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Oncology Times 45(10):p 36-37, May 20, 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/01.COT.0000936884.54358.a1
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Nikesh Shah, MD, Becomes New Clinical Investigator at Tampa General Hospital

Nikesh Shah, MD, has joined the TGH Cancer Institute at Tampa General Hospital (TGH). He is a clinical investigator focused on hematologic malignancies with an emphasis on mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) and other aggressive non-Hodgkin & Hodgkin lymphomas, as well as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Nikesh Shah, MD:
Nikesh Shah, MD

“Since the establishment of the TGH Cancer Institute 2 years ago, my major emphasis was to recruit talent. Following the recruitment of more than 20 physicians and physician-scientists from top-notch cancer institutions, it is time to also build a research program in aggressive B-cell lymphomas, and in particular MCL, a disease that has been my passion for the past 2 decades,” said Eduardo M. Sotomayor, MD, Director of the TGH Cancer Institute. “However, I needed a partner to assist with building a center of excellence in MCL that is second to none in the country. Dr. Shah is the perfect fit, given his passion for the care of patients with MCL and for his clinical and translational research of the highest caliber.”

Shah earned his medical degree from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and his Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami Honors Program in Medical Education. He completed his postgraduate training through the J. Willis Hurst Internal Medicine Residency at Emory University and his fellowship in medical oncology and hematology at the University of South Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center, where he served as one of the chief fellows.

Shah has a strong record of leadership, having served on multiple hematology research committees and founded a student hematology/oncology interest group while in medical school. Over the past 10 years, he has authored several peer-reviewed research publications either as first author or co-author in top-tier scholarly journals. He has also presented his work at numerous conferences and symposiums. Shah is a member of the American Society of Hematology, the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Florida Society of Clinical Oncology, and the Florida Medical Association.

As a clinician, Shah will focus on providing state-of-the-art and compassionate care to patients with mantle cell lymphoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and other aggressive lymphomas, like diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. He will treat patients with cellular therapies, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies. As a clinical investigator, Shah will help bring new areas of research and treatments to patients with MCL and other B-cell malignancies, in partnership with Sotomayor, an internationally recognized researcher and leader in the lymphoma field, and Alan Kerr, MD, PhD, a lymphoma expert and clinical investigator at the TGH Cancer Institute.

Shah is also driven by teaching the next generation of physicians and researchers. “I hope to continue mentoring medical students, residents, and fellows in research projects and clinically as I step into this new role. Working with the next generation of hematologists and oncologists helps hold the field to a higher standard of care,” Shah said.

Researchers to Lead Clinical Trial on Pediatric Cancer Patients

UT Southwestern Medical Center will conduct a national multicenter clinical trial to test a treatment strategy for pediatric cancer patients that has shown promising results in adults. Known as VITAS—short for Vincristine, Irinotecan, Temozolomide, and Atezolizumab in Solid Tumors—the trial will examine the effects of combining several chemotherapy agents with an immunotherapy drug in children with solid tumors that have recurred or shown no significant response after initial treatment. The survival rate for this population is unacceptably low and hasn't improved in decades.

“We know that a patient's immune system will try to fight cancer cells, but often it loses,” said Matthew Campbell, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, member of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist at Children's Health. “By enhancing immunotherapy with chemotherapy, a strategy we've seen succeed in clinical trials for adults with cancer, we're hoping to see the same success in children.”

Matthew Campbell, MD:
Matthew Campbell, MD

Campbell explained that a class of immunotherapy called checkpoint inhibitors has made enormous strides in several adult cancers, dramatically prolonging survival by encouraging the immune system to fight off malignant tumors. Although some cancers don't respond to checkpoint inhibitors delivered as single agents, researchers have had some success in combining these drugs with chemotherapies, which make the tumors easier targets for the immune system. Despite this advance in adult cancers, Campbell said the strategy has not been tested in children with solid tumors, a group in which delivering checkpoint inhibitors alone has shown little success.

For the Phase I trial that started last week, with the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children's Medical Center Dallas being the first clinical site to open, Campbell and his colleagues at UTSW will recruit six patients with solid tumors who failed initial treatment. The trial is designed to test the safety of combining three chemotherapy agents commonly used to treat solid tumors with the checkpoint inhibitor atezolizumab.

