Archive for October, 2012


Oct 29 2012

Reminiscences on Frankenstorm Eve

by at 12:41 am

It’s hard to review the past week while awaiting a truly disruptive weather event. Hopefully, you will have power to be able to fire up your computer to read this if are inclined to do so. As I sit here this evening it appears that we will be pounded with about 6 inches of rain over the next two days or so, with accompanying high winds. Floods and electrical outlets are anticipated. I hope everyone is safe. GUMC is closed, so I won’t be parking my car in the outdoor lot to serve as bait for falling tree limbs (or trees)! Plus, I was scheduled to be on jury service starting on Monday morning; however, DC government is closed, so I don’t know what will happen. However, we have all of the necessities to ride out the storm (we hope).

The past week was a bit of a blur, anyway. I left for Copenhagen on Sunday evening, and had a quick, busy but generally pleasant trip. After 2 days of meetings, I caught a flight back to the States on Wednesday afternoon.

During the trip I was able to secure an opportunity to conduct synthetic lethal screening of our EGFR library using a cocktail of antibodies targeting HER2, HER3 and EGFR. It is an interesting approach to sweeping the EGFR family off the cell surface, and I look forward to conducting the studies. While I was gone, Habtom Ressom met with Sandy Jablonski and Chip Petricoin (he is from George Mason University) to analyze data from a very interesting phosphoproteomic experiment in which estrogen-independent breast cancer cells undergo knockdown of one of four genes known to be selectively lethal to these cells. The preliminary analysis is absolutely fascinating. Interestingly, Chip and colleagues are actively collaborating with us to study the pan-HER antibody cocktail as well.

On Thursday I caught up with work in the morning, and then had a busy afternoon of clinic. I then hurried off to the Blue Hope Bash gala at the Park Hyatt to support the Chris4Life Foundation, which has pledged more than $1 million to support colon cancer research and clinical care at Lombardi. Chris4Life  is under the inspired leadership of Mike Sapienza, whose mother Chris Sapienza lost her battle to colon cancer a few years ago. It was a lovely evening.

Friday was highlighted by a chat with Ellen Pure of the Wistar Institute, who presented our Visiting Professor seminar. Ellen is a long-time acquaintance due to our shared interest in fibroblast activation protein. It was great to catch up with her, and I thought her seminar was very interesting. Thanks to Chunling Yi for the inspiration to invite her!

Later that day I met with Elena Jeannotte to go over final plans for the 26th Lombardi Gala, which will be held this coming Saturday, Nov. 3. It should be a great event, and I look forward to honoring both Robert Kraft (owner of the New England Patriots) and Barbara McDuffie, who is one of Lombardi’s true heros – she has done so much to raise money for the cause, and is an inspiration to all of us. And, I was able to convince Elena that I should not follow DeMaurice Smith on the podium – nobody can follow someone with his passion, eloquence and message. Thanks, Elena, for all of the work you do for Lombardi, and for removing me from the anti-climactic role!

Stay warm and dry, everyone.

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Oct 21 2012

Reflections from the Airport

by at 11:14 pm

I write this blog sitting in an airport blog on Sunday afternoon as I head off for a short meeting in Copenhagen regarding one of my research collaborations. I have a bit of time to reflect on the last week, which has been eventful and productive.

My week started off with a fingerprinting as part of my background check for the renewal of my DC medical license. Of course, it is now a digital process, literally and figuratively. I then met with our new chief of surgical oncology, Dr. Waddah Al-Refaie, who has joined Georgetown from the University of Minnesota. Waddah has an interest in surgical outcomes, and is working with Arnie Potosky and Jeannie Mandelblatt in what I predict will be a very successful collaboration.

On Wednesday, after Craig Jordan’s excellent noon seminar presentation I had an opportunity to meet with Bob Glazer and colleagues to discuss a new NCI-funded project to develop a viral vaccine directed against PLAC-1 to prevent or retard the development of breast cancer in a genetically engineered mouse model. This project engages the labs of Bob, me, Howard Federoff and Priscilla Furth, and exemplifies the potential for collaborative activities at Lombardi due to the diversity and depth of our respective expertises.

