Archive for October, 2016


Oct 31 2016

Celebrating Lombardi

by at 9:59 am

I am still recovering from Saturday night’s 30th Lombardi Gala. And what an event it was! I hardly know where to begin. We got to the Washington Hilton at 5:30 to run through logistics and familiarize ourselves with the venue set up, expertly guided by Donald Dunn and his wonderful team of advancement colleagues and volunteers. They were simply superb.

There was an early reception for our big gala supporters, with innumerable photographs, including one taken of Paul Tagliabue, me and Jack the Bulldog. Needless to say, the dog was the star of the show! Check out the photo.


I had a chance to meet and chat with Charles Mann, a beloved Redskin who retired in 1995 and looks like he could suit up today. Then, in walked Chris Berman, Suzy Kolber and Merril Hoge from ESPN, who were here to surprise their colleague, Chris Mortensen, winner of the NFL Players Association Georgetown Lombardi Award. I have watched them all for years (as ESPN is essentially the background music of our home), so it was a treat to meet them. It also was wonderful to see old friend John Potter, the founding director of Lombardi, along with his wife Tanya.

The silent auction was fabulous. We bid on a lot of items but were consistently outbid on most of them. I took that as a good sign. In the middle of the bidding and speaking with as many guests as possible, I was pulled over to do a Facebook Live interview, and also had a chance to have my photo taken holding the Super Bowl trophy that usually is on display in the Lombardi atrium. It was all great fun.

But it was nothing compared with the dinner. Due to the wonderful engagement of Paul Tagliabue, the event was emceed by David Hill, former senior executive vice president of 21st Century Fox and producer of the 2016 Academy Awards broadcast. Needless to say, he is a real pro. Gala co-chairs Brian Katz, Jill Kirkpatrick and Paul Schweitzer, all of whom have been valiant and longtime supporters made a brief presentation.

The program was light on speeches but long on truly inspiring and powerful videos that underscore who we are, who we serve, why what we do is important and how we make a difference. I could not have been prouder to be a part of this wonderful enterprise. Check out the videos here: [].

Chris Mortensen was introduced by longtime Lombardi hero DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association. We also honored Bonnie Roberts, the longtime heart and soul of our gala, with the Margaret L. Hodges Leadership Award, named after the founder of the gala. I had the privilege of presenting the inaugural Georgetown Lombardi Rising Star Research Award to our own Chunling Yi. There was so much to celebrate. The program ran long, but nobody seemed to mind too much.

Then the live auction and funds appeal started, led by a world class auctioneer. We raised $105,000 from these activities, nearly matched by a generous $100,000 donation. This amount supplements monies raised from corporate donations, table sponsorships, the silent auction proceeds and the raffling off of a new Lexus NX200t. Boy, I wanted that car, but the raffle was won by a young man who is a Georgetown undergraduate and a patient at Lombardi. How great is that? I heard so many moving testaments from Lombardi patients about how doctors like Jeff Toretsky and Bob Warren had made all the difference in their lives.

As if that was not enough, the evening was capped off by an introduction of my table guests Stanley and Linda Sher, to announce that they were making a gift of $1 million to support immunotherapy research at Lombardi. Mr. Sher is a patient of Mike Atkins, and his advanced melanoma has been effectively treated by modern immunotherapy. He is living proof that we make a difference, and he knows it. It was a moving and fitting end to an extraordinary evening.

It was hard to not feel the excitement and palpable sense that Lombardi is on the move. By the end of the evening, everybody was saying the same thing about Lombardi. Ending cancer begins here.

Have a wonderful week.

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Oct 24 2016

Celebrating Excellence

by at 9:05 am

Greetings on a beautiful and competitively satisfying autumn Sunday afternoon. The Eagles handily beat the (previously thought to be) mighty Minnesota Vikings, though it was a sloppy game.