If the doctors establish that this combined therapy is safe—causing dose-limiting toxicity in no more than two patients among the six—the study will convert to a Phase II clinical trial to test the efficacy of this regimen in 17 children with relapsed or refractory rhabdomyosarcoma, the most common soft tissue sarcoma in children. Campbell said the goal is to see a response to treatment in at least half of these patients, a target rarely achieved for patients with this cancer who fail initial therapy.

Other data gathered from the trial could help researchers decide which patients would benefit most from this type of combination therapy and understand the molecular mechanisms involved.

“What we learn from this clinical trial will help us continue to move the needle toward more children surviving these cancers,” said Campbell, a member of the Pediatric Cellular and ImmunoTherapeutics Program at UTSW and Children's Health.

Other hospitals participating in the trial include Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Seattle Children's Hospital, Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, and Texas Children's Hospital. The trial's estimated completion date is January 2025.

AACR Inaugurates New Leadership at 2023 AACR Annual Business Meeting

The members of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) welcome Philip D. Greenberg, MD, FAACR, as the AACR President for 2023-2024. He was inaugurated during the AACR's Annual Business Meeting of Members during the AACR Annual Meeting 2023 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL.

Philip D. Greenberg, MD, FAACR:
Philip D. Greenberg, MD, FAACR

Greenberg is the Rona Jaffe Foundation Endowed Chair and Professor and Head of the Program in Immunology, Clinical Research Division, at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. He is also Professor of Medicine and Immunology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

An internationally recognized leader in the field of cancer immunobiology, Greenberg has made groundbreaking contributions to examining host T-cell responses to pathogenic viral infections and cancers. His work has led to crucial insights into the understanding of the mechanisms by which T cells distinguish tumor cells from normal cells and has fueled the advancement of adoptive T-cell therapy approaches in various cancers, including leukemia and pancreatic cancer.

His research has also demonstrated that CD4-positive helper T cells work both collaboratively and independently of CD8-positive cytotoxic T cells to eradicate tumor cells. This work has since been applied to the development of treatments for late-stage melanoma and leukemia and is in development for several other malignancies.

“This is an extraordinarily exciting time to be involved in cancer research in general, and, for myself, cancer immunology in particular. The development and application of new technologies to biology has led to an explosion of information and insights into how cancers develop and progress, and has shed light on the vulnerabilities of cancer cells that can potentially be targeted,” Greenberg noted. “The rapid pace of advances is both exhilarating on one hand and exhausting on the other and has highlighted that the complexity of cancer biology will require coordinated multidisciplinary efforts to effectively tackle. One great strength of the AACR is that it incorporates people from all those disciplines, and one value of a large meeting like our annual meeting is that it brings everyone together to interact, learn from each other, and hopefully establish new and productive collaborations.”

Greenberg has been an AACR member since 2015, served on the AACR's Board of Directors from 2017 to 2020 and was elected to the Fellows of the AACR Academy in 2019. He has previously served as a member of the AACR's Finance and Audit Committee (2019-2022), Vice Chair of the AACR Annual Meeting Program Committee (2019-2020), member of the AACR's Continuing Medical Education Committee (2014-2017), member of the AACR Annual Meeting Education Committee (2015-2016), Co-Chair (2016) and member (2015) of the CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference Scientific Committee, and member of the AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology Selection Committee (2012-2014). Greenberg is currently a member of the AACR's Cancer Immunology Working Group.

Greenberg serves as co-editor-in-chief of the AACR journal Cancer Immunology Research, where he was previously senior editor (2012-2015). From 1994 to 1997, Greenberg served on the editorial board for the AACR journal Clinical Cancer Research. He was also a member of the steering committee for the 2017 edition of the AACR Cancer Progress Report.

Greenberg was a member of the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C)-Cancer Research Institute Cancer Immunology Dream Team and is currently a member of the SU2C-Lustgarten Foundation (LF) Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team. He was a reviewer of the SU2C-LF CAR T Research Team (2017-2020), SU2C-Farrah Fawcett Foundation Human Papillomavirus Research Team (2016-2020), and SU2C-LF Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team (2014-2017). The AACR is the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer.

