesday was a full day, with several CCSG-related meetings in the afternoon. Then I drove up to the NIH campus for the NCI Cancer Center Directors’ retreat. I checked my car at the security kiosk, and they actually made me drag out my golf clubs, which were in the trunk of my car, so they could go through the metal detector. Now, that was an awkward moment!

The Wednesday night part of the retreat was primarily a dinner, with remarks by Harold Varmus, and a rather tame Q&A session. I drove back on Thursday for the full program (without the clubs) and was treated to a series of genuinely interesting presentations on diverse topics related to the cancer centers, including one on genomics and another one on international medicine.

I got back here in time to deliver the Sarah Stewart lecture; my title slide, which included the term, “When Research Worlds Collide,” was  followed by a video trailer from the 1951 movie, “When Worlds Collide.” Unfortunately, the talk was not well attended by the intended audience of medical students; I’ll have to find another excuse to use that slide.

Friday was highlighted by my attendance at the Ph.D. thesis defense of Joanna Fares from the GU: NIH program; I was a member of her committee.

This coming week will be plenty busy too, between watching our grandson, and very full days at work. I speak at an “Ask the Doctor” event for Hope Connections for Cancer Support this evening, but otherwise have arranged to get home at reasonable hours so I can be with Isaac. I am looking forward to a great week, and hope you have one too.

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Apr 16 2012

Finding Inspiration in Patients, Art and More

by at 9:45 am

Well, wasn’t this a nice weekend? The time flew by, but we had some fun and enjoyed the great weather. As always, a bit of time for R and R is always appreciated after an action-packed week.

First of all, the patient I have been blogging about was able to get a CT scan, and the results were encouraging. I think he is benefiting from the chemotherapy, and we will soldier on for another two months, repeat the scans and then make some decisions about next steps. Having met his new baby at the office visit I am doubly inspired to do something “above and beyond:, but the widely distributed liver metastases at presentation will be formidable challenges. But, all we can do is our best …

Last Monday I visited the Capital Breast Care Center with Nancy Morgan to scope out wall space and opportunities to extend the Arts and Humanities Program’s activities into that office. On Tuesday, we had an extremely productive meeting of the MedStar Cancer Network leadership to map out the best way to drive the clinical research agenda for that effort. The shared vision and energy around this effort is immensely rewarding.

I was out of the office on Wednesday to attend a meeting of the NCI NExT committee in Rockville to review applications for NCI support of drug development. This is a fascinating exercise that really highlights the challenges all academic centers face in pursuing the development of drugs that are discovered by their scientists. However, there are always very interesting and provocative applications and discussions.

I had clinic on Thursday afternoon and then attended a dinner for 40 supporters of the Ruesch Center hosted by Pete Teeley, a long time Lombardi supporter. The event, held at Citronelle, was a truly special evening. To see so many people wrapped up in a comprehensive vision of research, patient care, advocacy and gastrointestinal cancer-related health policy was impressive.  I did not have a speaking role but Jeannie Ruesch and John Marshall did a wonderful job. John was especially persuasive, and reaffirmed my conviction that he is one of Lombardi’s true treasures. This initiative is really taking off, thanks to his vision and leadership.

While our weekend was lovely, there were two dark clouds that serve as reminders of how important our work is. Harriet got a call from an old friend and colleague, telling her that she had a recently diagnosed Stage II melanoma. So, I gave our friend some initial advice, and plan to discuss further with Mike Atkins.

Then the 38-year-old daughter of another friend is in the midst of aggressive neoadjuvant chemotherapy for a Stage III triple-negative breast cancer. She has been blogging about her situation since she was diagnosed. This weekend it was her mother’s turn to be a guest blogger, and she quoted one of my pieces of advice, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” So, this was just another reminder of how cancers turn lives upside down.

Speaking of marathons, the Avon Walk (not a marathon, of course, just a mere 39 miles) is only three weekends away! If you have not donated money, time or blisters, please do so!  Click here for the team donation page .

Have a good week.

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Apr 08 2012

Restful Holiday on the Heels of a Hectic Week

by at 10:04 pm

I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend. Friday was quiet because of Good Friday. I helped Harriet prepare for our family seder to celebrate the first night of Passover, which for a change actually coincided with Good Friday. I also had to drive out to Tysons Corner to help our youngest son pick up a used car – his vehicle was totaled a couple of weeks ago in the middle of the night by a presumed drunk driver while parked in front of the house he rents with some friends. We are grateful he was asleep when it happened, but you can imagine the hassle factor.

