Archive for April, 2013


Apr 28 2013

Home Stretch for CCSG and for our Breast Cancer Walks

by at 5:49 pm

There’s not much left to say about the CCSG Competitive Renewal. We are still planning to go to the printer this week, and are pulling together the last bits and pieces. It has been quite an odyssey! I do believe that this submission does a wonderful job of describing the work we do at Georgetown Lombardi. One can never predict how we might be evaluated in peer review, of course, but if I were a neutral reviewer I would be impressed by what we have accomplished.

One highlight of the week was my visit to NCI to speak at the Antibody Interest group. Several noteworthy points were highlighted by my visit: 1) Because I am a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the NCI I have an ID badge through 2017. So, I don’t need to go through security and neither does my car. This makes any visit to the NIH campus far less onerous! 2) I still get seriously excited by the work being done in my lab group. My talk consisted of several vignettes. The first described work done by postdoctoral fellow Shangzi Wong, showing that antibody therapy induces host-protective immunity against the targeted tumor antigen. The next vignette highlighted work being done by MD/PhD student Rishi Surana, showing that the tumor model employed by Shangzi is characterized by the elaboration of IL-4, which can be therapeutically neutralized to promote antibody therapy. Next I described the work being done by Joe Murray, an MD/PhD student who is finishing his thesis work to explore mechanisms by which tumor cells resist antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). Finally, I discussed the work of Casey Shuptrine, a PhD student who is doing an innovative in vivo functional genomics screen to identify the tumor-cell-based determinants that regulate ADCC and anti-tumor immunity. As soon as the CCSG is done, there are about five new grants I need to write so we can continue and expand this work.

One final note about this coming weekend’s Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Our Lombardi/CBCC team has raised (as of Sunday evening) a total of $121,684. The team is in second place in the region, and $42,000 ahead of the next team. What an effort! Please feel free to donate to enable every walker to raise the $1,800 necessary to participate (look for walkers who have not yet raised the $1,800). And, while it is probably too late to train for the walk, it is most certainly not too late to cheer on the team — contact Jeanne Mandelblatt if you want to get involved.

If you can’t make it out  this weekend, or if you’re not quite up for 39 miles, next weekend (May 11) we are participating in the Komen Global Race for the Cure, which is just 5K and a couple hours. Check out the Capital Breast Care Center Crusaders team page for more info, to donate to the team, or to join.

This is important work; some of you may have read the provocative an interesting article in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about cause-specific and event-based fundraising for breast cancer research. One can question the approach, but I can assure you that Lombardi researchers and patients have benefited from support of Avon, Komen and other organizations. If you believe, as I do, that our work is important, then what these organizations do is valuable and enabling.

Have a great week.

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Apr 21 2013

Many Moving Parts

by at 9:06 pm

I hope you are staying warm as the temperature dips on an uncharacteristically cool late April evening. We had a busy but great weekend. The big news from last week was the coverage given to our new relationship with HackensackUMC, as reported in the Cancer Letter. If you have not seen it, check it out.  I agree with Paul Goldberg; we are onto something important here.

Most of my intervening hours have been consumed by CCSG preparations. We are making progress, but there are so many moving parts. I feel very good about our readiness and the quality of the product, but this sure is a lot of work!

Click here to see an excerpt from our section on Organizational Capabilities. Carolyn Hurley devised the diagram, which is a brilliant distillation of a a large amount of very careful and thorough planning over the past four

I am not going to go into a lot more detail in this week’s blog – I have four more sections of the CCSG to read tonight!

Have a great week.

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Apr 14 2013

Busy and Gratifying Week

by at 5:45 pm

I am writing as a beautiful weekend coasts to an end. Harriet and I snuck up to Philly on Saturday to visit Ella, Ken and Sarah. We just can’t get enough of Ella! The weekend was a reward for a very busy and eventful week of work. Because we were away on Saturday, we were not able to participate in the Avon Walk team’s intensive training walk that included an inspiring visit to the CBCC (photo below). Congratulations to our fabulous Lombardi/CBCC team, which has now raised $102,572.68, placing this team of 60 walkers in second place, closer to first than to third. Just think that in 2008 this team had only five walkers and raised $9,000.  If you ever wanted more evidence that Georgetown Lombardi is an increasing force in our community, look no further. Thanks to Jeanne Mandelblatt, for all she has done to make this happen.

We are now deep into the homestretch of CCSG preparations; the most recent version of the Director’s Overview ends with the following statement.