Thursday was dominated by my afternoon clinic, which was quite busy. And the entire day on Friday was devoted to a meeting here at Lombardi with colleagues from Hackensack University Medical Center and Stevens Institute in New Jersey. The goal was to identify collaborative opportunities that can further the developing affiliation of Lombardi and Hackensack. And we certainly identified a number of high-priority win-win opportunities that we will pursue. It was an exciting day.

On Saturday Harriet and I visited our kids in Baltimore, and spent the evening at the annual Childrens Cancer Foundation Gala in Cockeysville, MD. The CCF has given more than $4 million to Lombardi over the years, with dynamic leadership from Shirley Howard, who was ill and could not attend the event. It was a lovely evening. For those of you with long memories, the headline act was Mickey Dolenz, who was the lead singer of the Monkees. Considering this was a “made for TV” band, the Monkees were actually rather good for a few years. There is something about entertainers in their sixties pretending it is still the ’60s that makes me a bit sad. He actually can still sing, but in my opinion it is more fun to live in the present and look to the future.

Before I sign off, I want to give a shout out to the Georgetown Lombardi team that participated in Saturday morning’s ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k walk on the National Mall. To our team members and those that supported them, thanks for helping ensure we show our appreciation for the great work that ACS does.  It was a beautiful morning for a walk!

Have a wonderful week.  I will be back in town later this week.


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Oct 14 2012

Our New Home in Southeast DC

by at 10:49 pm

I am recovering from watching a couple of football games on Sunday. The Philadelphia Eagles are spinning their wheels, having lost again today, and now stand at 3-3. The Redskins, are also 3-3, though it certainly feels more encouraging due to the electrifying performance of RGIII. How could identical records feel so different? And speaking of feelings and records, how can a 100 win season feel so hollow? I was actually a bit relieved to be more of an interested observer than a staunch fan when the Nationals (who are a very appealing team) suffered the heartbreaking loss that ended their season on Friday night. How sad… I bet they can’t wait for April to come.

Last week included a familiar parade of lectures, meetings, clinic and lab meetings. I had a chance to give a lecture to the first-year medical students on Friday morning, and I really loved a chance to interact with them. And, it was delightful to host this year’s Robert Dickson lecturer, John Robertson.

All of these activities were satisfying and productive, but one event stood out – the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Lombardi’s Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research at 1000 New Jersey Avenue SE. This office, headed by Lucile Adams-Campbell, is important for so many reasons. It is in our community, and it is located in an area that needs what we have to offer. The focus on area residents is necessary and important, and the research will inevitably link with efforts to enhance healthy lifestyles in the community.

The significance of this event was not lost on the University and on a number of civic leaders. If you have time, check out the video link here.

Speakers included me, Jack DeGioia, Lucile, Howard Federoff, several community representatives, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, Councilmember David Catania, interim director of the DC Department of Health Saul Levin and Mayor Vincent Gray. Every civic leader came back to the same point – they are thrilled to have Georgetown and Lombardi reaching out to neighbors in the District, and it is great to have another Georgetown address with a SE suffix (we already have one in the Capital Breast Care Center).

Though the weather was surprisingly chilly, the event was heartwarming and has created an opportunity to make an even bigger difference in our catchment area. Congratulations and thank you to Lucile and her staff for all they do.

The weekend was punctuated by a visit to DC by my father, who came by trained from Yardley PA. We watched in shared distress, along with my son David, as the Eagles bumbled their way to their overtime loss. But the blow was softened by being able to share it with them. Poor Harriet – listening to three men groaning in unison again and again and again as the Eagles squandered a fourth quarter lead in predictable but agonizing fashion. I wonder why she doesn’t think we are having fun, even while howling in pain? It a good thing it is only a game.

