Archive for March, 2014


Mar 30 2014

A Week in Review

by at 9:55 pm

I hope you did not have plans for the weekend that included being outdoors. What miserable weather! I used the bad weather as an opportunity to catch up on a lot of work, punctuated by errands and a lovely Saturday morning brunch in the neighborhood with our niece Marla, our son David, and his fiancé Kelly. Marla is an actress who has appeared in the Broadway musicals South Pacific, Sister Act, and Cinderella, and had meaningful roles in the last two shows. She just left Cinderella after a year, and finally has a chance to travel. Amazingly, even though she is from Yardley, Pennsylvania, she had never been to DC before! So Harriet took her around to see a few museums on Friday, and then Marla went to the Signature Theatre to see her friend perform the lead role in the musical, Beaches. It was wonderful to see her.

Last Sunday night Harriet and I went to an Avon breast cancer walk fundraiser at the Winery at Olney. It was a lovely event, and the good feeling persisted on Monday when I received a call telling me that CBCC will be receiving continued support from the Avon Foundation. We are very grateful for their partnership. And, under the magnificent leadership of Jeanne Mandelblatt, the Lombardi/CBCC Avon Walk for Breast Cancer team is in the lead in the DC walk competition with a team comprising more than 50 walkers. If you can, please consider contributing to the team financially, as a cheerleader, or better yet, as a walker.We were back in Olney on Monday night as guests of a Lombardi donor who won a door prize at the 2013 Men’s Event for a meal at a restaurant called Taste Gastropub. The food was quite good, as was the company. After a Sector Leaders’ meeting on Tuesday morning, I drove down to Charlottesville (yes, in a snowstorm) to be a visiting professor at the UVA Cancer Center. I was a guest of Jay Fox, who is a member of Lombardi’s External Advisory Committee. The visit was very stimulating, and I learned a lot, as I always do, from observing how other cancer centers function. UVA has wonderful science but clinical challenges, and I enjoyed chatting and comparing notes with their new cancer center director, Tom Loughran. After driving back to DC on Wednesday evening, I attended Rishi Surana’s Data Meeting presentation on Thursday morning. Rishi gave a very nice presentation, though Chip Albanese deprived me of a chance to introduce Rishi because I was one minute late to the presentation. So be warned–Chip runs a tight ship!
Friday was highlighted by a call with Richard Nakamura, who heads the NIH Center for Scientific Review. I am being appointed to the 12-person advisory board for the CSR, and we chatted about various ways to improve the grant review process. In particular, I asked about the feasibility of creating a letter of intent process to weed out uncompetitive proposals, the prospects for revisiting the “no more A2” policy, finding ways to encourage senior scientists to be reviewers, and the prohibition of recycling modified proposals that have not been funded previously. I expect to learn a lot more about these issues in the near future. If you have any perspectives to offer regarding these ideas or anything else related to the peer review process, please let me know.
Stay dry and have a great week.

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Mar 23 2014

All About Science

by at 6:29 pm

Science was front and center this past week for me, highlighted by a meeting of the U54 Center for Cancer Systems Biology group here at Georgetown. We had a chance to get together to review our data, and came up with a really strong narrative for a paper that will describe some novel determinants of estrogen-independence and resistance to anti-estrogen drugs. Strikingly, we have found that members of the EGFR network are significantly activated as cells transition from estrogen-dependence. Bob Clarke has done a fine job of assembling and orchestrating the group, which includes folks from Georgetown, Virginia Tech and Fox Chase.

I also participated in the GU spring convocation on Tuesday, honoring 20-year faculty with Vicennial Medals. Patricia King, an inspiring pioneer at the Law Center, reflected on her remarkable life before and during her time on the Georgetown Faculty. On Thursday, I joined Tom Fishbein and Michael Zasloff as panelists talking about various forms of transplantation on Doctors Speak Out at the Leavey Conference Center. We had a lively discussion with many questions from the very engaged audience.

And, on Friday afternoon I participated in a really vibrant and interesting discussion regarding how we are utilizing the Conditionally Reprogrammed Cell technology. During the discussion, Priscilla Furth updated us on her activities. It was a fabulous scientific interchange, as part of an ongoing series of informal meetings organized by Mike Johnson.

I have to attend Lombardi-related fundraising activities on Sunday and Monday nights and then drive down to Charlottesville on Tuesday, where I am a Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia Cancer Center. So, next week is shaping up as being pretty busy; I hope yours is busy and productive too.

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Mar 16 2014

Back to Snow

by at 10:14 pm

It’s nice to be home, but I do wish the snow had stayed away for another eight or nine months. Enough already!