“During the current funding period LCCC has demonstrated clear scientific excellence, national leadership and conduct of high impact research. Informed by the 2009 Summary Statement, LCCC has taken important steps to assure that, moving forward, with the support of its CCSG, it will fulfill its vision and mission as a comprehensive cancer center that makes distinctive contributions to the national goal to eradicate cancer. This effort has been led by an experienced and effective Center Director through 1) intensive Planning and Evaluation that has led to significant reorganization of Cancer Center membership, scientific programs and shared resources, 2) a Senior Leadership that has been strengthened by outstanding recruitments and streamlined, refined organizational capabilities and 3) improved Administration that has supported important scientific initiatives, with maintenance of Cancer Focus and 4) exceptional Institutional Commitment by Georgetown University and MedStar Health. These advances have helped LCCC conduct high-impact Transdisciplinary and Collaborative Research, exemplified by the development of Conditional Cellular Reprogramming, the identification and development of a novel approach to treating Ewing Sarcoma, and the development of practice-informing mammography screening guidelines.”

The week was highlighted by the end of AACR (which was a very busy meeting for me) and the public announcement Tuesday of the affiliation of Hackensack University Medical Center’s John Theurer Cancer Center with Georgetown Lombardi. The hematopoietic stem cell transplantation effort is well  underway, and we anticipate the first autologous transplant in May. We will have some more formal celebrations of this affiliation next month, so stay tuned for more information and for opportunities to meet our new colleagues. And, we had our initial Internal Advisory Committee meeting, chaired by Dr. Steve Evans, a Georgetown Lombardi member and Vice President for Medical Affairs for MedStar Health. This group contains all Chairs in the Georgetown Lombardi Sector, along with other GUMC and MedStar Health leaders whose responsibilities intersect with Georgetown Lombardi’s cancer center mission. This group will help us improve the coherence of our activities with those of our closest colleagues.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the lovely and moving memorial service for our late colleague Marko Moskovitch, who passed away in January from pancreatic cancer. Marko was remembered by many of his friends and family. I was especially moved by our colleague Tim Jorgenson’s stirring remarks, and by the simple but highly emotive photo collage showing Marko at various stages of his life, from childhood, to sitting in a tank during the 1973 Yom Kippur war and then during his career as an innovative scientist. Rest easy, my friend. Your memory is not only a blessing, but also a poignant reminder of how much work we have left to do.

Have a terrific and productive week.

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Apr 05 2013

Proud Grandfather Edition

by at 10:54 am

Greetings to all. This is a Friday morning edition of my blog, because I don’t think I’ll have time this weekend to do it. This has turned into one of the busiest and most gratifying weeks I can remember. Like many of you I have been working hard to prepare for AACR. I have a ton of meetings scheduled, and will be giving a talk on Saturday morning and then speaking at a press conference. Continuing finalization of the CCSG has been interspersed with all of this too.

Then we got “the call” on Wednesday night. Our daughter-in-law Sarah was in labor. It was midnight. We decided to put Harriet on a train in the morning. Then, we went back to bed, and after about five minutes, I asked Harriet if she thought she would be able to get to sleep. I knew I would not!  She said no; I was already packing for the trip. We made a cup of coffee, got in the car and drove up to Philly, getting to the hospital at about 4 am. Naturally, our kids were not in entertainment mode, so we went to a nearby hotel to catch a few hours of sleep. Then we went to the hospital to await our granddaughter’s birth; Harriet stayed, but I had to catch a train back to DC for my Thursday afternoon clinic. My cell phone’s power rapidly drained under the force of innumerable text messages, emails, etc. And then, at 2:45 pm I got the call – Ella Flora Weiner, a beautiful, healthy little girl, had made a triumphant entrance into the world and into our hearts. Her mom Sarah got through it all beautifully.

Our kids picked her name with enormous sensitivity that reminds me of just how special they are. In the Jewish tradition, children are frequently named for deceased loved ones, using at least the first letter of the honoree’s name to start the baby’s name. Sarah’s grandmother Evelyn passed away fairly recently; as luck would have it, she was one of my brother’s professors when he was studying for his doctorate in psychology in Denver, so there was a connection to both families. And my mother, Bella Flora died in 1992; I have written previously about her remarkable life journey as a Holocaust survivor. She was far too young and left much unfinished business at the time of her death; she never got to see how it all turned out. Well, with Ella Flora’s birth, Bella’s story is now complete (and it turned out pretty well!); now it is Ella’s turn to write her own unique, incomparable book of life and dream of, see and do things that could not have been imaginable to a little girl hiding in a belfry to avoid capture only a lifetime ago. Go get ’em, Ella!

After my clinic ended on Thursday I took the train back to Philly to meet my new granddaughter. When I swung by the hospital on Friday morning on my way back to the train station, I found Ken and Sarah fairly tired but exhilarated. In a telling comment, Ken said, “I’ve now been an adult for about 18 hours.” Now, this is a 32-year-old veterinarian who has met the criteria of adulthood for many years. But, anybody who has held their child for the first time knows exactly what he means.

Have a great weekend. And get some sleep for me!


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