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Researcher Honored With 2019 AACR Margaret Foti Award

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) recognized Raymond N. DuBois, MD, PhD, FAACR, with the 13th Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research during the AACR Annual Meeting 2019.

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Raymond N. DuBois, MD

Raymond N. DuBois, MD

DuBois is Dean of the College of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, and Professor in the Departments of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Medicine. He is being recognized for his accomplishments as a global leader in the early detection, interception, and prevention of colorectal cancer. DuBois discovered the mechanistic function of prostaglandins (PGs) and cyclooxygenase in colon cancer initiation and progression and clarified the role of PGs in the tumor microenvironment, spearheading the consideration of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory mediators for cancer prevention.

“Dr. DuBois is a highly distinguished researcher whose innovative work, including the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory mediators for the prevention of colorectal cancer, has made him an international leader in the field of early detection and prevention of the disease,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), Chief Executive Officer of the AACR. “In addition to his groundbreaking research, Dr. DuBois' exceptional leadership in the scientific community has garnered national and international acclaim. I am thrilled that he has been chosen by the selection committee to receive this award.”

The Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research was established in 2007 to recognize a champion of cancer research whose leadership and extraordinary achievements in cancer research have had a major impact on the field. Such achievements may include scientific contributions to the acceleration of progress against cancer, significant accomplishments associated with national or international awareness of the importance of cancer research, or other ways of demonstrating a sustained extraordinary commitment to cancer research.

DuBois is an internationally renowned expert known for his discoveries elucidating the connection between inflammation, inflammatory mediators, and early changes responsible for progression of colorectal cancer. His work in this area demonstrated the role of anti-inflammatory agents in the tumor microenvironment, resulting in the design of various clinical trials outlining a role for anti-inflammatory agents in the reduction of cancer risk and progression.

DuBois is Past President of the AACR, Chairman and President of the AACR Foundation, and a Fellow of the AACR Academy, and he has served as a member of the AACR Board of Directors. In addition, he is a Co-Editor-in-Chief of Cancer Prevention Research and has served as an Editorial Board Member of Clinical Cancer Research and Associate Editor of Cancer Research, all journals of the AACR. He also serves as Vice-Chair of the Stand Up To Cancer Scientific Advisory Committee.

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Dana-Farber Investigator Chosen for 2019 Wachtel Cancer Research Prize

AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and Science Translational Medicine recently announced that Cigall Kadoch, PhD, has been chosen for the 2019 Martin and Rose Wachtel Cancer Research Prize.

Cigall Kadoch, PhD

Cigall Kadoch, PhD

Kadoch is Assistant Professor of Pediatric Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Affiliated Faculty of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School; and Institute Member and Epigenomics Program Co-Director, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

This annual award, funded by an endowment established through a generous bequest from Martin L. Wachtel, honors early-career investigators who have performed outstanding work in the field of cancer research. Kadoch will deliver a public lecture on her research at the NIH and receive a cash award of $25,000; her award-winning essay will be published in Science Translational Medicine.

Kadoch studies chromatin regulation, with a strong focus on the structure and function of the mammalian SWI/SNF or BAF family of chromatin remodeling complexes in human cancer. Her work has focused in part on rare, molecularly well-defined cancers to understand the role that aberrant chromatin remodeling plays in promoting a wide range of more common cancer types and to inform new therapeutic approaches.

In 2014, she was named to Forbes Magazine's 30 Under 30 in Science & Healthcare. She is also the recipient of the NIH Director's New Innovator Award and was recently named a Pew-Stewart Scholar in Cancer Research.

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Hematologist/Oncologists Join Atlantic Hematology Oncology

Charles M. Farber, MD, PhD, and Michael Anthony Scola, MD, have joined Atlantic Hematology Oncology, part of Atlantic Health System Cancer Care. Both physicians are long-time members of the Morristown Medical Center cancer care community.

