Archive for April, 2019


Apr 28 2019

Fond Farewell to a Colleague

by at 2:43 pm

This week was notable for a bittersweet departure as we said goodbye to Mike Pishvaian, a Georgetown “lifer” who has taken the plunge to become the pancreatic cancer program co-leader at MD Anderson in Houston. In his many years at Georgetown Mike moved from the MD/PhD program to an internal medicine residency, fellowship in hematology/oncology and then ascended up the ranks as a hematology/oncology faculty member. He has become an internationally recognized authority in pancreatic cancer therapy and developmental therapeutics. His stewardship of Lombardi’s GI cancer and Developmental Therapeutics clinical trials program has been masterful, and his efforts to reorganize and oversee the Clinical Research Management Office have been critical to the cancer center’s success.

My first contact with Mike occurred at the 2007 ASCO/AACR Clinical Methods Workshop, where I was a Workshop co-chair and both Mike and Ruth He were workshop participants. His passion and sincerity were immediately apparent, and he did a great job at the Workshop. So did Ruth!

Over the past 12 years I have had the privilege of watching Mike evolve into a leader, and I am happy that he has an opportunity to test himself in a new environment. He will be missed but never forgotten. Best of luck, Mike!

This week we had our annual Women and Wine fundraising event at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner. The event was sold out in January, and was a fabulous success due to the inspiring leadership of co-chairs Barbara McDuffie and Janet Davis and support from Cristy Seth and the Lombardi Development team. This year’s event raised over $735,000, a new record! Proceeds will support Lombardi’s breast cancer research efforts. I am so grateful to everyone for their fabulous efforts.

Thanks also to Jeanne Mandelblatt, whose team of Walking Warriors raised $135,000 on Saturday. They have taken the great work that started with the now defunct Avon Walk and transformed it into a Lombardi fundraiser that supports our breast cancer research. It is a wonderful tribute to Jeanne’s vision, energy and leadership.

Have a great week.

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Apr 20 2019

Ode to the Walking Warriors

by at 4:54 pm

Happy Easter and Passover. I hope your holidays have been wonderful, my already truncated work week in DC was shaved just a bit more because I went up to Hackensack on Thursday for a morning video shoot to describe our work together and then participated in a very productive research meeting at Hackensack Meridian Health’s Center for Discovery and Innovation in Nutley, NJ. I had not been there before but it is a wonderful facility. There were attendees from Lombardi DC, Lombardi NJ and Memorial Sloan Kettering. We identified a number of practical and feasible clinical trial based collaboration opportunities and will work on making them come to life over the next few months, I was joined by Sharon Levy, Mike Atkins, Anton Wellstein, Beppe Giaccone and one of our senior fellows, Neil Shah, who did his residency at Hackensack and will be doing GU Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering starting this summer. I was able to get a lot of work done on the train, and reviewed my allotment of five Sher Immunotherapy pilot study proposals. Some of the proposals are quite exciting.

Next week promises to be quite interesting. We have two wonderful fundraising events: our annual Women and Wine event on April 24 and the Walking Warriors event on April 27. Money raised at these events goes to support breast cancer research. As always, I am deeply grateful to Jeanne Mandelblatt for her continuing inspired leadership of the Walking Warriors, who are truly a formidable highly effective and deeply engaged force.

Have a great week.

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Apr 14 2019

Congrats Karen Howenstein

by at 4:04 pm

Congratulations to Karen Howenstein! Karen was a member of the Lombardi team that won $50,000 to support pediatric cancer research during the Hyundai Hope on Wheels competition this week. Karen, Jennifer Stephens and Ryan Dempsey competed against a team from Children’s National in a 50-hour marathon to see who could keep their hands on a new Hyundai Kona for the longest. Those who made it the entire 50 hours each received a key, only one of which opened the car. Karen got that key. More importantly, Lombardi got an additional $50,000 to support lifesaving pediatric cancer research, and Children’s National received a $25,000 consolation prize too. Thanks to Hyundai for its generosity and ongoing support of our research!

The earlier part of my week was spent in Detroit, where I worked with Bob Diasio, Director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and a member of our EAC, to review the Wayne State University Department of Oncology as part of a five-year review process used at that university. It was very hard work, but quite informative and interesting.

