Archive for the 'Research' Category


Mar 04 2012

Revisiting a Transatlantic Memory

by at 9:32 pm

I hope you enjoyed a weekend that turned out to have remarkably good weather. Harriet and I took advantage of the lovely day on Sunday to walk to the American Museum of National History; I had not been there for years. It was a really interesting few hours, and I was a bit surprised to be so moved by the exhibit showing the American flag that flew over Fort McHenry, and was the subject of the Star Spangled Banner.

I was also delighted to see an exhibit about the SS United States. Built after World War II, this ship was once the fastest and fourth largest commercial ocean liner in the world. As a child I sailed on the SS United States with my family, to meet my maternal grandparents and my extended family in Belgium. Even though I was quite young I have so many fond memories of that trip. Throughout elementary school I was known as the little boy who had been to Belgium (overseas travel was still quite exotic to residents of the Philadelphia suburbs). I must have drawn hundreds of renditions of that boat (all of them poorly) following our return. So, seeing the exhibit this weekend was like unexpectedly running into an old friend.

The work week was interesting as well. I had a productive dinner meeting with MedStar Cancer Network leadership, which continues to be developed as a clinical and clinical research enterprise. Don’t you think that MedStar’s new commercials are compelling and effective? As we roll out the Cancer Network, this type of advertising could prove to be very powerful.

Thursday was particularly memorable. I was one of the judges for Lombardi’s annual Research Day, and tried to see as many posters as possible. As was true last year, I was deeply impressed by the depth and excellence of the work done by our students and trainees. It was great fun to talk withthe poster presenters, and then to help preside over the award ceremony on Friday. Congratulations to all of the winners, and thanks to everybody who participated. I was very happy for Joe Murray, an MD/PhD student in my laboratory, who took home a prize; he has done a great job, and like everyone in my lab, he makes me look better than I really am!

On Thursday afternoon I had clinic. For those of you who have followed my recent blogs, you will remember my young patient with metastatic colon cancer. He came in for a visit, feeling better, with more energy, less abdominal cramping but continued abdominal pain requiring narcotics. He is continuing to receive chemotherapy, and will come back in a bit more than a month if all goes well, with a CT scan performed to assess his response to therapy. We are all hoping for a good report, so he can focus on his new child, and so we can move forward towards definitive surgery for his colon cancer, and perhaps, his liver metastases as well.  Once his colonic primary has been removed, we then hope to be able to add bevacizumab to his treatment regimen; this anti-VEGF antibody can cause bleeding and perforation when the colonic or rectal primary is in place.

Help me. I need better treatments for this young man, and for every other patient. Every person with cancer is important to so many people, and he is no exception. For all of their sakes, we need to act with urgency.We also need better ways to assess risk, modify lifestyles  and prevent cancer. This can only be done through research and discovery. This is what gets me out of bed every morning. How about you?


No responses yet | Categories: Administration,Clinic,Research,Uncategorized

Jul 24 2011

No Escaping the Summer Heat

by at 9:09 pm

I hope everyone has survived the remarkable heat wave we’ve had for the past week or so.

It was a quiet week since so many folks are on vacation, so I’ve been able to catch up on a lot of work. Of course, we’ve carved out some time for fun too. Two weekends ago we had a truly thrilling experience. We went up to New York City to see the Broadway Musical, “Sister Act,” which is based on the movie of the same name. The musical score is by Alan Menken, who co-wrote many of the big Disney musical movies and shows (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and many more). The show is terrific. However, the real attraction for us is one of the show’s featured actresses, Marla Mindelle, who is our niece. Marla plays the role of Sister Mary Roberts, and does a wonderful job – and even sings the “11:00 number,” a ballad called  ‘The Life I’ve Never Known.” It was a special experience for us.

This past weekend was less dramatic, but lots of fun as we spent time in Baltimore visiting friends and family. And, on Saturday, I played golf (we had an early tee time and drank lots of water, as the temperature got into the 100-degree range by the time we were on the back nine). The nice thing about playing in horrible weather conditions is that I have a built in excuse for my score!

This past Monday I participated in a senior review panel of candidates for NIH’s Lasker awards, which are designed to attract talented young investigators to spend time at NIH during their “assistant professor” years. The rest of the week was highlighted by beginning to write a grant to respond the the NIH U01 for new target discovery, sprinkled among various meetings.

