Archive for the 'Events' Category


Jun 10 2010

Taking the Time to Reconnect

by at 9:27 am

I attended ASCO last Friday through Sunday, and it was very interesting. It is an unbelievably huge meeting making it impossible to take in more than a tiny sliver of the many simultaneous session. It takes so long to get from one end of the convention center to the other, especially if one knows a lot of people. Combine that with the meetings that surround the ASCO meeting and it is all a bit overwhelming. That said, it was good to reconnect with colleagues and friends from around the country.

I left half way through ASCO’s annual meeting to attend the Georgetown University Executive Committee meeting which was held at the Aspen Institute Wye River Conference Center located in Maryland. I really enjoy these meetings because they remind me of the general excellence of our University and the commitment of its leadership to sustaining that excellence. Many of you may take this association for granted, having always been based at a university. However, I spent 23 years at a freestanding comprehensive cancer center, while that undiluted focus on cancer has its advantages; there are so many unexpected and delightful opportunities that emerge at a university based cancer center.

I returned to Lombardi on Wednesday just in time to attend the Shared Resource Symposium. I was delighted to see how much of a success the symposium was. Steve Byers told me it had something to do with free lunch. Personally, I thought it had more to do with the free pens with the cool logos…

Thursday and Friday will be dominated by my attendance as an ad hoc member of my old study section (CII). I have found the new grant format and review criteria to be challenging but have found the process to be perfectly reasonable and fair. I know this experience will make it easier when it’s time for me to prepare my R01 renewals. On Monday, I look forward to the eleventh annual Mens’ Event, which, like the Women and Wine Event held in April, raises money for Lombardi and provides a rallying point for many of our strongest supporters. The Mens’ Event focuses on prostate cancer, while Women and Wine emphasizes breast cancer. The two events are competing this year to see which one can raise the most money. I am rooting for both of them to win! The event will be held at Morton’s, and I am sure the steaks will be great. Whoever figures out a way to spike steak sauce and condiments with statins will no doubt make a fortune.

Have a great weekend.

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Jun 04 2010

2010 ASCO Annual Meeting

by at 12:05 pm

Greetings from Chicago! I am at the annual ASCO meeting and am looking forward to the dizzying array of sessions and meetings awaiting me over the next few days. I’ll be discussing two abstracts at the GI cancer oral session on Sunday morning; these abstracts describe the use of adjuvant cetuximab (an anti-EGF receptor antibody) in patients with colorectal cancer. Of course, there will be a number of other presentations by Lombardi investigators:

Craig M. Kessler, MD
Oral Presentation
“Diagnosis and initial treatment of VTE in cancer patients”
Friday, June 4
1-3:15pm, E354a

Michael J. Pishvaian
Poster Discussion
“Final reporting of a phase I clinical trial of the oral PPAR-gamma agonist, CS-7017, in patients with advanced malignancies.”
Saturday, June 5
8am-12pm, E450a
1-2pm, E354b

Bruce D. Cheson, MD
Oral Presentation
“Lymphoma and Plasma Cell Disorders”
Sunday, June 6
7:45am, E Hall D1

Jeffrey Toretsky, MD
Education Session
“Targeting protein products of sarcoma specific translocations with small molecules”
Monday, June 7
8-9:15am, S406 (vista room)

Claudine Isaacs, MD
Poster Session Discussion
“Breast Cancer – Local-Regional and Adjuvant Therapy”
Monday, June 7
2-6pm, S403
5-6pm, N Hall B-1

Minetta Liu, MD
Oral Presentation
“Circulating Tumor Cells in Breast Cancer: Where are We?”
Monday, June 7
3-4:30pm, N Hall B-1

Aziza T. Shad, MD
Panel Discussion
“Palliative Care and Cancer in the Future”
Tuesday, June 8
9am-12:00pm, S504

If you’re at the meeting, remember to stop by and support your colleagues! I’ll have to leave Chicago the first thing Monday morning to return to DC for the Georgetown University Executive Retreat so I’ll miss the last half of the ASCO meeting.

I’ll be back in the office on Wednesday, just in time for the Shared Resources Day. We are lucky to have so many terrific Shared Resources, and the more you learn about them, the more opportunities you’ll have to make use of these facilities.

I’ll have to remember to try an authentic deep dish pizza this weekend; I’ve never had one in Chicago. I’ll let you know how that turns out in next week’s blog.

