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doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000533709.52808.89
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The Society of Surgical Oncology Names Winners of Distinguished Service Award

The Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO) recently awarded the Charles M. Balch, MD, Distinguished Service Award to Norman Wolmark, MD, and Bernard Fisher, MD, for their work with the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP), a clinical trials cooperative group supported by the NCI.

Figure

Figure

Norman Wolmark, MD

Norman Wolmark, MD

Bernard Fisher, MD

Bernard Fisher, MD

Wolmark is Chairman of NSABP Foundation, a not-for-profit academic research organization with a 60-year history of conducting groundbreaking research studies in breast and colorectal cancer. He also serves as Chair and Principal Investigator of NCI-funded NRG Oncology. He is Professor and Chairman of Human Oncology at Drexel University School of Medicine, Philadelphia. Wolmark's tenure as a cancer researcher and worldwide lecturer spans 45 years. He has published extensively, with more than 400 scientific journal articles and book chapters in print.

Fisher's research has transformed current surgery, radiation therapy, and systemic adjuvant chemotherapy and hormonal therapy modalities for the treatment of breast and other cancers. As Chairman of, NSABP, Fisher designed and conducted large-scale multi-institutional, randomized clinical trials to test his hypothesis, based upon his laboratory research, that breast cancer is likely to be systemic at diagnosis. As a major consequence of two of his landmark trials, the prevailing paradigm governing the treatment of breast and other cancers for almost a century was supplanted by a new paradigm, and radical surgery began to be replaced by less-mutilating operations.

Fisher and his colleagues were also the first to demonstrate that, when used as a preventive agent, tamoxifen significantly reduces breast cancer in women at high risk for the disease. Perhaps his most important contribution has been the establishment of the scientific approach to the understanding and treatment of breast cancer that has led to improvement in both survival rate and quality of life for women with the disease.

This year, the Distinguished Service Award, which is presented for outstanding contributions to surgical oncology through service to SSO, research, or enhancing clinical care or health policy, was renamed The Charles M. Balch, MD, Distinguished Service Award. Balch has dedicated over 40 years of service to SSO, demonstrating leadership on multiple fronts and serving as the SSO President in 1991. His passion for the Society and for the field of surgical oncology is evidenced by 25 years of service to the Annals of Surgical Oncology, in which his actions as Founding Editor-in-Chief has led to the worldwide growth and prominence of the journal.

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Szent-Györgyi Prize to Honor NCI Leaders

The 2018 Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research was recently awarded to Douglas R. Lowy, MD, and John T. Schiller, PhD, of the Center for Cancer Research at the NCI. They are being recognized for their contributions toward the development of vaccines for HPV.

Douglas R. Lowy, MD

Douglas R. Lowy, MD

John T. Schiller, PhD

John T. Schiller, PhD

Schiller and Lowy “have made monumental impacts in the field of cancer sciences and could not be more deserving of this award,” said Sujuan Ba, PhD, Co-Chair of the 2018 prize selection committee and President of the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR), which awards the annual prize.

Lowy, who is also Deputy Director of NCI, and Schiller have co-authored more than 150 papers over the last 30 years. Most notably, their work to understand and prevent HPV infection has led to the approval of three preventive HPV vaccines by the FDA.

“We at NCI are very proud to see Dr. Lowy and Dr. Schiller awarded this prestigious prize for their important work in cancer research,” said NCI Director Ned Sharpless, MD. “Their receipt of the Szent-Györgyi Prize for their extraordinary research recognizes how important discoveries come from building on earlier work, and how those efforts can lead to major breakthroughs in public health.”

In the 1990s, a team led by Schiller and Lowy discovered that proteins that form the outer shell of HPV can assemble into noninfectious virus-like particles (VLPs). They found that VLPs could trigger the immune system to produce high levels of protective antibodies. The VLPs became the basis of three FDA-approved vaccines.

Lowy and Schiller attribute their breakthrough to building on earlier scientific findings and say it demonstrates the importance of basic research.

“We are greatly honored by this award, and to be included with the exceptional group of scientists who have also received it,” said Lowy. “Our work that it recognizes is indebted to decades of publicly supported research, as well as to the culture of collaboration in the NIH Intramural Research Program that allowed us to learn from experts across many different disciplines.”

Continued research into HPV includes finding ways to encourage vaccination by lowering costs and simplifying the process, especially in the developing world. It has been estimated that widespread uptake of current HPV vaccines could reduce the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer by more than two-thirds.

“We are especially pleased to be recognized with this award because it highlights the great importance of research into cancer prevention,” said Schiller. “These vaccines have the potential to cause HPV infection to go from common to uncommon, and the ability to eliminate cervical cancer and other HPV-associated cancers as major worldwide health problems.”

Schiller and Lowy have been frequently honored for their work. In September 2017, they received the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for their HPV research. They received the Federal Employee of the Year Service to America Medal from the Partnership for Public Service in 2007 and the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal Award from the Sabin Vaccine Institute in 2011. They were presented with the 2012 National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Barack Obama in November 2014.