On a less frivolous note I am more or less recovered from a brief overseas trip. In the course of my travels I missed a wonderful event, the Fall Convocation, where our colleague Anton Wellstein was honored for his distinguished scholarship and teaching by the University – one of only three faculty members so honored. I can think of nobody who is more deserving of recognition. Anton’s scientific virtuosity is somehow exceeded by his generosity of time and spirit. In many ways he is the animating scientific inspiration of the Department of Oncology. His official and unofficial mentorship of students and faculty is legendary. Congratulations, Anton, for your work to shape and help Lombardi be its best self. More details are available at this link:

I write this blog as I prepare to head off to Chicago for a brief trip to attend the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Institutes. I’ll be back on Tuesday for an all-day meeting with colleagues from other NCI-designated cancer centers to discuss how we might contribute to the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research. The coming week will be further dominated by preparations for the Lombardi Gala on Saturday night, and by the Georgetown University Executive Committee Retreat on Thursday afternoon and Friday. Of course, there is a lot going on beyond that, too!

Have a great week.

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Oct 17 2016

Gifts of Life

by at 12:25 pm

I can’t say that I am happy. I just finished watching Washington defeat the Eagles, 27-20. They exposed every major weakness (and there are many) of the Eagles. The Eagles have a quarterback for their future, but he is surrounded by a fair amount of mediocrity. Kudos to Washington – the better team won today. And, there are things more important than the outcome of a football game.

The week was abbreviated by the Columbus Day holiday, followed the next evening by the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. The Dana Milbank column in the Sunday Washington Post provided a nice overview of the holiday. For me, other than its comfortable repetition of a lifelong habit, Yom Kippur forces me to directly confront the certainty of my mortality, and to consider how my actions in life measure up against the highest standards of morality, decency and betterment of the human condition. So, in the end, this contemplation of mortality is really about the gift of life, and how we use it.

Did I mention that Yom Kippur is a day of fasting? Those of you who know me will surely appreciate that this is not my preferred cuisine option. But I soldiered through the day and was pleased that Harriet and I had a chance to “break the fast” at the home of friends after services concluded at 6:30 pm on Wednesday.

My Thursday clinic was highlighted by the visit of a patient who had presented with a difficult to characterize metastatic cancer for a second opinion. In the past I would have had to make a guess and recommend some generic form of chemotherapy. But this time, I had ordered a Caris molecular profile on the patient’s archival tumor specimen, which showed that the tumor cells were hyper-mutated and expressed abundant levels of the PD-L1 immune checkpoint. Armed with this information we made arrangements for her to be treated with the anti-PD1 antibody nivolumab, which has a chance to help her. I can’t say we gave this patient the gift of life, but at the very least we were able to offer hope. I feel fortunate to practice oncology in an era when I can do that.

How fitting it was then, when on Friday morning, I attended the annual Capital Breast Care Center (CBCC) Gift of Life Breakfast at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center. This event celebrates the impact of the CBCC on the lives of underserved women who need the CBCC as a resource so they can obtain potentially life-saving mammograms. Our keynote speaker was our old friend Vanessa Sheppard, who recently took on a leadership role at Virginia Commonwealth University. Poor Vanessa spoke with one leg propped on a support as she recovers from a broken ankle. But it was good to see her and hear her inspiring words about the importance of CBCC and its impact on the community it serves.

At least her words could be heard. I had developed an upper respiratory infection earlier in the week, and was basically unable to speak by Friday morning. Jack DeGioia, who had planned to attend the breakfast as an important sign of support from the Georgetown University community, stepped up to deliver my comments as I looked on with gratitude, sitting next to Mike Sachtleben, President of MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. What the CBCC does is important, and it matters. We are lucky to have great people like Lucile Adams-Campbell, Tesha Coleman and their team making a difference, every day.

I am feeling better, thankfully, and look forward to a very busy week, punctuated by a brief trip, grateful as ever for the gifts of life.

p.s. Be sure to check out this coming Tuesday, Georgetown Women in Medicine visiting lecturer’s presentation [Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, Professor at the University of Michigan, W. Proctor Harvey Clinical Teaching Amphitheater, Med-Dent Building, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.].

