Archive for August, 2019


Aug 18 2019

Season of Change

by at 3:51 pm

I can feel summer starting to wind down, even though it’s still hot.

This will be my last blog until after Labor Day, as Harriet and I will be relaxing at the beach starting at the end of this week.

The coming week will be busy and bittersweet. On Monday evening we will have a reception to honor Beppe Giaccone, as he moves to Cornell. Beppe has been a wonderful part of the Lombardi community since he arrived here in 2013, and we will miss his professional accomplishments and his personal warmth.  He served as our Associate Director of Clinical Research, co-leader of our Experimental Therapeutics Program and leader of our lung cancer group. I will always be grateful for how he lent his considerable gravitas and stellar reputation to the work of this cancer center. Beppe, I am sure I speak for everyone in thanking you and wishing you nothing but the best in your new work.

We are in good hands with the appointment of Claudine Isaacs as Associate Director of Clinical Research; she succeeds Beppe and I have no doubt that she will succeed.

See you in September!


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Aug 11 2019

“Today” was Terrific in the Late Afternoon

by at 4:55 pm

We live in interesting times, filled with angst, anguish and plain old uncertainty. We reel from the needless deaths of innocents as the horrific cycle of mass gun violence proceeds unchecked by effective public policy. We watch and listen with indignant disbelief as a broken immigration system and its consequences assault our shared sense of decency and what it means to be an American. Identity politics have literally rendered the fabric of American society. We don’t even know if we can believe the news that billows out, like emesis, in a never ending 24-hour news cycle that promotes the destruction of civil discourse. Good times never felt so bad. But we can all agree on one thing. We love Katie Couric.

On Wednesday we were reminded why she is universally admired and respected. She was the guest of honor at the Inaugural Edward Kovach Cura Personalis Lecture, held in a packed Lohrfink Auditorium in the Hariri Building on Georgetown’s main campus. Ed Kovach was a double Hoya (College and Law School) and received care for pancreatic cancer at Lombardi under John Marshall’s expert care. Ed lived for more than three years following his diagnosis of metastatic disease.  This Lecture Series was inspired by his daughter Alex, who wanted to honor her father’s memory and example by honoring John and raising awareness about the critical importance of effective communication in helping patients through their cancer journeys.

After a series of welcoming remarks, Katie Couric and John Marshall came to the stage for an utterly engrossing, charming, thoughtful and inspiring hour. We learned of Katie’s origin story (she was born and raised in Arlington!) and the terrible struggle she faced when her young husband, Jay Monahan, was diagnosed and succumbed to widely metastatic colon cancer. We relived the famous on-air colonoscopy she had while still on the Today Show, and learned that the last glass of Go Lightly never made it past her stomach, though that episode was not broadcast. John Marshall shared his experiences as the husband of a breast cancer patient. John’s wife Liza showed surprisingly good humor when he shared a story of the first time he met Katie, whose mother was in the ICU at Arlington Hospital where John was doing a residency rotation. He told the nurses he thought Katie was cute. Katie then had him STAT paged to the ICU to verify the story. I can only imagine how Liza reacted when John came home that night with that story to tell! When I asked Liza about it at the reception following the event, she replied, “Well, she is cute!”

I had the pleasure of sitting at Katie’s table at the dinner that followed the event and reception. She is interesting and interested in the people around her. I should note that dinner was delayed by at least 45 minutes because Katie loved chatting with everyone, posing for pictures. She is amazingly genuine, and has the special gift of treating each encounter as an opportunity to connect with and learn from the people she meets. It’s no wonder that she is such a fine interviewer.

Harriet and I had a photo snapped with her that is destined for a frame in our house. My only regret is that it makes me look a bit like Gulliver. All in all, it was a great evening. We reinforced the importance of Cura Personalis, celebrated our leadership as a cancer center that takes that mission seriously, and our guest of honor was a person whose radiant goodness reminds us of all that is worthwhile about this great country. By evening’s end I felt better about our future.

Have a great week.


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Aug 04 2019

Science in the Summer

by at 6:47 pm

I guess the lazy days of summer are truly upon us. My usual tsunami of meetings was reduced to a relative trickle this past week, and I have enjoyed a long weekend away at the beach with family and friends.

I have been working on the resubmission of my R01, which focuses on overcoming tumor cell resistance to antibody-dependent cell mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). We use a NK cell model system, and my research has focused on NK cell mediated killing for many years. One of the review comments was to consider focusing on macrophages as well. I was more than a little amused.

In 1989 I was transitioning out of my first grant, a K08 from the NCI. For some reason, I was eligible for a renewal, but was advised to put in a R01 as well. So, I wrote a K08 renewal on exploiting ADCC by mononuclear phagocytes (i.e., macrophages, which had been a focus of my work at that point) and simultaneously submitted a R01 that instead focused on NK cell mediated cytotoxicity. The R01 scored in the 2nd percentile and got funded on the first try; the macrophage K08, which was reviewed by the same study section at the same meeting, was Not Recommended for Further Consideration (the only NRF of my career!) because I was no longer eligible for a K08 as an “established investigator” with R01 funding. Go figure!

If I knew then what I know now I would have rapidly turned around the K08 as a new R01. Instead, I shrugged my shoulders and focused on NK cell mediated ADCC . However, I never stopped thinking about macrophages. Now we are in an era when both macrophages and NK cells are having their respective moments in the sun (none of which is currently visible at the beach).

It may be time to dust off that old macrophage grant and give it a go with a new proposal!

Have a great week.




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