Archive for August, 2018


Aug 27 2018

Greetings from the Gulag

by at 10:04 am

I am sitting (where else) in my recliner at the tail end of a beautiful weekend. I am now 10 days post-op and have made significant progress – less pain, and I can more easily navigate around the house. My well-healing incision is now open to air, and I am now beginning to view the next few weeks as accommodating to limited mobility in a fixed leg brace, and less to “recovering”. Either way, there is a lot of sitting around!

I have been gratified by a constant stream of messages, gifts and visits from friends, colleagues and family. It makes the time pass, and is genuinely appreciated. Nonetheless, I have been able to keep up with my work responsibilities with the help of Cheryl Dumsick and Alexus Cole, and have been kept on track regarding my CCSG obligations by Sharon Levy. We’ve had a few meetings at my home, some Google Zooms, a bunch of calls and of course the usual torrent of emails. Now that I am able to get some sleep, my energy level is pretty much back to normal. I have a pretty full schedule tomorrow, including a Google Zoom presentation at Monday’s faculty meeting where I will do a run-through of my CCSG site visit presentation.

Speaking of calls, I got a call on Monday that I will long remember. You’ll recall from last week’s blog that Yuriy Gusev and Subha Madhavan published a paper in Nature Communications 10 days ago describing the use of G-DOC and associated new analytics to yield insights into a brain tumor cohort. The data repository is now publicly available. Well, I got a call that day from Greg Simon, who organizes the Biden Cancer Initiative; I met with Greg several times previously, including when he coordinated the Cancer Moonshot at the tail end of the Obama presidency. This being Washington, Greg had worked with Donald Dunn in the Clinton White House, and is good friends with our next door neighbors.

However, I was not available (being 12 hours post-op), and Cheryl told him I would call back on Monday. So she called him for me, and asked when he might be available for a conversation. He replied that Vice President Biden wanted to speak with me. About 10 minutes later, I received a call on my cell phone (“Unknown Caller”), and there he was on the phone. We spoke for about 15 minutes. He was very excited by the topic (brain cancer) and by the decision to make the information open access. How ironic that glioblastoma claimed the lives of Beau Biden, Senator Ted Kennedy and just yesterday Senator John McCain, all truly great Americans.

We need to work together to end this scourge, and sharing data to accelerate this progress is precisely what the Vice President wants to see us all doing. After singing the praises of Subha, Yuriy and the rest of the ICBI team, I also described our interests in leveling access to quality care in DC by enhancing patient navigation in our underserved communities. This too is a priority of the Biden Initiative, and I look forward to future discussions and progress in that regard.

The Biden Initiative is organizing town halls throughout the nation in about a month, and Lombardi will be a part of this. Stay tuned!

Have a great week.

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Aug 20 2018

Greetings from Orthopedic Jail

by at 10:31 am

It is Sunday evening at home. I have been sitting in the same recliner, in nearly the same position for about three days. I underwent surgery on Thursday afternoon to repair a fractured right tibial plateau that will stabilize my right knee and permit me to resume my previous active lifestyle once I have completed my surgical recovery.

The pain has reduced to 3 (on a 1-10 scale) that requires occasional Tylenol. However, my right leg has a bulky thigh to ankle brace (think exoskeleton) that locks my leg in near full extension. Any weight bearing is prohibited for six weeks to permit full healing of the surgically repaired bone. I get around a bit in the house using a walker but am totally dependent on Harriet for virtually all activities of daily living. She warns me that Florence Nightingale might turn into Nurse Ratchet at any moment, but the truth is that neither of them can hold a candle to my wife. No jail has ever had a more wonderful warden.