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Oct 11 2016

Event Season

by at 10:07 am

I am in the midst of a very busy “event season” at Georgetown. After having family in for Rosh Hashanah last Sunday and Monday, I recovered a bit on Tuesday. Wednesday afternoon was dominated by the Georgetown University Board of Directors meeting of the Committee on Medical Center Affairs. After that ended, I had a few hours to catch up on other work and then headed off for the dedication of Arrupe Hall and then the board of directors’ dinner at Riggs Library. The focus of the after dinner conversation was on Georgetown’s Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation. We heard about powerful and important work.

The next morning was dominated by the full board of directors meeting. I then caught up on some other work for an hour and hopped into the car and drove up to Franklin Square Hospital, which is located near White Marsh, just in the north end of Baltimore. I presented the vision of a MedStar cancer network driven by Georgetown Lombardi to its hospital board of directors, and after taking an hour or so to check emails, I drove into Baltimore to have dinner with Sam Moskowitz (President of MedStar Franklin Square Hospital), Albert Aboulafia (the cancer center director at Franklin Square) and Linda Rogers (administrator of the MedStar cancer service line in the Baltimore region.) I got home at about 10:30 that night.

Friday morning started with a drive to MedStar Washington Hospital Center for a couple of meetings, including one with a new surgical oncologist, Jenny Hong, who trained in Steve Rosenberg’s lab at the NCI Surgery Branch and is very interested in research. I got back in time to have a busy Friday afternoon clinic, followed by a meeting with Ed Healton and others to discuss potential collaborative opportunities with NCI.

Ordinarily, that would have been the end of the week, but there was to be no rest for the weary. I attended a reception in honor of the successful Georgetown University “For Generations to Come” Campaign on Saturday afternoon at the home of Provost Bob Groves (allowing me to push away from the computer as I scurried to catch up on work I had to set aside in the rush of events). After returning home I changed into my tuxedo so Harriet and I could attend a Gala celebrating the close of the campaign. We rested on Sunday by driving up to Baltimore to visit our kids and to watch the Eagles lose to the Lions by one point, punctuated by the indignity of being caught in a traffic jam as happy Washington fans exited the stadium in Baltimore following their win over the Ravens.

At least Monday was fairly quiet. Speaking of events, I was checking emails this afternoon and saw previews of several videos that will be shown at the Lombardi Gala on October 29. They are truly inspiring, and make me proud to be part of this wonderful enterprise that means so much to so many people. An equally inspiring event I look forward to each year is the Capital Breast Care Center’s annual Gift of Life breakfast, which is this Friday. The work our dedicated colleagues perform at this center is life saving and of critical importance to so many who are underserved in our community.

Have a great week.

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Oct 03 2016


by at 11:09 am

I hope the Redskins fans among you are feeling better this Sunday evening!

I didn’t get to spend much time watching the game because we had our family in town to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Tonight we rang in year 5777 – imagine that – an unbroken chain of faith and family that has survived through the millenia. It is especially sweet to celebrate this treasured tradition with my dad and his great granddaughter Ella, whose name honors my late mother. Four generations, a little wine, lots of love and laughter, and some favorite family dishes will warm our memories as we pass the torch to those who will follow.. Who could ask for more?

The week flew by in a whirl, since I was in Geneva, Switzerland for some meetings regarding a collaboration to study a bispecific antibody targeting CD47 and mesothelin. Our lab has an increasing interest in this immune “checkpoint” because it seems to regulate the induction of host-protective T cell immunity as the macrophage “don’t eat me” signal, as described by Irv Weissman at Stanford, along with others. But, although there were no particular difficulties it was not an easy trip. After a night flight to Geneva on Sunday, I was able to rest a bit on Monday before a dinner meeting, followed by a very full day of meetings on Tuesday. Then it was back to the airport on Wednesday morning. I landed at Dulles at 3 pm, and got home just in time to shower and get ready to attend a Lombardi Gala Reception in the newly refurbished Lombardi Clinic lobby. It was a wonderful event. The lobby is simply great, and will be a welcoming entry point for our patients as well as a lovely site for receptions.

The coming week will be filled with lots of meetings and events. I’ll spare you the preview, but will have lots to write about next week!

Have a great week.

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