Archive for the 'Events' Category

 

Mar 17 2013

March Madness

by at 8:12 pm

I hope you had a great weekend. As I write this on Sunday night, Georgetown’s basketball team just found out it is seeded #2 in its region, and will have a chance to go deep into this year’s NCAA tournament. Good luck to the Hoyas! Hopefully, the team got losing out of its system after it fell to the hated yet respected Syracuse Orangemen on Friday night. I wasn’t able to watch the game because we were out with friends at a new Russian restaurant in the District called Mari Vanna. It was quite an experience. And, they served food with the vodka!

Harriet walked with the CBCC-Lombardi team on Saturday morning in preparation for this year’s Avon Walk. As of this evening the team has 60 members and already has raised $52,000; this is the best showing yet. The passion of the walkers is quite remarkable. And, even if you can’t walk, you can help too. Not every walker will be able to independently raise all of the money ($1800) that he or she needs in order to actually do the walk. If you go to the Avon Walk’s website for the team, you can identify those people who are struggling to make their goals. If you can, and if you wish, you can select one of those fine people and click directly on their name to contribute. Even a little will mean a lot to their fundraising efforts. No amount is too small, and every bit helps.

I spent the weekend writing support letters and helping with protocols for two candidates for the annual Clinical Methods Workshop in Vail. Plus I have been looking over the current drafts of my sections and the program descriptions for the CCSG Competitive Renewal. We have an intense volley of conference calls scheduled with our external advisors who have read the various sections, setting the stage for the preparation of our final drafts. Carolyn Hurley and Ellen McLaughlin intend to send the final document to the printers at the beginning of May. I can’t wait!

But there is a lot more going on than just the CCSG. On Monday, I attended the NCI Board of Scientific Counselors meeting on the NIH campus. I learned some interesting tidbits – for example, the number of principal investigators has been trimmed over the past few years from 315 to 250 in response to budgetary pressures. And, while the specific issues are not the same for the intramural program, there is no doubt that they are feeling the pain caused by sequestration just as we do in the extramural community. I heard some extramural horror stories as well. I know that information provides cold comfort, but it’s nice to know that we are not alone.

After the meeting I hustled back to our campus to attend a “Thank You” reception for Lisa Krim, who served as interim general counsel for the University prior to the appointment of Lisa Brown in January. Lisa Krim will be returning to her previous duties, which include a lot of focus on the Medical Center.  On Tuesday I participated in the Thesis Committee meeting of one of my students, Joe Murray, who continues to make me wish I could delay his graduation for a decade or two.

That evening, I headed downtown for a meeting of the Men’s Event for Prostate Cancer’s Kick-Off event. This event competes with our Women and Wine Event, which was held last week and attracted more than 400 participants, raising a record amount of money for research in cancers that predominantly affect women. The men are worried that they can’t catch up with the women, whose event has really taken off. However, Elena Jeannotte, who does a spectacular job with both events, and I are sure that the men can come through. Talk about a healthy competition!

The rest of the week was filled with productive work, highlighted by a visit to MedStar Franklin Square Hospital in Baltimore, as we identify new ways to strengthen the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Network. And this coming week promises to be quite busy, but productive too.

I hope you have a great week. And good luck to the Hoyas in March Madness!

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Mar 10 2013

Avon Walk Team Surging in Numbers

by at 5:41 pm

Greetings on a glorious Sunday afternoon. Harriet and I just got back from Philadelphia, where we attended the wedding of our oldest son’s best friend dating back to elementary school. It was beautiful. We are about to take a walk into Georgetown for a bite.

Speaking of walks, I am humbled and excited to report that the Lombardi/CBCC Avon Walk for breast cancer team now has 58 members, and has raised more than $44,000 already, placing it solidly in second place among the DC Walk teams. What a difference from 2008, when the team had five walkers, a handful of cheerers and raised less than $10,000. Congratulations to Jeanne Mandelblatt, who is the inspiration and driving force behind the team. Like Lombardi, the team has grown and is having a disproportionate impact for an incredibly important cause. You can contribute or participate as a walker (it’s not too late!) by going to this website.  You can also help cheer on the team by contacting Jeanne.

