Archive for May, 2018


May 21 2018

A Cautious Sigh of Relief

by at 11:15 am

(May 20, 2018) — It’s basically done. I just finished reviewing the entire PDF version of the CCSG (currently at 1299 pages, but with a another few hundred to be added as some of our data tables get uploaded). We have accomplished so much over the past five years and are in good shape as we head into our next five years. One never knows how a CCSG review process will turn out, but all we can do is our best. I can say without hesitation that we have indeed done so. The grant must be fully uploaded by close of business this Friday, and I am certain we will have the usual collection of last minute “crises” to address this coming week.

So many people have contributed to the proposal, and I am grateful to all of them, both here and up at John Theurer Cancer Center in Hackensack. But once again, I want to single out Sharon Levy for special thanks. More than anyone, she has organized this massive effort and has spent an enormous amount of time to ensure that every number matches up, and that everything we have written stands up to cross-referencing scrutiny. Thank you, Sharon; I know I can speak for everyone associated with the CCSG in offering my appreciation for your hard work and immense dedication.

I have gotten through the bulk of my opening presentation for the October 17 site visit, and look forward to receiving extensive feedback from many of you as we approach that date. My next task is to finalize a draft of our Strategic Plan. As I described in last week’s blog, the fun just never stops!

I am going to take off during the Memorial Day long holiday weekend, and so I plan to skip next week’s blog. In the meantime, enjoy the warming weather and have a good two weeks!

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May 14 2018

The work continues, and that’s OK

by at 11:21 am

(May, 13 2018) — Greetings on an overcast, rainy Mothers Day morning. For me, the sun is shining because I just reviewed and edited the last section of the CCSG. I will have a bit of wordsmithing to do over the next week as each section is uploaded into the NCI grants site, but the weight on my shoulders is just a bit lighter this morning. We certainly will have the grant submitted in plenty of time, and after I take off the afternoon to celebrate Mothers Day with Harriet and the rest of our family, it will be time to move on to the next set of tasks we need to address.

Our CCSG site visit will be on October 17. We have two mock site visits with EAB members and selected external reviewers scheduled on September 12 and September 26. We also will have a dress rehearsal about a week before October 17. I will spend the next month or so working on my parts of the slide decks, and of course we will begin to sketch out each presentation in June. The site visit is a bit like organizing a Broadway show, in that it must have perfect performances carried out without a glitch. Like a show, it must be great in order to succeed. Unlike most great shows, it is slated for only one performance. Such is our lot in life. There are a thousand critically important details that must be addressed, so we can expect a very busy next few months!

We have done a lot of Strategic Planning over the past few years, and over the next month or so, I will put the finishing touches on the LCCC Strategic Plan that will be available for reviewers to peruse at our site visit.

I now have at least two additional grants to prepare. One of them is a competitive renewal of my R01. The other is a pancreatic cancer SPORE that we have been talking about for a long time. I’d like to get this in as soon as possible after the site visit.

Needless to say, I will continue to attend to the cancer center, the department of oncology and the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute. Plus, I will take some time off for a one-week family vacation in August and have already set aside time after the site visit for a 10-day break (away from DC and from internet access, if I have my way) with Harriet.

I am a busy guy, but I would not have it any other way. Lombardi gives me so many exciting and impactful ways to make a difference in this world that extend beyond clinical care, research and cancer center leadership. For example, I spent a few hours on Wednesday on Capitol Hill, advocating for the need to increase national accrual to cancer clinical trials as the surest way to make a big impact on cancer mortality and skyrocketing cancer care costs. I was able to share my strong convictions that we must find ways to overcome barriers to clinical trial participation amongst medically underserved populations, to ensure that all Americans have access to lifesaving new treatments. Working in DC provides us with a platform to more effectively be a voice in important national dialogues such as this one. I am grateful and humbled to have such opportunities.

Happy Mothers Day, and I hope everyone has a great week.

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May 07 2018

In the Homestretch with Nothing to Hide!

by at 12:06 pm

(May 6, 2018) — It’s almost done! I finished up the CCSG section on Leadership, Planning and Evaluation on Saturday, and will be working with Lucile Adams-Campbell and others to finish up the Community Outreach and Engagement section this week. Other than that, it’s all about formatting, number-checking, letters of support and uploading each of the grant’s many sections for submission. So many people have contributed to getting the CCSG to its current state, but I want to give a special shout-out to Sharon Levy, who has done a masterful job of organizing this massive effort. I am deeply appreciative of all she is doing. Thanks, Sharon!

In other CCSG-related news, I spent Sunday and Monday in Minneapolis, helping the University of Minnesota with its mock site visit. The experience was invaluable as I heard the feedback from other experienced CCSG reviewers regarding what should and should not be included. Chief among their recommendations was a need for absolute transparency, even when that exposes flaws. This won’t be a problem for the folks at Minnesota, and I am determined to be sure the same is true for us. It’s always tempting to not bring up one’s flaws, but in the course of a CCSG review, such evasive tactics are simply invitations for reviewers to dig for the truth. And, once they start digging, they just keep going and going, and it rarely ends well. Transparency is probably a good approach for all of us, all of the time, in our communities, our workplace, or even in politics.

I then flew directly to Boston, where I gave a talk at a major antibody conference, focusing on the doctoral thesis work of Dalal Aldeghaither, who has identified a novel mechanism of tumor cell resistance to immune attack, where multiple cell surface molecules are lost from the resistant target cells’ surfaces. Akin to the way turtles hide inside their shells to avoid attack, we have taken to calling this process testudinidosis (turtles are part of the genus testudiniae). The talk was well received, and the paper is currently under review.

The rest of the week was filled with meetings and various CCSG activities, with final punctuation on Saturday morning when I met Jeannie Mandelblatt’s Walking Warriors as they assembled before their walk to benefit the Lombardi Breast Cancer Program and the CBCC. As of Saturday, they had raised $44,000 of their $50,000 goal, with a matching gift from Lombardi’s Women and Wine event in hand. Even though the Avon Foundation has ended its long-time support for breast cancer (no more walks, sad to note), breast cancer has not ended, and the Walking Warriors, comprised of a number of Avon Walk veterans, have persisted in their commitment to end breast cancer. I am in awe of their dedication and of their fearless leader, Jeannie, whose single-minded determination to make a personal effort that extends beyond her own spectacular research is rightfully an inspiration to all of us. Thank you, Jeannie.

Justify may have won the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, but we are in the homestretch too, with nothing to hide and many, many reasons to be proud of what we have accomplished and of the great things ahead of us in our battle to end cancer.

Have a great week.

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