James Allison, PhD, Professor, Chair of Immunology, and Director of the Moon Shots Program Immunotherapy Platform at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has been awarded the 2014 Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research, given by the National Foundation for Cancer Research for his discovery of key elements of immune system T cell biology and for using that knowledge to create a new way to treat cancer.
“Dr. Allison's work has already saved numerous lives and shines a bright light on a future direction of oncology,” the 2013 award winner and Chair of this year's prize selection committee, Alex Matter, MD, CEO of Experimental Therapeutics Centre & D3, A*STAR in Singapore, said in a news release. “He has validated the immunotherapy approach and turned previously widely held beliefs on their heads with his discoveries.”
Allison's research identified immune checkpoint molecule CTLA-4 on T cells that turns them off before they can mount a successful attack on tumors that they are primed to destroy. He then developed an antibody that blocks the CTLA-4 immune checkpoint, unleashing a T cell attack. That drug, ipilimumab (Yervoy) became the first drug to extend survival for patients with late-stage melanoma, and was approved by the FDA in 2011 for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.
Allison is also Deputy Director of the David H. Koch Center for Applied Research of Genitourinary Cancers and holds the Vivian L. Smith Distinguished Chair in Immunology at MD Anderson. He has received a Breakthrough Prize for Biosciences from the Breakthrough Foundation (OT 2/25/14 issue), The Economist's 2013 Innovations Award for Bioscience (OT 1/10/14 issue), and the first American Association for Cancer Research-Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology of the American Association for Cancer Research (OT 5/25/13 issue).
Margarita Gutova, MD, Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Neurosciences at City of Hope, and Robert Wechsler-Reya, PhD, Director of the Tumor Initiation and Maintenance Program at Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute, have received $450,000 in grant funding from five foundations—Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, the Matthew Larson Foundation for Pediatric Brain Tumors, and two anonymous foundations—for their research that investigates novel ways to get cancer drugs into the brain by bypassing the blood-brain barrier using neural stem cells.
“Neural stem cells offer a novel way to overcome this obstacle because they can cross the blood-brain barrier, migrate to, and selectively target tumor cells throughout the brain,” Gutova explained in a news release.
Amy Early, MD, FACP, has joined Roswell Park Cancer Institute as a general medical oncologist and Associate Professor of Oncology. She will head the Community Medical Oncology section within RPCI's Department of Medicine, where she will continue her active clinical research. She will be based at Roswell Park's Amherst Center satellite, but also see patients at the main location on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
“Dr. Early has an outstanding reputation among oncologists and health care providers, and our patients will benefit greatly from her experience and aptitudes,” Alex A. Adjei, MD, PhD, FACP, the Katherine Anne Gioia Chair in Cancer Medicine, said in a news release. “Successful, seamless coordination of primary and oncologic care is such an important component to cancer care today, and Dr. Early is well equipped to direct this critical piece of our operations.”
She was previously a staff oncologist at Buffalo Medical Group.
Ragini R. Kudchadkar, MD, has joined Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University as Assistant Professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology. She will focus on cutaneous oncology with an emphasis on the development of clinical trials for patients with metastatic melanoma.
“Dr. Kudchadkar is a stellar young clinical investigator, one with the talent and the commitment to make a major impact on the treatment of patients with melanoma,” Fadlo R. Khuri, MD, Chair of the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology and Deputy Director of Winship, said in a news release.
Kudchadkar was most recently at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, as Assistant Member of the Department of Cutaneous Oncology. In addition to her clinical work, she is also involved in research that focuses on signal transduction inhibitors for the treatment of metastatic melanoma, with a secondary interest in rare cutaneous malignancies, including Merkel cell and basal cell carcinomas.
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center will establish a Center for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research, which will support and conduct high-quality research comparing the outcomes and effectiveness of different strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor health conditions to improve patient care. The center will be part of the national network of seven institutions funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) that focus on patient-centered outcomes and comparative-effectiveness research aimed at improving patient care.
“Our projects will emphasize approaches that use electronic health records (EHRs) to identify those at high risk of poor outcomes and system-based outreach programs to deliver high-quality, patient-centered care to those most in need,” the project's principal investigator who will lead the new center, Ethan A. Halm, MD, MPH, Chief of the William and Gay Solomon Division of Internal Medicine and Chief of the Division of Outcomes and Health Services Research in the Department of Clinical Sciences and Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Sciences, said in a news release.
The center will be funded through a $5 million, five-year grant from AHRQ. The grant will expand the research infrastructure, databases, training programs, personnel, laboratories, and collaborative relationships needed to conduct successful patient-centered research. Research will focus on patient-centered outcomes in underserved patients, populations, and settings, including those served by safety-net systems, the poor, racial and ethnic minorities, immigrant populations, and those lacking health insurance.
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