Archive for June, 2012


Jun 24 2012

Building Bridges

by at 10:47 pm

Last week was a busy week. Last Sunday I drove down to Charlottesville for the GU annual Executive Committee Retreat, which lasted through Tuesday afternoon. Even though most of what I learned was not directly relevant to cancer, it was genuinely interesting – from the Campus Plan to a discussion of how the University should engage in distance teaching, and many other topics as well. President DeGioia gave a very interesting discourse on his take to regarding the controversy regarding the role of Georgetown as it relates to Catholic values and academic expression. There is something very important about spending time with colleagues from across campus and building bridges that can facilitate future business interactions.

After the retreat ended, Ray Mitchell, Chet Gillis (Dean of the College), Ed Montgomery (Dean of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute) and I played a round of golf on a terrific course, which beat all of us). I got back to work on Wednesday, and the highlight of my day was my lab meeting. As many of you know, several folks in my lab have been working to identify the genes that are required for the survival of estrogen-independent breast cancer cells. We have identified a core set, and Sandy Jablonski chose four genes for further experimentation. She scaled up our standard siRNA assay, and then harvested tumor cells 48, 96, 120 and 144 hours later. The cell preps were sent to Chip Petricoin at George Mason University for reverse-phase protein microarray analysis. We received the results, and they are overwhelming in their complexity but very exciting. Sandy is plowing through the data to identify the downstream proteins and pathways that change in response to knockdown of each of the tested genes. Combining these two high-dimensional technologies is going to give us powerful data that should prove to be very useful.

At the end of the day, Harriet and I attended a beautiful reception honoring the instillation of a beautiful new piece of art in the Ground Bles Infusion Suite called “Ribbon of Joy” by artist Jo Fleming. Our Arts and Humanities program continues to make a wonderful contribution to the happiness of our patients, their families and their caregivers, and this piece of art really transforms the space. Check it out when you have a chance. After the reception, Harriet and I had an impromptu dinner at Basil Thai with Mike Atkins and his wife, Susan Crockin, along with their son Jon and cousin Lenny to celebrate Mike’s birthday.

On Thursday, I met Chris Draft, a former NFL linebacker who lost his wife Keasha in December to non-small cell lung cancer, at the age of 38 — just one month after they were married. Chris, who along with his wife started the Chris Draft Family Foundation, is doing a national tour of cancer centers to talk with researchers about the latest research out there. While here he filmed a short video of Deepa Subramaniam, which you can view at this link.

He is committed to raising awareness about this disease, and to changing the face of lung cancer so people are aware you do not have to be a smoker (his wife was not) to be affected by this deadly disease. I am sure he will be an effective and powerful voice for that cause. I look forward to working with him.

After an extremely busy clinic afternoon I had the privilege of attending an event celebrating our collaboration with the Chris4Life Colon Cancer Foundation in the Lombardi Atrium. The Foundation has committed to raising $1.1 million for Lombardi, and has proven to be an inspiring partner for the Ruesch Center’s efforts in this area. With all of the renovations that have take place, the atrium is really a nice place for an event!

Friday morning started with a breakfast meeting of the Lombardi Gala Corporate Committee. After a full day of meetngs, Harriet and I then attended the American Cancer Society’s Cure by Design event; the ACS gave us a table, which included Vanessa Shephard and her husband, Minetta Liu, Carol Pribulka, Christian Conant, and several ACS representatives. The highlight of the evening was the fashion show. A large group of survivors ranging in age from two years old to nearly 80, some of whom are still undergoing treatment, went down the runway dressed in designer clothes, celebrating their lives and demonstrating their resilience. It was quite moving, and it was a lot of fun to boot.

Finally, on Sunday we hosted another party at our house for members of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program. More than 30 people joined us, and we had a great time. The culinary hit of the evening was a frozen chocolate dessert. One of our neighbors is a marketing consultant for a local chocolatier named Zoe’s, which makes wonderful confections and has developed a bit of a national reputation. Over a year ago, they developed a frozen dessert made of pure chocolate, and our neighbor gave us a sample and suggested we enter a contest to name the new confection. I suggested the name, “FroZoe”, and this entry actually won (along with another contestant who had the same suggestion). Our prize was a free sample of the dessert. We thought it would be a nice idea to serve the dessert at our party, and we were right. It is wonderful stuff.

This is my last blog for a few weeks. We are off for a one-week family beach vacation on Friday. The only event I plan to attend will be July 4 fireworks. Enjoy the holiday.