The past week flew by – I left DC on Monday afternoon for a meeting in Chicago, which ended on Wednesday afternoon. I then headed for O’Hare Airport, where my 4 pm plane had been canceled in anticipation of the snowstorm that wasn’t. Fortunately, I was able to get on a 7:30 flight, and landed at about 10:30 to a beautiful starlit night, clear, dry roads and snow that existed only in the imagination. Thursday was not too busy; I judged a few of the posters in the annual Lombardi Research Days competition, and then had an afternoon clinic. I was able to attend the GUMC Town Hall regarding the proposed freeze of staff salaries, and I certainly echo Ken Dretchen’s eloquent sentiments that the work we do could not occur without our dedicated staff, whose interests must be fully considered as all of Georgetown deals with fiscal constraints that have been imposed by external forces.

On Friday, the highlight was the afternoon reception to honor the Lombardi Research Days poster winners, one of whom was Casey Shuptrine from my lab. I certainly had nothing to do with the judging of his poster, but was personally delighted for him and happy to know that others share my high opinion of his project. After that reception I rushed home, put on a tux and headed over to the National Building Museum for the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s annual spring Gala, sponsored this year by the Italian Embassy. Bo Aldige, who also serves on CBCC’s Community Advisory Council and the Ruesch Center’s Advocacy Board, has done a marvelous job with her organization for many years, and it was my pleasure to support its cause, accompanied by Harriet, Joe Teague, Beppe Giaccone, and Waddah Al-Refaie and his wife Thuraya.

Preparations for our CCSG renewal are accelerating, and below I include another installment from the Director’s Overview. We really have accomplished so much as a Cancer  Center over the past four years, and it has been very rewarding to actually pull it all together.

Enjoy the coming week, and what may finally be the first glimmers of spring.

Breast Cancer Focused Research
·       The First Roadmap for Mathematically Modeling Estrogen Signaling and Cell Fate Is Reported (Clarke [BC]; Tyson, Nat Rev Cancer 2011). Work arising from a multi-investigator program grant (U54CA149147) led by the LCCC Breast Cancer Program involves investigators from Virginia Tech, Fox Chase Cancer Center and George Mason University. This team created the first roadmap presenting preliminary mathematical models of the basic decision circuits for apoptosis, autophagy, and the unfolded protein response and incorporating data on a panel of genes from studies by the LCCC. The overall model now also incorporates key changes in the metabolome and the integration of signaling that regulates UPR, apoptosis, autophagy, and cell fate. Further modifications to the models are expected based on the results of functional genomic studies in this program grant performed by Weiner (ET). Impact: This collaborative effort utilizes mathematical tools to better understand complex signaling networks that influence breast cancer cell fate.
·       Key Molecular Features Are Identified That Drive Estrogen-Induced Inhibition Of Breast Cancer Growth (Jordan; Ariazi, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2011).  Jordan identified that exposure of estrogen to anti-estrogen resistant breast cancer cells surprisingly led to apoptosis and inhibition of tumor growth.  Subsequent research supported by a DoD Center of Excellence grant (W81XWH-06 Jordan, PI) has identified ER stress through molecules such as PERK as a contributing mechanism. This work has led to an ongoing translational clinical trial at LCCC and at Fox Chase Cancer Center, evaluating low dose estrogen therapy for endocrine resistant metastatic breast cancer.  Impact: This work describes the clinically exploitable mechanisms underlying a novel approach to reversing resistance to anti-estrogens.
·       (Sca)-1/ly6A Is a Suppressor of TGFβ Signaling (Glazer [BC], Upadhyay, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2011). Downstream signaling initiated by activation of the TGFβ pathway has long been implicated in affecting endocrine responsiveness in breast cancer. NIH R01 (R01CA111482) supported work by Glazer identified (Sca)-1/ly6A as a suppressor of TGFβ signaling. This suppression results in increased expression of the TGFβ ligand GDF10 and the selective activation of TGFβ receptor dependent Smad3 phosphorylation. Impact: This work identifies a novel mechanism for suppressing TGFb signaling in breast cancer development that may lead to new strategies to overcome endocrine unresponsiveness.
·       Some Familial Breast Cancers May Be Transmitted Through Heritable Epigenetic Changes  (Hilakivi-Clarke (BC); de Assis, Nature Commun 2012). Supported by a U54 (U54CA149147; PI, Clarke, Hilakivi-Clarke) and an R21 award (R21ES013858), Hilakivi-Clarke and colleagues successfully showed that physiologically relevant variations in estrogenicity in utero in one generation altered susceptibility of the mammary gland to carcinogenesis for three subsequent generations in a rat mammary cancer model. These trans-generational effects were maintained by epigenetic modifications. An ongoing study in Swedish women is evaluating whether the gene methylation patterns seen in experimental models are also altered in peripheral DNA from girls whose mothers had high estrogen levels during pregnancy. Impact: This work identifies potential biomarkers of familial breast cancers.
Clinical Research with Translational Implications and Endpoints
·       LCCC Leads and Conducts Impactful Clinical Trials. Swain (BC), currently serving as President of ASCO, has led a number of national cooperative group trials in breast cancer (Swain; New Engl J Med 2010; Swain, New Engl J Med 2012; Swain, New Engl J Med 2012). Cheson (ET) serves as Lombardi’s PI for Alliance and the PI for the recently submitted U10 grant and has led that group’s lymphoma committee with distinction for many years [e.g., Br J Haematol 2013, J Clin Onc 2011, Leuk Lymph 2011].  These have been supplemented by many other important investigator-initiated clinical trials, e.g., Hwang, Clin Cancer Res 2010—Phase I study of a small molecule pan-BCL-2 family antagonist in patients with advanced solid tumors or lymphoma, Deeken, Cancer Chemother Pharmacol 2012—Phase I study of liposome-encapsulated docitaxel in patients with advanced solid tumors; Pishvaian, Cancer Chemother Pharmacol 2012—Phase I study of imatinib and paclitaxel in patients with advanced or metastatic refractory solid tumors, Isaacs, Breast Cancer Res Treat 2011—Phase I/II study of sorafenib in hormone receptor positive aromatase inhibitor resistant metastatic breast cancer, Liu, J Clin Oncol 2009—circulating tumor cells predict treatment efficacy in metastatic breast cancer.