Charles M. Farber, MD, PhD

Charles M. Farber, MD, PhD

Michael Anthony Scola, MD

Michael Anthony Scola, MD

“Both Dr. Farber and Dr. Scola are outstanding clinicians as well as leaders in their subspecialties,” said Eric D. Whitman, MD, Medical Director, Atlantic Health System Cancer Care. “They are ideal candidates to lead these new initiatives, which will provide highly specialized care to our patients as well as increased access to breakthrough treatments and clinical trials.”

Farber became an attending physician at Morristown Medical Center in 1995 and served as Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the hospital's Carol G. Simon Cancer Center from 2007 to 2011. Scola joined the staff at Morristown in 2002. Both physicians spent 2 years at Summit Medical Group—MD Anderson Cancer Center before joining Atlantic Hematology Oncology.

“Our hematology/oncology patients, physicians, and staff are very familiar with the skill, dedication, and compassion of Drs. Farber and Scola,” said Missak Haigentz Jr., MD, Medical Director, Atlantic Hematology Oncology. “They have been highly regarded members of the Morristown Medical Center community for many years, and we look forward to their new leadership in Atlantic Medical Group and Atlantic Health System.”

Farber will continue as a general oncologist with a concentration in malignant hematology and will serve as Medical Director of Oncology Research Network Development for Atlantic Health System, of which the Breakthrough Oncology Accelerator (BOA) is a key component. The BOA is a new partnership with Atlantic Health System, Translational Genomics Research Institute, and OriginCV to expand and improve access to cancer research and treatments.

“I look forward to continuing to serve my patients at Morristown Medical Center, while helping to build and extend our cancer research network, transforming the way cancer care is delivered in the region,” said Farber. “It is an exciting time to develop new models of cancer care.”

Scola, who maintains a broad-based clinical practice with a focus on hematology, has been appointed Director of the Atlantic Thrombosis Center—a new multidisciplinary program to investigate and optimize clinical care of blood clotting risk, events, and disorders. A key feature of this center will be its collaborative work with expert physicians at Morristown Medical Center.

“The opportunity to start the Atlantic Thrombosis Center is the culmination of my longstanding interests in blood clotting and its complications,” said Scola. “There is a great need to provide leading edge care for patients with clotting disorders, and this new center will enable us to dedicate time and resources to providing optimal treatment.”

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City of Hope Awarded Lymphoma SPORE Grant From NCI

City of Hope recently announced that it has received its third lymphoma Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the NCI, one of four current NCI-supported lymphoma SPOREs. The grant covers a 5-year period and totals $12.5 million.

SPOREs—a cornerstone of the NCI's efforts to promote collaborative, interdisciplinary, translational cancer research—involve both basic and clinical/applied scientists working together to support projects that will result in new and diverse approaches to the prevention, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of human cancers. This interdisciplinary research is currently advanced in the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center, which is the foundation of City of Hope's Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute.

“For many years now, City of Hope has led the way in pioneering bone marrow transplantation, immunotherapy, and other innovative treatment options for lymphoma patients, both those who are being diagnosed with the disease for the first time and those who have experienced a relapse,” said Stephen J. Forman, MD, City of Hope Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and leader of the Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute. “This renewal of lymphoma SPORE will make it possible for us to continue developing leading-edge therapies in our laboratories that will ultimately reach a patient's bedside.”

Stephen J. Forman, MD

Stephen J. Forman, MD

“City of Hope will do this by developing novel therapeutics and prognostics representing the forefront of knowledge gained from observations in molecular biology and cellular immunology at City of Hope,” said Larry W. Kwak, MD, PhD, Vice President/Deputy Director of City of Hope's comprehensive cancer center, Director of the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center, and the Dr. Michael Friedman Professor in Translational Medicine. “Six clinical trials are proposed in this grant, five of which utilize agents (cellular products, small molecules, radiolabeled antibodies) that will be produced at City of Hope in its Good Manufacturing Practice Manufacturing Core and have been developed from the institution's preclinical laboratory studies.”