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Jun 01 2010

The Lombardi Gala

by at 10:07 am

I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. I had an interesting week, as usual. As many of you know, we are gearing up for the Lombardi Gala in November and I had the privilege of meeting with the Gala Corporate Executive Committee last Wednesday. I was inspired by the passion of our volunteers and especially want to thank our four co-chairs for this year’s event Marc DeLuca, Brian Katz, Barry Scher and Paul Schweitzer for donating their efforts; I am especially grateful to Paul for his continuing commitment to Lombardi. It also was great to see Howard Adler, one of last-year’s co-chairs, at the breakfast. As some of you know, the theme of this year’s Gala is “Color the Cure”, and it should prove to be a valuable and memorable theme as it is fully developed. Thanks to Allison Whitney for the inspiration that led to this theme.

Later in the week I received excellent feedback from my GI cancer colleagues as I prepare to deliver an oral presentation (a discussion on two abstracts related to cetuximab-based adjuvant chemotherapy for colorectal cancer) at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meetings, which start this coming weekend. Because of this meeting I won’t be available to attend this Friday’s Grand Rounds in the Research Auditorium by Doug Hanahan, from UCSF. Dr. Hanahan is a true innovator in the field; his paper on the Hallmarks of Cancer [Cell. 2000 Jan 7;100(1):57-70], with Bob Weinberg, is one of the really seminal reviews of the past decade. I urge everyone to attend.

On Wednesday we have another very interesting seminar, which will be given by Skip Garner, the recently installed Director of the Virginia Tech Bioinformatics Institute. As many of you know, Lombardi and VBI have a number of collaborations through both Tony Dritschilo and Bob Clarke. Skip is very cancer-focused, and will be discussing a new technology he has developed that could be useful to many of us. The title of his talk is “Global Microsatellite Signatures Classify Cancers and Facilitate Biomarker Discovery”. Again, I urge everyone to attend what promises to be a very interesting presentation.

That’s all for now. Have a wonderful and productive week.

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May 14 2010

At the Avon Walk Finish Line

by at 1:27 pm

Our team at the finish line

Our team at the finish line

This is the last Avon Walk report you’ll hear from me for some time. But I want to share with you the good news that the Lombardi/CBCC team raised nearly $70,000 and was ranked 6th in terms of money raised going into the Walk. The team of walkers was fantastic and the cheering sections in front of the Hospital and by the finish line were potent reminders that Lombardi is a force to be reckoned with in this region when it comes to supporting breast cancer. Congratulations to all of the walkers and to the team’s co-captains, Jeanne Mandelblatt and my wife, Harriet. I want to particularly thank Jeanne for her dynamic leadership of the team. I also want to thank Gina DeLuca for her behind-the-scenes support throughout the planning process and Peter Shields for leadership of the medical team. Due to the unseasonably warm temperatures, there were many dehydrated and cramping walkers, some of whom had to be transported to local hospitals. While I wasn’t able to walk as much with the team, I was gratified that I am still able to recognize dehydration and order fluids.

I can tell you that the team is already planning next year’s walk and I hope my leg has healed a bit before then.

I went to visit Anton Wellstein a couple weeks ago to talk about some work we’re doing with siRNA library screening. We’ve identified new targets for intervention for pancreatic cancer. And as so often happens with Anton, a spirited scientific discussion arose. It turns out that we are using potentially complementary strategies that could readily be imagined in a program project grant application or other collaborative research grant. Our conversation reminded me about the diversity and depth of the research that we do here and the need to maintain open channels of communication to assure that we leverage our excellence wherever possible. For example, I was

Todd Waldmans Cancer Research Cover

Todd Waldman's Cancer Research Cover

talking with Mike Pishvaian on Monday morning about work he’s been doing with cdk4 inhibitors, building on his research showing that cdk4 interacts with smad3 in several cancer models. He remarked on Todd Waldman’s very nice recent paper in Cancer Research that ended up the cover story for that issue. Although Todd employed a glioblastoma model for his research, he used a reagent that Mike had suggested he employ.

Finally, it is with a mixture of regret and happiness that I have to report that Allison Whitney will be leaving us as of July 1. She has foolishly decided that her best future belongs in San Francisco, where she and her boyfriend will be moving to pursue new opportunities. The source of my regret is obvious, but I am happy for Allison that she is following her dreams. In her four years at Lombardi Allison has transformed the Communications Office and has dragged us (not always kicking and screaming) into the 21st century. Her work to create a modern and useful website will serve us well for many years to come. A search for her successor will commence shortly. Please join me in wishing Allison well as she transitions to her new life.

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Apr 01 2010

Spring in Washington

by at 1:59 pm

I simply cannot believe how beautiful Washington is at this time of year. I feel very lucky to be here to enjoy Spring, and of course to seeing everything “up close and personal” as I train for the Avon Walk. I am delighted to report that I have exceeded my personal fund raising target of $1800, and can now devote my efforts to helping my Lombardi/CBCC teammates achieve their goals. I hope some of you will want to help too. If you click on this link, you’ll be at the team’s homepage, showing who on the team still needs to raise money to meet their fund raising goals. Any help you provide will be greatly appreciated.