The rest of the weekend was really wonderful. We had most of the family at our place for the first night’s Passover seder Friday. While we did this regularly when we lived in Philly, this was the first time we’ve all been able to do this since we moved to DC, and it was soul-filing. Plus, the food was great (no thanks to me)! My father came down for the weekend, which was a real treat for us. OnIsaac Saturday night, we had the seder at our daughter’s house in Baltimore; it was the first time she and our son-in-law had hosted a family seder. We had a terrific time. Our grandson was in particularly fine form, as you will note from the accompanying picture!

On Sunday morning, Harriet and a few of her CBCC/Lombardi teammates did an 11-mile training walk for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I did the chauffeuring. The team is in third place for fundraising in the DC area. They still need every donation they can get so that every team member meets the minimum required amount to walk. Also they need cheerleaders on May 5 and 6 to keep the team’s spirits up for the 39 mile walk.  If you want to get involved please send an email to

The early part of last week was dominated by the annual AACR meeting. The days kept me very busy with meetings that squeezed my ability to attend the scientific sessions. But, it is clear that immunotherapy is really making waves, with some blockbuster findings on the way –  just as I relinquish my position as a member of the Steering Committee of the AACR’s Cancer Immunology Working Group. I led the Task Force that led to the creation of the Working Group, and served as the Group’s first chair. In four years the Working Group has grown from an idea into more than 5,000 AACR members and has become a vital scientific and organizational constituency within the AACR. Georgetown Lombardi is primed to benefit from the coming revolution in immunotherapy through the recruitment of Mike Atkins – he is at the center of some of the most exciting work being done these days.  I got back Wednesday in time to welcome Mike on his first official day in the office. Hopefully you’ll all have a chance to greet him personally in the coming weeks.

On Thursday afternoon I participated in a Ruesch Center GI cancer research retreat headed by John Marshall and attended by a wide variety of GI cancer-focused clinicians and clinical researchers. It was very invigorating!

Finally, I want to provide another update on my young patient with metastatic colon cancer. He has received a little over two months of chemotherapy and feels well, and is enjoying his new baby. He is due for a CT scan to check on his response to therapy. Unbelievably, his insurance company is denying coverage of the CT scan. Hopefully, it is just an administrative snafu; if not, I plan to make a lot of noise! If there ever was a powerful clinical indication for a CT scan, this is it – the results will have a direct bearing on what we do next for him. More to follow…

Have a great week.


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Apr 01 2012

Greetings from AACR

by at 10:33 pm

Greetings from Chicago, where I am attending the annual AACR meeting. The weekend has been a whirlwind of activity and each day seems to start at 6 am and runs late into the evening.  The AACR conference is really a series of meetings, with a strong scientific program that spawns innumerable mini-meetings among investigators, between academia and industry, all informed by a pretty thick layer of oncopolitics.

For example, just today I attended a scientific symposium on antibody-drug conjuates, met with Mike Atkins and some Pharma people about bringing some new therapy clinical trials to Lombardi, met with Dick Schlegel’s brother to discuss collaborative research with Novartis (sorry, no juicy stories!), met with a former trainee to discuss his ongoing research, and then attended a board meeting of the American Association of Cancer Institutes.

After grabbing a very quick snack with Otis Brawley from the ACS, I then hurried off to an evening Town Hall of the AACR Cancer Immunology Working Group, where we are listening to three high profile research presentations. The Town Hall ended at 9 pm tonite, just in time for dinner. There were at least five other activities I could not attend today because there is no more time! I start tomorrow (Monday) at 8 am, and expect an even busier day.

The rest of last week was pretty full too. Last Tuesday was highlighted by a really well attended and dynamic clinical research retreat of the MedStar Cancer Network that I helped organize. We discussed five really interesting clinical trial proposals that will engage clinicians from both MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and MedStar Washington Hospital Center.  On Wednesday I had a ball presenting my Research Update to Lombardi, and that evening was delighted to participate in an evening meeting of the planning committee for our annual Men’s Event to benefit prostate cancer research here. The men will have to pull out all the stops to beat the companion Women & Wine event to benefit breast cancer research, which is poised to break all attendance records this year.

One happy follow up to previous posts. My patient with colon cancer whom I have mentioned sent me a note and a picture of his beautiful new baby, who was born last week. The patient continues to receive his chemotherapy, and a restaging CT scan is scheduled for next month. Stay tuned.

Finally, the Capital Breast Care Center’s team for the May 5-6 Avon walk has 49 members (I believe this is our largest team ever), and sits in third place for fundraising. Don’t forget them; they need your help so everyone  on the team can raise enough money to walk (there is an $1,800 fundraising minimum for each walker)! The team page is here if you want to help support them — every little bit helps!

And speaking of the CBCC, Beth Beck (who administered the program) has resigned from her position to pursue other opportunities. A very capable team, currently led by Tesha Coleman with the oversight and support of Lucile Adams-Campbell, is in place there and I look forward to great accomplishments in the future.

Have a terrific week.


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