Archive for May, 2016


May 22 2016

No Need for Sunblock

by at 10:27 pm

Wow. What a jam packed week. After a full day of work on Monday I headed up to Bethesda to commence a site visit of one of the major NCI intramural research programs. I had the privilege of chairing the site visit, and so was “on” the entire time. These meetings generally commence with a charge to the committee from NCI intramural program leadership; there is a new team in place, led by Tom Misteli, assisted primarily by old friend and colleague Bill Dahut. I know that times have been tough in the extramural community due to reductions in funding, but the intramural program has certainly felt the pain as well. The actual site visit started early in the morning on Tuesday, concluded at 4 pm, and we finished our deliberations by around 6 pm. I then spent the rest of the evening working on my summary report, and catching up on the usual email tsunami. The following morning consisted of a repeat meeting in Bethesda with NCI intramural program leadership to provide feedback on the site visit, and I returned to work by around 11 am.

After a hectic swirl of catch-up meetings and calls, I hopped into the car and drove up to Philadelphia, with Harriet, in order to be at a dinner for speakers at a Jefferson-sponsored symposium on translational genomics. The symposium, which started on Thursday morning, included Cliff Hudis (the new CEO of ASCO), Skip Burris, a very well known Phase I clinical trialist, and several Jefferson based speakers. I ran into a bunch of old professional friends from Philly at the symposium, some of whom I had not seen in years. That was very nice. The meeting was very well attended, and the discussions were interesting and lively. I played the role of avuncular curmudgeon, in that I believe the reality of mutation-profiling to guide clinical care has not yet lived up to its hype. Now, I believe this new approach has merit, and will yield important value with continued research, but I fear that a failure to rapidly deliver on the hype may well cause a promising approach to be prematurely discarded when the next “hot” technology comes along.
We stayed in Philadelphia on Thursday night because our daughter-in-law Sarah graduated from Drexel University School of Medicine on Friday, and we would not have missed that for the world. We are so proud of her – she started medical school at age 31, had two children while in school and still graduated on time, as a junior AOA and did all of that while remaining a devoted mother, wife and family member. I don’t know how she did it, and am simply in awe of her accomplishment. The party that followed was pretty amazing too!
We hung around for the weekend because my birthday was on Saturday, and the family had converged on Philly to help me celebrate. No gifts were necessary, because I had everything I needed right in front of me. The only dark clouds were in the sky. My boys had hoped to take me out to play golf, but scuba gear would needed to navigate a golf course in that downpour. While there will be many sunny days to come, a few of them spent on the golf course, none of them will ever be more meaningful than the magic that comes when we are together.
The coming week will be highlighted by a quick visit to The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit on Thursday to deliver Grand Rounds, followed by the long Memorial Day weekend. I won’t be doing a blog this coming week, and I hope your week is productive and your holiday is restful and requires you to use copious amounts of sunblock.

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May 16 2016

Good to be Heard

by at 8:49 am

Greetings on a quiet Sunday afternoon. I have spent the bulk of the weekend at home, working on an upcoming NCI Intramural Program site visit that I will be chairing beginning on Monday night, and ending on Wednesday morning. It was good to rest up a bit, for I was quite busy all week, with one out of town day trip and then a jam-packed series of meetings from Tuesday though Friday.

One highlight was Tuesday evening’s Lombardi Gala Executive Committee Reception. Usually, these events are held at an executive committee member’s home but we tried something different this year, and it really worked well. The event started with a reception and various greetings in the Warwick-Evans conference room in Building D. Our gala chairs, Paul Schweitzer, Jill Kirkpatrick and Brian Katz set a great tone for their evening with their welcomes. I was particularly grateful for Paul Tagliabue’s gracious remarks; he is one of the Gala’s 30th anniversary chairs, and continues to be a wonderful supporter of the event. After the remarks, the attendees then toured several Lombardi labs, including mine. The attendees were incredibly impressed by Beppe Giaccone, Luciane Cavalli, Mike Johnson, Chunling Yi and Aykut Üren and Surojeet Sengupta – each of whom generously donated their time to explain the work done in their labs. This event truly energized everybody who attended.

Ordinarily, it would be difficult to top such a wonderful event, but Wednesday was a pretty remarkable day. After a full morning that included a conference call of the immunotherapy and prevention subcommittee of the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel.  I shared an Uber with Donald Dunn and we were dropped off at the White House’s Southwest entrance. After passing through security we made our way up to a fifth floor office in the EEOB, where we met with Greg Simon, who is Vice President Biden’s designated lead for the Cancer Moonshot. We discussed our ideas for addressing minority health disparities in the District of Columbia. This is one of the Moonshot’s priorities, as is a stress on data sharing, which is something we do well at Lombardi. It is hard to know at this point will come out of this visit, but it was good to be heard.

