Archive for February, 2016

 

Feb 26 2016

A Non-Stop Week

by at 3:50 pm

I am writing this week’s blog a few days early, as I’ll be in Knoxville, TN on Sunday evening and Monday for a meeting at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to discuss ongoing collaborative efforts between that laboratory and GUMC.

It has been a crazy busy week; each day seemed to begin at 7 am and end at 10 pm, just in time for me to check my emails. But there were some highlights. For example, I attended a Tuesday evening lecture by Abe Foxman, former leader of the Anti-Defamation League, at Copley Formal Lounge. He is a genuine hero in his battle to identify and diminish all types of discrimination and bigotry, and it was a thrill to meet him.

Thursday started off with a really nice data meeting presentation by one of my graduate students, Dalal AlDeghaither. She described an innovative strategy to identify the molecular determinants of resistance to immune killing, using a model system of antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). It is so stimulating and rewarding to work with students and watch them grow as scientists. Plus, I don’t mind it when the data are good! The bookend of that busy day (with a pretty busy clinic sandwiched in between) was a downtown kickoff meeting of the Men’s Event, a Lombardi-focused fundraiser that has been a major source of philanthropic support over the years. Our volunteers are my heroes; their tireless contributions on behalf of Lombardi research is inspiring.

I want to finish this blog entry by thanking Meghan Lasswell for her service here at Lombardi; she was instrumental in our communications efforts and was a superb editor of this blog during her time here. Thanks, Meghan, and best of luck in your future endeavors.

There may be a few lapses in my weekly blog over the next few weeks as we interview for Meghan’s successor. But, I’ll be back! Have a great week.

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Feb 16 2016

Remember to Bend Your Knees When Shoveling!

by at 10:48 am

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day! I can’t believe we were treated to a cold and blustery weekend and a blast of snow on Monday. Harriet and I just got back from a quick weekend trip to Philly to celebrate our oldest son Ken’s birthday. On Saturday, we had a bit of a family party and had all of the grandchildren in one place, presumably infecting each other with their daycare-specific viruses. Since Eli and Ella were under the weather, Ken and Sarah were not particularly rested during our visit, but Eli seems to be on the mend.

Last week was highlighted by several important meetings. I traveled up to Hackensack on Monday afternoon to participate in the cancer institution’s planning activities for ramping up new research space in nearby Nutley, NJ. The enthusiasm for broadening and deepening the cancer research portfolio as part of our developing cancer center consortium was, if you will pardon the expression, infectious. And in that spirit, please make it a priority to attend Dr. David Perlin’s Oncology Grand Rounds this coming Friday. He is an infectious disease physician scientist who, with his colleagues, will be a major player at the Nutley facility. David is a world-class expert in dissecting and overcoming antimicrobial resistance, and looks forward to aggressively pivoting this work into the problem of resistance to cancer therapeutics. He is a very impressive investigator, and I predict his presentation will be informative and provocative.

The Georgetown University Board of Directors’ meetings dominated much of the rest of my week. The Committee on Medical Center Affairs (COMCA) meeting on Wednesday afternoon was notable for the enthusiasm of the committee regarding the Cancer Moonshot initiative and the continued progress of our work together with MedStar Health. That evening the after-dinner conversation centered on Jack DeGioia’s initiative on addressing minority-related disparities. Not surprisingly, Lucile Adams-Campbell was a featured member of the panel, and was passionate, eloquent and inspiring in describing her efforts to address minority health and health disparities in our catchment area.

The coming week will be highlighted by my participation in a NCI meeting up in Shady Grove that focuses on synthetic biology. It promises to be a very interesting meeting, and I look forward to understanding what it is that the NCI means by the term, ‘synthetic biology’! I’ll let you know as soon as I find out – I will be speaking about my lab’s work, and have been asked to chair a panel discussion as well.

Have a great week. Stay warm, and remember to bend your knees when shoveling.

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Feb 08 2016

Strengthening Connections

by at 10:05 am

At the beginning of the week I feared that this week’s blog would have to explain why I was walking like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I have had intermittent problems with my back for 40 years, with occasional bouts of low back spasms, always on the right side, never with an obvious precipitating cause. Usually I am sidelined for 1 – 2 weeks, and nothing works excepts for time.

This time was different. For the first time in my life I had a therapeutic massage that really broke the cycle of pain. I was feeling better by Tuesday afternoon and was basically asymptomatic by Thursday. Lesson learned. Some things can bend time.

So Thursday was a busy day. After clinic I attended the Immunotherapy Interest Group meeting in E501 to hear a presentation by Elizabeth Trehu from Jounce Therapeutics, which is developing an ICOS1 agonist antibody as a cancer immunotherapy agent. I had to leave early to hustle down to Jack DeGioia’s office for a dinner celebrating some of our leading Lombardi Gala volunteers. I was joined by Jack, Paul Tagliabue (Vice Chair of the Board of Directors), Bart Moore (Vice President, Advancement) and Donald Dunn (Director, Lombardi Advancement). Our volunteers have devoted endless passion and effort to assure that the Gala is successful every year. And it has worked: The Gala has raised over $23 million since its inception. It was a wonderful event, and the appreciation of the University for their efforts meant a great deal to our volunteers. It was an enjoyable evening and a lovely ending to a long day.

The coming week promises to be busy. On Monday afternoon I am taking the train up to Hackensack to help kick off a planning activity for Hackensack University Medical Center’s new research facility in New Jersey. Cancer research will be an important part of this facility, and will only serve to further strengthen our connections. It will be another late night, though, since I don’t expect to return to DC until about midnight (weather permitting).

Speaking of weather I hear that we have some snow coming. I hope we avoid another “snowpocalypse” and can get in a full week of interrupted work.

Stay warm and dry. And I hope your team won the Super Bowl!

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Feb 01 2016

Are You Done Digging Out?

by at 9:37 am

Well, this sure was an interesting week! Usually, breathless weather forecasters try to ratchet up fears (and ratings) with blizzard watches in DC, which typically end up with a half-inch of slush on the roads. But this was one time when all of their apocalyptic hopes were realized. I hear it was a terrible blizzard.

I heard about, but did not experience, the brunt of the blizzard. Last Friday morning, Harriet and I boarded a plane for Miami, and we felt like refugees escaping an upcoming war. We had long been scheduled to fly out that day to attend the wedding of the son of dear friends, and to return on Sunday afternoon. Harriet had the foresight to reschedule our flight back to DC to Monday night, so we watched the unbelievable events of Friday night and Saturday on CNN. The only shovels we saw were on the beach. We got back on Monday night, when the runways and roads were passable, and I worked from home on Tuesday. We felt pretty lucky. I highly recommend traveling to someplace warm whenever a massive snowstorm is imminent, assuming the forecasts are correct!

The other highlight of our shortened work week was the visit of old friend and colleague Dan Hayes, who gave a wonderful Grand Rounds presentation about circulating tumor cells and liquid biopsies. This work started when he was a Lombardi faculty member, and he came back 15 years later as an extraordinarily accomplished thought leader, clinical scientist and incoming president of ASCO. This is yet another reminder of how Lombardi is a great talent incubator and impact generator.

It looks as if the coming week will bring no new snow so I am sure we’ll all be busy. It will be nice to get back into the swing of things. Have a great week!

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