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doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000574972.20402.1d
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MD Anderson Names Chief Technology & Digital Officer

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center named David Jaffray, PhD, as its first-ever Chief Technology and Digital Officer. He will begin his new duties overseeing MD Anderson's Information Services division and Information Security department in late summer. He also will hold a faculty appointment as Professor of Radiation Physics with a joint appointment in Imaging Physics.



David Jaffray, PhD

David Jaffray, PhD

Jaffray currently serves as Executive Vice President for Technology and Innovation at the University Health Network (UHN)/Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Ontario. He led UHN's Information Technology transformation, architected the roadmap for digital transformation, and initiated the procurement process for UHN's Health Information System.

“David is a visionary thinker who will bring new energy to our extensive opportunities in data science, technology, and digital platforms,” said Peter WT Pisters, MD, President, MD Anderson. “His background as a scientist and his proven skill as an innovator make him especially qualified for this role. We look forward to welcoming David to our team later this summer.”

In this role, Jaffray will direct the strategic design, acquisition, management, and implementation of an enterprise-wide technology infrastructure that will safeguard the integrity and availability of the institution's systems and intellectual property assets. He will be responsible for leading efforts to plan, build, and oversee the systems to digitally enable data governance, data management, and insight extraction for the institution's four mission areas.

Working closely with leaders across the institution, Jaffray will collaborate with Strategy and Business Development to advance data integration, data governance, and data security across the institution's Houston campuses and its national network, as well as coordinate technology-enabled innovation. Additionally, he will work in advancing meaningful partnerships with industry.

For more than 2 decades, Jaffray's peer-reviewed and industry-sponsored research has focused on the development and application of image-guided radiation therapy, as well as other cancer innovations, resulting in more than 275 peer-reviewed publications. He participates in numerous scientific and research boards, and he has contributed to the NIH and Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant review processes.

He has received many honors, including the Sylvia Sorkin-Greenfield Award (2001), the Farrington Daniels Award (2002), and the Sylvia Fedoruk Award (2003). In 2018, Jaffray received the Gold Medal from the American Society for Radiation Oncology.

Jaffray has an active interest in commercialization and led the development of a variety of commercial products, including software and hardware for safe, high-quality cancer care and the development of small-animal irradiator systems for basic research. He holds multiple patents, several of which are licensed by industry.

In 2002, he became Head of Medical Physics at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and faculty of the University of Toronto. He served in several leadership roles, including Vice Chair of Radiation Oncology, founding Director of Preclinical and Computational Cores for the STTARR Innovation Centre, and Director of the Techna Institute for the Advancement of Technology for Health, UHN. In 2015, he was named Executive VP for Technology and Innovation, UHN.

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UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Names New Leader of Cancer Immunotherapy

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center announced the appointment of Jason Luke, MD, FACP, to direct the newly established Cancer Immunotherapeutics Center and serve as Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Jason Luke, MD, FACP

Jason Luke, MD, FACP

A medical oncologist and clinical investigator, Luke specializes in early-phase drug development for melanoma and solid tumors. He has been the lead investigator for numerous immunotherapies over the past several years. As Director of UPMC Hillman's Cancer Immunotherapeutics Center, he will have oversight of all early-phase immunotherapy studies at UPMC Hillman, in collaboration with Leisha Emens, PhD, Co-Leader of the UPMC Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program.

“We have a well-established immunotherapy program at Hillman with research scientists making novel discoveries in furthering this cancer treatment,” said Robert Ferris, MD, PhD, Director of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “Dr. Luke will help to bring those early-phase studies to clinical trials and to our patients who can greatly benefit.”

Luke most recently served as Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago. “I am excited to work with the tremendous team at UPMC Hillman, which has developed one of the most robust early-phase immunotherapy clinical trial programs in the country,” said Luke. “Together, I believe we will extend this research and treatment options throughout the UPMC cancer network.”