I had an interesting Friday, as I foolishly had agreed to allow our sons to switch vehicles. This meant that my younger son now gets to drive the family’s 13-year-old Toyota 4Runner, but because the vehicle is in my name, I had to take it for DC inspection and registration. The process only took about four hours, most of it spent either waiting in line at the inspection station on Half Street or in the Georgetown branch DMV office. Root canal would have been more fun.

This was a painful reminder that it is time to transfer the car’s title to my son David so he can enjoy the experience without my involvement. I am looking forward to the coming week, which can only represent an improvement over Friday’s activities!

No responses yet | Categories: Administration,Research,Uncategorized

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.

No responses yet | Categories: Administration,Events,Research

Oct 29 2010

Announcing Lombardi’s New Organizational Structure

by at 1:32 pm

Dear Colleagues:

As you know by now, we have been engaged in a process to modify our program structures so that we can respond effectively to the CCSG critique that resulted from our competitive submission in May, 2009. This process has involved many of you, and I am grateful for the many helpful suggestions and comments that I received. The exact names of the programs might change over the next month or so, but this general organization will be retained.

I am especially grateful to all of the program leaders who have served Lombardi during the recent CCSG submission and review process. They represented us and our science with dedication and worked very hard to accurately portray the science we do together. However, the process of peer review is rigorous and at times unforgiving, and in the reorganization and prioritization of our collaborative research activities some changes in program leadership were necessary.

The program designations (remember, the actual titles are still tentative) and program leaders are described below. CET represents a trimmed down and refocused evolution of the former 3DT program, and MO encompasses elements of the former MTTR, GRC and 3DT programs.

Program Leader
Breast Cancer (BC) Bob Clarke, Claudine Isaacs
Clinical & Experimental Therapeutics (CET) John Marshall, TBN
Molecular Oncology (MO) Jeff Toretsky
Cancer Control (CC) Marc Schwartz
Carcinogenesis, Biomarkers & Epidemiology (CBE) Chris Loffredo

Over the next month the program leaders will work together and with program membership to identify the 2-4 major themes that define each of their programs, and will establish interest groups around those themes. Leaders of each interest group will be identified and will function thereafter as program co-leaders. I fully expect that while each interest group will have a specific “home program,” some interest group members may be primarily based in other programs. This will stimulate inter-programmatic collaborations. These interest groups will meet regularly and will become collaborative scientific entities that spawn the specific aims of our next CCSG submission. During this time, some Lombardi members will be invited to switch their primary program affiliations based on the new programmatic emphases that emerge from this process.

This is a real opportunity to develop an organizational structure that accurately reflects the science we do, and positions us to successfully compete for multi-investigator grants. I look forward to this process with excitement.

No responses yet | Categories: Administration,CCSG,Research

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!

No responses yet | Categories: Administration,Events,Outreach,Research

Jul 16 2010

Lombardi Community

by at 9:59 am

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer. It sure has been hot!

While the pace of meetings has slowed down a bit as many of us enjoy vacations, I have found no shortage of work. Aligning all of the key constituencies as we prepare to respond to the CCSG critique is occupying a lot of time, but I have been very gratified by the support shown to Lombardi. I have received many fine suggestions about ways to better focus our research programs and support our shared resources. However, I am always open to new suggestions!

One of the continuing joys of my job is the opportunity to be a part of the clinical and research communities of Lombardi. Today was a great example in that I attended Thursday’s Data meeting, and listened to two students (Ivana Peran and Joe Murray) present their interesting work. Of course, I may be a bit biased, since Ivana spoke about pancreatic cancer models (more about that later) and Joe, who works in my lab, talked about his efforts to uncover the tumor-derived molecular determinants of sensitivity to antibody-dependent cell mediated cytotoxicity. Later in the day, I had my usual clinic where I met a new patient who was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer last week. While there is new evidence that a combination of three standard drugs may improve median survival to about 12 months in this setting, we desperately need innovative approaches that will attack the relevant biology of this cancer. Efforts such as those being done by Ivana and her mentor, Anton Wellstein, are desperately needed and most welcome. I can conceive of no more compelling rationale for the concept of translational research that truly spans the lab and the clinic. My patient, and so many others just like her, are counting on us.

