Aug 28 2009

A quick trip to South Korea

by at 2:00 pm

Greetings from Washington, DC! I returned last night from a very interesting visit to Dankook University in South Korea, where I was accompanied by Craig Jordan, Al Fornace, Eliot Rosen, Priscilla Furth and Insoo Bae. Dankook is part of South Korea’s “World Class University” initiative, and we all participated in a “WCU” symposium held at Dankook. It was an interesting meeting, and South Korea was simply fascinating. Plus, the plane ride was so long that I had plenty of time to work on my CCSG site visit presentation.

I am looking forward to the mock site visit with our External Scientific Advisory Committee on September 9, and cannot wait for September 24 (the day after the site visit) to arrive.

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Mar 12 2009

Stimulating discussions – and the stimulus package

by at 12:28 pm

It was a great pleasure for me to see Stan Gerson when he came to Lombardi to deliver Grand Rounds last Friday. Not only is he an old friend and study section colleague, but he’s also a valued member of our External Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC). As a cancer center director, his perspective and insight is very valuable to me as we head into the CCSG renewal. Even though Stan usually slept during sections on tumor immunology, I forgive him his transgressions and found his presentation on Friday to be interesting and provocative. I was, however, disappointed to be one of only a handful of clinicians in the audience. I don’t see how we could have better speakers at Grand Rounds, so hopefully this will change. Everyone is busy, but the opportunity to participate in exciting academic activities is and will remain a core value of this cancer center.

Harriet and I attended the Pediatrics Gala at the Omni Shoreham Saturday night. It reminded me that Jeff Toretsky and Aziza Shad are hosting a very significant symposium on Targeted Therapy for Childhood Cancers that will feature a great lineup of speakers. It will be held on Friday, April 17 in the Research Building Auditorium. Please remember to put it on your calendar and register for the event.

On Monday we had our first full senior operational team meeting where we welcomed John Marshall into the group. The senior operational leadership team now consists of Peter Shields, Michael Vander Hoek, John Marshall, and myself. I think it’s important to include a strong clinical perspective in these weekly operations meetings, and John’s input proved invaluable to the discussions.

I have also had several meetings related to fund raising in the past week. Aside from my routinely scheduled meeting with Joe Teague, I also met with the University Office of Advancement’s “Discovery Intiative” team, which consists of roughly 20 individuals who interface with Georgetown alumni, friends, and supporters. I was able to share our vision for the future and can assure you that vision was enthusiastically received. Since these people engage their constituents looking for opportunities to create relationships that can benefit the cancer center, I came away quite encouraged.

Finally, you have no doubt been bombarded by a variety of messages regarding stimulus package grant opportunities. We are doing our best to coordinate our activities and provide support to facilitate successful applications. The large construction grants will be handled centrally through the University, but many of the other proposals, including grant supplements, should be considered by all of us. If you have not already done so, please let us know your plans for submitting grants using this form.

Have a great week.

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Feb 26 2009

Getting ready for spring

by at 10:54 am

I don’t know about you, but knowing that Spring Training has started gives me some hope that Winter is finally winding down! It will feel good to walk around without needing a coat.

As always, this is a very busy time of the year. Last week, John Marshall and I had a very interesting conference call regarding a new vaccine that could be used in pancreatic cancer patients. This week, Khaled El Shami, Carolyn Hurley, and I are meeting with the NCI bone marrow transplant program people to further develop an exciting allogeneic natural killer cell infusion protocol for refractory myeloid leukemia patients. This collaboration truly represents an integrated clinical and laboratory research initiative with our NCI colleagues.

