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Milan Mrksich, PhD, has been appointed Associate Director for Research Technology and Infrastructure at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. Mrksich, who has been at Northwestern since 2011, is also the Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry and Cell and Molecular Biology, and has appointments in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and Feinberg School of Medicine. In the new role, Mrksich will oversee the Lurie Cancer Center's research shared resource facilities.

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"Milan is a highly distinguished scientist and will play a key role in the expansion and strengthening of the Lurie Cancer Center's research capabilities," Lurie Cancer Center Director Leonidas Platanias, MD, PhD, said in a news release.

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Mrksich's research has focused on combining synthetic chemistry with materials science to study important problems in cell biology. He is a co-founder of Arsenal Medical Inc., a medical devices company that has a stent product in clinical trials; and recently co-founded SAMDI Tech, an early-stage technology company based on his new platform for analyzing biochemical reactions.


Mike Zhang, PhD, Professor of Biological Systems Engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, has been awarded $2.4 million by the National Institutes of Health to develop a nicotine vaccine that would help smokers overcome nicotine addiction.


"Nicotine is one of the most dependency-inducing drugs out there," he said in a news release. "By using this vaccine to block the pleasure response, a person addicted to nicotine will be much more likely to quit smoking or consuming tobacco products."

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The vaccine uses biodegradable nanoparticles that attach to small molecules called haptens, which when attached to a larger carrier, such as a protein, elicit an immune response. Zhang is collaborating with Marion F. Ehrich, MS, RPh, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and Paul Pentel, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at the University of Minnesota.


The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center has received a $1.5 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to expand genetic screening services for rural and underserved populations from six to 22 counties in north Texas. The goal of such screening services is to identify patients with hereditary breast/ovarian cancer and Lynch syndrome, who are at significantly higher lifetime risk for breast, ovarian, colorectal, and uterine cancers.


"We now have the ability to connect with patients through telemedicine, a high-tech communications system linking patients in outlying counties with our genetic specialists," the grant's principal investigator, Keith Argenbright, MD, Director of the Moncrief Cancer Institute and Associate Professor at the Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center Department of Clinical Science, UT Southwestern, said in a news release. "With this new grant, we are building on the success of a similar program CPRIT funded three years ago, which brought state-of-the-art genetic testing closer to home for our patients."


Cancer Genetic Services for Rural and Underserved Populations in Texas is part of the Genetics Department at the Simmons Cancer Center, in partnership with Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas and the Moncrief Cancer Institute and JPS Health Network in Fort Worth. The new grant funds the program for an additional three years.


In other UT Southwestern news, the Center has renamed the central drive through the main campus "Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson Drive" to honor the former senator, who has strongly supported UT Southwestern, medical discovery, and higher education. As Chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Sub-Committee and a member of the Defense Appropriations Sub-Committee, Senator Hutchison helped secure tens of millions of dollars for Gulf War illness research led by Robert Haley, MD, Professor of Internal Medicine, Chief of Epidemiology at UT Southwestern, and a national leader on Gulf War illness research.


"It is clear that Senator Hutchison-with much foresight-has long appreciated the need to support medical research and discovery, to drive advances in care that have benefited so many, in so many ways," Daniel K. Podolsky, MD, President of UT Southwestern, said during a dedication ceremony in October.

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Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation's Young Investigator Program has awarded four new grants for childhood cancer research. Each researcher receives a total grant of $100,000 given over two years. The grants are funded by Northwestern Mutual. The most recent recipients are:


* Jeffrey Huo, PhD, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, whose research focuses on the epigenetic origins of the retinoblastoma tumor initiating cell;


* Carl Koschmann, MD, Fellow at the University of Michigan, whose research focuses on therapy for pediatric glioblastoma;


* Katherine Tarlock, MD, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellow at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, whose research focuses on therapeutic strategies for leukemia; and


* Mireya Velasquez, MD, Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Fellow at Baylor College of Medicine, whose research focuses on leukemia and lymphoma.



Gavril W. Pasternak, MD, PhD, received the Houde Award at the Eastern Pain Association 2014 Annual Scientific Meeting, and delivered the accompanying lecture, "The Role of Clinical Insights Shaping our Understanding of Opioid Drug Action."

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CARL KOSCHMANN, MD. ... - Click to enlarge in new windowCARL KOSCHMANN, MD. CARL KOSCHMANN, MD

The award recognizes his studies on the molecular basis of opioid actions and clinical uses of opioids; the discovery of novel opioid analgesics; his intellectual honesty and perseverance; his willingness to try new approaches; his mentoring; and his interest in the welfare of his patients.


Pasternak is the Anne Burnett Tandy Chair in Neurology and Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Neuropharmacology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He is also Professor of Neurology & Neuroscience, Pharmacology and Psychiatry at Weill College of Medicine of Cornell University.