Have a great weekend, and stay hydrated.

No responses yet | Categories: Clinic,Education,Research

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 28 2010

The Final Stretch

by at 2:24 pm

So, Todd Waldman popped into my office on Monday to show me the April 15 cover of “Cancer Research”, which features a figure from his article, “CDK4/6 Inhibition Arrests the Growth of GBM Intracranial Xenografts.” The in vivo imaging depicted on the cover really highlights the power of such technology, and also serves as a reminder of the potential power of rationally-designed targeted cancer therapies. Congatulations to Todd and his colleagues for this very nice accomplishment!

Of course, I think Todd’s real reason for stopping up was to vent about how the Caps are trying to blow their series against the Canadians, and to see if I had any insights into how the Flyers might fare if they face the Caps in a second round series. I have no insights to offer other than it seems to be helpful to have a very hot goalie on your side in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

We are in the final week of preparations for the Avon Walk, and are in our final fundraising push. Unfortunately, my right knee and leg have blown up a bit (too much training?), and I may need to mix my walking with service in the medical tent. Either way, I’ll be there.

Have a great week.

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Apr 23 2010

Getting Inspired

by at 7:28 pm

This week was largely dominated by the AACR meeting held at the Washington Convention Center. I got to as many posters and presentations as I could, but we had so many that it was impossible for any one person to be everywhere. So if I didn’t make it to your presentation, please accept my apologies. Karen Mallet told me that we had more media hits than any other cancer center at the AACR meeting. This is a testament not only to her good work, but to the wonderful material that our scientists presented. Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about Lombardi through their excellent presentations.

Mike Pishvaian had a poster on Wednesday morning and I expected he would be lonely because it was the “getaway morning.” However, when I stopped by to say hello, he was surrounded by a surprisingly large group of questioners who were interested in his poster, titled, “Synergistic anti-cancer activity of the CDK4/6 inhibitor PD-0332991 in combination with 5-fluorouracil-based chemotherapy in human colon cancer cells.” If that is any indication of the impact of his work and that of our other presenters, I would have to conclude that we did ourselves proud.

I ran from session to session, but took particular pleasure in my participation in several career mentoring workshops and as a speaker in the scientist-survivor program. I had an opportunity to interact with some incredibly accomplished and dedicated advocates who wanted to learn more about cancer research. It was very inspiring.

I will need that inspiration for our last big training walk before the Avon Walk. We are heading out Saturday morning in hopes of getting done before the skies open up. Our team has raised $54,000 as of this morning. There are still a few team members that need help to reach their $1800 fund raising goal to be able to participate in the Walk next week. If you are interested in helping out, you can visit the Lombardi/CBCC team page here.

No responses yet | Categories: Research

Apr 16 2010

AACR Preview

by at 12:30 pm

I’m looking forward to the upcoming AACR meeting at the Washington Convention Center Saturday through Wednesday. Like many of you, I plan to attend the meeting and Lombardi investigators are well-represented in posters and presentations. To make it easier to find your colleagues, a full list of oral and poster presentations and their locations and times is pasted at the end of this post. You can also view them in a Printable itinerary or Mobile itinerary.

I had a very interesting meeting with Dr. Reinhard Krepler who is the CEO of the Vienna General Hospital (AKH), which serves as Vienna’s university hospital. With 2141 beds, it is one of the largest hospitals in Europe. Dr. Krepler is interested in establishing a comprehensive cancer center along the lines of the US model and is touring various cancer centers here to understand how to proceed. Talking with him drove home the immense complexity and quality of comprehensive cancer centers (as if I didn’t know that from our CCSG!). Despite the remarkable patient population and general excellence of his hospital, it will likely take five to ten years of hard work for that hospital to emerge as a full-fledged comprehensive cancer center. It’s a sobering thought, but we can take pride in all that Lombardi has accomplished over the years. It’s easy to take our excellence for granted. Dr. Krepler’s visit was a useful reminder to the contrary.

Speaking of the CCSG, we’ve been asked by the NCI to provide the additional documentation related to our comprehensiveness review. This is a prelude to our notice of grant award, but nobody knows what the award amount will be.

Click through for a list of the AACR presentations. Continue Reading »

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