Larry W. Kwak, MD, PhD

Larry W. Kwak, MD, PhD

The grant is led by Forman and Kwak as multi-principal investigators. This is the 11th year City of Hope has received funding from the NCI for a lymphoma SPORE grant. Over the next 5 years, City of Hope doctors and researchers, as well as scientists from other institutions, will focus on the following projects for the SPORE grant:

  • CAR-T therapy and vaccine combination for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: After patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) have received a blood stem cell transplant with their own stem cells or that of a donor, there could still be enough cancerous cells not killed by the procedure for the disease to relapse. City of Hope is on a quest to improve current treatment for these patients, as well as those with NHL who are unable to receive a transplant.

NHL patients will be able to enroll in three trial designs. In the first trial, patients will receive chemotherapy followed by the Triplex vaccine. For a second trial, patients will receive a hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) with their own stem cells and the vaccine. In the third trial, patients will undergo HSCT with stem cells from a donor followed by the Triplex vaccine.

The team leading these City of Hope clinical trials includes Forman, who is also Scientific Director of City of Hope's T Cell Immunotherapy Laboratory; City of Hope doctors Tanya Siddiqi, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, and Leslie Popplewell, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, who will lead the autologous transplant trial, and Ryotaro Nakamura, MD, Associate Professor of Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, who will lead the allogeneic trial.

Tanya Siddiqi, MD

Tanya Siddiqi, MD

Leslie Popplewell, MD

Leslie Popplewell, MD

Ryotaro Nakamura, MD

Ryotaro Nakamura, MD

Don J. Diamond, PhD, a City of Hope Professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, developed Triplex, and Xiuli Wang, PhD, a City of Hope research Professor in the same department, developed the CAR T cells for this project.

Don J. Diamond, PhD

Don J. Diamond, PhD

Xiuli Wang, PhD

Xiuli Wang, PhD

  • Two trials for relapsed/treatment-resistant Hodgkin's lymphoma: Patients with high-risk Hodgkin's lymphoma who have relapsed or resisted treatment currently only have a 20-50 percent chance of achieving a cure. City of Hope is leading two compatible clinical trials for these patients; the therapies are expected to treat the disease that would then enable them to receive a bone marrow transplant.

Led by Alex Herrera, MD, City of Hope Assistant Professor in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, the first is a phase II trial of response-adapted sequential therapy using a combination therapy—nivolumab and ICE (ifosfamide, carboplatin, etoposide phosphate) chemotherapy.

Alex Herrera, MD

Alex Herrera, MD

A second aim of the project, led by Eileen Smith, MD, City of Hope Associate Director of the Clinical Research Program, Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, is to start a phase II trial that uses an anti-CD25 antibody immunoconjugate. The antibody will augment high-dose chemotherapy, an autologous stem cell transplant, and radiation targeting a tumor's microenvironment; preliminary data from a similar phase I trial showed that the regimen is feasible, remarkably well-tolerated, and has promising efficacy.

Eileen Smith, MD

Eileen Smith, MD

David M. Colcher, PhD, City of Hope Professor in Molecular Imaging and Therapy, is also a scientific principal investigator.

David M. Colcher, PhD

David M. Colcher, PhD

  • Fighting STAT3 in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: Growing evidence links B cell NHLs to persistent activation of the STAT3 gene. But there is currently no drug approved by the FDA that stops the activation of STAT3.

Hua Yu, PhD, City of Hope's Billy and Audrey L. Wilder Professor in Tumor Immunotherapy and Co-Leader, of the Cancer Immunotherapeutics Program, and Marcin Kortylewski, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Immuno-Oncology, and team have already demonstrated that an immunotherapy developed at City of Hope (CpG-STAT3siRNA) turns off STAT3, and stimulates the immune system to attack tumors, in addition to killing B-cell lymphoma tumor cells and making radiation therapy more effective in animal models.