·       A Novel Rapid Computational Proteo-Chemometric Method Facilitates Screening of Existing Drugs for Anti-Cancer Purposes (Dakshanamurthy [ET], J Med Chem 2012 with Byers [MO]). The “Train, Match, Fit, Streamline” (TMFS) method was used to map new drug-target interactions and predict new uses for existing drugs. Using TMFS, the investigators performed extensive molecular fit computations on 3,671 FDA approved drugs across 2,335 human protein crystal structures to accurately predict drug-target associations. The activity of several identified drugs has been confirmed experimentally. A clinical trial involving mebendozole, one of the identified drugs, is planned (Pishvaian [ET] PI).  In collaboration with the High Performance Computing Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, through the Georgetown-Howard Universities CTSA, Dakshanamurthy has exported TMFS to the >27,000 clinically active agents available worldwide across all targets in the Protein Data Bank. Impact: This approach to drug repurposing offers new translational opportunities that can be rapidly identified and implemented using currently available drugs.

·       Novel Mechanisms of Resistance for Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-Targeted Therapy Are Identified as Potential Targets (Weiner [ET], Sci Signal 2010). Synthetic lethal screening to identify molecular determinants of resistance to EGFR-targeted therapy by Weiner, Experimental Therapeutics Program member, has led to the identification of molecular targets (e.g., c-abl) whose inhibition enhances the anti-tumor activity and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity promoted by cetuximab. The combination of cetuximab and nilotinib, a c-abl inhibitor, is now being studied in an investigator-initiated clinical trial (Deeken [ET] PI). Impact: This work identifies sensitive nodes in a complex, clinically relevant signaling network that can be attacked.

·       Development of a Cancer-Focused Informatics Platform Facilitates Identification of Factors That Impact Outcome (Madhavan [ET], Neoplasia 2011). G-DOC® was developed to provide a mechanism for integrating a variety of clinical and research data types to identify trends and patterns in integrated datasets, supporting the development of patient-specific treatments based on the biology of each patient’s tumor. This resource includes molecular and clinical outcome data for more than 3,600 breast cancer and 1,200 gastrointestinal cancer patients, with substantial peer-reviewed funding. ET members have integrated “multi-omic” data in G-DOC to identify a immune response–related prognostic profile for patients with early-stage colorectal cancer. These intriguing findings have potential to both impact the selection of patients for adjuvant therapy and influence the nature of adjuvant therapy research. Impact: This work has created a foundation for systems based approaches to cancer research at LCCC.

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Jun 20 2011

An Intense and Productive Week

by at 10:55 am

So, this past week has been quite a stretch for my family and me. As many of you know, our oldest son was married on June 12 in Cape May, NJ. It was a magical experience for our family, but it was truly a whirlwind of activity.