I hope to be able to return to work in a couple of weeks, once the surgical pain has receded and the stiffness/swelling subside a bit more. When I get back I will need to use a wheelchair for long treks, but a walker or crutches will let me hobble around a bit in the neighborhood of my office. Clearly all of my work activities will have to take place in my office once I get back to work. So, please accept my apologies when I don’t come visit you when we need to get together. Never fear, I will be fully upright and walking with no or minimal assistance by the CCSG Site Visit on October 17 though I might not be able to cut the rug at the Gala. Speaking of the Gala, I’d like to congratulate DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association. At the gala, De will receive the Margaret L. Hodges Leadership Award recognizing his unwavering support of the cancer center. He has been a remarkable friend to us.

I have been able to get work done (I have the time!). Most importantly, we finished revisions to a paper submitted to Cancer Immunology Research, and will resubmit the manuscript in the next few days. And, I have completed virtually all of my first draft slides and script for my Director’s Overview CCSG site visit presentation. In the coming week I will have a number of work related conference calls and will have a few meetings here at our home, which is only a short drive from Lombardi. And, of course my email inbox never fails to fill up. So, I think I’ll be able to keep up with my work responsibilities. Plus it’s time to write a few research grants.

Two additional notes: Last week, Subha Madhavan, PhD, and her team published in Nature Scientific Data about REMBRANDT, a collection of brain cancer biomedical data hosted by Lombardi that has been made freely available to researchers worldwide. This important news caught the eye of Vice President Joe Biden who shared it on Twitter. “We need efforts like this to advance progress against cancer,” he tweeted to his 2.92M followers. I’d also like to congratulate the Georgetown Breast Cancer Advocates for their publication last week in Cancer Research describing the work they’ve done over the last decade at Lombardi. I’m appreciative of Ayesha Shajahan-Haq, PhD, who has been the groups steadfast scientific advisor. If you’re doing breast cancer research, I would encourage you to tap into their expertise.

Be careful on the stairs… and have a great week.

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Aug 12 2018


by at 11:34 pm

We escaped to the beach for a weeklong family vacation. Being near the ocean provided little relief from the dog days of August. It was really hot, but still so nice to get away. However, this past Thursday evening, the dog bit back. I was horsing around with our seven year old grandson Isaac and we tripped over each other and tumbled down the stairs as we were heading out to run an errand together. Isaac was unhurt, but I landed badly and knew right away that I was in trouble, with a right knee injury … I hobbled, with great difficulty, to the car, and Harriet drove me to a local urgent care, where I got a brace for my right knee. On Friday, I got right knee x-rays, which revealed no fracture. However, an MRI confirmed my fears; I had a right tibial plateau fracture. I have been fitted with a stiff brace and hope to avoid surgery, while staying off the leg entirely for six weeks or so. A CT scan this coming week will further assess the fracture to see if surgery is needed. Either way, I will be pretty immobile for the next 6-7 weeks.

I plan to work from home this coming week or two, making liberal use of Skype, Zoom and conference calls. Once the pain and swelling have subsided a bit more, and I can ambulate more effectively and safely on crutches or a walker, I’ll return, though I will confine myself to the office as much as possible to ensure I don’t interfere with healing.

My goal is to be fully ambulatory at our site visit on October 17. We are now in high gear for site visit preparations. My impaired mobility is causing interesting dilemmas. For example, we have two EAC mock site visits scheduled, and usually have welcome dinners for the EAC members at 1789 in one of their upstairs rooms. Well, that’s not happening this go-round. We’ll be looking for a restaurant without steps for sure!

Having had the good fortune to avoid physical limitations to ambulation to this point of my life, I already have a renewed appreciation for the challenges faced by folks with physical disabilities. Each curb is a fence, every stairway is Mount Everest. Sitting down with a rigid, painful right leg requires careful study and high drama. Of course, I will acclimate and adapt, just like we all do, and I will take solace in knowing that this is a temporary inconvenience. People who face prolonged or lifetime disabilities deserve our support and a physical environment that allows them to fully participate in our society. The Americans with Disabilities Act was necessary; I certainly hope it continues to be enforced and strengthened.

Have a good week, and remember to watch your step!

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