Hua Yu, PhD

Hua Yu, PhD

Marcin Kortylewski, PhD

Marcin Kortylewski, PhD

The new lymphoma SPORE grant—as well as funding from The Marcus Foundation—makes it possible for City of Hope to start a phase I trial for that drug in patients. The trial will test its safety in patients, and whether the therapy can be injected within tumors; patients will also receive low-dose radiation therapy to augment the new drug. A more effective, second-generation therapy will also be tested in animal models—the goal is to also develop that drug for a clinical trial.

Elizabeth Budde, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope, is the project's clinical principal investigator.

Elizabeth Budde, MD, PhD

Elizabeth Budde, MD, PhD

  • Understanding a serious complication for Hodgkin's lymphoma patients receiving an autologous stem cell transplant: Researchers at University of Alabama at Birmingham, City of Hope, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are developing a prediction model that includes clinical and genetic details to determine the probability of a patient's risk of developing therapy-related myelodysplasia/acute myeloid leukemia (t-MDS/AML). The research will help identify which patients are at risk for developing t-MDS/AML and what a medical team can do to personalize treatment and help prevent a patient from developing the disease.

Smita Bhatia, MD, MPH, and Ravi Bhatia, MD, both at University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Forman, of City of Hope are leading the research.

Smita Bhatia, MD, MPH

Smita Bhatia, MD, MPH

Ravi Bhatia, MD

Ravi Bhatia, MD

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Fox Chase Researcher Receives OCRA Grant

John Krais, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, recently received a 2-year, $75,000 grant from the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA) for his investigation into DNA repair processes in BRCA1 mutant cancers.

John Krais, PhD

John Krais, PhD

Krais works in the lab of Neil Johnson, PhD, Associate Professor at Fox Chase. His research will focus on the RNF168 protein, which is involved in repair of DNA damage. RNF168 recruits BRCA1 and another protein, 53BP1, to the site of DNA damage. 53BP1 blocks the BRCA1-dependent repair process, resulting in pathways that lead to more mutations in BRCA1 mutant cancers.

Preliminary research found reduced recruitment of 53BP1 to DNA damage in cases of BRCA1 mutation, allowing the cancer to grow. These same circumstances yielded a low presence of RNF168. By delving more into the role of RNF168, Krais will provide a better overall understanding of the DNA repair process in BRCA1 mutant cancers.

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are the strongest known genetic risk factors for epithelial ovarian cancer.

“I am grateful to the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance and Phil and Judy Messing for enabling me to generate information that we hope will ultimately lead to accurate predictions of therapy response and novel therapeutic approaches,” said Krais.

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Researcher Honored With 2019 AACR Lectureship

Charles L. Sawyers, MD, FAACR, was recently honored with the AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship at the AACR Annual Meeting 2019.

Charles L. Sawyers, MD, FAACR

Charles L. Sawyers, MD, FAACR

Sawyers is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Professor of Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College. He is being recognized for his work on cancer drug resistance mechanisms, specifically those involving the tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and in prostate cancer patients with resistance to hormone therapy.

This lectureship honors Sawyers' critical role in developing molecularly targeted cancer therapies for the treatment of two diseases: CML and metastatic prostate cancer. His pioneering research into identifying treatments for cancers that have become resistant to established therapies has led to the development of dasatinib for patients with imatinib-resistant CML and enzalutamide and apalutamide for metastatic prostate cancer.

“Dr. Sawyers is a highly esteemed physician-scientist, and we are delighted to recognize his exceptional body of translational and clinical research,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), Chief Executive Officer of the AACR. “His groundbreaking discoveries have provided deep insight into the mechanisms of drug resistance and have led to the development of new molecularly targeted therapies that are benefiting countless patients worldwide. He is greatly deserving of this prestigious accolade.”

The AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship, now in its 13th year, is awarded to a scientist whose novel and significant work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on the detection, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of cancer, and who embodies the dedication of the princess to multinational collaborations. Her Imperial Highness Princess Kikuko Takamatsu was instrumental in promoting cancer research and encouraging cancer scientists. She became a champion for these causes following her mother's death from bowel cancer in 1933 at the young age of 43.

