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doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000577108.50741.d8
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Stand Up To Cancer Scientific Advisory Committee Appoints New Members

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) with its scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), announced two new members of the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC): John D. Carpten, PhD, Director of the Institute for Translational Genomics at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, and Roderic I. Pettigrew, PhD, MD, Chief Executive Officer of Engineering Health (EnHealth) and Executive Dean for Engineering Medicine at Texas A&M University.

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John D. Carpten, PhD

John D. Carpten, PhD

Roderic I. Pettigrew, PhD, MD

Roderic I. Pettigrew, PhD, MD

“We are delighted that Dr. Carpten and Dr. Pettigrew have agreed to join the SAC to help provide leadership and direction to SU2C's scientific program,” said SAC Chair Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, Institute Professor at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Nobel laureate.

SU2C raises funds to accelerate the pace of research to get new therapies to patients quickly. The SAC is composed of academic, advocacy, and industry leaders in cancer research. Its role is to provide insight and guidance to SU2C, setting direction for SU2C's research initiatives, reviewing proposals for new grant awards, and conducting rigorous oversight of all active grants in the SU2C portfolio.

Carpten is an internationally recognized expert in genome science and a pioneer in understanding the role of biology in disparate cancer incidence and mortality rates among underrepresented populations. He is chairperson-elect of the AACR's Minorities in Cancer Research Council and was Program Committee chair of AACR's Annual Meeting 2019 in Atlanta. Carpten also serves on the SU2C committee focused on health equity in cancer clinical trials.

Pettigrew was the founding director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the NIH, serving 2002-2017. He oversaw $5 billion in research investments and is credited with building it into the signature NIH institute for emerging medical technologies. His newest undertaking is EnHealth, an initiative to integrate engineering into all of the colleges of a university that are a part of the health care enterprise.

Pettigrew is known internationally for his pioneering work involving four-dimensional imaging of the cardiovascular system using magnetic resonance. An expert in the convergence of the life sciences, the physical sciences, and engineering, he has expertise in nanotechnology, regenerative medicine, and point-of-care technologies.

“Their expertise will be critical as SU2C continues to expand and diversify its portfolio of scientific investigations that are leading to a deeper understanding and more effective treatments for cancer in diverse populations,” Sharp said.

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University of Arizona Cancer Center Selects New Associate Director for Basic Sciences

Joann Sweasy, PhD, an expert in DNA repair and genomic instability, has joined the University of Arizona Cancer Center as Associate Director for Basic Sciences. Sweasy also has been appointed to a joint faculty position at the University of Arizona College of Medicine–Tucson in the Departments of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Radiation Oncology.

Joann Sweasy, PhD

Joann Sweasy, PhD

Sweasy's research focuses on genomic instability and how it leads to mutations that result in human diseases, such as cancer. A major focus of her laboratory is to understand how single nucleotide polymorphisms found in DNA repair genes, including genes that function in homology-directed repair, non-homologous end-joining and base-excision repair in the germline and somatic tissues, impact cancer risk and treatment.

“I look forward to working with the strong basic and translational scientists at the UA Cancer Center,” Sweasy said. “The UA Cancer Center offers significant opportunities to build teams and bring basic science to the bench side.”

Prior to joining the UA, Sweasy was Associate Director for Basic Sciences and co-leader of the Radiobiology and Radiotherapy Program at the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she had oversight of pilot funding for the Yale Cancer Center and all cancer-focused internal grant competitions at Yale University. She also is an Adjunct Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the University of Vermont.

“Dr. Sweasy brings a tremendous amount of scientific expertise in multiple fields and the ability to enhance both the growth and interaction among our four programs,” said Andrew Kraft, MD, Senior Associate Dean for translational research at the UA College of Medicine–Tucson, Associate Vice President for oncology programs at the UA Health Sciences, and the Sydney E. Salmon Endowed Chair at the University of Arizona. “She is highly collaborative and focused on the associate director job, having done this at Yale, which will be a major asset to the University of Arizona.”

In her role as Associate Director for Basic Sciences, Sweasy will develop and promote research for the growth in cancer basic sciences. She also will work closely with the UA Cancer Center research programs, ensuring that basic science is well-integrated across the four established programs: cancer biology, therapeutic development, cancer imaging, and cancer prevention and control.

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ASCO Announces 2019-20 Health Policy Leadership Development Program Fellows

ASCO announced the Health Policy Leadership Development Program Fellows for the 2019-2020 class. Wendy Allen-Rhoades, MD, of Baylor College of Medicine, and Laura LaNiel Tenner, MD, MPH, of The Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, will spend the next year developing leadership skills and health care policy expertise.

Wendy Allen-Rhoades, MD

Wendy Allen-Rhoades, MD

Laura LaNiel Tenner, MD, MPH

Laura LaNiel Tenner, MD, MPH

ASCO's Health Policy Leadership Development Program (previously the ASCO Health Policy Fellowship) launched in 2016 to build policy and leadership expertise among the society's members and volunteers. Fellows receive practical experience working with ASCO Policy and Advocacy staff and policy counsel in crafting policy positions and statements; training in communication, leadership, and advocacy; and a mentored project that advances an ASCO policy initiative. Fellows will also be full members of the ASCO Leadership Development Program.