James A. Tulsky, MD, Chief of Duke Palliative Care and Professor of Medicine and Nursing at Duke University, has received the 2014 American Cancer Society Pathfinder in Palliative Care Award, a national award that recognizes outstanding achievements of a professional who has demonstrated remarkable innovation and ingenuity contributing to the advancement of the palliative care field. Tulsky received the award for his work on oncologist/patient communication; being an advocate for palliative and supportive care research; contributing to the field's growth and direction; and mentorship of faculty in palliative care research.


Tulsky's research in the 1990s examined how residents and faculty talk to patients about resuscitative choices, with a notable study that identified major deficiencies in communications. Tulsky's other accolades include: founding Vital Talk, a nonprofit organization with the mission of nurturing healthier connections between patients and clinicians; he was one of the developers of OncoTalk and OncoTalk Teach, educational programs that help oncologists improve their communication skills; he has partnered with ACS to create Vital Talk workshops for clinicians focusing on talking to patients about quality of life and goals of care; and he was a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee that recently wrote the "Dying in America" report (OT 10/25/14 issue), which recommended major changes to the way seriously ill patients are cared for in this country.

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The Pennsylvania Division, Southeast Region of the American Cancer Society recently honored these individuals and Fox Chase Cancer Center with these awards:


* J. Robert Beck, MD, Senior Vice President, Deputy Director, Chief Academic Officer, Chief Administrative Officer, and H.O. West and J.R. Wike Chair in Cancer Research at Fox Chase, received the 2014 Cancer Control Award for exemplary individual achievements in the field of cancer control;


* Jean-Pierre Issa, MD, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology at Temple University School of Medicine, received the 2014 Scientific Research Award for his contributions in the field of epigenetics in pathophysiology and treatment of cancer; and


* Fox Chase Cancer Center received the Partners in Health Initiatives Award for its high level of commitment to the mission of ACS. This award recognizes how Fox Chase has enabled the ACS to effectively reach large and varied audiences whom, without the aid and assistance of the partner, ACS would not have been able to reach.



The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Career Path program has received the Access Achievement Award from the Mayor's Commission of People with Disabilities, which is given to businesses, organizations, and non-profits that have made outstanding efforts to improve and increase access for people with disabilities throughout the Delaware Valley. The CHOP Career Path program is intended to help young adults (between 18 and 22) who have chronic illnesses and/or disabilities to bridge the gap between high school and the working world.

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"Getting this award recognizes the outstanding work done by our team," Symme Trachtenberg, MSW, LSW, Director of Community Education, CHOP Career Path, and LEND Community Outreach at CHOP, said in a news release. "It sends the message to all of our patients and their families that youth with chronic illness and disabilities have employment in their future."


The Chan Soon-Shiong Institute for Molecular Medicine and the University of Oxford announced a partnership to establish the Chan Soon-Shiong Oxford Center for Molecular Medicine, which will support the delivery of individualized, data-driven molecular medicine for the benefit of the U.K.'s National Health Service cancer patients.


The Chan Soon-Shiong Institute has made an initial commitment of $50 million to advance clinical cancer care in the U.K. through genomic and proteomic driven diagnoses. These funds will provide doctors with large-scale sequencing capabilities for patient-level genomic, epigenomic, proteomic, and digital pathology data capture as well as novel tools and super-computing technology to support critical decision making for cancer treatment. The Center will work in close collaboration with the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.


"We are living our commitment to clinicians and patients alike," Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, founder and Chairman of the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute for Molecular Medicine, said in a news release. "Using the most advanced, sophisticated tools imaginable, we're on a mission to solve the mystery of cancer, and establish an adaptive learning system where the power of one can inform many.


This is the third partnership announced by the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Molecular Medicine this year. The Providence Health System, one of the largest hospital systems spanning five Western states in America and Phoenix Children's Hospital were the two recipients of CSSIOMM grants in the past six months.


The Association of Community Cancer Centers has been provided with a charitable contribution from Bristol-Myers Squibb to develop a comprehensive program in immuno-oncology for community-based providers, the Institute for Clinical Immuno-Oncology (ICLIO). The program will educate providers about immune-oncology.


"We are thrilled about the opportunity to help our members adopt innovations," Becky L. DeKay, MBA, President of ACCC, said in a news release. "There have been exciting advancements in understanding the immune system over the last five years, and this has led to newly emerging immunotherapy treatments. ACCC is pleased to have the opportunity to help ensure that these cutting-edge therapies can be delivered in the community setting. "


The initial phase of the program will involve the establishment of the project infrastructure, including staffing, project planning, and marketing, and identification of potential partner organizations. An Advisory Committee comprised of ACCC members and other immune-oncology leaders will be created to oversee the planning and development of ICLIO.


Currently, the program plans to include: a one-day national conference, a monthly series of e-courses and e-newsletters for clinicians and fellows, and multiple scientific and policy publications highlighting the project findings and outcomes.


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