After getting back into town I then had a highly compressed but intense few days of work. We have been extensively debriefing on our recent EAB meeting, and I look forward to reporting on the meeting in more detail at the upcoming Sector Faculty meeting today and at the town hall meeting on July 12.

 On Tuesday afternoon I drove up to Olney to visit Montgomery General Hospital for a meeting about our network activities there. It was a great meeting, and the facility is quite lovely to boot. I also got a chance to try out the new ICC; in theory it should speed up travel there from Georgetown, but I still managed to get caught in traffic on I-270 for about 20 extra minutes on the way back home.

Wednesday was filled with meetings, highlighted by a trip with Subha Madhavan and other GU colleagues to discuss possible research collaborations with the INOVA Research Institute in Fairfax. It was another reminder of how powerful our research capabilities are, and how desirable we are as a partner.

On Thursday morning, I attended the CBCC Advisory Council meeting, where the members bade Peter Shields a fond farewell, thanking him for his powerful and effective efforts on behalf of the CBCC. There is much cause for excitement as the CBCC moves forward on a number of fronts.

That afternoon, I “shuffled off to Buffalo” to attend the EAB meeting for Roswell Park Cancer Institute. I always learn a lot from other centers, and do plan to apply that knowledge in the service of Georgetown Lombardi’s interest as well. After getting back late on Friday, I then hopped back on a plane with Harriet to attend the wedding of the child of two of our dear friends in Atlanta.

Finally, I’d like to congratulate Team Georgetown for participating in the PurpleStride 5K Walk for Pancreatic Cancer on Saturday, and to thank all those who supported the team!

Have a great week.

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Apr 01 2011

The Bright Lights of Broadway

by at 3:26 pm

Well, I had quite an interesting trip to New York on Tuesday. We hosted an event called “Lombardi on Broadway” for about 40 GU alumni and guests. Following a reception at the Palm restaurant, we trooped across the street to the Circle in the Square Theater for a performance of the play, ‘Lombardi’. This play is based on the book, “When Pride Still Mattered,” by David Maranis, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, about the life of Vince Lombardi. I have read the book and it is marvelous.

The play, which is also wonderful, is based on fictional interaction between Lombardi and a young sports journalist writing a story about him during the week before a big game with the Chicago Bears in 1965. The great cast, which includes the well-known actors Dan Lauria and Judith Light, gets it just right, and Lauria captures Lombardi’s intensity, passion and all-consuming drive for excellence so vividly that it seems like an out-of-body experience. I shudder to imagine how Lombardi would have dealt with a manuscript rejection.

The highlight of the evening was a specially arranged “talk back” session between the cast and the GU audience members. I was asked to join them on the stage for a minute or two (me, on a Broadway stage!) during which I told them that Lombardi’s legacy inspires our work here, and that the emphasis on individuals pulling together towards a common goal is exactly what we strive for every day.

I am pleased to report I had the good sense to not break into song, disappointing nobody.

Then we had the chance to pepper the cast with questions and got some fascinating answers. I purchased a signed ‘Lombardi’ poster and am having it framed to hang in my office. It will be a fabulous memento of a memorable evening. It is especially poignant for me because I come from a “Broadway family.”  My brother Steve is a composer, and has several shows playing right now around the country, with at least one on its way to New York; we’ve all been listening to Broadway musicals since I was very young. Moreover, Steve’s oldest daughter, Marla, has a featured role in the upcoming Broadway production of “Sister Act,” which opens in April. I feel as if I have finally joined the family business!

If you find yourself in New York and are looking for a great evening of entertainment, I highly recommend that you catch “Lombardi.” People affiliated with Georgetown are offered discounted tickets.  You can find more information here.

By the way, things are really humming as the Georgetown Lombardi/CBCC team ramps up for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer April 30-May 1. The team has “walked” its way into third place, just ahead of the Johns Hopkins team, having recruited 38 walkers and raised nearly $45,000 as of this posting. However, the team needs your help! They still need walkers, cheerleaders and medical staff to help care for our team throughout the weekend. And, many of the walkers really need help in order to raise the $1800 required to participate in the walk. You can find more information on the Avon Walk web site or right at the team’s Avon page.

Or email Jeanne Mandelblatt at cdrofla@aol.com for more information.

Enjoy your weekend!

