Archive for November, 2016


Nov 21 2016

Preparing for Turkey Coma

by at 12:12 pm

I write this blog on Sunday night, composing (in my head) the obituary of another Eagles’ lost season. After getting clobbered by Seattle they stand at 5-5, and are winless in their division. There is no sensible path to the playoffs. My only solace; there’s always next century – next year would be asking too much. Oh well.

The past week was filled with much work but relatively little high drama. I had to attend two meetings of the NCI Board of Scientific Counselors, along with a meeting at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and a dinner meeting to discuss the MedStar Georgetown cancer network with MedStar senior leadership. I also gave a fundraising talk to folks at a local brokerage office.

Research was not neglected in the swarm of meetings and appearances. We are getting some very interesting results in my lab. For example, Dalal AdDeghaither has begun to hone in on a mechanism underlying tumor cell resistance to antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity. I have been studying ADCC for virtually my entire career, so it is very gratifying to make this progress.

Moreover, we have had two combined Lombardi Executive Committee: Program Leaders joint meetings to begin framing out our presentations for next month’s External Advisory Committee meeting. After we get feedback from the EAC we will begin working on initial drafts of the key sections of our CCSG competitive renewal, which is due on May 19, 2018. How time flies!

Finally, there will be no blog next week. Harriet and I will be heading up to Philadelphia on Wednesday for a big Thanksgiving weekend celebration at my father’s house.

Have a great holiday!

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Nov 14 2016


by at 9:56 am

Where to start? The election of a new President is always notable, especially here in Washington, DC. The stunning events of this past Tuesday left me numb, along with many others. Virtually nobody expected the outcome, irrespective of their political leanings, and the result has engendered so much uncertainty in our nation’s political, social and scientific domains.

On Wednesday I headed up to NCI to chair a meeting of the Clinical Trials Advisory Committee’s subcommittee on informatics. Many people, both intramural and extramural, expressed concern about the commitment of the new Administration to support NCI and NIH funding. So, it was a bit of relief to learn that the 21st Century Cures Bill is still on track with bipartisan support. Hopefully, it won’t be derailed. I then left the meeting to drive to Union Station and catch a train to give a brief but important talk at the Hackensack Meridian board of trustees meeting to introduce new members of the old Meridian Health system to the cancer center consortium planning we have been doing with Hackensack. We received good news about a new leadership recruit for the CPC program’s efforts based in Hackensack, so we continue to make strong progress. I somehow caught the 7:00 pm train back to DC and was back home by 10:30 that night.

Thursday was highlighted by a great seminar by Judith Campisi on cancer and aging, followed by a light clinic. I then headed over to the Cosmos Club to host a dinner meeting with MedStar Health cancer-focused surgeons, exploring ways to improve research interactions and transdisciplinary collaboration. I am grateful to Waddah Al-Refaie and Tom Watson for doing a lot of the work to bring everybody together. We came up with some useful ideas, including some targeted pilot fund RFAs. I was home by around 10 pm, then arose early on Friday for a series of meetings at MedStar Washington Hospital Center that started at 7 AM. I hustled back to Georgetown in time to attend Anna Riegel’s outstanding Grand Rounds lecture and then had a series of meetings, including an Experimental Therapeutics Program meeting, that took me until about 5 pm.

On my way home Harriet called, deeply shaken by the sight of demonstrators from the Westboro Baptist Church at Washington Hebrew Congregation on Massachusetts Ave NW, spouting their hateful trope. Even though it is something of a badge of honor to be in their sights, this assault on decency, which was accompanied over the weekend by anti-Semitic acts such as swastikas and other hateful statements placed on signs in our neighborhood, is deeply troubling. For those of you who wonder how this should be addressed, let me quote Elie Wiesel: “Never again.” I won’t tell you what my late mother, a survivor of the Holocaust, would have said. We went to our own synagogue that night for a powerful and values-affirming service, and it felt right.

I took it easy on Saturday, and recharged my batteries a bit. Saturday Night Live was especially poignant and powerful because of the extraordinary performance of Kate McKinnon, playing the role of Hillary Clinton, singing excerpts of the late, great Leonard Cohen’s anthem, ‘Hallelujah’ to open the show. We know Kate, and have been thrilled to witness her evolution from comic to a major voice of her generation.

Sunday was a fabulous antidote to all the drama, as we celebrated Harriet’s birthday with our kids, grandchildren and a couple of dear friends in Baltimore. We had a lovely meal at a restaurant called Gertrude’s located in the wonderful Baltimore Museum of Art. We definitely will come back to both the restaurant and the museum. And, did I mention that the Eagles won? All in all, it was a restorative and life-affirming weekend that put the events of a hectic and somewhat bruising week into its proper perspective.

I look forward to getting a bit more sleep this coming week, and hope the week is productive and perhaps a bit less dramatic.

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Nov 07 2016

Beautiful Busy Autumn

by at 12:00 pm

My beautiful autumn weekend was partly ruined by watching the Eagles lose yet again, in excruciating fashion, this time to the New York Giants. We were in Philly for the first time in a few months, to visit family and friends over the weekend, and I watched the game with my old next door neighbor. But I am gradually achieving peace with another lost season. Since Pennsylvania is a so-called battleground state, I was stunned by the volume, intensity and vitriol of national and local campaign TV ads. I cannot wait for this campaign to end. I will bet I am not alone in having this opinion.

The week that preceded our visit to Philadelphia was crazy busy. I had a few work related dinners, one of which was to plan the annual Men’s Event this coming June. On Wednesday I was up at NCI for the Clinical Trials Advisory Committee (CTAC); I have to go back this coming Wednesday to lead a CTAC subcommittee focused on the best ways to further develop the Clinical Trials Reporting System that all NCI-designated cancer centers must use to report their activities to the NCI.

On Friday I attended the first ever Chairs Retreat, bringing together the GUMC and MGUH chairs to consider ways to develop deeper and durable interactions between the research and clinical enterprises. Organized by Ed Healton, this retreat also served as evidence for the deepening ties between Georgetown University and MedStar Health. This activity was important and interesting, and it was fun to spend time with colleagues.

I am going to be in New Brunswick, NJ on Monday to participate in the annual Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey External Advisory Board meeting. The rest of the coming week also will be very busy, with the CTAC subcommittee meeting, along with a first-ever get-together of cancer-focused surgeons in the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Network to discuss opportunities to be more fully engaged in Lombardi-based research. This is a powerful example of why we can do more and better work as a cancer center as the center of an expanded clinical network.

Have a great week. And please remember to vote!!!

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