Archive for February, 2020


Feb 23 2020

Joy and Purpose

by at 10:20 pm

Another week has flown by, with hardly a spare moment. I used the time provided by Presidents Day to work on grant reviews for a study section. Between that day and a few additional grabbed hours, I was able to crank out a few more reviews throughout the week. I am now down to one remaining review, with two weeks to spare before the deadline. That’s important, because I have my own grant to submit, and need to have my scientific decks cleared for that task.

I did not make it to the office on Tuesday because of an all-day Joint MedStar and Georgetown Scientific and Educational Councils Retreat. It was a long but interesting day that highlighted a number of challenges and opportunities as we continue to work together.

Wednesday was highlighted by my participation in an inaugural FDA Oncology Center of Excellence meeting hosted by Dr. Rick Pazdur on the FDA campus. Four cancer center directors — Leon Platanias (Northwestern, also a member of our EAB), Charley Fuchs (Yale), Wally Curran (Emory, and a colleague from my days at Fox Chase) and I — participated in a roundtable discussion regarding the opportunities for FDA to work more closely with NCI-designated cancer centers. The nearly daylong meeting was really interesting, and I believe that some important and novel opportunities for future collaborations will emerge.

Thursday was a regular but completely full workday, with a Data Meeting presentation by David Zahavi, one of my grad students, kicking off the day, a lab meeting and then a pretty busy clinic with two new patients and some follow-ups as well. During all of this we were working with a foreign embassy to assure that one of my patients could continue to receive care in my clinic. I know our U.S. health system has its challenges, but there is no doubt that the depth of excellence of what we offer to critically ill patients in the USA is still a gold standard. Friday was my busiest day of the week, with meetings that started at 7 a.m. and continued without a single break until after 5 p.m.

You would think I would have kicked back and taken it easy over the weekend, but that did not happen. I got a bunch of work done even as we saw two sets of kids for dinner on Friday and Sunday, and squeezed in a brief respite in Bethany Beach as well, enjoying the beautiful weather. I just don’t think I am wired to do nothing. But I find joy and purpose in my work and would not have it any other way.

I’m very pleased to share our new Georgetown Lombardi poster and PowerPoint templates for use at professional meetings. We’d like for all Lombardi members, fellows, residents, postdocs and students to use these templates when presenting Georgetown Lombardi sponsored research. There are just two constants we ask you to maintain — please leave the Georgetown Lombardi logo positioned as-is, and do not alter the overall borders or colors. How you organize the research boxes in the posters and where you place logos of collaborators is up to you. The templates can be downloaded here.

I am flying out of town on Tuesday morning to the University of California, Irvine to chair their cancer center’s EAB meeting, flying back on the Wednesday night red-eye (which I hate) before a Thursday schedule that includes a Lombardi Executive Committee meeting, an abbreviated clinic and then a drive to MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital for the grand opening of their oncology facility.

Have a great week.


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Feb 09 2020

Some Weeks are Meat Grinders

by at 7:55 pm

Did you ever have a week so filled with meetings and other responsibilities that when it ends you feel as if you have been through a meat grinder? It was not that I had any particularly horrible challenges, but I was so busy that each day was more of a blur than usual. A few things stood out, though. On Monday I was on my feet for about four straight hours. First, I led an all hands meeting of our clinical research office and associated personnel and then hustled off to give a lecture for a graduate school class, followed a half-hour later by another lecture for a T Bio course. I really enjoy teaching and have often wish I’d had more opportunities to teach more students earlier in my career.

The middle of the week was dominated by Georgetown University Board of Directors meetings, all of which were held at the School of Continuing Studies’ beautiful building at 640 Massachusetts Ave., NW. There was a dinner event, followed by the Georgetown-Seton Hall basketball game (we’ll not discuss that!) at the Capital One Center on Wednesday evening. Thursday was notable for the Data Meeting presentation of Allison Fitzgerald, who is doing the PhD portion of her MD/PhD degree program in my lab. This was followed by her thesis committee meeting on Friday.

In the midst of all this I agreed to sit on an immunotherapy study section for NIH that meets in mid-March. I have begun reviewing my assignments, pleased to still be “in the game” but wishing the “game” had fewer applications to review!

We do have something to celebrate: Bob Clarke will be inducted this Saturday as a 2019 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is one of nine researchers selected in the pharmaceutical sciences section, and is being recognized “for distinguished contributions to the field of molecular and translational cancer research, particularly using systems biology to study drug resistance in breast cancer.” Congratulations, Bob. We are proud of you!

I am off to Tucson to help the University of Arizona Cancer Center as part of my duties as a member of their External Advisory Board. I return Wednesday evening to an abbreviated two-day week. The meat grinder will certainly await, but there will only be enough time for a slider and not a full-size burger!

Have a great week.

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Feb 02 2020

Super Bowl Sunday

by at 9:23 pm

I am writing this blog during the halftime show of the Super Bowl. So far, the game has been quite entertaining. I am rooting for Kansas City, mostly because of Andy Reid, who coached the Eagles with great success for many years.

I had a pretty busy work week, and we made a quick trip up to Yardley, PA, to visit my dad, who is doing rather well; we even went out to a local restaurant on Saturday evening. I made excellent use of the time spent on the train to and from Trenton, working on a new grant in response to the NCI Provocative Question 5. I find it strangely exhilarating to compose a new grant. It stirs my creative juices.

While we were away, Team Georgetown Lombardi won the Hyundai Hands on Hope contest at the Washington Auto Show: Olivia Rebro picked the winning key for the Hyundai Venue, and Lombardi received a $60,000 award for pediatric cancer research. I’m grateful to Dana Hunter and Emily Maisonet, who joined Olivia to make up our winning team. Congratulations, Olivia, and many thanks to Kevin Reilly, owner of Alexandria Hyundai, and his colleagues at the Washington Area Hyundai Dealers for their unflagging support. Read more about the competition here.

This Tuesday is World Cancer Day, and one of the strategies that will be promoted to reduce the risk of cancer is the HPV vaccine. There is much to be celebrated about the scientific discovery behind this strategy, which happened here at Georgetown. Sadly, one of the three collaborators largely responsible for this advance has died — Bennett Jenson, MD. Ben, a pathologist and immunologist, was at Georgetown from 1980 to 2000. It was during that time that he recruited a well-known pathologist to Georgetown — Dick Schlegel. He and Dick worked together on HPV and are co-inventors on the technology that led to the HPV vaccine. Dick has written a remembrance of his longtime collaborator and friend here that I hope you’ll read. Ben will be missed, but his and Dick’s research legacy lives on in the lives saved by the HPV vaccine.

I am looking forward to a busy week. I hope yours is great.


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