Archive for April, 2018


Apr 30 2018

Politics and Cancer

by at 9:51 am

(April 29, 2018) – Greetings on Sunday afternoon. I leave for the airport shortly on a short trip to Minneapolis and then to Boston. I am a member of the University of Minnesota cancer center’s EAB and will be participating in their mock CCSG site visit. It’s good to get a few pointers as we finalize our own CCSG submission (which is rounding into its final form).

The early part of the week was dominated by “onco-politics”. I started on Sunday evening with the annual NCI cancer center directors’ dinner. Unlike the White House Correspondent’s event that occurred on Saturday night we had no hired comedians, though the discussions were, in their own ways, equally political. Monday was spent at the actual NCI cancer center directors’ meeting in Shady Grove. I described the work of the NCI Clinical Trial Advisory Committee’s deliberations regarding the Clinical Trials Reporting System now required of all NCI-designated cancer centers, and heard some wonderful presentations regarding precision oncology. I believe Ned Sharpless, the new NCI director is off and running in the right direction. The onco-politics continued on Tuesday, as I joined a number of other NCI cancer center directors and their representatives on Capitol Hill to advocate for a continued congressional emphasis on cancer research as part of the AACR/AACI Hill Day event. I could only spend the morning there, but had important and useful meetings with the health policy directors for Representative Pelosi and Senator McConnell. I then hurried back to Capitol Hill at the end of the day for Georgetown University’s annual Capitol Hill reception, made particularly bittersweet as our person on the Hill, Scott Fleming, is retiring at the end of June. This was his last event there, and I must say that the line up of congressional luminaries who came to pay tribute to Scott was quite remarkable.

The rest of the week certainly was busy. I particularly enjoyed Friday afternoon’s Program Leaders meeting, where Kristi Graves coordinated three presentations of work being supported by our CCSG developmental funds in the area of cancer survivorship. This is an important initiative and Kristi is doing a great job.

I am bringing a bunch of work with me to help the travel pass by quickly, and look forward to getting back to work on Wednesday.

Have a great week.

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Apr 23 2018

Science and Fundraising

by at 1:59 pm

(April 22, 2018) – Finally, a somewhat relaxing weekend! While I still had to review and edit a few CCSG sections, we found time on Friday to have dinner in Bethesda with Ken, Sarah and our grandchildren. Saturday evening was spent celebrating the wedding of Howard Federoff’s daughter Allie here in DC. It was a lovely event, and it was very nice to see Howard and Wendy enjoying such a sweet life event. Sunday evening will be spent at dinner with Ned Sharpless, the NCI Director and other Cancer Center directors in town for our annual meeting. While not a weekend without activity, it has been a vacation in comparison with the preceding week.

After speaking at the John Carroll weekend in Seattle last Friday and Saturday, I flew to Chicago for the AACR meeting, arriving Saturday night. Sunday was a whirlwind, starting with a 6:30 am breakfast with Ethan Dmitrovsky, the new Director of the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research. I then hopped over to conduct a press conference for AACR focused on high-impact clinical trials, and then had a few meetings before chairing a clinical trial plenary session. After two more meetings, I headed out to the airport, and finally got home at about 10 pm, only to turn around for a 7:00 am train up to Newark, NJ for a meeting. I got home late Monday night, and was ready for a good night’s sleep. I caught up on CCSG work on Tuesday, but took time to attend a welcome reception for Georgetown University’s new COO, Geoff Chatas. It was good to meet him, and I look forward to our future interactions.

The rest of the week was quite busy, highlighted by two important fundraising events. Wednesday’s annual Women and Wine event in Tyson’s Corner was another smashing success, breaking all prior fundraising efforts. I want to thank Barbara McDuffie and Janet Davis for their inspired and tireless leadership. On Thursday, I attended a reception of the Young Friends of Lombardi at the NFL Players Association Headquarters and was deeply impressed by the large turnout and energy in the room; the next generation of Lombardi supporters is in very good shape!

I’m off to the NCI dinner, and will be up at Shady Grove for Monday’s meeting.

Have a great week.

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Apr 09 2018


by at 10:24 am

(April 8, 2018) — Ah, Springtime. The cherry blossoms are out, frozen. The baseball season has started, with players dressed for arctic chill. And we celebrated our granddaughter’s birthday with a party at a farm that serves as a party place for children in Ellicott City on Sunday, spending two-plus hours alternately chasing children and stamping our feet so we could feel our toes. I then dropped off Harriet in Baltimore, where she is spending a few days with Isaac and Aviva, watching them while their parents are on a brief overseas trip.

It would not be Spring (seemingly) without that special thrill that comes with finalizing our CCSG renewal (now due in about 6 weeks). We have gotten most of our near-final drafts back from the editors and from our External Advisory Committee members who have provided us with incisive, insightful and very helpful critiques.

Now it is time to apply that last coat of varnish on the application and to pull together the seemingly millions of little but important details that must be addressed prior to submitting the proposal. I just hope the term, “play ball” is not ruined forever for me by its seeming conflation with countless hours on my laptop, editing, writing and fretting. One way or another, though, it is all good, it is important and I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to celebrate and present the wonderful work done by everyone connected with this cancer center.

Have a good week, and stay warm. I hear that it may warm up later in the week; I’ll believe it when I feel it.

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Apr 02 2018

Holiday weekend

by at 10:15 am

(April 1, 2018) — Hello on a warm (based on recent weather) Sunday evening. My week was utterly dominated by CCSG preparations (with no end seemingly in sight!). I just polished off my Director’s Overview and Six Essential Characteristics, and it is now going out for editing and review. Other components are in varying stages of (near) finality. In case I forget at some point in the future, I want to especially call out the heroic efforts of Sharon Levy to pull together this beast of an application. We are lucky to have her on the team!

Last week was highlighted by Tuesday afternoon’s Ph.D. thesis defense by Dalal Aldeghaither, who has been in the T. Bio program for six years, most of it in my laboratory. She presented an astonishing amount of information, which has really advanced the understanding of mechanisms of resistance to antibody-dependent cell mediated cytotoxicity, and has identified a potentially important new mechanism. In her system, the ADCC-resistant cells seem to lose the cell surface expression of many important molecules, reducing the conjugation of antibody-guided natural killer cells to the tumor cells. Even though many investigators have focused on the erection of defenses such as immune checkpoints, our studies suggest that tumor cells indeed can hide in plain sight to protect themselves from immune attack. Congratulations, Dalal, on a job well done!

Harriet and I hosted our kids and their families on Friday night for the traditional Passover Seder. It was so memorable, especially as Isaac, our seven-year-old grandson, participated in the reading of the Haggadah (the story of Moses and the Exodus). He read the English text with the fluency of a skilled adult reader. His cousin Ella, only four, learned a few of the traditional chants as well. It was a magical moment for all of us, until Isaac’s little sister Aviva dropped flourless chocolate cake on the carpet. Ella’s little brother Eli ground it in with his heel, and the rest of us then tried to figure out (successfully!) how to get out the stain. Isabelle will simply have to wait her turn. It’s all part of the magic!

We then drove up to Philadelphia to celebrate the second seder with the rest of the family, and had an equally wonderful time, as Eli and his second cousin Brandon discovered their complementary manias for toy trucks and trains, pushing them around the living room for hours. It was chaotic, in the very best possible way. We drove back to DC on Sunday, with the burden of the trip lightened considerably by the joys of celebrating holidays with family.

I hope you too had a chance to spend time with those you love on Easter or Passover. I also hope the warm afterglow will sustain you as you get back to work. I know it will for me.

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