Archive for December, 2012


Dec 16 2012

Final Blog of 2012

by at 6:44 pm

As I write this, I am just getting back from a weekend trip to Philadelphia to see the progress on my son’s new home, which he is renovating. It was incredibly poignant for Harriet and I to be with our grown children and grandchild considering the unspeakable tragedy that occurred in Connecticut on Friday.

On a much lighter note, I am happy to report that my back is quite a bit better. The critical factors were time and naproxen (Aleve). I saw a physiatrist and physical therapist therapist too, and underwent something called dry needling. It is somewhat similar to acupuncture, and while I can’t be sure it was decisive, I certainly don’t think it was harmful. I look forward to resuming exercise in the next few weeks.

Last week was pretty eventful. On Monday, Lombardi hosted Saul Levin, the Acting Director of the DC Department of Health, to discuss the efforts of the Cancer Center and the wider GUMC community to address minorities and health disparities in the District. It was a fabulous meeting, and I look forward to future collaborations that may arise from the meeting.

On Wednesday, I spent the day at the NCI NExT Oversight Committee meeting, reviewing drug development proposals from academia and industry. As always, it was very interesting. Then, I drove back to campus for a late afternoon interview of a candidate for our breast cancer clinical slots, and then had a terrific dinner meeting with David Abrams, Ray Niaura and Nate Cobb from the Legacy Foundation to discuss ways we can better work together. And on Thursday the highlight, after a very busy clinic, was the annual Lombardi holiday party. Seeing Tod Greene strut his stuff on the dance floor was certainly inspiring! Then, on Friday, I was able to participate in a meeting of the Center of Cancer Systems Biology led by Bob Clarke. Our group had a chance to present some of our recent data, and we got some great feedback and direction for future experiments too.

The rest of the week and weekend have been consumed by CCSG activities. I have pretty much completed most of my sections and am now onto the program drafts. We have had so many people contribute to the review of the most recent drafts; as always I am particularly indebted to Carolyn Hurley, Mike Atkins, Ellen McLaughlin and Steve Byers. In this last set of reviews Anna Riegel and Jeanne Mandelblatt have made many substantial contributions. Thanks to everyone!

This is my last blog for 2012 — I’ll be taking a week off beginning next Friday afternoon.

On that note, I’d like to solicit your suggestions for topics you want to read about in this space in the coming year. Feel free to make comments in the space below, or send me an email ( I greatly enjoy writing this each week, and welcome your feedback.

I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy and productive 2013. If you have any children, remember to give them hugs!


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Dec 09 2012

CCSG and Collaborations

by at 8:03 pm

I assume many folks in DC are both thrilled and terrified by the Redskins’ win and RGIII’s injury on Sunday. I managed to watch that game and the Eagles’ win over Tampa Bay simultaneously, while working on emails and other work. I do hope that RGIII is OK; he is a tremendously exciting player and winner. It will be hard for him to be that player with one bad knee.

I am happy to report that the CCSG renewal is proceeding well, since I had extra time to work on it this week. I was scheduled to be in San Diego this past week but had to cancel the trip because of my aching back. On Wednesday I finally bit the bullet and started some anti-inflammatory meds, and began to feel better within a day or so – better, but still not able to travel. So, I was feeling OK, but had no meetings scheduled; ergo, the extra time to work on the CCSG.

I was back for a full day of work on Friday, and I was able to pack in a fair amount of activity. In the morning, I met with Priscilla Furth and Sandy Jablonski to discuss a new collaboration. Priscilla has created and tested a series of murine triple-negative breast cancer cell lines, and is looking at the effects of conditional cellular reprogramming on their biological properties. We have gotten involved because of our work using NCI chemical libraries to evaluate chemotherapy sensitivities in conditionally reprogrammed cells. We reviewed data done by Priscilla and her colleagues with these cells, and some very interesting early drug screening data in these cell lines that Sandy is performing. This work ultimately will answer a really important question about whether (or when) in vitro assays of drug sensitivity will be predictive of in vivo anti-tumor activity as well. Such findings will inform future clinical evaluations of predictive drug screening in human cancers.

Later that day I attended Frank Rauscher’s excellent Visiting Professor lecture. Frank is an old buddy – while we never worked together when I was in Philly we have a ton of mutual professional acquaintances, and I served on the editorial board when he was Editor-in-Chief of Cancer Research. After his talk I attended a meeting on the CPC write-up for the CCSG and then scooted over to the French Embassy to join Frank at a lunch hosted by Jeff Toretsky. I got there in time for a small dessert and coffee. Then it was time for me to give a lecture to the TBio 508 students on the topic of antibody-targeted cancer immunotherapy. I used the lecture as an opportunity to more broadly discuss the relevance of immunity to cancer; I don’t know how the students liked my lecture, but I sure enjoyed doing it.

Harriet and I had hoped to drive up to Philly for the weekend to help our son Ken and his wife Sarah work on their new house. But, we decided to take it easy and let my back heal more fully. Ken is amazingly handy, and is doing all of the work himself; Sarah is a very busy first-year medical student, so her time is limited. This weekend’s highlight was a near electrocution, precipitated by the positioning of a previously unknown exposed live wire adjacent to an exposed gas line in the laundry room by the former owners. Fortunately, there were no injuries, explosions or other catastrophes and the house now has been thoroughly vetted for electrical safety. Ken has been working on the house whenever he is not at work, and has made remarkable progress. Since taking possession of the place 8 days ago the house has been cleaned and painted, though it remains borderline habitable, lacking a functional kitchen. But, by the time we get up to the house next weekend, the floors will have been redone, with one remodeled bathroom and walls knocked down to open up the kitchen, followed by painting of the new spaces. The new kitchen will be installed next weekend. I admit to amazement, particularly because my handiness around the home is limited to lightbulb changing and check writing. It’s not a surprising observation, but this is additional proof that genetics is a tricky business!

I am looking forward to this week. On Monday, we are hosting Dr. Saul Levin, the Acting Commissioner of Health for the District of Columbia to familiarize him and his team with the work we do at Lombardi and more broadly at GUMC. We hope to develop collaborations that can have an enhanced impact in our own town.

Meanwhile, have a terrific week, and watch out for live wires!

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Dec 02 2012

Walking a Little Lopsided

by at 11:36 pm

This past week has been dominated by my bad back. I returned from the Thanksgiving weekend with a lower back spasm that still hasn’t resolved. I have had this problem on and off since I was an intern, and while it rarely interferes with my activities, sometimes it rears its ugly head. So, if you see me walking with a tilt this week, you’ll know why. I am tentatively scheduled to go to San Diego this Tuesday for the annual antibody engineering meetings, but there is no way I can sit in an airplane for six hours and emerge upright. So, if I don’t improve dramatically over the next day or so, you’ll see me around later this week.

While I had to take it a bit easy last week, I still was pretty busy. We continue to plow through our CCSG preparations, and I anticipate another push in the coming week as I integrate the internal reviews of the sections that comprise the Directors Overview. I enjoyed speaking to the TBio Masters students about my research activities on Wednesday, and had a busy clinic as always on Thursday. I was able to attend much of the Ruesch Symposium on Friday afternoon, and thought it was an extraordinary event, with outstanding talks by real experts, and outstanding attendance as well. John Marshall should be justifiably proud of the success of this meeting and of the impact of the Ruesch Center.

Have a great week, and remember to flex your knees when bending over or picking up heavy objects!

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