Archive for June, 2014


Jun 22 2014

Twitter Fests and Sad Goodbyes

by at 10:02 pm

This past week was busy, and after Rishi Surana’s outstanding thesis defense on Monday two events stood out for me, and both happened on Wednesday. Early that afternoon I participated in my very first Twitterfest, with the assistance of Lauren Wolkoff and Karen Mallet, on a chat organized by the AACR regarding the promise of cancer immunotherapy. A number of investigators from around the country participated, joined by many interested laypersons. I had never used Twitter before, having been sensitized to the perils of the medium by the travails of former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who got into life-changing trouble for using this very public medium for unsavory purposes. Not that I would ever do anything of that nature, but there was something about a namesake getting into trouble (though we are not related and I don’t know him) that put me off. ┬áLauren and Karen made the process relatively painless, though I was struck by the challenges of conveying complex concepts in 140 or fewer characters – it felt like headline writing or advertising. I have enough trouble doing that in 12 pages of a NIH grant! The whole event felt a bit superficial, at least as a medium for scientific discourse. I guess I am just a Neanderthal… But, I now can add tweeting to my list of accomplishments here at Lombardi.

The other event was very bittersweet – Nancy Morgan’s retirement party. Under her magnificent stewardship Lombardi’s nationally recognized Arts and Humanities program has made an incredible impact on our patients, their families and our caregivers. The very well attended event was highlighted by Nancy’s passionate call for all of us to let the arts help us to manage the stresses in our lives that come from the challenges of dealing with so much sorrow in our professional duties. We have been inspired by Nancy’s excellence for so long, and her legacy will endure as Julia Langley takes the reins of that program. Thank you Nancy, and welcome, Julia.

Meanwhile, the coming week will be filled with meetings at Walter Reed, at the GU Executive Committee Retreat and then a brief trip to Buffalo as a member of Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s EAB. Plus, I am working away on a supplement to my R01, so I will be a busy guy.

Have a good week.

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Jun 16 2014

An abbreviated early summer blog

by at 10:00 am

An abbreviated early summer blog this week! After a fabulous weekend and great Fathers Day I am back at work, waiting for the summer steam bath that is Washington, DC to loosen our collars and make us dream of the beach.

One quick culinary note – for those of you who like Chinese food, we tried a new place (for us) in Glover Park, called Dumplings & Beyond, and thought it was one of the best places of its type that we have tried. It is pretty small, but the dumplings are terrific. And it’s right in our neighborhood, so it is very convenient.

Now, back to work… A pretty large delegation of Lombardi folks traveled up to Hackensack to meet our HUMC colleagues and drill down a bit on opportunities for collaboration. It was an impressive experience. We were a bit late getting there due to trouble on the train tracks, caused in part by a biblical monsoon near Newark. But, we had a very full day of discussions, and came away with more than a handful of rich opportunities for collaborative clinical research. The other highlight of my work week was a NCI Intramural Program Site Visit in Bethesda that I chaired for the NCI Board of Scientific Counselors. The meeting started on Wednesday night and continued through until Friday morning. I had just enough time left on Friday to get back to work for a conference call, a visit to an inpatient and a chance to catch up on paperwork.

Later this afternoon Rishi Surana, a MD/PhD candidate in my laboratory, will be defending his thesis. He has been an absolute joy to have in the lab – smart, collegial, hard working and willing to put up with me. He has done a great job, and I know he will be equally wonderful as he heads back for his third year of medical school. Well done, Rishi!

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that in the past month our dedicated Program Specialists, led by Melissa Layman, successfully helped Lombardi investigators get 60 new grant applications out the door! Frankly, I don’t know how they didi it. This is a remarkable accomplishment, reflecting not only the hard efforts of our investigators but also the dedication and excellence of our Program Specialists. I am very grateful for their hard work that makes it possible for us to better execute our mission. Each of them deserves our heartfelt thanks.

Have a great week, and stay cool.

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Jun 09 2014

A Trip to Hackensack

by at 9:14 am

Greetings from somewhere at the border of Elizabeth and Newark, NJ. Our train is waiting for a disabled train ahead to be moved so I can get to Newark, and from there, to Hackensack. A Lombardi delegation is headed there for a retreat to discuss opportunities to work together more fully. We have made progress in the collaboration, particularly in the BMT program (with about 10 transplants thus far), and are moving forward with joint clinical trials. But there are more opportunities than that to be considered and we look forward to a great day of discussions.

Harriet and I spent the weekend visiting friends at Bethany Beach. We had never been there before and really had a wonderful time in a beautiful location. It made for a restful recovery after a hectic week, since I returned from ASCO on Tuesday and went straight to clinic. The next afternoon I had to leave town again to spend a day in New Brunswick, NJ as a member of the Rutgers-Cancer Institute of New Jersey EAB. They do great work there, and I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about how other comprehensive cancer centers are organized. Each one is just a little bit different!

This coming week will be pretty intense and compressed as well. From Wednesday night through Friday I am chairing a NCI intramural program site visit that promises to be intense (and time consuming!). But there is never a dull moment. I look forward to next week, when things settle down a bit and I can spend more time in my office.

Have a great week.

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Jun 02 2014

ASCO in Chicago

by at 1:28 am

My blog this week is necessarily abbreviated. I have been at the yearly ASCO meeting in Chicago since Thursday, and every day has been filled with poster sessions, attendance at various oral sessions, on and off site meetings, and a bit of socializing. Chicago is a great city, and the ASCO meeting is numbingly huge. One of the major themes of the meeting is the continuing advance of cancer immunotherapy, with an emphasis on checkpoint antibodies. The incredibly exciting results in melanoma, kidney cancer, lung cancer and now bladder cancer have caught the attention of the cognoscenti and the uninitiated. For example, I spoke at an educational session on immunology for non-immunologists – with 1700 attendees! Believe me when I state that a decade, or even five years ago a similar session would not have been able to fill a cloakroom, let alone a major lecture hall. And, the number of immunology related abstracts is remarkable. Immunotherapy clearly has arrived. And so has Lombardi–our clinical investigators have been all over this meeting as presenters and commentators.

However, all this excitement is rather tiring. I have one more intense day of work, and look forward to heading home on Tuesday morning. I have clinic that afternoon, so I hope my plane is on time!

Have a good week.

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