Archive for May, 2012


May 25 2012

Hoping to See the Sun This Weekend

by at 11:35 am

Just a short blog this week as I feverishly prepare for ASCO; I have to be in Chicago for that meeting from next Thursday until the following Tuesday. It will be a very busy meeting for me – I have lots of “meetings within meetings,” and I am a discussant for a total of four abstracts, distributed over two sessions. Without a doubt, the big one is my discussion at the Plenary Session of a phase III clinical trial of trastuzumab-DM1 (TDM-1), a trastuzumab-based chemotherapy conjugate. This presentation is getting extra TLC from me this week. As if this wasn’t enough, I am on study section after I return from ASCO and have 10 reviews due the day before my Plenary Discussion. So, guess what I’ll be doing this weekend!

I would be remiss if I did not mention our Scientific Retreat, which was held this past Monday. I thought it was remarkably successful, and we all owe Ellen McLaughlin a debt of gratitude for organizing a really wonderful day of research. The morning presentations were uniformly terrific. And I hereby publicly “eat crow” – I was skeptical about Carolyn Hurley’s idea of afternoon interprogrammatic “speed dating” sessions, but I was so wrong. The conversations and ideas that flowed from those sessions were really exciting. I can’t wait to see what evolves from those interactions.

Finally, let me give you an update on my patient, the young man with advanced colon cancer whom I reference frequently in my blog. His liver lesions have dramatically improved on a recent PET/CT scan, and he is now scheduled for surgery to remove the cancer in his colon early next month. So far, so good.

Have a great Memorial Day holiday, and remember to protect your skin from too much sun exposure!


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May 20 2012

Looking Forward to Exciting Scientific Interactions

by at 11:37 pm

I suppose the weather could have been better this weekend, but I don’t know how. We had a great time, though I was able to get some work done, preparing for Monday’s Scientific Retreat, refining the aims for the Breast SPORE project I will be engaged in, and preparing a talk for a NCI Workshop on Evolutionary Biology and Cancer that will be held on Tuesday in Bethesda. Plus, I am looking forward to receiving slides tomorrow for three ASCO presentations for which I am the discussant. One of those abstracts is in the Plenary session, and relates to Trastuzumab-DM1 therapy for trastuzumab-refractory breast cancer. So, I will have a special opportunity and responsibility to place the presentation in a broad context. It should be very interesting.

Aside from the usual meetings, the past week was highlighted by a dinner honoring many of the University commencement speakers and graduating students who have had noteworthy accomplishments. The event was held at the Law Center on Friday evening, and we really had a lovely time. The talks were brief but really inspiring.

And on Sunday evening, Harriet and I hosted members of the Breast Cancer Program at our home to welcome Mike and Susan Atkins to the Lombardi family. About 30 people attended the reception, and we had a genuinely terrific time. There is nothing like an informal gathering to build bonds of friendship and trust. That alone justifies having these get-togethers, but the added benefits of improving our work-related interactions are incalculable. And it is a wonderful way to introduce Mike and Susan to Lombardi’s greatest assets — its people. I take no credit for the success of this get-together; Harriet was responsible, and I am grateful to her.  As you may know, we are having several more such receptions for other programs over the next two months, and we look forward to it! By the way, Harriet vetoed pizza, and came up with more interesting foods for our guests. She was right, though I must confess I am partial to pizza…

In the coming week I have a few high priority activities scheduled. The Scientific Retreat on Monday has shaped up beautifully, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Ellen McLaughlin. Carolyn Hurley came up with the idea of “speed dating” among the programs – but rest assured that the only “matchmaking” will be scientific in nature!

Tuesday’s Evolutionary Biology and Cancer Workshop arose from discussions I have had with an old friend and colleague, Robert Gatenby, from Moffitt Cancer Center. Bob is a radiologist, mathematician and evolutionary biologist; we worked together on two separate occasions at Fox Chase Cancer Center. His wife and Harriet taught together at the same school for a time, and our oldest sons were in the same grade at the same small high school outside of Philadelphia. So we have a lot in common. Both of us have embraced a broader view of natural selection as it relates to the development of drug resistance. And the work we have done in my lab to study the acquisition of estrogen independence certainly has convinced me that drug resistance simply must be viewed using the principles of natural selection. So, I am giving a talk at this eclectic meeting trying to explain to mathematicians and others who don’t know very much about cancer why and how cancer is bad. It should be interesting.

I hope you have an interesting week too.

