Archive for January, 2019


Jan 27 2019

Proud of Our Growth

by at 7:52 pm

Greetings on a quiet Sunday afternoon. We spent Saturday in Baltimore visiting Elana, Ben and our grandchildren Isaac and Aviva. We had a bit of a late start because I got home very late on Friday night after a long meeting up at John Theurer Cancer Center (JTCC) in Hackensack. That meeting was preceded by a Site Visit of Lombardi’s STAR program focused on tobacco cessation amongst Lombardi’s patients at MGUH and MWHC. Kudos to Kate Taylor and her team for making excellent progress in meeting the goals of this NCI-supported effort.

The JTCC research strategy meeting was small but very productive. We talked about how to leverage our consortium’s strengths through recruitments and focused on big ideas that can animate our cancer center moving forward.

In a very real way our cancer center has undergone a metamorphosis. We started out solely as a component of Georgetown University, and that linkage continues undiminished. MedStar Health became our clinical partner in 2000, and with our most recent CCSG review that linkage is clearly stronger than ever. JTCC our new consortium partner, adds new basic, population, translational and clinical research strengths to Lombardi, So, it is important for all of us to broaden our mindset to include all the components of Lombardi; all three are necessary for us to succeed. “We” are “them”, and “they” are “us”. It is exciting, and there are remarkable opportunities to expand the quality and impact of Lombardi’s important work.

Meanwhile, my research has continued. We just published a paper on testudinidosis as a mechanism of resistance to immune attack in Cancer Immunology Research (Dalal Aldeghaither is first author, and you’ll have to look up the paper to learn all about it!), and we learned just this past Friday that another TBio student, Reham Ajina, had a paper in Oncoimmunology accepted. This paper shows that CRISPR-Cas9 constructs are highly immunogenic in murine tumor models, complicating the analysis of anti-tumor effects in such experiments. This is an important cautionary tale, and I am so pleased for Reham. And the best is yet to come! Congratulations to both Dalal and Reham on their accomplishments.

Next week promises to be busy, highlighted by an all-day retreat of the University Executive Committee at Georgetown Downtown. I hope you have a good week.

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Jan 22 2019

MLK Day Edition

by at 12:09 pm

I spent the past week at the annual breast cancer think tank, held this year in Mexico. It was a grueling, but incredibly exciting and productive meeting. Six hours of lectures each day were sprinkled with some wonderful opportunities to see local treasures such as Chichen Itza, an ancient capital of the Mayan people. I played my first round of golf since my knee injury without hurting or embarrassing myself, although any ball out of bounds was gone forever due to nearby crocodiles and boa constrictors. Speaking of crocodiles, I am currently haunted by a video taken by one of our party, showing a crocodile cruising down a creek, dragging the lifeless body of a blue heron behind it, with the bird’s head firmly clamped inside the croc’s mouth. Choose your metaphor. As you continue to read, you’ll see that I have chosen mine.

We got back on Saturday evening, and I spent Sunday and Monday polishing my R01 renewal based on initial feedback from my colleagues. Then, we had the privilege of attending Georgetown’s annual MLK Day celebration at the Kennedy Center. The John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream awardee, Hawah Kasat, is an inspiring man who has done wonderful things for children in our region through One Common Unity. Then, the show began, starring Broadway headliners Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald. These superstars delivered powerful, emotional performances aligned with the themes of the MLK remembrance. The set was closed by their astonishing performance of “On the Wheels of the Dream”, from the musical “Ragtime”, which they starred in 21 years ago. It was a sublime evening, especially for someone who loves Broadway and the great American Songbook as much as me. The messages of fairness and equal opportunity that are at the core of the American Dream and Dr. King’s vision were never more powerfully and eloquently voiced. That vision has already begun to eat away at my crocodile memories, because, as Ms. McDonald noted, you can’t push away darkness with more darkness, only with light.

This past week, we welcomed Sarah Surgenor, GUMC director of communications, who is designated as our Lombardi communications lead. She will work with Kat Zambon, who has devoted considerable time and energy to Lombardi, and with Seren Snow in getting the word out about the great work we do. Please join me in welcoming Sarah! She can be reached at

Have a good week, and don’t forget to dream that dream.

