Archive for October, 2019


Oct 28 2019

EAB Season

by at 6:48 am

I am standing in the lobby of a theatre showing the premiere of our nephew’s film, “The Nomads” at the Philadelphia Film Festival. This caps an eventful week that started with the 2-day  AACI meeting in Washington, where we learned about the evolving cancer center guidelines and caught up with old friends as well.

Wednesday was highlighted by our quarterly meeting of the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute, where we heard great updates on our Network-wide efforts in lung cancer screening and tobacco cessation. On Thursday morning I participated in the thesis committee meeting of Allison Fitzgerald, an MD/PhD student in my lab as her project evolves and deepens. I then “shuffled off to Buffalo” for the Roswell Park EAB meeting on Thursday evening and Friday. I got home Friday night and was ready for a rest! I worked a bit on my R01 renewal, and kicked back a bit on Saturday, with dinner at a friend’s house.

Sunday was highlighted by our drive to Philly, punctuated by two stops in Baltimore to see our kids and grandchildren – we watched the Eagles game in two different houses! At least they won pretty easily.

No rest for the weary; we are in EAB season. I head up to Minneapolis on Tuesday for the University of Minnesota EAB, and then we host our own EAC on Sunday and Monday. Then, perhaps a rest…

Have a great week.


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Oct 20 2019

Remembering a Giant

by at 5:58 pm

Well, I guess it was important to eat into the drought. Too bad it had to happen on a weekend. I am gearing up for a busy week highlighted by the annual American Association of Cancer Institutes meeting here in DC. It’s a great opportunity to network and to hear about what our colleagues are doing.

Harriet and I had a quick trip to New York this past weekend for the annual Hackensack Meridian Health Gala, which featured a performance by the famed singer John Legend. It was quite the event, replete with a Cirque du Soleil type of pole-based acrobatics at the entry to the event. No, this was not a participatory exercise! It was a wonderful experience, and they raised a lot of money.

While we were gone I learned of the death of cancer research legend Bernard Fisher (Bernie, to anybody who knew him or had heard of him) at the age of 101 years old. He is rightly famed for his groundbreaking work in breast cancer research and therapy, and he leaves behind a nearly unparalleled legacy of impact. I had met him, but did not know him as well as some of my colleagues, like Sandy Swain. He had lived a full life, but it is a mark of his enduring impact that he will be sorely missed, as a world that contains Bernie Fisher is always the better for it, no matter his age.

When he was a young surgeon, the standard of care was a mutilating radical or modified radical mastectomy. Many women who endured such burdens nonetheless succumbed to metastatic disease. His work has led to the progressive reduction in the extent of surgery, the introduction of radiation therapy in conjunction with surgery and the establishment of adjuvant therapy as a standard of care that reduces relapses and death in women at high risk of disease recurrence. Bernie’s leadership improved not only the survival but also the quality of life for millions of women, and has laid the groundwork for continued progress. What a legacy!

It should be noted that these accomplishments did not occur accompanied by the trail of garlands he encountered late in his career. Each innovation met resistance from those entrenched in the old ways, and he had to overcome deeply held surgical adherence to the tenets of more extensive surgery. Some years ago, a rogue researcher in the NCI cooperative group he chaired (then known as the NSABP) falsified clinical trial data, leading to Fisher’s removal as chair of that group. Many in the cancer research community properly felt he had been scapegoated. I will never forget an ASCO plenary session where he was introduced to comment on a breast cancer presentation at the height of this particular controversy. Such was the reverence and appreciation for him and his accomplishments that the entire hall of cancer specialists, more than 10,000 strong, rose as one to give him the most rousing and prolonged standing ovation I have ever been part of at a scientific meeting. It was an inspiring moment, because we knew the score, and wanted both he and his oppressors to know it.

Historians frequently debate whether the man or woman makes the times or if the opposite is true. Had Bernie Fisher never lived I suspect many of his accomplishments would have occurred anyway, but perhaps not at the same pace. Here’s what I do know; the man defined the times, and we are the better for it. May he rest in peace, knowing that he achieved perhaps the highest calling to which any of us could aspire; he left the world better than he found it.

Have a great week.