Dr. Weiner with the cast and producer of "Lombardi"

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Mar 18 2011

Learning from previous and future generations of researchers

by at 11:49 am

I had to miss my last post as I was out of town last week. First, I was at a meeting in Chicago and then flew to Philadelphia for the AACR’s Stand Up 2 Cancer Young Investigator Review Committee meeting. It was a fascinating experience. The committee initially received 183 proposals—all mid-assistant-level professors. Of these, 18 finalists were identified and invited to Philly to make brief presentations and conduct interviews.  This was a wonderful way to vet the scientific ideas of this important group of young investigators. I expect that more than half of these applicants will receive awards.

Interestingly, the majority of the applications dealt with RNAi approaches or metabolic pathways. I can’t say for sure if these emphases speak to the biases of the initial review panel, or if they represent the collective subconscious judgment of our most talented young investigators regarding the cutting edges of contemporary cancer research. Either way, it is clear that the future of our cancer research is in good hands if these proposals are any indication.

While in Philly, I was fortunately able to walk from the Rittenhouse Hotel, where the meeting was held, to Jefferson Hospital, where my father was undergoing a right-knee replacement. All went well and it was nice to be able to spend some time with him.

Last Monday, I had the privilege of attending a reception for Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center, who received an honorary degree from Georgetown at the Davis Performing Arts Center on campus. I found it truly inspiring to learn how he has done so much to break down the walls of intolerance through the arts. The Kennedy Center has promoted the arts in many of the world’s most dangerous and poverty-stricken regions. There are many ways to make a difference in this world.

On Tuesday much of my day was spent at the GUMC Convocation ceremony activities. It was a true pleasure to meet the guest speaker and the recipient of the Cura Personalis Award, famed pharmacogeneticist Arno Motulsky.  While he was born in Germany, Dr. Motulsky was actually raised in Brussels, Belgium, in the same general neighborhood as my mother. An interesting coincidence, although he did not know her or her family.

While my mother and her family went into hiding to escape persecution and extermination during the Holocaust, Dr. Motulsky’s family attempted to escape aboard the M.S. St. Louis—the German ocean liner that infamously sailed from Hamburg to Havana in 1939, but whose passengers were denied entry when it arrived.

Upon the ship’s return Dr. Motulsky was imprisoned at a camp in Vichy, France, but managed to survive and somehow got an exit visa to the United States. He joined the U.S. army in 1943 and went on to live a remarkable life. Hearing his story and connecting it to my own family’s history reminds me of the essential differences between challenging economic times, such as the current era, and man-made cataclysms such as the Holocaust or natural disasters such as the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

On Friday I was sorry to miss the Visiting Professor Seminar Series, with guest speaker Thomas Hornyak, MD, PhD, from the NCI. I had to attend the ASCO Cancer Research Committee meeting in Alexandria. I’m sure his talk on melanoma was fascinating.

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the spring weather!  It will be the perfect temperature for our Georgetown Lombardi/Ruesch Center team that is participating in the Scope it Out 5K for Colon Cancer Awareness this Sunday in DC.

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Feb 13 2011

A Week Full of University-Wide Activities

by at 12:53 am

The week started out on a high note with last Monday’s Town Hall meeting, which I hope those of you who attended found useful and informative. For those who missed it but are interested in what we discussed, you can find my slides on LombardiNet.

On Tuesday, I participated in the clinical chair session of the LCME site visit for the School of Medicine, even though I informed Dean Mitchell that I’m a basic science chair! Nonetheless, it was a good chance to see some of my fellow chairs with whom I wouldn’t normally interact. From what I gather, the site visit went well and we hope to receive a favorable report. Combined with the fact that Georgetown remains highly ranked according to the Carnegie Foundation, this is shaping up to be a good stretch of accreditation for all of us.

This week was also busy with several board of directors activities, including COMCA and a lovely reception on Wednesday, the general board meeting on Thursday morning and a dinner for the board and University leadership Thursday evening.  I am pleased to report that the board of directors approved our leasing of space at 1000 New Jersey Avenue SE to support the community activities of Lucile Adams-Campbell’s program. This should be an enormous boost to the great work of Lucile and her team in conducting community-based participatory research.

At the board meeting we had the unique opportunity to hear from Charlie Deacon, who has been the dean of undergraduate admissions since 1970. He described admissions trends across all campuses, including the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies. The overall picture is that Georgetown remains a highly desirable and competitive choice—at least if the exceptional qualifications of the more than 1000 students who have already received acceptance letters to our undergraduate schools are any indication.