The rest of my typically busy work week was highlighted by attendance at a very interesting breast cancer symposium at the Hay Adams Hotel as the guest of Eleni Tousimis, and by the grand rounds visit of Judy Garber from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Judy is a world leader in breast cancer translational genetics, and made it clear that speaking in front of our own team of experts – Beth Peshkin, Claudine Isaacs and Marc Schwartz – was more than a little intimidating! The whole week was a useful reminder that what we consider to be our ordinary work is viewed by the outside world as anything but that.

The upcoming short week will be highlighted by a trip up to Hackensack for a research focused meeting with colleagues from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and filming for a video that will celebrate our new Consortium status with JTCC once it is announced. Have a great week, and follow Karen Howenstein’s lead and work to drive out cancer!

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Apr 07 2019

Welcoming Clara

by at 11:40 am

I was in the maternity waiting room at our hospital very early in the morning ten days ago. Our daughter-in-law Kelly was in labor; she and David were joined by the two grandmothers as the final push began. While idly browsing messages on my phone, I noticed an email from a most unlikely source. “Thank you for contacting Lynnewood Gardens regarding a possible apartment rental.”

I was thunderstruck. First of all, I had not contacted them. However, I grew up in Lynnewood Gardens; like many people in the Philadelphia area, my parents had moved there so my brother and I would have access to a great public education in a place we could afford. I became who I am at Lynnewood Gardens, living in a small apartment, sharing a bedroom with my younger brother. I learned about the importance of hard work, close-knit families, community and pride in achievement. We were not wealthy, but I wanted for nothing—accepting an immediate replacement for a really cool bicycle that someone stole when I was about ten years old. I still dream about that place and that bike.

Fast-forward more than 50 years. I texted my brother and asked if he had contacted Lynnewood Gardens on my behalf as a spoof. He had not, but he, my dad and I shared a hearty online laugh as we waited for news about the new addition to our family. At 2 a.m. our wait was rewarded by the birth of a healthy little girl, Clara. The rest of the day was a blur of catch-up naps, calls, visits and hugs, along with an abbreviated clinic.

Harriet and I headed out to Atlanta the next day for the annual AACR meeting, to experience a different blur of events, lectures and parties. We did take time to tour the Center for Civil and Human Rights, a stunning museum that chronicles the Civil Rights movement in a very personal and moving manner.

As you may have read, I was stunned, honored and humbled to receive a 2019 AACR award for Distinguished Public Service, in the excellent company of fellow honorees Nancy Goodman (a leading pediatric cancer advocate) and the legendary Dan von Hoff. Harriet and I attended the award dinner on March 31, accompanied by our daughter Elana, another member of the AACR. I cannot fully express the profound emotional satisfaction of sharing this recognition with my wife and one of our kids, who is on a career and life trajectory that fills me with pride and joy. Plus, she is a wonderful scientific collaborator!

On Sunday morning I had to attend the Opening Ceremonies to receive my Award. I was back in the “green room”, amiably chatting with other members of the platform party, when someone came to wire me up. I was not expecting to speak, but learned to my horror that I had to give a three-minute speech in 20 minutes. There was no time to load up the teleprompter, so I borrowed Nancy Goodman’s laptop and memory stick, pounded out a brief speech, and had the talk printed out so I’d have something to refer to on the stage. I am told it went well, but without my years of preparation, starting with Lynnewood Elementary School, it could have ended very badly. The meeting ended for me on Tuesday morning when I gave my Award lecture at 7 am in a hall at the very end of the convention center. I was grateful to see that anybody attended, and genuinely enjoyed sharing my lab’s science with the audience.

I am the result of all that has preceded and formed me. When I received yet another solicitation from Lynnewood Gardens this past week (I still don’t know why they contacted me), I experienced a warm, familiar feeling reminding me that I have not changed, and that my past is indeed a part of me. The small shared bedroom of my past actually occupies more real estate in my head than Hall A of the Georgia World Congress Center. But, to be clear, both have to make way for Clara and her five cousins!

Have a great week. I know I did.

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