Luke also has received multiple awards for research and clinical care, including the NCI's Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award, Melanoma Research Foundation Humanitarian Award, ASCO Merit Award, and Young Investigator Awards from the Melanoma Research Alliance, Cancer Research Foundation, and Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO.

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American College of Radiology Elects President & VP

The American College of Radiology (ACR) Council recently elected Debra L. Monticciolo, MD, FACR, of Temple, Texas, President at the annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Katarzyna J. Macura, MD, PhD, FACR, of Baltimore, was elected ACR Vice President.

Debra L. Monticciolo, MD, FACR

Debra L. Monticciolo, MD, FACR

Katarzyna J. Macura, MD, PhD, FACR

Katarzyna J. Macura, MD, PhD, FACR

Monticciolo is Vice Chair of the Department of Radiology (for research) and Section Chief of Breast Imaging at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Temple. She is also Professor of Radiology Texas A&M University.

She is the Immediate-Past Chair of the ACR Commission on Breast Imaging and Past President of the Society of Breast Imaging. Monticciolo has served two terms on the FDA National Mammography Quality Assurance Advisory Committee.

“Dr. Monticciolo is an internationally recognized expert in breast imaging and a longtime advocate for increased access to high-quality care for women and their families. She has shown outstanding leadership in every role in which she has served within the ACR and elsewhere in medicine,” said ACR Board of Chancellors Chair Geraldine B. McGinty, MD, MBA, FACR. “The ACR will be well-represented by Dr. Monticciolo and the entire group of dedicated physician volunteers elected ACR officers this week.”

ACR Vice President Macura, a fellow of the ACR, is Professor of Radiology at Johns Hopkins Medicine and Professor of Oncology and Urology at Johns Hopkins Medical School. She also leads the Imaging Core of the JHU Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. Macura is the former co-chair of the ACR Commission on Women and Diversity, a member of the ACR Advanced Prostate Imaging and Targeted Therapy Committee, and former member of the ACR Artificial Intelligence Advisory Group.

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Honors Native American Researcher at Roswell Park

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center faculty researcher Rodney Haring, PhD, MSW, has been recognized with a Research Into Action Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) New Connections initiative.

Rodney Haring, PhD, MSW

Rodney Haring, PhD, MSW

Presented at a capstone symposium in New Orleans, the award symbolizes what Haring has accomplished as a New Connections grantee with his contributions and success in the field. For example, he began a project in 2010 that looked at childhood obesity and oral health within Native American communities.

“I was not at all surprised to hear that Rodney would be recognized by such a prestigious organization,” said Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Roswell Park Alliance Foundation Endowed Chair in Cancer Prevention at the cancer center and head of the department Haring works in. “He's done so much to not only identify challenges and problems that get in the way of good health, but to find solutions that will help to address the issues he identifies.”

New Connections was established by RWJF in 2005 to provide grants and additional opportunities for scholars from historically disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds. An enrolled member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, Haring focuses on research that reflects endemic health disparities. He credits the initiative as a foundation in his career as a scientist, researcher, and community member.

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UCLA Urology Professor Elected to National Association

Christopher Saigal, MD, Professor of Urology in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has been elected to the American Association of Genitourinary Surgeons in recognition of his accomplishments in the field. The association appointed him during its April 2019 meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Christopher Saigal, MD

Christopher Saigal, MD

Saigal's award-winning research in the field of shared decision-making for prostate cancer—for which he's received funding from NCI—focuses on empowering men to make informed treatment choices with which they're more satisfied.

Saigal, who is a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, also created an online software program that collects information about people with prostate cancer and predicts prognoses with various treatments.

The program, called WiserCare, enables people to input answers to questions and scenarios about their preferences and personal values. It then uses an algorithm to develop a ranked list of individualized treatment options appropriate for the patient in light of those values.

Only 75 physicians in North America may serve as active members of the association at any given time. With Saigal's appointment, six UCLA urologists now hold active membership.