Sawyers is a world-renowned researcher whose career has focused on developing molecularly targeted therapies, initially for the treatment of CML. Following the clinical success of imatinib, Sawyers discovered that patients develop resistance through mutations in the BCR-ABL kinase domain, then collaborated with scientists to develop dasatinib, a new cancer drug capable of overcoming imatinib resistance in select patients.

More recently, Sawyers has focused his effort on targeting the androgen receptor (AR) in prostate cancer based on preclinical work from his group showing that increased AR expression is the primary driver of castration resistance. He co-discovered two AR antagonists, enzalutamide and apalutamide, both of which received FDA approval based on clinical benefit demonstrated in randomized phase III clinical trials in men with castration-resistant prostate cancer.

An active AACR member since 1998, Sawyers is a Past President of the AACR, a Fellow of the AACR Academy, Chair of the AACR Project GENIE Steering Committee, and Co-Leader of the Stand Up To Cancer/Prostate Cancer Foundation Dream Team “Precision Therapy of Advanced Prostate Cancer.”

Sawyers' scientific accomplishments have been recognized with numerous additional honors throughout his career, including the AACR Team Science Award (2015), the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2013), the Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award (2011), the Dorothy P. Landon–AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research (2009), the Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award (2009), the Emil J Freireich Award for Clinical Research (2007), the AACR David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award (2005), the AACR Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award (2005), the Freedom-to-Explore Research Award in Cancer (2003), the Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award (2001), and the Stohlman Scholar Award (2000).

Additionally, he is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Physician Executive to Lead Value-Based Care Initiatives at Roswell Park

Raghu Ram, MD, has joined Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center as Vice President of Value-Based Care Optimization and Community Clinical Collaboration.

Raghu Ram, MD

Raghu Ram, MD

Bringing significant leadership experience in health systems and health plans, Ram most recently served as Regional Medical Director of Landmark Health, a medical group that provides care for the frail elderly. His duties at Roswell Park include developing strategy and negotiating contracts with health insurance companies. He will also support the cancer center's business development efforts and engagement with primary care physicians across Western New York.

Ram was previously the Senior Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer of HealthNow New York Inc., Associate Medical Director of Univera Healthcare, and Chief of Family Medicine at Kenmore Mercy Hospital.

Ram believes it's critical to ensure that all patients have access to quality health care. With clinical experience as a family physician as well, he hopes to collaborate more with partners across the community.

“With all the advancements in cancer care, it's our role to get information out to both our colleagues and the public about the best options available to them,” said Ram. “Many of my patients over the years received great care at Roswell Park, so I'm especially pleased to have the opportunity to expand access to that world-class care and ensure good collaboration among providers in different clinical settings.”

“Our ability to offer the newest and best therapies hinges on how well we demonstrate both the clinical effectiveness and the overall value of these approaches,” added Candace S. Johnson, PhD, Roswell Park President and CEO. “Dr. Ram's rich insights on both managed care and family medicine will help Roswell Park to establish new relationships that support our commitment to comprehensive cancer care.”

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UPMC Immunologist Receives Newly Established Endowment

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center immunologist, Greg Delgoffe, PhD, is the first recipient of the new Sy Holzer Endowed Immunotherapy Research Fund to advance innovative research in cancer immunotherapy.

Greg Delgoffe, PhD

Greg Delgoffe, PhD

The fund was established to honor Holzer's philanthropic work as the long-time President of PNC and his many years of service as Chair of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Council. The fund has been supported through leadership gifts made by many local and national individuals, foundations, and corporations, including Robert and Christina Pietrandrea, Jay Cleveland and Cleveland Brother Equipment, the Heinz Endowments, the Hillman Foundation, the Buncher Foundation, and the Stanley M. Marks, MD, Research Fund, among others.

Delgoffe, Assistant Professor of Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh, also is a research scientist at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center's Tumor Microenvironment Center. His laboratory seeks to understand how cancer cells use fuel from their local environment, starving infiltrating immune cells and preventing them from attacking cancer cells. This research may lead to new therapies that will stimulate the immune system.

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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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