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Jan 14 2019

Ah Well…

by at 2:16 pm

The Eagles’ season ended with a heartbreaking loss to the Saints but they showed a lot of character. I am optimistic about their future. We’ll get ‘em next year!

I have just finished a complete first draft of my R01 competitive renewal and am sending it out for internal review, which no doubt will improve the final product.

Enjoy digging out of the snow. I am going to be at this year’s Think Tank, an annual breast cancer meeting hosted by Marc Lippman, held in Mexico this year. It is a terrific meeting that includes six hours of talks every day. I look forward to getting additional feedback on the science I present at the meeting as it forms the basis of the R01.

I will be back next Monday. Have a great week and try to stay warm and dry!

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Jan 07 2019

New Years Resolutions (Scientific Edition)

by at 11:09 am

Happy New Year!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and had time to kick back a bit and enjoy family and friends. We enjoyed ourselves immensely, visiting Philadelphia to celebrate my dad’s 92nd birthday and catching up with friends in Baltimore and DC. I also got some good work in on the competitive renewal of my R01 grant. I had found it challenging to really sit down and productively work on that grant while I was working through the CCSG and the recovery from my leg fracture (though I certainly tried!). It’s hard to do good science when one is powerfully distracted. It was actually exhilarating to work on the grant and tap into my scientific imagination. The renewal is due in March, but it feels good to have a first draft done, being reviewed by lab members and collaborators. I look forward to sending a “finished product” around to colleagues at Lombardi for their review and comments in the next few weeks. I am always amazed at how valuable such feedback can be; in the current era, with grant funding being so competitive, I need all the help I can get!

We all need that help. One of my priorities as we head into the next funding cycle of our CCSG is to further develop the mock study section concept and socialize it throughout the cancer center. Many of you are familiar with the available tools. Our CPC program has long used mock study sections and Idea Labs (to vet concepts) to support grant applications with lots of success. Priscilla Furth has organized mock study sections to support grant applications of anybody who desires that help; I have participated on some of these reviews and can attest to their value and effectiveness. In order to respond to the CCSG’s Summary Statement noting a need to increase our NCI funding base, we’ll need to improve our success rate in obtaining such funding, while also bringing in talented new investigators.

Another priority will be to foster our translational research more effectively. The CCSG Summary Statement noted that we should be doing a better job in that area – by testing scientific concepts in the clinic, and by providing scientific support for clinical trial concepts. This is not a discretionary priority, it is at the core of what we are expected to do. To facilitate this initiative, Anton Wellstein is organizing a new translational seminar series that likely will be held twice a month, probably in the Martin Marietta conference room. The exact format is still in development, but my goal is for all Lombardi researchers (irrespective of discipline/research focus) to present their work, with a focus on the translational opportunities (be they in the clinic or lab). Robust participation will be necessary to facilitate the cross-pollination of expertises and perspectives that are essential to successful translational research. Cancer Center leadership will work to bring forward any translational projects that require additional support to come to fruition. Please stay tuned, and make this a priority as you schedule your time.

I’d also like to take a moment to congratulate Lucile Adams-Campbell on her appointment as senior associate dean for community outreach and engagement for Georgetown University Medical Center. Her consistent focus on research to reduce health disparities has been recognized repeatedly, including most recently by Washingtonian magazine which named her a 2018 Washingtonian of the Year. It’s difficult to briefly describe Lucile’s countless contributions to our cancer center and our community but I am deeply grateful that she is a part of our team.

On a related note, if you’re interested in joining or supporting a team that is dedicated to helping Georgetown Lombardi researchers battle breast cancer, the kickoff party for the Walking Warriors is this Saturday, January 12 in the Lombardi Atrium from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. Led by the unstoppable Jeanne Mandleblatt, the Walking Warriors Battling Breast Cancer raised $100,000 with their first annual event last year and they’re gearing up to do it again this year. I encourage you to attend.

Have a great week.

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