“As oncologists, we are uniquely qualified to share the complexities and realities of cancer care delivery with policymakers and offer solutions to improve care for our patients,” said ASCO President Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO. “I'm delighted that Dr. Tenner and Dr. Allen-Rhoades will be joining us as health policy fellows and hope that this opportunity will allow them to sharpen their advocacy skills and learn the ins and outs of working on health policy.”

Tenner is a medical oncologist specializing in gastrointestinal malignancies and Assistant Professor at The Mays Cancer Center. Her clinical focus is gastrointestinal cancers, predominantly liver, gastric, and colorectal cancers. She also has specialized training in ethics in oncology and population sciences research, with a specific focus in health care systems and cancer care improvement.

Tenner obtained her medical degree at Texas A&M College of Medicine and completed her fellowship in medical oncology at Indiana University. She spent much of her early career studying health care systems and policy, not just in the U.S., but also in Canada and England. She obtained a Master of Public Health with a focus in policy. She now directs two pharmacy and therapeutics committees for two major health systems in San Antonio and is extensively involved in the work at her cancer center on disparities in care and health systems barriers.

“The populations research we continue to do at the cancer center allows us to identify areas of system breakdown and disparities,” said Tenner. “Through ASCO's Health Policy Leadership Development Program, I look forward to developing the skills I need to start to develop solutions to these deficiencies and become a more effective advocate for changes to the system.”

Allen-Rhoades is a pediatric oncologist, researcher, and Medical Director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology and Soft Tissue Sarcoma Programs at Baylor College of Medicine. Her clinical research interest includes investigating ways to improve outcomes for adolescent and young adult oncology patients and her translational research efforts focus on investigating the role of microRNAs in osteosarcoma, including using microRNAs as biomarkers and studying the functional roles of microRNAs in tumor and metastases development. She completed her fellowship training in pediatric hematology and oncology at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Cancer Center.

“My journey into health advocacy started as a clinical fellow, where I learned to advocate for my individual patients. I eventually started speaking to broader audiences about the need for increased funding for cancer research, and pediatric cancer research in particular,” said Allen-Rhoades. “As physicians, I believe it is our responsibility to educate not only our patients and colleagues, but also the general public. Through education and awareness, we can influence change.”

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Roswell Park Physician Leads Development of New Multiple Myeloma Imaging Guidelines

Jens Hillengass, MD, Chief of Myeloma at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, led an International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG) effort to compile new recommendations—the first in 10 years—for imaging techniques that offer more sensitive and accurate diagnosis and monitoring for patients with multiple myeloma and other plasma-cell disorders.

Jens Hillengass, MD

Jens Hillengass, MD

“Use of newer imaging techniques is changing the whole landscape, from diagnosis to treatment to supportive care to survivorship, and all those things are coming into this direction of research in multiple myeloma right now,” said Hillengass.

Hillengass and a team of two experts developed the guidelines, which were then reviewed by the entire working group. Their findings have been newly published in the journal The Lancet Oncology (2019;20(6):e302-e312). The guidelines are based in part on an examination of results of CT and X-ray imaging from several countries. The team found that using only conventional X-ray misses 25 percent of instances where patients have bone destruction already and need treatment.

“There has to be destruction of 30-50 percent of the bone, sometimes up to 70 percent, before you see anything on X-ray,” said Hillengass, who is first author on the new guidelines. “More sophisticated imaging is necessary not only in the beginning to assess the disease, but also to assess the response and to see what is left after our standard treatment. Myeloma is a disease that can cause focal and diffuse destruction of the bone, and to see that, you need sharp imaging.”

The major change in the new imaging guidelines is that whole-body low-dose CT replaces conventional skeletal survey as the standard imaging technique recommended for assessing bone destruction. The IMWG team recommends that this more sophisticated technique and others, including PET-CT and MRI be introduced generally into clinical practices.

These practices are already employed in the clinical care of myeloma patients at Roswell Park, and a team at the cancer center is conducting a clinical trial to explore what CT-guided biopsies of focal lesions may reveal about the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of this disease.

Hillengass hopes that broader application of these newer techniques will lead to more refined imaging, more accurate diagnoses, earlier treatments, and more patients living longer due to lasting remissions.

“There's a lot of research under way now exploring whether incorporating more specific traces or dyes into various imaging techniques will be beneficial, and also to figure out how we can assess minimal residual disease, or very low tumor burdens after treatment,” he noted. “Therefore, we need much higher sensitivity and also functional information that cutting-edge imagery can provide. There are important questions still to be asked as these technologies evolve.”

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Cervical Cancer Prevention Focus of New $11 Million Grant

A major public health initiative aimed at preventing cervical cancer in at-risk Appalachian families from Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia is under way with support from an $11 million NCI grant to The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

The OSUCCC – James is collaborating with 10 health systems throughout the Appalachian states to conduct this research, in close partnership with the University of Kentucky, West Virginia University, and the University of Virginia.