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NCI Grant Awarded to Investigate Immune Responses in Pancreatic Cancer

The NCI has awarded a 5-year grant of more than $2.2 million to UNC Lineberger's Yuliya Pylayeva-Gupta, PhD, to support her research into the immune response in pancreatic cancer.

Yuliya Pylayeva-Gupta, PhD

Yuliya Pylayeva-Gupta, PhD

“Understanding the role of immune regulation in pancreatic cancer represents a crucial stepping stone on our way to advancing care for these patients,” said Pylayeva-Gupta, Assistant Professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Genetics. “In addition to furthering our basic understanding of tumor immunobiology, we hope this research will help guide the field toward the design of B-cell targeted therapies against pancreatic cancer.”

Pancreatic cancer has proven to be extremely difficult to treat, with just 9.3 percent of patients living 5 years following diagnosis. Checkpoint inhibitors have been effective in treating some cancers. While scientists have discovered there are immune cells often within pancreatic cancer tumors, responses to immune-based treatments have been ineffective in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

“While recent successes of cancer immunotherapy have generated considerable excitement, this form of treatment has largely been ineffective in patients with pancreatic cancer,” Pylayeva-Gupta said. “A major barrier for immunotherapeutic approaches is immune suppression instigated by pancreatic tumor and stromal cells.”

Previously, her laboratory discovered that interleukin-35 plays a role in suppressing cancer-fighting immune cells in pancreatic cancer. This molecule—a cytokine—is produced by B cells.

The researchers will use the grant to investigate the mechanism behind the effect of IL-35 on the immune system in pancreatic cancer, and to identify treatment targets at which to direct a combination of current and novel immunotherapies.

“We have identified IL-35-producing B cells as important regulators of anti-tumor immune responses in pancreatic cancer,” Pylayeva-Gupta said. “Our proposed research will shed light on the mechanisms by which these cells elicit pancreatic tumor growth and will provide us with novel therapeutic targets that could be used to synergize with existing immunotherapeutic approaches.”

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Clinical Cancer Geneticist Embraces New Role at Fox Chase Cancer Center

Michael Hall, MD, MS, has been named Chair of the Department of Clinical Genetics at Fox Chase Cancer Center. An Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical Genetics, Hall will continue to serve in his other roles at the center that includes Director of Gastrointestinal Risk Assessment, as well as a member of the NCCN's Genetic Colorectal/Colorectal Cancer Screening Panel member.

Michael Hall, MD, MS

Michael Hall, MD, MS

“Dr. Hall has served our institution in an outstanding fashion for a number of years. Recognized among America's Top Doctors by Castle Connolly and our region's Top Doctors by Philadelphia magazine, he is well-regarded by professional peers and patients alike,” said Richard I. Fisher, MD, President & CEO of Fox Chase Cancer Center.

As both an oncologist and a clinical cancer geneticist, Hall brings a valuable combination of experience to the department. He focuses his research and clinical work on cancers of the gastrointestinal tract with particular interest in colorectal, pancreatic, and small bowel cancers.

In addition, he has specialized expertise in risk assessment for gastrointestinal, endocrine, and genitourinary cancers. In his practice, he sees a variety of patients, including young people who tend to have hereditary cancers, and consistently approaches each case with a great appreciation for the unique diagnosis and needs of the patient.

As chair, Hall will lead the department, building on the legacy of his predecessor Mary Daly, MD, founding Director of Fox Chase Cancer Center's Risk Assessment Program, and further bolstering the strength of the facility's clinical and research programs, cultivating new and innovative initiatives and promoting the development of the faculty and staff.

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UAB Researchers Receive Grant to Study Blood Cancers, Blood Marrow Transplantation

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have been awarded a $6.38 million grant from the NCI to determine the long-term burden of morbidity borne by blood cancer patients treated with or without blood or marrow transplantation, or BMT.