Thursday evening’s dinner was highlighted by an interesting question and answer session with the Ambassador of India to the United States, Meera Shankar. This experience was enhanced by the fact that I sat next to Victor Cha, who directs Georgetown’s Asian Studies Program in the School of Foreign Service. Victor took leave from the University from 2004 to 2007 to work as a director for Asian Affairs at the White House and the National Security Council.

Not surprisingly, he has some remarkable stories about his visits to North and South Korea and China. I thought I knew something about this part of the world, but this guy is truly amazing. As I talked with him, I was reminded at how diverse Georgetown is, and that we work with some incredibly talented and brilliant people.

Right in the midst of the board of directors activities, on Wednesday immediately after COMCA, I helped welcome a team of federal auditors who came in to look at our space utilization in support of our applications for recovery of indirect cost rates. This may not sound as interesting as some other activities this week, but it is an essential benchmark in establishing that we are fulfilling our mission as a cancer center by using our research space wisely and appropriately. I’d like to thank everyone who came in contact with the auditors for their time and gracious attitudes.

I also had the chance this week to sit down with George Philips, who recently came on board at Georgetown Lombardi from the Vermont Cancer Center. George and I discussed a variety of clinical trial opportunities, and as he said in his comments at the Town Hall, he is looking forward to quickly engaging as a highly collaborate researcher here. So if you see George wander by in the halls, please welcome him. Also if you are looking for opportunities to collaborate on genitourinary malignancies, please let him know. His email is George.K.Philips@gunet.georgetown.edu.

Finally, on Friday I was unable to attend the Program Leaders meeting because I was hosting a delegation from Geisinger Health System, facilitated by our friend Andy Deubler, who used to work in the EVP’s office. This was a great meeting, as we determined we have a number of shared interests and some real opportunities for partnering. Geisinger has an enormous patient population, meticulously documented by its electronic health records, and a huge biorepository of samples that could be a great resource for population-based research.

As you can see, it was a busy week! On Sunday, Harriet and I will attend the Georgetown-Marquette basketball game, where we’ll support the Georgetown Lombardi/CBCC team for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. The team will have a sign-up table, and there will be announcements made about our fundraising efforts–if you’re at the game stop by!

To close, I’d like to congratulate the Georgetown University Hospital Oncology Infusion Unit for a recent accomplishment. These nurses were recognized by the Oncology Nursing Certificate Corporation for clinical excellence in achieving an oncology certification rate of over 50% of eligible nurses. What a great reminder of the outstanding clinical care provided by GUH and MedStar Health – we should all take pride when our colleagues are honored.

That is all for this post. Enjoy your weekend, and happy Valentine’s Day!

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Dec 10 2010

Power of Perseverance

by at 11:09 am

Greetings from sunny San Diego.  I am here for the 20th IBC Antibody Engineering Meeting.  It is incredible to witness the growth of the field.  In 1990 there was one clinically approved monoclonal antibody, and many people derided researchers in the field for hitching their wagon to the wrong horse.  Now, there are 28 approved antibodies, yielding over $37 billion in yearly revenues.  Nearly half of all cancer drug sales are for antibodies.

When I think back on the early IBC meetings, I remember being part of a hardy band of idealistic pioneers, mixed with some zealots and a handful of opportunists.  There were more perceived valleys than peaks, but we persevered, and somehow, when we weren’t paying close enough attention, the field absolutely blossomed.  On Thursday, I chaired a session and spoke in another; one speaker after another presented exciting preclinical data, mixed with clinical trials demonstrating the utility of existing agents and the extraordinary results that are being obtained in the clinic with new agents.

The power of persistence, patience and belief in the future is underestimated, but should never be overlooked.  When I think of many events in the communal life of our cancer center, I am deeply appreciative of all of Lombardi’s visionaries who have simply persevered, and converted their innovation, hard work and collegiality into a remarkable success story that is still in progress.  And, I can most certainly assure you that the best is yet to come.

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Oct 08 2010

Taking Time for Family

by at 3:25 pm

Sadly, I don’t have much work-related news to report this week. Last Friday, Harriet and I were called to her mother’s bedside in the Philadelphia suburbs as she was finally losing a lengthy and harshly debilitating battle with Parkinson’s disease. She died peacefully on Sunday evening, with the family at her bedside. It was terribly sad, of course, and leaves everyone who loved her with a painful sense of loss mixed with a sense of relief that her suffering has ended. She was a terrific person, and she will be missed.