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May 14 2012

A Time for Family

by at 9:48 am

I hope you had a terrific weekend. Harriet and I were up in Philadelphia, visiting my father, and seeing our oldest son and his wife. My father just returned from a trip to China last Thursday afternoon, where he clambered up the steps to the Great Wall, among other adventures. Not bad for an 85-year-old man!  Time for a confession: I also played a round of golf with one of my good friends on Saturday afternoon. Given how little I have played this year, I did pretty well, and had a lot of fun.

Our oldest son Ken is a veterinarian, and his wife Sarah will be starting medical school at Drexel University in August. They just moved into Center City Philadelphia, to make school more convenient for Sarah. They love life in the city, which is all the more surprising to me because I always assumed he would be a forest ranger somewhere when he grew up. We spent Saturday night  with them, and then had breakfast with them and with some of our closest friends on Sunday morning, making a great beginning for Harriet’s Mother’s Day. We then drove home through Baltimore, stopping at our daughter Elana’s place so we could have dinner with her, her husband Ben and of course, Isaac. When we got back to DC our youngest, David, stopped by to wish Harriet a happy Mother’s Day. Three kids, one grandchild, three cities, one day… But, it was great to see all of the kids, and Harriet had a wonderful Mother’s Day.

Speaking of mothers I have been thinking a lot about our efforts in breast cancer lately. I am working on a U01 grant that will focus on the use of conditionally reprogrammed cells and response prediction in women with breast cancer. And Craig Jordan is organizing a powerful effort to submit a SPORE in breast cancer. I can think of no better way to honor mothers on this holiday than to  redouble our efforts to stamp out this terrible disease. Those of you who are attending the upcoming Georgetown Lombardi Scientific Retreat on May 21 will hear more about the SPORE.

One other way to stamp out diseases is through fundraising walks. The Avon Walk did not end our “walking season.” Next up is the Komen Race for the Cure on June 2, and Tesha Coleman ( is organizing a CBCC/Lombardi team for that fundraising event. And let’s not forget the PanCAN Purple Strides 5K walk for pancreatic cancer on June 16; Jane Hanna ( is doing a terrific job of organizing a MedStar Georgetown team for that event.  If you can’t do the June 16 walk, be sure to stop by a fundraiser Jane is coordinating on May 30 at Town Hall on Wisconsin Avenue — more information can be found here.

Have a great week.

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May 05 2012

The Face of True Commitment

by at 5:18 pm

So, the DC Avon Walk is this weekend. The Lombardi/Capital Breast Cancer Center team, more than 40 members strong, and with a strong cheerleading corps, has been working towards this weekend for months. The team, amazingly, has raised more than $86,000 to date, placing it third in the regional standings as of this writing. Contrast this with 2008, when there were five walkers who raised about $9,000, with a handful of cheerers. What a difference four years makes!

The name of that difference is Jeanne Mandelblatt. By day, Jeanne is Lombardi’s associate director for population sciences, and one of world’s foremost authorities in cancer control and the problems of aging and cancer. Many of you will remember the debate generated by the U.S. Mammography Task Force’s publication showing that on average, women 50 and older may need less frequent mammography screening than previously thought. Jeanne was the driving force behind that work, and continues to break new ground that will ultimately create an evidence basis for cancer screening.  Her work really makes a difference.

So, how cool is it when someone with such a distinguished record of accomplishment can also take on the leadership of the Lombardi/CBCC Avon Walk team, providing her teammates with inexhaustible energy, inspiration, organization and affection? No wonder the team is one of the Avon Walk’s true success stories!

Anybody who has ever been in a meeting with her knows that Jeanne is quite the knitter – and each scarf, sweater or pair of gloves is sold to raise money for the team. So, her commitment does not start and end with training for the walk.
Check out some comments from members of the team:

“I don’t know how you make the time, Jeanne, and where you find the energy to help us stay the path with fundraising and getting to know each other, organizing training walks and everything else you do to show us your caring and deep commitment to our team and the cause.”

“Jeanne, I wanted you to know that YOU ARE AN AMAZING TEAM LEADER and YOU THE MAGIC that keeps our team strong!  As we get ready for this weekend’s journey, we all want you to know how much you mean to us and how much we appreciate YOUR LEADERSHIP!”

We all would do well to walk 39 miles – as the team is doing this weekend – in her shoes. On Sunday, during the closing ceremonies, I will accept a generous check from the Avon Foundation for Women to support the operations of the CBCC, and I will do it with a keen sense of appreciation for Jeanne’s leadership.

Thank you, Jeanne, for all you do.

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