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SHOP TALK: New Jobs, Appointments, & Changes; Promotions; Honors; Grants, & Other “People News”

doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000410651.86090.8e
Shop Talk

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center and the UAB Division of Neurosurgery have received a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute for $2.3 million over three years to conduct research and develop new therapies to treat brain tumors.

UAB is one of only a few NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers with four SPORE programs—for brain, breast, and pancreatic cancers and a shared grant with Johns Hopkins for cervical cancer. UAB also is one of only four institutions awarded a brain-tumor SPORE grant.

G. Yancey Gillespie, PhD, Professor of Surgery, and James M. Markert, MD, MPH, the James G. Galbraith Professor of Neurosurgery and Division Director, both from the UAB Division of Neurosurgery and senior scientists in the neuro-oncology program in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, will co-lead the program to study contemporary therapeutics for anaplastic gliomas. The award includes $200,000 from the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to accelerate the initiation of two new clinical trials in the first year. The research team of 14 investigators from seven departments at UAB will comprise the interactive multi-disciplinary research team.

One of the primary objectives is to develop and test a genetically engineered herpes simplex virus. UAB researchers will establish the safety and high quality of the virus preparation for the “first-in-man” clinical study. Another project will test the ability of a monoclonal antibody, produced at UAB, to bind to human brain-tumor cells and cause them to be killed. UAB has already conducted two clinical trials with this monoclonal antibody in patients with other types of cancer.

Other pilot projects include designing a clinical trial to test a small-molecule inhibitor of a critical enzyme that is overactive in brain tumors and also re-purposing an older drug with a proven safety history for treating malaria and testing its outcomes in patients with anaplastic gliomas.

Vishva Dixit, MD, Vice-President of the Early Discovery Research Program at Genentech, received the 2011 Clifford Prize for Cancer Research, which is given every two years by SA Pathology for outstanding international achievements in cancer research. He was recognized for his pioneering research in cell death, which significantly altered the understanding of the molecular steps required for programmed cell death and pro-inflammatory signalling in cancer.

“Professor Dixit's remarkable findings and insights into the cell death machinery continue to provide innovative ways to understand and tackle cancer,” said Professor Angel Lopez, co-Director of the Centre for Cancer Biology at SA Pathology. “He has identified not only fundamental new mechanisms of how normal cells work but also important key events that subvert the normal process and lead to the development of cancer in several organs. Clearly this provides us all now with new opportunities to develop more effective anti-cancer drugs.”

Xiaoyang Wu, PhD, has joined the University of Chicago as Assistant Professor in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research, after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Rockefeller, where he worked in the laboratory of Elaine Fuchs, PhD, on projects involving skin stem cells. His current research, which focuses on cell motility and dynamics, is being funded by the University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation Women's Board.

Also at the University of Chicago, Darren King, MD, has joined the Section of Hematology/Oncology as a Hospitalist in the leukemia inpatient service. His research efforts are on inpatient care and finding ways to not only manage leukemia in a bench-to-bedside manner, but also to make lengthy hospitalizations easier on the patients in terms of comfort and provision of information.

Another new faculty member is Raymon Grogan, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, a specialist in the surgical management of thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal gland diseases. As a clinician and a scientist, Dr. Grogan is actively involved in clinical, translational, and basic science research, and he is currently working on identifying genetic and proteomic biomarkers in thyroid and adrenal tumors.

The Leukemia Research Foundation presented Ima N. Garcia, RN, MSN, ACNP-BC, AOCNP, of the University of Chicago with the 2011 Nurse of the Year Award. Presented annually since 1996, the award recognizes exceptional hematology-oncology nurses.

The Lymphoma Research Foundation also awarded $2.15 million in grants to the following US and European scientists investigating new treatments for follicular lymphomas ($450,000 each over three years) and mantle cell lymphomas ($200,000 each over two years):

* John (Wing) Chan, MD, Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, studying oncogenic mutations in follicular and transformed follicular lymphoma.

* Laurence Cooper, MD, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, off-the shelf immunotherapy for follicular lymphoma infusing CD19-specific T cells.

* David Frank, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, identification and targeting of transcription factor pathways activated in follicular lymphoma.

* Elias Campo, MD, Institute for Biomedical Research August Pi i Sunyer in Barcelona, identification of somatic mutations in mantle cell lymphoma using next-generation sequencing.

* Samuel Katz, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, reactivating apoptosis in mantle cell lymphoma by peptide replacement of the tumor suppressor BIM.

* Izidore Lossos, MD, Miller School of Medicine of the University of Miami, new immunotherapeutic approaches to mantle cell lymphoma.

* Thomas Tedder, PhD, Duke University Medical Center, molecular insights into mantle cell lymphoma immunotherapy.

David Dilts, PhD, MBA, Professor in the Division of Management at Oregon Health & Science University and a member of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute management team, received a 2011 group merit award from the National Institutes of Health for his role in developing AccrualNet, a web-based system designed to help researchers navigate the process for recruiting participants to NIH clinical trials. He and the other co-developers were presented with the award during a ceremony in Bethesda.

“It is gratifying to see David Dilts' work on this project receive such a prestigious award,” Brian Druker, MD, Director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, said in a statement. “Improving the speed of completing clinical trials is crucial to accelerating progress against cancer, especially as cancer treatments become more specialized.”

One of Dr. Dilts' responsibilities within the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is to help foster national efforts to streamline clinical trials to help advance personalized cancer medicine. He helped design AccrualNet to serve as a clearinghouse for knowledge on how to successfully conduct NIH clinical trials as well as provide a community of practice. AccrualNet includes recruitment resources, information on trial strategies, training opportunities and decision-making tools.

“I am honored to be recognized by the NIH along with my colleagues on this project,” he said. “It was a team effort that required many important contributions. My role was to provide expertise in looking at the total problem and not just pieces of it.”

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