NFCR established the Szent-Györgyi Prize in 2006 in honor of its cofounder, Albert Szent-Györgyi, MD, PhD, who received the 1937 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his study of vitamin C and cell respiration. According to NFCR, the annual prize honors scientists “who have made an original discovery or breakthrough in scientific understanding that has had a lasting impact on the cancer field and a direct impact on saving people's lives.” The award highlights the essential role basic research plays in understanding cancer. The prize was presented at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on May 5, 2018.

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SGO Recognizes Gynecologic Cancer Clinicians, Researchers at Annual Meeting

The Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) recognized excellence in gynecologic cancer research and treatment with the presentation of several awards during the Society's Annual Meeting on Women's Cancer in New Orleans, March 24-27.

Carolyn Runowicz, MD, from Florida International University, in Miami, received the Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes individuals who, over an extended period of time, display a continuous outstanding meritorious service in the field of gynecologic oncology. Runowicz became the first female President of SGO in 2000.

Carolyn Runowicz, MD

Carolyn Runowicz, MD

Kathleen Gavin, Executive Director of the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance in Minneapolis, received the Gynecologic Oncology Humanitarian and Volunteerism Award, which is awarded to an individual for their exemplary local, national, or international volunteer and outreach efforts in women's cancer care, research, or training.

Kathleen Gavin

Kathleen Gavin

The Harry Long Award recognizes outstanding SGO Members for their contributions to multidisciplinary mentorship, collegiality, or teaching in the field of gynecologic oncology. This year, SGO acknowledged two recipients: Paul Goodfellow, PhD, Professor in the Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Research Program at the Ohio State University in Columbus, and Wui-Jin Koh, MD, Radiation Oncologist from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Paul Goodfellow, PhD

Paul Goodfellow, PhD

Wui-Jin Koh, MD

Wui-Jin Koh, MD

The Innovation Award honors individuals who have been exceptionally creative thinkers who significantly impacted the understanding of and/or approaches to the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of gynecologic cancers. This year, SGO acknowledged Ian Frazer, MD, BSc, MBBS, from the Translational Research Institute (TRI) in Brisbane, Australia. Frazer is the founding Chief Executive Officer and Director of Research for TRI.

Ian Frazer, MD, BSC, MBBS

Ian Frazer, MD, BSC, MBBS

For the 2018 SGO Presidential Abstract Award, lead author Brian Slomovitz, MD, from the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, received the award for “GOG 3007, a randomized phase II (RP2) trial of everolimus and letrozole (EL) or hormonal therapy (medroxyprogesterone acetate/tamoxifen, PT) in women with advanced, persistent or recurrent endometrial carcinoma (EC): A GOG Foundation study.”

Brian Slomovitz, MD

Brian Slomovitz, MD

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NCI Steering Committee Elects Co-Chair

Wm. Kevin Kelly, DO, leader of the Prostate Cancer Program and Associate Director of Clinical Research at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health (SKCC), has been elected to serve as Medical Oncology Co-Chair on the NCI Genitourinary Cancers Steering Committee (GUSC).

WM. Kevin Kelly, DO

WM. Kevin Kelly, DO

The GUSC addresses the design, prioritization, and evaluation of concepts for phase II and III clinical trials in genitourinary cancers. The committee's goal is to promote the best clinical and translational research that will have the biggest impact on patient care.

“It is a privilege to serve as a co-leader on the NCI Genitourinary Task force that has the responsibility in guiding the next generation of clinical trials to improve the lives and suffering of patients with genitourinary tumors,” Kelly said.

Kelly, who is also Professor of Medical Oncology and Urology and Director of the Division of Solid Tumor Oncology, is a leader in the field of genitourinary oncology and an internationally respected clinical researcher. He has expertise in drug and biomarker development in prostate and bladder cancers and has been instrumental in defining the use of many novel therapies and biomarkers in patients for all stages of prostate cancer.

Since joining SKCC in 2010, Kelly has developed disease-specific research and domains in each major area of solid tumor oncology and has increased the number of investigator-initiated trials. His leadership helped established SKCC as one of the top cancer centers nationwide for accrual of patients to clinical trials, and the Prostate Cancer Program was recently ranked Outstanding by the NCI.

Kelly has received funding from Prostate Cancer Foundation and Department of Defense, and is an active member of the Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials Consortium along with NRG Oncology. He was recently awarded a new R01 grant from the NCI, along with SKCC Director Karen Knudsen, PhD, to develop more effective therapeutic strategies for advanced prostate cancer.

“This is a well-deserved honor for Dr. Kelly, who has been instrumental in the prostate cancer field to bringing new therapeutic interventions to the forefront. As one of the few cancer centers—and the only in Philadelphia—to have an NCI-designated Prostate Cancer Program of Excellence, Dr. Kelly has distinguished himself in the ability to serve the specialized needs of a large city that is challenged by a high incidence of and mortality from prostate cancer,” Knudsen said. “He now brings this leadership to the national level.”

