Archive for May, 2019


May 19 2019

Bittersweet Trip to the Beach

by at 9:58 pm

Greetings on a warm spring evening. We spent the weekend with my father, his longtime companion and two of our kids’ families. It was wonderful to be together, yet more than a bit poignant. My dad, who is 92, had a health scare a couple of weeks ago, and while improved, is weak as a kitten, and has crossed the Rubicon from being elderly and reasonably well into someone clearly entering the last lap of his life. One never knows how long it will take, but the signs are unmistakable. It is just a matter of time. So, when our kids heard that he’d be joining us at the beach, everybody who could change their plans did so. Just like me, they suspect he’ll never get back here, though I certainly hope he proves us wrong.

I am not a young man, yet have had the rare privilege of having a warm and caring relationship with my father for as long as I can remember. Since my mother died 27 years ago (today is the anniversary of her death) he and I have spoken almost every evening, if only to say a quick hello, discuss the latest Philadelphia sports apocalypse (and there have been many), and check up on each other. He has been my touchstone, and until the past few months was a tower of strength, effortlessly mixing piercing intellect, irreverent humor, physical capability and a deeply held humanism.

One quick story: It was 1972 and I was sure McGovern would beat Nixon – just as all my friends did. My dad and I had a fairly big argument about this and for years I assumed that this man, who had come of age in the post-World War II America was a Nixon Republican. Only years later did he finally tell me that he had voted for McGovern, and had always voted Democrat, and did so because of his feeling of connection to the downtrodden and commitment to racial and economic equality. You could have knocked me over with a feather, but he has always had a surprise or two up his sleeve. The older he has got, his beliefs have deepened without hardening him. He has been a great role model.

I hope to get at least one more week with him at the beach this summer – for his sake, to be sure (he has always loved being near the water), but even more for me.

The rest of the week was a blur of work, highlighted on Friday by a morning meeting in town organized by the Friends of Cancer Research and the Parker Institute for Immunotherapy. The meeting room was packed to hear a series of panel discussions regarding CAR-T cell therapy. There is no doubt in my mind that cellular therapies are going to be incredibly disruptive and highly effective. I am glad that we have begun to position ourselves for this future through our Consortium with JTCC and Hackensack Meridian Health.

Have a great, somewhat shortened week as we gear up for the unofficial opening of the Summer over the long Memorial Day weekend! I will skip next week’s blog, as we’ll be away, and hope you have a great week and a delightful, safe holiday.

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May 12 2019


by at 6:00 am

What a week! I was scheduled to go up to Hackensack on Tuesday AM for the NCI Consortium announcement and press conference, but learned late Monday afternoon that my father was ill and needed to go to his local ER for evaluation. So, Harriet and I drove up to Philly after work, and made it to the ER by 11:30 that evening to find him doing rather well, and he was discharged a little after 1 am. We slept at his place, and I caught a very early train from Trenton to Newark, and from there got to Hackensack by about 8 am.

As many of you know the Consortium was formally announced at 9 am on Tuesday, with a Facebook Live feed and other social media alerts provided. It was quite an event, attended by the Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey, Ed Healton, Joy Drass and Craig Thompson, the CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering. The week was topped off by a very nice write up in the Cancer Letter that emphasizes the novelty and potential importance of what we have accomplished. The icing on the cake was a lovely reception in New York City on Friday evening to benefit the Hackensack UMC. It’s tempting to rest on our laurels, but of course this is only a rest stop on a long journey to make a difference in our mission to prevent and cure cancer. We have a lot of work to do, but are off to a good start.

Have a wonderful Mothers Day, and a great week.

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May 05 2019

Eventful Week

by at 3:40 pm

Greetings on a rainy Sunday, from a train. Harriet and I are headed up to Trenton (a long day trip) to attend our niece’s birthday party. It is the first of what will be three Amtrak trips this week. More about that later.

Last week kicked off with the annual NCI Cancer Center Directors meeting in Shady Grove. It was a very busy but generally informative meeting. One of the highlights was a multi-speaker presentation on the NCI smoking cessation program efforts; Kate Taylor’s STAR program is Lombardi’s contribution to this effort and is making an impact on our patient population. The rest of the week was highlighted by a series of budget meetings, and by the Grand Rounds presentation of Brian Rini, from the Cleveland Clinic. I also gave an early morning presentation on Wednesday about progress of the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute to the MedStar Medical Group in Columbia. Thankfully I was able to drive there! Meanwhile, I have been busy reviewing various pilot study proposals for the various funding mechanisms we have (e.g., CCSG, Sher, others) and also watched proudly as Reham Ajina, a T Bio PhD candidate in my lab, gave a marvelous presentation at the Thursday morning Data Meeting.

We received our official CCSG Notice of Grant Award this past week, recognizing Lombardi as a CCSG Consortium for the first time. On Tuesday a group of us will be heading up to New Jersey as we kick off this new era for our cancer center. In fact, if you have a moment to tune in to Lombardi’s Facebook page on Tuesday morning at 9, you can watch live as we announce the new consortium with our colleagues at John Theurer.

On Friday, I am training up to New York (third trip) to speak at a conference organized by fellow cancer center member Andre Goy, and will hang around until the evening, joined by Harriet, for Hackensack Meridian Health’s Annual Gala, which is being held at Carnegie Hall. Finally, tonight begins the holiest month in Islam. To all who are celebrating, Ramadan Kareem!

Have a great week.

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