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Oct 07 2012

Finding a Bit of Perspective Through Blogging

by at 11:53 am

One of the reasons I like doing this blog is that it forces me to regularly review my week and place it in a bit of perspective. It is so easy to let the days blur into each other; by stopping to reflect on  the past week, important events and tasks do not fall by the wayside quite so easily. And the merry-go-round spins more quickly some weeks (like this one) than others, making this exercise particularly valuable.

Even as I write this, our second volley of Lombardi’s Strategic Plan meetings last Monday and Tuesday had already slipped out of my active consciousness until I reviewed my weekly calendar. And, it would be a shame to let that extraordinary exercise recede into the dim reaches of memory. Led again by an able facilitator, Alan Spector, a group of us really drilled down on Lombardi’s vision, mission, objectives, strategies and plans. We are not yet done, but I’d like to share our  vision, mission and  objectives as they stand now.

Vision:    Prevent and cure cancer with a local focus and global impact

Mission: Prevent, treat, and cure cancers by linking scientific discovery, expert and compassionate patient care, quality education, and partnership with the community; guided by the principle of cura personalis, “care for the whole person.”

·      Advance transformative research that contributes to the prevention and cure of cancer
·      Reduce the impact of cancer and diminish disparities in our region
·      Increase patient volumes and improve the quality of care in partnership with MedStar Health and other collaborators
·      Expand our leadership of high-impact clinical research
·      Ensure the long-term growth, vibrancy, and financial stability of Lombardi

We expect to complete this planning process by the end of the year, and the resulting plan will provide us with a living blueprint that  guides our actions in a dynamic manner. You can expect much more information about the plan over the next few months.

Wednesday was highlighted by the Georgetown University Board of Directors Meeting; the Committee on Medical Center Affairs (COMCA) heard a lengthy and exciting presentation by Howard Federoff, Joy Drass and me regarding the joint Georgetown University – MedStar Health cancer initiative.

The alignment of all concerned is remarkable, and everyone was energized by the progress we have made over the past year or two. Needless to say, all systems are “go” and I am gratified to be able to report this progress to you. It was fun to attend the Board reception and dinner that evening and hear all the positive comments about the progress we are making to build our shared enterprise.

But, before I did that I attended two other receptions – first to welcome Ming Tan, our new Chairman of Biostatistics, Bioinformatics and Biomathematics, and then to bid a fond farewell to Minetta Liu, who has moved to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN after 17 years at Georgetown to pursue her interests in circulating tumor cells. She will be missed. Welcome, Ming, and thank you, Minetta. Thursday was consumed by other GU related board meetings and by the dedication, reception and dinner to celebrate the opening of Regents Hall, a spectacular new building for science on the main campus.

My clinic was bumped back to Friday morning and I saw one my young patient with colon cancer, previously discussed in this blo. He is tolerating his chemotherapy well, and had a repeat CT scan of the abdomen and MRI scan of his liver a few days ago, showing that his metastatic disease has stabilized, after two months of FOLFOX chemotherapy in combination with the anti-VEGF antibody, bevacizumab. The bevacizumab was added because his metastases had grown following a brief treatment hiatus to permit removal of his primary colon tumor. However, while the disease is liver-confined, there are eight discrete metastases distributed throughout the organ, making a surgical approach extremely challenging. We are keeping him on the current treatment regimen, though I’ll have a low threshold for introducing liver-directed therapy to reduce his tumor burden further.

Every time I see him, I am reminded just how important it is for all of us to work twice as hard to come up with effective new treatments that can give him, and countless others, the chance to raise their children and live full lives. We have work to do!

This perspective truly animates my research. We have some terrific projects going on in the lab, and we have embraced Dick Schlegel’s conditional cell reprogramming methods to help us better understand how to treat cancers with a personalized focus. I look forward to sharing our work when it is my turn to give a Lombardi Research Update Seminar.

That’s all for now. Harriet and I have been overdue for a quiet weekend (our son Ken has fully recovered from last week’s appendectomy and took his two large dogs out for a two-mile walk today) and look forward to kicking back a bit, though I am now working on the next draft of my CCSG sections based on the feedback received form our External Advisory Committee meeting last month.

I hope you’re enjoying your weekend and have a productive week.


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