Greenberg has received numerous honors and awards throughout his remarkable career, including the Precision Medicine World Conference Luminary Award (2020), American Society of Hematology E. Donnall Thomas Lecture and Prize (2019), Seattle Business Magazine Gold Award as Leader in Health Care for Achievements in Medical Research (2018), Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Richard Smalley Memorial Award (2018), Cancer Research Institute's William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology (2011), International Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Team Science Award for Career Achievements (2010), and the NIH MERIT Award (1991-1997, and 1997-2007).

In addition to being a Fellow of the AACR Academy, Greenberg was elected to the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Inaugural Class of Fellows of the Academy of Immuno-Oncology (2021) and is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Association of Immunologists (2019), Fellow of the American College of Physicians (2008), Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2007), and elected Member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and Association of American Physicians.

Greenberg received his medical degree from the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, and completed his residency in medicine at University Hospital, University of California, San Diego. He also completed a research fellowship in immunology at the University of California, San Diego, and a clinical and research fellowship in oncology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Arabinda Das, PhD, Awarded Grant to Study Glioblastoma Progression

Arabinda Das, PhD, Neuroscientist and Neuro-Oncology Assistant Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), received a $180,000 Investigator Initiated Study grant supporting the development of a new glioblastoma (GBM) patient-derived xenograft model. This is the first study involving fresh human tumor tissue collected intraoperatively and implanted for serial sampling in translational research.

The goal of the study is to evaluate the impact of various interventions on GBM cellular, genetic, and microenvironment information over tumor progression through longitudinal serial biopsy, assessing the tumor and disease state progression in the same murine model over time. This allows Das to study disease treatment as it adapts to intervention, allowing for an improved understanding of GBM growth and biological adaption patterns over time.

“With consistently higher quality fresh tissue samples obtained through a standardized human intraoperative process, deeper investigation into genomic and transcriptomic heterogeneity will be possible,” Das explained. “Successful completion of this study will allow any neurosurgeon to apply this method of collecting high-quality tissue samples while maintaining relevant biological characteristics in a controlled micoenvironment—all key factors contributing to cancer health disparities.”

Kyle Cottrell, PhD, Awarded NIH Award for Biochemistry Research

Kyle Cottrell, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Purdue University, has received a MOSAIC R00 award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The goal of the NIH MOSAIC (Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers) K99/R00 program is to help outstanding postdoctoral researchers from diverse backgrounds transition from mentored positions to independent, tenure-track, or equivalent faculty appointments.

Kyle Cottrell, PhD:
Kyle Cottrell, PhD

Cottrell is one of three new faculty members who joined the College of Agriculture this spring. And he is one of Purdue's 46 early career award recipients from federal agencies thus far in 2022-2023.

A first-generation college student who began his undergraduate studies at Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield, MO, Cottrell had to overcome multiple hurdles, financial and otherwise.

“If you're a first-gen, it's not straightforward to understand all the unwritten rules in academia,” he said. Unlike many of his peers who have parents who are faculty members, “I had to lean more on my mentors as I was going through this process.”

Cottrell specializes in ribonucleic acid (RNA) editing, post-transcriptional regulation, and cancer. He became interested in RNA, a biomolecule that plays key roles in cellular and viral processes, as an undergraduate. Post-transcription applies to processes taking place after RNA has copied a gene sequence. His current research involves identifying the relationship between the RNA-editing enzyme ADAR (adenosine deaminase acting on RNA) and triple-negative breast cancer.

Cottrell received the MOSAIC K99 award in 2021. The K99 phase supported 1 year of his postdoctoral training, while the new MOASIC R00 phase supports the first 3 years of his independent research career. The NIH assigns MOSAIC scholars to an academic or professional society for assistance in career development and making the transition to a faculty position. Cottrell was assigned to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

As a MOSAIC scholar, he joins a cohort of other MOSAIC awardees for special training, networking, and other activities. The program also provides external mentors for its awardees to help guide their career development and start their labs. Cottrell's mentor during the R00 phase is Brenda Bass, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Utah's School of Medicine and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

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