I had been planning to travel to Chicago last Sunday afternoon for the American Association of Cancer Institutes (AACI) meeting from Sunday through Tuesday. I was especially interested in attending the meeting because I was just elected to the AACI’s Board of Directors, and was looking forward to contributing to its efforts. However, there will be other meetings in the future, and I am glad that I canceled my trip to be with Harriet, her mother and the rest of our family.

I also had been looking forward to the Capital Breast Care Center’s (CBCC’s) annual Gift of Life Breakfast on Thursday morning. This event broke all of its prior fundraising records; these proceeds will go a long way towards supporting the CBCC’s important efforts in the DC community. Congratulations to Beth Beck (CBCC executive director), Susannah Fox (CBCC development director, who coordinated the event) and Peter Shields, and thanks to the Michelle Cross Fenty, president of CBCC’s Advisory Council for her unstinting efforts on behalf of the CBCC, and for facilitating what I understand to have been a wonderful reception for major donors at the British Embassy last Monday evening. 

Please also join me in congratulating Jeff Toretsky for receiving a substantial NCI Award using the RC4 ARRA funding mechanism. He received one of only two RC4 grants awarded by the NCI, and will use this support to accelerate the clinical development of an EWS-FLI1 inhibitor to treat Ewing’s sarcoma. Well done, Jeff!

As I write this message I am looking forward to the American Cancer Society Symposium on Friday, October 8 featuring young Lombardi investigators. I hope everyone has a good weekend and enjoys Columbus Day on Monday.

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Oct 01 2010

Some news to make us feel proud

by at 8:41 pm

This past week, the fifth floor of the Research Building got a bit brighter. If you haven’t been up in the past few days, you should come see the cheerful display of paintings outside Suite E501 done by Nevin Bossart, one of the Arts and Humanities Program’s most prominent art teachers. His vibrant depictions of flowers make the space feel more like home for me—and with good reason!  Harriet and I actually have one of Nevin’s works hanging in our home. It is a painting of a specific castle in Ireland. I decided I had to own this particular piece because I saw it hanging in the Lombardi lobby just about four days after I returned from a trip to Ireland, where I had visited the very same castle! Some things are just meant to be.

On Tuesday, the National Research Council released the Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs. Lombardi’s Tumor Biology Ph.D. program rated very highly — more to come on that. Congratulations to all who are involved for having your work recognized so prominently.
I appreciate the excellent turnout and lively interchange at last week’s Sector Meeting and Town Hall. We had quite a bit of important business to discuss, as you can see, and I look forward to keeping you updated through regular correspondence and conversation. I am sorry to have missed Craig Jordan’s first Research Seminar on Wednesday, but was representing Lombardi at the Georgetown University Executive Committee meeting all day.

Stay tuned for announcements regarding the official G-DOC launch this month. After all you have been hearing about this tremendous tool, you’ll have the opportunity to see it in action—and find out how it is relevant to your work—at our launch symposium on October 26, from 2-4 pm, in the New Research Building Auditorium.

I’m looking forward to welcoming October this weekend—always a beautiful month here. I hope you have a nice weekend as well!

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Jun 25 2010

Farewell

by at 11:16 am

I hope everybody is staying cool during this hot weather! We had a lovely retirement celebration for Susette Mueller on Tuesday; it is sad to see her go, though we are all happy for her and take some comfort in knowing that she’ll be back frequently. Hopefully, she’ll bring her banjo.

I had the opportunity to speak at the Wellness Community on Monday evening, and was inspired by the wonderful services that are provided as well as the dignity and tenacity of the many wonderful survivors with whom I interacted. So, it was particularly poignant for me when I saw one of my patients in clinic on Thursday. He is a young man who has been fighting colon cancer for 15 years, and came here after receiving care at Johns Hopkins because his doctor had run out of treatment options for him. Fortunately, he was eligible for Mike Pishvaian’s clinical trial employing temazolomide and a PARP inhibitorm, and he has actually been doing a bit better since he started therapy. It was maddening to hear him blurt out, in tears, about how he was going to have to sell or close his business, not because of his illness, but because his health insurer has increased his premiums by more than 1,000 percent (no, that is not a typo!) over the past few years. He is being punished for being ill, and he can no longer afford to pay the $60,000 (!) yearly premium. I could go on and on, but won’t. But this was a painful moment for me.

Have a nice weekend.

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