And, on Wednesday, Anton Wellstein showed me some really interesting data from the new Translational Laboratory headed by Narayan Shivapurkar, who joined us in January from the University of Texas, Southwestern, where he worked with John Minna. This laboratory plans to use multiplexed protein and phosphoprotein detection assays on a novel instrument, the Meso Scale Discovery Platform, and the data thus far indicate that a sensitive and fairly comprehensive analysis of key protein phosphorylation events can be monitored using small tissue samples. This tool should greatly expand our capacity to conduct correlative science in the context of clinical trials; if you have any questions, check with Anton or Narayan. Narayan is also developing microRNA expression assays; the very early returns are encouraging. Once the assays have been successfully developed, they too can serve to extend our clinical trial support repertoire. Needless to say, both the phosphorylation and microRNA technologies will prove to be valuable for all types of science that is done at Lombardi.

I’ve also had some interesting meetings in the last week. For example, I participated in a conference call with our Population Science focused External Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC) on Monday, and received helpful suggestions and very positive feedback as we head into the homestretch for our CCSG submission. I’ll have more information about this at Wednesday’s Town Hall Meeting.

On that note, have a great rest of the week and please make sure to join us at the Lombardi Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, March 4th.

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Feb 12 2009

Report from our External Scientific Advisory Committee

by at 10:09 pm

It’s been a busy past few weeks. Last Tuesday, as many of you know, our External Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC) visited and conducted a remarkably thorough and helpful review of the cancer center. My thanks go out to everyone who prepared so hard to make this a successful and productive exercise. We received generally positive feedback along with specific suggestions that will improve the clarity of our upcoming core grant submission. Several of the ESAC members joined a few of us at the Rutgers game and got to see the only game that Georgetown has won in recent memory. We must bring the ESAC back soon!

I also had the pleasant opportunity to meet with the Lombardi Gala Corporate Committee to continue our planning for this year’s Gala. I’m really excited about resuming this wonderful tradition after a one year hiatus.

This week was highlighted by the University Board of Director’s meeting. As always, I was pleased to note the incredibly thoughtful and wise perspective of our board. I really mean that! And I’m very happy to have their unwavering support for the Lombardi and its mission.

Yesterday’s activities were enlivened by a trip to the NIH campus where Minetta Liu and I met with Jay Berzofsky and his colleagues to discuss collaboration around a novel vaccine concept for the treatment of HER2 positive breast cancer. I think we’ll have a lot of fun working with Jay and his colleagues, and we’ll be able to offer our patients cutting-edge options as well. The visit exemplified for me the potential for reaching out to local governmental and non-governmental entities to collaborate in areas of high scientific importance. As they say in real estate – location, location, location!

Now it’s time to get back to writing my section of the core grant renewal. Talk to you next week.

Update: Be sure to check out the comments we received on the logos. Thank you for your very thoughtful responses. We are taking all of the feedback into consideration as we move forward in collaboration with the University on our branding initiative.

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Jan 29 2009

Celebrating MLK & the Inaguration

by at 8:55 pm

*Due to a technical error, this post did not get published last week. I apologize for the delay*

January 21, 2009

It’s great to be back from my trip last week to Costa Rica to participate in the Breast Cancer Think Tank, organized in part by Marc Lippman. The quality of the science at this meeting is especially high, and I identified two to three new possible collaborations based on my presentation and those of participants. It was also a fantastic venue for a meeting, and the camaraderie that results at a meeting like this really shows in the quality of the participants and the quality of the discussions. Plus, the rain forests are spectacular.

On Monday night, I had the privilege of attending Georgetown University’s celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr., celebration at the Kennedy Center. In addition to a reception the program, which included the Georgetown University choir (featuring our very own Mia Caparas), featured Nuttin’ But Stringz. They are a duo of violinists that merges hip hop and classical form with stunning effect. There was also an amazing performance by Aretha Franklin. Coming on the eve of President Obama’s inauguration, the evening had a special poignancy.

I don’t know how many of you attended the Inauguration but Harriet and I decided to sit next to the TV. It was truly a remarkable day. I don’t know about you, but I am feeling rather optimistic about the future, and I believe the government will be supportive of innovations in science and health care.

I’ll be paying special attention to our upcoming External Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC) visit, which is scheduled for February 3rd. I think we’ll have a lot of excellent progress to share with them.

Have a great week.

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