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Jun 16 2012

Guest Blogger: Learning More About Our Administrative Team

by at 12:09 pm

Michael Vander HoekAs a guest blogger for Cancer Center Administration this week it was really exciting to participate in an administrative retreat Friday, which brought staff and some faculty together for most of the day and focused all our attention on strengthening and improving all administrative aspects of Georgetown Lombardi. In addition to better understanding and prioritizing important issues in the cancer center, we discussed the role of administration in a comprehensive cancer center and how we all fit into our May 2013 CCSG submission.

After opening presentations from Mike Atkins, Carolyn Hurley and me, we broke into groups to conduct SWOT analyses of all aspects of our administrative functions, and then rolled up our sleeves to do the hard work of creating action plans to address our challenges and weaknesses. Besides accomplishing a great deal, we all got to know everyone better in the spirit of collaboration and teamwork, and had a chance to learn a little more about the people we work with every day. For example, we now know that our new deputy director, Mike Atkins, enjoys boating and skiing (water and snow) and is looking for those interested in tennis matches. Many of us, including Dr. Atkins and Carolyn Hurley, our faculty coordinator for planning and evaluation, come from the Midwest and enjoyed a Midwestern reunion.

For my part, it was difficult to withhold my enthusiasm of talking about my family’s new Springer Spaniel puppy, Winston.  After our 8 ½ year old springer passed away from a lymphoma last year, we were pleased to recently welcome Winston to our family. Winston has just completed a type of obedience training called “Obedience Advanced Teamwork” – at title that could just as easily be used to describe our CCSG-related efforts. The other type of training is called “Versatility.”  Both seem like they could be part of our Cancer Center “essential characteristics” that factor so prominently into our CCSG submission.

Enjoy the attached photo of Winston. And have a great week.


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Jun 08 2012

After the Flood

by at 6:30 pm

It has been a whirlwind week. Before I give a readout on ASCO, I want to say how saddened I was by the flood damage incurred by last weekend’s heavy rainfall to the S level of Lombardi, and by the realization that it would affect the work of so many people. While I was away when it happened, I was kept well informed over the weekend and my first order of business when I got back Tuesday was to inspect the damage. It was readily apparent to me that this has been a very difficult time for those researchers and staff who have been displaced by the flood and the necessary remediation efforts.

I am incredibly grateful to Deb Carbott, Michael Vander Hoek, Miriam Markowitz and the many others who have worked tirelessly to mitigate the damage and to help people get on with their work. And, thanks to all of you who reach out to help our colleagues as they wait to get back up to full strength.

I was in Chicago at the ASCO meetings from last Thursday through Tuesday. As always, it was a very busy few days, with seemingly endless meetings, symposia, oral sessions, etc. I had the privilege of being the Plenary Session discussant of the presentation of the EMILIA trial, which demonstrated the efficacy of T-DM1, an antibody-drug conjugate containing trastuzumab and the anti-tubuulin drug DM1, in women with trastuzumab-resistant HER2+ breast cancer. In many ways, I felt as if the field of antibody-targeting for cancer was once and for all fully validated by the results of this trial, and I was humbled to be asked to represent my long-held research interest at this moment of triumph to the membership of ASCO.

It was also the first time I ever used a teleprompter for a talk. All in all, it was quite an experience! Later that evening a group of Lombardi people got together for some socializing at a local establishment, courtesy of John Marshall. It was a great break for all of us who attended. Some old friends (former faculty) attended, and I was reminded that we truly are a family.

Of course, I was brought right back down to earth, as is appropriate; my next oral presentation, given the next day at an immunology-focused oral session in a huge auditorium that was attended only by the other presenters, their friends and a few strays. The place was so empty that I could hear people swallow.

I was only here in the office (or in clinic) on Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Friday afternoon this week. I was an ad hoc reviewer for my old study section (CII) on Thursday and Friday morning in Bethesda, and enjoyed focusing on the science, though it was very tiring. I had to do nine grant reviews while prepping for ASCO, so the last few weeks have been pretty hectic.

Accordingly, I am looking forward to a little R & R this weekend. On Saturday, we are driving up to Baltimore to see the Orioles play a late afternoon game. One of our friends somehow got seats for us in the owner’s box – I am sure he will not be there. But, as luck would have it the Orioles are playing the Phillies, so I will certainly care about the outcome, if only to despair over how rapidly the Phils have gone from being the toast of the town to burnt toast.

Then, on Sunday Harriet and I are hosting the members of the Experimental Therapeutics Program and their guests at our home to welcome Mike Atkins to the program, and to meet his wife, Susan. Both days should be a lot of fun. I hope you have a great weekend, too.


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