Led by Electra Paskett, PhD, leader of the OSUCCC – James Cancer Control Research Program, this new initiative builds upon a long history of collaborative research and community partnerships. The effort will focus on reducing burden of cervical cancer in at-risk Appalachian communities by specifically targeting the primary causes of the cervical cancer: tobacco smoking, HPV infection, and lack of cervical cancer screening.

Electra Paskett, PhD

Electra Paskett, PhD

This new project will test the effectiveness of an integrated cervical cancer prevention program that is implemented by clinics/health centers consisting of three interventions: nicotine replacement therapy and smoking cessation counseling services, a method of at-home HPV screening and a medical practice-based intervention to improve HPV vaccination rates among patients ages 11-12 and 13-26 in Appalachia-based health centers.

“This region has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer and cervical cancer deaths in the United States. We know that smoking tobacco products, HPV infection, and lack of timely cervical cancer screening play a significant role in these exceptionally high rates,” said Paskett, Marion N. Rowley Professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and College of Public Health.

Paskett notes there is a tremendous opportunity to reduce the burden of cervical cancer through public education, especially as it relates to the HPV vaccine as a means of cancer prevention.

“In the Appalachian area of the United States, vaccination rates are still far below the national average, and studies have shown the HPV vaccine is effective for not only reducing rates of cervical cancer but also other forms of HPV-linked cancers that are on the rise,” said Paskett. “These health disparities in underserved communities are not new–they are long-standing and must be addressed in a systematic, sustainable way. We hope to do just that through the type of intentional community collaboration established in this study. “

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40 Under 40 in Cancer Awarded to ACCC Chief Learning Officer

Amanda Kramar, Chief Learning Officer for the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC), is among the esteemed 2019 class of 40 Under 40 in Cancer award recipients. Established in 2018, these awards recognize exceptional contributions by emerging leaders and rising stars from across the cancer care landscape. The 40 Under 40 in Cancer finalists and awardees were selected by a panel of reviewers from across diverse roles in oncology.

Amanda Kramar

Amanda Kramar

In her role, Kramar brings creativity and innovation to ACCC's education mission, leading education and meetings teams and engaging key stakeholders to further the reach of practical, real-world knowledge to support cancer care providers in the delivery of quality care. Included among the education initiatives spearheaded by Kramar are the ACCC Immuno-Oncology Institute, the Financial Advocacy Network, and the multi-year, grant-funded Optimal Care Coordination for Lung Cancer Patients on Medicaid.

“With the increasing complexity of cancer treatments, the rising cost of care, and ongoing challenges of our evolving health care delivery system, education is of critical importance to cancer care providers and the patients they serve,” said Christian Down, JD, MHA, Executive Director, ACCC. “Amanda, through her creativity, leadership, and drive has helped these professionals improve the care they deliver to people facing their most trying times.”

Kramar joined ACCC in 2014 as Director of Provider Education, where she was instrumental in expanding the vision and scope of the association's education offerings.

Previously, she led the grants team at the American College of Cardiology Foundation, managing a portfolio of education products.

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National Breast Cancer Researcher Joins UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

Norman Wolmark, MD, FACS, has been recruited to UPMC Hillman Cancer Center as Director of the NCI cooperative group clinical trials and Professor of Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Norman Wolmark, MD, FACS

Norman Wolmark, MD, FACS

Wolmark has spent decades conducting groundbreaking research and early clinical trials in the treatment of breast and bowel cancers. Much of his early studies were conducted at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh alongside Bernard Fisher, MD, University of Pittsburgh Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery and founder of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP), a clinical trials cooperative group supported since its inception in 1957 by the NCI.

Wolmark serves as chairman of the NSABP Foundation and chair and contact principal investigator of the NCI-funded NRG Oncology, an oncologic research organization that combines the NSABP, the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group, and the Gynecologic Oncology Group.

“I look forward to applying the acclaimed expertise in precision medicine and genomic research currently available at the University of Pittsburgh to the clinical trials of the NSABP Foundation,” said Wolmark.

“Dr. Wolmark brings unparalleled expertise as an internationally known clinical researcher and principal investigator in multiple large, practice-changing trials in breast cancer,” said Robert Ferris MD, PhD, Director of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “With his guidance and collaboration, we expect to further expand our extensive clinical trials portfolio, collaborate more closely with the NSABP, and reach more patients with breast and gastrointestinal cancers within the vast UPMC Hillman Cancer Center network of hospitals and treatment facilities.”

Wolmark was among a select few cancer researchers to receive a 2019 ASCO Special Award. Wolmark received the Gianni Bonadonna Breast Cancer Award, which recognizes an active clinical and/or translational researcher with a distinguished record of accomplishments in advancing the field of breast cancer and with exceptional mentoring abilities.

Wolmark is a member of a number of professional associations and organizations, including ASCO, the American Association of Cancer Research, and the American Surgical Association. He has published more than 400 scientific journal articles and book chapters and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, JAMA, and Lancet.

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