After getting back from the White House I caught up on some work and then drove to a downtown restaurant to valet parked my car, and then grabbed a cab to the Capitol (another security line) for a reception sponsored by the American Association of Cancer Institutes honoring two legislators, Kathy Castor (D-FL) and Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), who have been strong supporters of cancer research funding. It was just work – but still hard to believe that I would go to the White House and the Capitol in the course of just one work day. They don’t prepare you for that in medical school. After the reception ended a group of cancer center directors caught taxis to the downtown restaurant where a nice meal, good conversation and my car awaited me.

Next week promises to be quite busy, but I’ll look forward to avoiding the security lines I had to deal with on Wednesday! Have a good week.

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May 09 2016

Busy Week

by at 10:22 am

First of all, Happy Mothers Day! After a quiet Saturday spent running errands, we spent most of the day in Baltimore, now that all of our kids have a connection to that city. We went to Isaac’s t-ball game first, and then everybody convened at Ken and Sarah’s new place in Federal Hill (she starts her internship at the U of Maryland next month) to see their new place and go out for a dinner (how wonderful it was to need a table for 12!).

Sunday was a nice break from a week so hectic that I get tired just recapping it in this blog:

Last Sunday evening: Dinner for NCI Cancer Center Directors in Gaithersburg

Monday: Meeting of the NCI cancer center directors in Shady Grove, followed by a hurried drive back to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital to participate in our thrice-yearly Lombardi “State of the Union” meeting for all of the physicians, nurses and allied health personnel.

Wednesday: Meetings with MedStar Washington Hospital Center (MWHC) physicians all morning to learn more about their clinical operations and a full slate of afternoon meetings at Georgetown.

Thursday: More morning meetings at MWHC, followed by an afternoon clinic back at Georgetown, capped off by an Immunotherapy Interest Group Meeting in the E501 conference room.

Friday: I started with a 7 am meeting at MWHC, and continued with more meetings there until noon. After a Council of Chairs meeting at 1 pm, I met with Dalal Aldeghaither, one of my graduate students, and then left for a meeting (accompanied by Donald Dunn) with Dr. Judy Salerno, president and CEO of Susan G. Komen, to discuss new areas for collaboration, particularly in the area of breast cancer related health disparities. We then walked a few blocks over to the Law Center to meet with Professor Larry Gostin and his team to discuss how expansion of medical-legal partnerships might contribute to addressing cancer-related health care disparities in the District of Columbia. Larry and I then joined our wives for a pleasant dinner unrelated to work at Et Voila, a gem of a Belgian restaurant on MacArthur Boulevard. The company was great, and so were the beer selection, the endive salad and the coq au vin. It was a lovely way to end a very long day and arduous week!

Have a wonderful week.

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May 02 2016

The Avon Walk Team Flies

by at 7:41 am

Greetings on a dreary Monday morning. A surprise birthday party for our sister-in-law spiced up our weekend on Saturday evening. Because we had to be out of town for that event we were unable to participate in this year’s Avon Walk. As of Saturday night the Lombardi/CBCC team, which swelled to over 100 walkers, had raised something like $311,000! This put the team in first place in the DC Walk by a mile, beating even the so-called “Solo Strutters” (all of the walkers not affiliated with a team). I am certain that this will place the team at or near the top of the list throughout the USA as well. What an unbelievable job by Jeanne Mandelblatt! As always, she is the team captain, heart and soul. At my first Avon Walk in 2008, the Lombardi/CBCC team consisted on 5 walkers and a few cheerers (a couple of GUMC development folks, Harriet and me) – that team raised $9,000.

The Avon Foundation has been a good partner for Lombardi over the years, and the team has certainly been a great supporter of the Foundation! Please join me in congratulating Jeanne for doing a fabulous job and in thanking all of the walkers for their hard work, blisters and devotion to ending the scourge of breast cancer.

After spending several days in NYC for a fundraising trip with Lombardi’s senior director of Development, Donald Dunn, the rest of my week flew by in a blur of meetings that included a number of discussions with colleagues at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center, at the NCI and at the Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed. Mix in exciting results in the lab, and preparations for the upcoming NCI CCSG Cancer Center directors meeting, and I was flying about from item to item. That pace won’t change any time soon, but it’s all good.

Have a great week.

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