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Roswell Park Welcomes New Chair of Molecular & Cellular Biology

A scientist with more than 20 years of experience has been appointed as the new Chair of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, N.Y. Erik Knudsen, PhD, will also serve as the Co-Leader of the Cancer Center's Genetics and Genomics Program.

Erik Knudsen, PhD

Erik Knudsen, PhD

Prior to this, he worked at the University of Arizona Cancer Center as the Associate Director of Basic Research, and Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Translational Medicine at the University of Arizona.

“I'm very excited to join the team at Roswell Park and work with people who are dedicated to understanding, preventing, and curing cancer. My goal is to decipher some of cancer's complexities and develop new therapies that help patients live longer and have a better quality of life,” said Knudsen.

The Seattle native is a standing member of the Cancer Etiology Study Section at the NIH, which reviews grant applications related to causal agents, processes, and cells involved in carcinogenesis, the process by which normal cell cells are transformed into cancer cells. Knudsen has authored or co-authored more than 150 peer-reviewed publications, articles, and books chapters, and has been awarded numerous grants. He has also spoken around the world about his research.

“Dr. Knudsen is a national and internationally recognized leader in cancer research who brings energy, skill, and leadership to the critical roles of Chair and Program Co-Leader. I am confident that his more than 2 decades of experience will tremendously continue to advance our mission of eliminating cancer's grip on humanity. We're excited to welcome him to Roswell Park,” said Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, FRCOG, FACOG, Deputy Director at Roswell Park.

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Baylor Professor Receives Sue Eccles Young Investigator Award

Xiang Zhang, PhD, Associate Professor and McNair Scholar in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, part of the NCI-designated Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine, has been named as the 2018 recipient of the Sue Eccles Young Investigator Award from the Metastasis Research Society (MRS).

Xiang Zhang, PhD

Xiang Zhang, PhD

The Sue Eccles Award honors excellent metastasis research performed by a member of the MRS who is 40 years old or under and has established an exceptional record of achievement in metastasis research.

This honor recognizes Zhang's outstanding work related to the interactions between tumors and connective tissue cells in the metastasis of breast cancer.

“Bone metastases do not appear immediately following breast cancer. My research looks into the biological question of what is happening during this latency period and the interactions between cancer cells and bone cells that allow the cancer cells to survive, which is significantly relevant to understand for the clinical setting,” said Zhang.

Additionally, Zhang's research has contributed to understanding the changes that occur to the therapeutic profile of the cell when it metastasizes, prompting clinicians to tailor the types of therapies used to better treat the patient.

“I'm very encouraged and inspired by the Sue Eccles Award, and it serves as a strong stimulus to both myself and my lab team to continue our work,” said Zhang. “I've benefitted greatly from the collaborative environment at Baylor and am grateful for the leadership across the College for encouraging me to pursue this research.”

Upon receiving his award, Zhang will deliver a lecture at the 17th Biennial Congress of the MRS, being held on Aug. 1-5 in Princeton, N.J.

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Frederick National Laboratory & Georgetown Launch Collaboration

A new collaboration between Georgetown University and the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research in Frederick, Md., aims to expand both institutions' research and training missions in the biomedical sciences.

The university and the laboratory signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that paves the way for appointments and exchange of scientific staff, sabbatical opportunities, student training, postdoctoral fellowships, and student internships.

The MOU aims to enhance the institutions' quality of science, technology, and education, and formalizes a history of past collaborations between Georgetown and Frederick researchers.

Georgetown is home to more than 550 scientists working on basic and clinical research projects and 300 active clinical trials based at Georgetown University Medical Center. These scientists conduct research on cancer, neuroscience, infectious disease, population health, global health and other topics, and join scientists across the university in applying knowledge from chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, statistics, and computer science.

“Georgetown is very pleased to develop this strategic partnership with Frederick National Lab to further animate our commitment to developing solutions to the most pressing challenges in human health and well-being,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia.

Sponsored by the NCI and operated in the public interest by Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc., the federal national laboratory in Frederick is the only one of its kind wholly focused on discovery and innovation in the biomedical sciences with the aim of improving human health. The laboratory is working at the forefront of basic, translational, and clinical science with a focus on cancer, AIDS, and emerging infectious diseases.

“At the Frederick National Laboratory, we believe this relationship will expand our ability to work in the public's interest to benefit patients and assist in the cancer research efforts in the academic community,” said Barry Gause, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the clinical program at the Frederick National Laboratory.

A significant aspect of the collaboration will focus on cancer research, since Georgetown is home to Washington's only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“I join my colleagues at Georgetown in celebrating this important collaboration,” added Louis M. Weiner, MD, Director of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Frederick boasts an outstanding group of scientists working with the most advanced technologies and a vast array of research materials, which will greatly enhance the work we do here at Georgetown Lombardi and across campus.”

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Send information on career developments and cancer center news for this column to pam.tarapchak@wolterskluwer.com

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