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SHOP TALK: Appointments, Promotions, Honors, Grants, & Other ‘People News’

doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000441993.17605.1a
Shop Talk

Joan Massagué, PhD, has been named Director of the Sloan-Kettering Institute, the research arm of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The Institute has a research staff of more than 100 laboratory investigators, 550 research fellows, and 260 graduate students.

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“Dr. Massagué is an exemplary scientist and an international leader in the study of cancer metastasis and the growth factors that regulate cell behavior. He is one of Memorial Sloan-Kettering's most vital, imaginative, and collaborative members,” Craig B. Thompson, MD, President and CEO of MSKCC, said in a news release. “He led the Sloan-Kettering Institute's Cell Biology Program and its Cancer Biology and Genetics Program, successively—and brilliantly—even as his own research was advancing.”

Massagué joined MSKCC in 1989 as the Chair of the Sloan-Kettering Institute's Cell Biology Program, and in 2003 was named inaugural Chair of the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program. He has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator for the past 24 years, and is the incumbent of the MSKCC Alfred P. Sloan Chair. Massagué, who assumed the new role on Jan. 1, succeeds Thomas J. Kelly, MD, PhD.

Max S. Wicha, MD, founding Director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, has announced he will step down from that role. “It has been my honor and privilege to lead the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center over all of these years, as it has developed into one of the leading cancer centers in the nation,” he said in a news release.

Wicha founded U-M's Cancer Center in 1986 and under his directorship, the Center earned its first National Cancer Institute Cancer Center designation in 1988. Wicha, the longest-serving cancer center director in the country, has since seen the Cancer Center through six NCI Cancer Center Support Grant renewals. U-M's grant and Comprehensive Cancer Center status were most recently renewed in 2011 with an “outstanding” rating.

Wicha will remain as Director until his successor is named. A national search is planned, which is expected to take about a year. After stepping down, Wicha plans to continue both his clinical practice and active research lab. His team's cancer stem cell research has advanced into testing of anti-stem cell compounds in clinical trials as potential new therapies for advanced cancer.

James Allison, PhD, Professor and Chair of Immunology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, was named the 2013 Innovations Award winner in Bioscience by The Economist. He was recognized for his immunotherapy research, particularly for identifying an immune checkpoint molecule that turns off T cells before they destroy tumor cells. Ipilimumab (Yervoy), an antibody that works by blocking that immune checkpoint molecule, became the first drug to extend survival for patients with late-stage melanoma.

“The approval of ipilimumab in 2011 represents the culmination of years of research by Dr. Allison into tumor immunotherapy,” Tom Standage, Digital Editor at The Economist and Chairman of the panel of 30 judges, said in a news release. “We are delighted to recognize his pioneering achievement in the fight against cancer.”

Joanne Wolfe, MD, MPH, Director of Pediatric Palliative Care at Boston Children's Hospital and Division Chief of Pediatric Palliative Care Service at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, has been awarded the 2013 American Cancer Society Pathfinder in Palliative Care Award, which recognizes outstanding achievements of a professional who has demonstrated remarkable innovation and ingenuity across a range of opportunities for action that contribute to the advancement of the palliative care field.

“I am deeply humbled and grateful for the recognition of my work in pediatric palliative care. In actuality, this award acknowledges the high value of interdisciplinary team work, whether in clinical care, education, or research, because I am surrounded by truly dedicated and talented colleagues,” Wolfe said in a news release. “It is a true privilege to serve children with life-threatening illness and their families. The life lessons are boundless.”

Wolfe founded the Pediatric Advanced Care Team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, which offers inpatient and outpatient services for children with a variety of serious illnesses, including cystic fibrosis and metabolic disorders as well as pediatric cancers. He also led the formation of the Pediatric Palliative Care Research Network at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia designed to foster clinical investigation in pediatric palliative care through multicenter research efforts and form a community of investigators who can exchange ideas, obtain valuable feedback, and develop key collaborations.

Additionally, Wolfe led efforts to pass policy that created the state-funded Massachusetts Pediatric Palliative Care Network.

Florence and Herbert Irving have been named the inaugural recipients of the Samuel Bard Leadership Award for Commitment to Health Care by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. The award, the institution's most most prestigious honor, recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a remarkable level of commitment to improving health care through philanthropy and/or advocacy. The Irvings received the award at a luncheon and ceremony on Nov. 20.

As noted in a news release, Steven J. Corwin, MD, CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, said in presenting the award, “With vision, dedication, and compassion, the Irvings have distinguished themselves in the fight against cancer.” “They have sought the best in care and caring for cancer patients, offering them both comfort and hope. We are immensely grateful to the Irvings for their leadership and incredible generosity. Through their longstanding commitment, they have transformed the full spectrum of cancer care at our medical center, and have touched the lives of countless patients and families.”

The Irvings have given more than $200 million to NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center, focusing their efforts on cancer care. Their support has enabled the hospital to create the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center; the Herbert Irving Pavilion; the Herbert Irving Division of Child and Adolescent Oncology; the Irving Inpatient Oncology Unit; the Irving Radiation Oncology Center (OT 10/25/13 issue); and the Irving Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.