“Survival rates after BMT are improving at the rate of 10 percent per decade—steady improvements in outcome have resulted in a growing number of BMT survivors, a population uniquely vulnerable to long-term life-threatening chronic morbidity,” said Smita Bhatia, MD, principal investigator on the study, Director of the Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship, and senior scientist in the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center. “A better understanding of post-BMT health care needs could result in the deployment of targeted strategies that yield better quality of survival and reduced utilization of health care resources.”

Smita Bhatia, MD

Smita Bhatia, MD

The study will construct a cohort of more than 10,000 patients treated with BMT between 1974 and 2014 at three transplant sites—UAB, University of Minnesota, and City of Hope—as well as a cohort of 3,000 patients treated with conventional therapy without BMT, which will amount to the largest cohort ever studied.

In addition to ascertaining the burden of morbidity borne by blood cancer patients treated with or without BMT, study results will be used to understand the mechanisms and development of treatment-related health conditions in the context of accelerated aging, an outcome seen in cancer patients. Understanding how high-intensity treatment exposures used for BMT, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, cause late effects can help in the development targeted treatments for survivors.

“Accelerated aging is a constellation of criteria, one of which is the premature occurrence of the chronic health conditions that are typically seen in older populations,” Bhatia said. “It is not clear what contributes to accelerated aging—we speculate that both the cancer and its treatment do so, and we will be studying this in greater detail.”

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Vanderbilt Launches New Telehealth Program for CAR-T Patients

Some cancer patients receiving CAR-T infusions can now avoid hospital stays because of a telemedicine program launched by the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. The program doesn't offer long-distance care, but it does offer close-proximity monitoring.

Instead of being confined to a hospital room for a week or longer, patients stay within 30 miles of Vanderbilt University Medical Center—close enough to receive care quickly if complications occur. “Our goal is to use technology to do what is best for the patient,” said Olalekan Oluwole, MBBS, MPH.

Patients must still report to the hospital for twice-daily clinical visits before they receive a nightly telemedicine checkup in their homes or hotel rooms. A team of Vanderbilt clinicians and technology experts designed the protocols for the CAR-T telemedicine service, which could be a prototype for other cancer centers.

“With this being new, we had to build in extra safety mechanisms, so we decided to provide this to only those patients staying sufficiently close by,” Oluwole said.

Matt Ryan, senior project manager with VUMC Telehealth, consulted with clinicians to learn what was needed and leveraged a newly streamlined process utilizing a video conferencing platform. The encounters can occur with multiple types of devices, ranging from smartphones to laptops, through My Health at Vanderbilt.

Since some patients can experience serious complications, CAR-T is limited to cancer centers with clinicians experienced in recognizing and managing those complications. Patients need to be monitored most closely for the first month after receiving the one-time CAR-T infusion, Oluwole said. Potential complications include cytokine release syndrome and neurological toxicities. Both can be life-threatening.

Sarah Murawski, PA, did the first telemedicine consult in January with a patient who had received a CAR-T infusion. She and two nurse practitioners, who also do telemedicine assessments, work closely with Oluwole and Michael Byrne, DO, the physicians who provide CAR-T therapy.

“We go through the whole visit and ask the patients if there are any concerns,” Murawski said. “We also carry a special cell phone all night. They can call us with literally any question they want to ask—if they're feeling anxious, if they're feeling nauseous, whatever it may be.”

Besides using hospital-grade equipment to take their vitals under the supervision of Murawski and her colleagues, the patients answer a series of questions and complete some exercises to measure neurocognitive function.

One of those exercises requires patients to draw the hands of a clock along with the accompanying numbers on a screen. Setting up the system required more interaction between the first patient and the person on the technology end than typically occurs.

“This was different for me because usually I just see the patient for about 30 seconds on the screen during a first telemedicine visit,” Ryan said. “Then I get out of the way and let the clinicians do their thing. With this first patient, I went to the clinic, met the patient, and went through the set up on her device with her. It really brought a face to the care. I got to see very clearly who this was impacting.”

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