It’s been a quiet week for meetings, since Harriet and I scooted up to Philadelphia for our family’s Passover seder on Monday night, and got back into the office on Wednesday. And, of course things are winding down around here with Good Friday and Easter approaching. I took advantage of the time to complete my on-line human subjects certification, which is needed for all investigators who engage in research involving human subjects. I have clinic today, and must note that I am already seeing the impact of the Ruesch Center in my practice. Each of the major GI cancers now has a designated nurse navigator, and groups of clinicians and investigators are beginning to coalesce around these diseases. I was a pretty active clinician when I was at Fox Chase, which had a very active GI cancer program, but I can barely keep up with the new pancreatic cancer patients who are coming in through our active surgery and gastroenterology practices! This volume creates terrific opportunities for translational research focused on pancreatic cancer. And, knowing John Marshall as I do, I am sure that this is just the beginning.

Please accept my warmest wishes for a happy holiday.

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Mar 01 2010

Learning the meaning of petaflops

by at 8:35 am

I began my training this morning for the Avon Walk by taking 1 hour walk before the sun rose. My goal is to put in a minimum of 10 hours per week walking and increasing it as we get closer to the walk on May 1st and 2nd. I was delighted to receive Jeanne Mandelblatt’s email yesterday informing us that the Lombardi team is now up to 23 walkers. This is one more than we had last year and there’s still time for the team to grow. Since we’d like to raise significantly more money than we did last year, I think it would be great to increase the number of walkers to 40 or 50. So there’s still time to sign up!

I had an interesting vist to Oak Ridge National Laboratories on Wednesday. As many of you know, Georgetown University has a memorandum of understanding with ORNL related to systems bio-medicine. Several Lombardi faculty have collaborative research activities with ORNL colleagues funded through this collaboration. I was there this week to discuss opportunities for deepening collaborative ties with ORNL with an emphasis on systems bio-medicine as it relates to cancer in general, and on the G-DOC. It was a busy day of meetings so I didn’t get to do much touring of the facility, which contain some historically significant buildings and pieces of equipment – including one of the first atomic reactors. ORNL is also home to the largest and third largest computers in the world. The largest one, called Jaguar, has 2.3 “petaflops” of processing power, which means it can make 2.3 quadrillion calculations per second. As far as I can tell, it is created by placing 10,000 dual-processor laptops in parallel. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the task, it requires 2 gigawatts of power per year just to keep the machine cool and an additional 7 megawatts per year to supply power to the equipment. They plan to increase the capacity of their computer another hundred- to thousand-fold over the next decade. It it sounds as though they may need a nuclear plant to provide sufficient power for the equipment.

Interesting factoids aside, ORNL possesses exceptional high-performance computing capabilities. It will be interesting and potentially very valuable to identify ways we can collaborate with them to analyze increasingly complex data sets, such as integrated clinical and molecular databases of cancer.

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Feb 19 2010

Walking the Avon Walk

by at 2:11 pm

I was so delighted to be a part of Wednesdays “Fighting a Smarter War on Cancer” Symposium at the Leavey Center. This symposium reflected the challenge of the Ruesch Center to cure, and not just treat gastrointestinal cancers, John Marshall assembled a terrific lineup of speakers who really did a great job of speaking to a diverse audience. Many of these speakers were from Lombardi, and really demonstrated the depth and originality of the work being done here. I must say that I was very proud of our Cancer Center. I also was, as always, captivated by John, who was the sensational emcee’ of the event. Imagine seeing “Donohue” live in the studio (I guess I am dating myself), infused with a passion for a most worthy cause. It was a great day.

When I got done with clinic yesterday, I turned my attention to the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, which will be held on May 1st and 2nd. As you know, Lombardi has a growing team of walkers, and I officially joined the team today. I invite everyone who wants to help us support this fabulous event to do so by joining our team. If you can, walk with us. If you can’t walk, cheer for the walkers. And, of course, feel free to support the team with a donation. Together, we can make a difference via our advocacy to have a huge impact on addressing breast cancer health disparities through our Avon Foundation-supported Capital Breast Care Center. We have great ambitions for this year’s walk. I will begin training as soon as the snowpack has receded, and predict that there will be many long walks in my future!

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Jan 21 2010

Fighting breast cancer – in the lab and on the walking trail

by at 6:20 pm

Greetings from the “Breast Cancer Think Tank 20,” which is co-organized by former Lombardi Director Marc Lippman. There are many other former Lombardi people here, including Vered Stearns, Dan Hayes, Jimmy Rae, Shaomeng Wang and Doug Yee. All of them view Lombardi with great affection, and it is good to know that over the years we have generated so many wonderful sparks that have ignited important research at many distinguished institutions. And, we are well-represented at the meeting by an equally distinguished group of current Lombardi faculty, so we must be doing something right. I must say that this is one of the very best meetings I have attended in many years. It has the feeling of a Gordon Conference, but with an amazing amount of world-class give-and-take with every presentation. Naturally, when I spoke I stayed away from the talons of the ER signaling mavens and tried to convince the audience that the answer to breast cancer is in the field of immunology. Perhaps I am a little biased? However, I have come away with a bunch of new ideas for experiments, and that is always a sign of a good meeting.