Yale Cancer Center has awarded its 2013 Conclave Awards to the following individuals:

* Bernard G. Forget, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine (Hematology) at Yale Cancer Center, received the Lifetime Achievement Award;

* Mario Sznol, MD, Professor of Medical Oncology, received the Clinical Research Prize for his paper “Nivolumab plus Ipilimumab in Advanced Melanoma,” published in the New England Journal of Medicine;

* Stephen Ariyan, MD, Professor of Surgery (Plastic) and of Dermatology, received the Yale Cancer Center Award for Clinical Excellence;

* Lisa Barbarotta, RN, MSN, AOCNS, APRN-BC, received the Ruth McCorkle Oncology Advanced Practice Provider Award;

* Murat Gunel, MD, Professor of Neurosurgery and Genetics, received the Translational Research Prize;

* James B. Yu, MD, Assistant Professor of Therapeutic Radiology, and Cary P. Gross, MD, Professor of Medicine (General Medicine) and of Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases), shared the Population Science Research Prize; and

* Don Nguyen, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pathology, received the Basic Science Research Prize.

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center's Breast Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) has received a third round of funding from the National Cancer Institute that will provide $11.3 million over the next five years for breast cancer research.

“It is becoming uncommon for a cancer center to receive three straight rounds of funding for a SPORE program, so we are delighted and gratified by this award,” Carlos L. Arteaga, MD, Professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology, the Donna S. Hall Professor of Breast Cancer Research, Associate Director for Clinical Research and Director of the Breast Cancer Program and the Breast SPORE at VICC, said in a news release.

The SPORE projects are conducted by a multidisciplinary team of investigators that includes basic and clinical investigators, as well as researchers in pathology and tissue informatics, biostatistics, and imaging shared resources at Vanderbilt. The new funding will support:

* Studying the effects of inhibiting the PI3 kinase to counteract therapy resistance which develops in patients treated with antiestrogen therapies;

* Creating strategies to improve outcomes for patients with triple negative breast cancer by focusing on genomic differences in subtypes of the disease and targeting those subtypes;

* Developing inhibitors of MCL-1 for the treatment of triple negative breast cancer; and

* Identifying metabolic biomarkers for obesity and determining potential links to breast cancer risk that can be targeted with personalized prevention strategies.

The V Foundation for Cancer Research has awarded $10.8 million to 30 researchers for the organization's 2013 Translational and V Scholar Grants, as well as two special MDS grants.

The MDS Grants support the work of researchers dedicated to finding a cure for myelodysplastic syndromes. The two grants are $600,000, three-year commitments for each recipient, and were awarded to Li Chai, MD, of Brigham & Women's Hospital; Ravi Bhatia, MD, Professor, Director of the Stem Cell and Leukemia Research Program, and Co-Leader of the Hematologic Malignancies Program at City of Hope; and Smita Bhatia, MD, MPH, Professor and the Ruth Ziegler Chair in Population Sciences, Associate Director of Population Research, and Co-leader of Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program, also at City of Hope.

The V Scholar Program is designed to identify, retain, and further the careers of talented young cancer investigators. The 2013 V Scholar grants, $200,000 two-year commitments for each recipient, are provided to young researchers who are developing their own independent laboratory research projects.

The full list of the awardees and their projects are listed online at

John Bell, PhD, Senior Research Scientist and Professor of Medicine at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada, has been awarded the 2013 Investigator's Award in Clinical Translation of Cell and Gene Therapy for Cancer Research, a $500,000 grant to combat glioblastoma from the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT).

Bell's work focuses on oncolytic viruses (man-made viruses that target only cancer cell, sparing patients the toxicities of chemotherapy or surgery). He and his team have uncovered the Chimeric Maraba virus, which they have successfully been able to use to treat human glioblastomas in mice. With the grant the team will be able to further study the potential of the virus and begin Phase I human trials to establish safety and efficacy.

“Dr. Bell's work perfectly represents ACGT's vision—to uncover the tools that will forever change cancer treatment,” Barbara Netter, President and Co-Founder of ACGT, said in a news release. ACGT received 48 letters of intent for the award, which were pared down to 13 full applications, which were then reviewed by peers and ultimately selected by the Scientific Advisory Council.

Michael Brada, DSc, FRCR, FRCP, has been appointed Chair of Radiation Oncology and Professor at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and the University of Liverpool. He specializes in the treatment of brain, spinal, and lung cancers. He was the first to develop fractionated stereotactic conformal radiotherapy to treat tumors of the central nervous system. His current research focuses on developing radiotherapy techniques to treat lung cancers. He most recently served at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

“The professor's expertise, coupled with The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and the University of Liverpool's capabilities in research and clinical trials, is set to be a formidable partnership and we all look forward to welcoming Michael. His research in the treatment of brain, spine, and lung cancers is truly world class, making this a landmark appointment for the region,” Peter Kirkbride, MB, BS, MRCP (UK), FRCR, FRCP, Medical Director at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, said in a news release.

Brada joins The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre with an additional three new clinical directors, eight new oncologists, and 20 new radiographers.

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