My week was dominated by a trip to Germany for a meeting. I stayed in a town just outside of Munich, flying in on Tuesday night and landing just after noon on Wednesday. I fought to stay awake that afternoon, and had a very pleasant dinner with colleagues before turning in for the evening. I had a full day of meetings on Thursday, and then flew back to the States on Friday morning. I ended up in Philadelphia, where I met up with Harriet, who had taken the train up there several days earlier to visit with friends and family. I went straight from the airport to the home of some friends who were having a party and then spent the rest of the weekend with our family. I never really had jet lag, and think it was due to leaving at around 11 pm on Tuesday night and getting about 5 hours of sleep on the plane.

I got a lot of work done during my trip and began working on a new grant which will identify molecular factors that promote tumor based immune evasion in pancreatic cancer progression. I also expect to complete faculty evaluations this week, with lots of lectures, meetings and clinics ahead. Finally, I believe that eight folks have signed up for the first “Lunch with Lou;” I look forward to many such lunches in the future.

Have a great week.

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Mar 09 2014

A Wonderful Respite

by at 8:08 pm

What a beautiful weekend in DC! It was an especially wonderful respite from this long, dreary winter. And to think that only one week ago the University was (once again) closed due to winter weather. Last week was highlighted by the Targeted Anti-Cancer Therapies (TAT) meeting chaired by Beppe Giaccone. This three-day meeting brought together leading translational and Phase I clinical trial investigators from around the world. Many Lombardi investigators spoke at the meeting, reinforcing what we already knew–that we do work at the cutting edge.  Congratulations to Beppe for putting together a fabulous meeting.

Also, congratulations to Howard Federoff and his collaborators on publishing an important paper in Nature Medicine regarding serum biomarkers that can be measured to identify who is at imminent risk of memory loss. GUMC is on the move too!

The rest of the week was busy and productive. Friday night was highlighted by our attendance at the Prevent Cancer Gala, at the National Building Museum. We were joined by John and Liza Marshall – it was a lovely evening for a good cause.

I have been busy preparing for the upcoming Board of Scientific Counselors meeting on Tuesday. Following that I will be traveling for a few days, but will be back at work on March 17.

Have a good week.

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Mar 02 2014

The Never-Ending Winter

by at 8:39 pm

Will this winter never end? It is Sunday evening, and I just learned that the University is closed on Monday for yet another snowstorm, though I have a ton of scheduled meetings lasting through 9 pm. And to think that when we decided to move to DC six years ago, our friends told us that at least we’d have mild winters. What a joke!

My father drove down to DC to spend the weekend with us, and we had a wonderful time. I am hardly a restaurant critic, but we had a fabulous brunch on Sunday morning at my favorite new restaurant in our neighborhood, La Piquette, a genuine bistro on Macomb Street, across the street from 2Amys Pizzeria just off Wisconsin Avenue. It is like taking a trip to France without a passport or jet lag. Speaking of 2Amys, one of our upcoming Grand Rounds speakers, Ira Pastan, a great scientist at the NCI, is the father of the restaurant’s owner, Peter Pastan. Peter also created and operates another terrific Italian restaurant, Obelisk, in the Dupont Circle area.

This was my fourth meal at La Piquette, and it was far less eventful than the previous one. On Wednesday evening I dined at La Piquette with Andre Goy, director of the Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center, because he is French and I figured he would like an authentic taste of home. While we were eating, a diner sitting a couple of tables away fainted, so Andre and I went over to help until the ambulance came to transport her to the hospital. We were pleased to be able to help and were delighted by the complimentary desserts (which were simply outstanding) from the owners, who appreciated the help of two oncologists who had the sense to make sure the lady reclined until the EMTs came to the rescue!

Last week was highlighted by a rigorous update of the Lombardi Strategic Plan, with the very able assistance of Alan Spector, who helped us establish our plan in 2012. As we roll out the modified version, you can expect to have many opportunities to engage with your colleagues to learn about the plan, have input into refining the plan, and working to execute the plan, which embodies all the best about our cancer center and its aspirations.

One of the important takeaways that came out of our planning was a powerful desire for inclusivity–being sure that everybody’s voices are heard as we move forward. For example, you may have seen last week’s announcement of a new monthly “Lunch with Lou,” where anybody connected to Lombardi (maximum of ten per lunch!) will have a chance to hear about what I am doing, and for me to hear about your ideas about how we can make Lombardi better and accelerate our progress to prevent and cure cancer. So, check out the announcement and sign up early (but not often!). I can’t wait to have lunch with you.

Have a safe Monday and a great week to follow. See you on Tuesday!

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