It’s time for me to sign up for this year’s Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Yes, I am walking this year! I look forward to being a part of the Lombardi team, and hope that this commitment will stimulate an even higher level of support for our efforts to raise money for this wonderful cause. Last year, our Lombardi team raised over $48,000 and our successful fundraising, large team of walkers and supportive cheering section let everyone at the event know that Lombardi is clearly on the move. As you know, our very own Capital Breast Care Center has benefited greatly from Avon’s support and this is a wonderful (if blister-inducing) way for me to do my part for the cause. I think I’ll need some great walking shoes, so if anybody has a favorite brand, please let me know.

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Jan 19 2010

Learning more about informatics than I thought possible

by at 7:21 pm

Since this is my first blog of the year, I’d like to wish everybody a happy and healthy new year. I believe this will be a productive and highly successful new year. I hope everybody enjoyed the University-wide break during the week between Christmas and New Year and had a chance to spend the holidays with their families. Harriet and I had the unusual chance to be together with all of our grown children during that week and it was especially sweet. However, my son-in-law developed a brief but serious case of food poisoning that sent me in search of an all night pharmacy. Fortunately, I found one.

Thank you to Drs. Pishvaian, Dawson, Harter, Liu, Isaacs, Kessler, Cocilovo, Liang, Bright-Gbebry, Nancy Morgan and Jennifer Sween for generously giving up time this past weekend to participate in Lombardi’s booth at the NBC4 Health Expo (January 15th & 16th at the Washington Convention Center). As many of you know, Giant Foods invited Lombardi to be a part of their pavilion at the Health Expo, and we are excited by this opportunity to continue to reach out to the community in a number of ways to both do good and do well. Thank you to all of you who stopped by our booth to say hi.

One of the highlights of my week last week was a day-long meeting of a group that focuses on the signaling and bioinformatics of breast cancer. The meeting was organized by Bob Clarke and was held here in the E501 Conference Room and included a number of Lombardi scientists, two researchers from Fox Chase, and a group from the Virginia Tech Virginia Bioinformatics Institute. We identified a number of exciting collaborative directions and I learned more about informatics than I thought was possible.

Finally, I hope everybody will make time on their calendars to attend the first event sponsored by the Ruesch Center. John Marshall has poured his heart and soul into putting together a symposium on February 17th titled, “Fighting a Smarter War Against Cancer: Personalized Medicine & the Cure for Cancer.” John has put together a wonderful program which includes a handful of Lombardi scientists and a several high profile speakers from the cancer world. Mace Rothenberg the Senior Vice President of Pfizer Oncology will be giving the Thomas R. Schafer Memorial Lecture on the topic of “From Bench to Bedside to Pfizer.”

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Nov 06 2009

A Busy Week Before Heading to Seoul

by at 6:40 pm

I’ll be at Dankook University in South Korea as of November 11, doing some teaching and exploring collaborative opportunities, and I will spend a day or two at Seoul National University as well, giving a talk and meeting additional cancer research experts there. Hopefully, they’ll let me on the plane; those of you who have heard me speak in the last few days must have been looking around for the frog that invaded my larynx.

I have not yet received any news about our CCSG evaluation, but we should be hearing fairly soon. Frankly, I’ve been too busy to worry much about it. This week was highlighted by a busy clinic on Wednesday. I gave Department of Medicine Grand Rounds on Thursday morning (though my voice rarely rose above a hoarse whisper). I then spent some time in Vienna, VA at the NCI Translational Meeting, and then returned to meet with Dr. Eyran Halpern, who is in charge of the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel, and was here to explore collaborative opportunities. Since he also oversees that largest HMO in Israel (with over 3 million covered lives), there are interesting opportunities to consider, such as those in Health Services Research (are you reading this Arnie Potosky?). This morning I returned to the NCI meeting to co-chair a session on antibody-based cancer immunotherapy. I returned in time to hear Cheryl Lyn Walker’s very interesting Grand Rounds presentation, and had some time to catch up on calls and paperwork.

I am looking forward to Saturday night’s Lombardi Gala, which has already been quite successful, considering the challenging economic climate. This year’s theme is “Celebrate Lombardi”, and we will certainly do that!

If only I could have celebrated a Phillies victory in the World Series. I guess I’ll have to focus on the Eagles for now.

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