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Oct 14 2019

The End of Summer

by at 12:36 pm

Greetings on a somewhat dreary Sunday afternoon. Summer is finally over in this era of global warming, and the chill in the air makes me feel the year is beginning to draw to a close.  The Nationals have bright prospects and it looks like they are going to the World Series. For fans of the Eagles and Redskins, not so much hope. To paraphrase the immortal Bill Parcells, they are what their records say they are. At least I won’t be too distracted by football the rest of this season!

Games aside, we had the surprising and wonderful visit with my father this weekend. He is recovering a bit from his recent health challenges, but an important and bittersweet change has occurred – he is less friend than responsibility as he now requires considerable support to get through the day. I treasured the opportunity to watch a Penn State football game with him on Saturday night, but even that was bittersweet. Once a sparkling conversationalist, he understands a bit less and speaks less as well. It’s a somber reminder that Father Time remains undefeated. We all know what will happen, but are determined as a family to assure he has a soft landing.

My work week was highlighted by Monday’s meeting of the Lombardi Board of Visitors. This group of fundraising champions for our cancer center featured presentations from Stephen Liu, Filipa Lynce and Amrita Cheema. We discussed Lombardi’s accomplishments and ambitions and look forward to continuing partnerships with this Board. Kudos to Donald Dunn and his team to establish the Board.

Later that day I gave a presentation at a Georgetown Global Health Initiative Faculty Forum where I described the work we do at Lombardi. Chris Loffredo helped me prepare the one slide I was permitted to present, emphasizing education, research and how we contribute to the global cancer research community. I then hurried over to a wonderful Lombardi Faculty Research Discussion led by Sonia DeAssis.

After returning from my observance of Yom Kippur, the rest of the work week was consumed by meetings and clinic. We are beginning our preparations for Lombardi’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2020, and look forward to exciting events and opportunities to tell the world of what we have accomplished and our plans for the future.

The coming week promises to be quite busy, particularly as I finalize plans for our EAC meeting and for the resubmission of my R01 grant.

Have a great week.


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Oct 07 2019

10 Days

by at 7:03 am

Greetings on a lovely Sunday evening. The Eagles have righted their ship (if only temporarily) by whipping the hapless New York Jets, and each of their NFC East Division rivals lost today, so they find themselves tied with Dallas for the Division lead. This football Sunday capped off a very eventful week, and not only in sports (I am rooting for the Nationals to go all the way, since the Phillies are not in the postseason).  After a wonderful first evening celebration of Rosh Hashanah (see last week’s blogs for details) the next day was devoted to my dad’s health, as he had medical problems that required hospitalization through Friday morning. Fortunately, he was able to go home in decent shape, though he is still weak. We’ll be seeing him this coming weekend.

My work week really began on Tuesday, with a wonderful panel discussion about breast cancer that I chaired at the ICC on Georgetown’s campus. Claudine Isaacs and Beth Peshkin make a formidable duo, and it was a pleasure to celebrate the efforts of Professor Cliff Chieffo and his wife Patricia, to raise money in support of the work we do. Wednesday was highlighted by the Georgetown University Board of Directors meeting, with a Committee on Medical Center Affairs session that afternoon. The spectacular dinner meeting of the Board was held at the just opened Reach at the Kennedy Center, highlighted by a conversation between Jack DeGioia and the legendary financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein. Mr. Rubenstein gave a hilarious recounting of his kidney stone adventures (you had to be there to understand how such a painful event could be humorous) at Georgetown University Hospital that eerily mirrored my own experiences from a few years ago. He is a remarkable man who has decided to divest himself of his enormous fortune through inspired philanthropy.  His passion for continuous investment in and  principled pursuit of positive change is really inspiring.

The coming week will be interrupted for me by the observance of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement that ends the 10 Days of Awe that start with Rosh Hashanah. Yom Kippur is accompanied by a 24 hour fast that ends at sundown on Wednesday. This has been a memorable 10 days for me, particularly as I worry about my father’s failing health. As if I needed any additional reminders about human frailty, how can I fail to contemplate mortality and the meaning of life when I attend Yom Kippur services this year?

If nothing else it puts the misery of writing grants into sharp perspective!

Have a good week.


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