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The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center has received a $25 million gift from Lyda Hill, a Dallas-based entrepreneur and philanthropist, to establish the Lyda Hill Department of Bioinformatics to bridge research and clinical care. The new Department, recently approved by the UT System Board of Regents, will develop UT Southwestern's capability in bioinformatics, which provides tools for managing and analyzing the extremely large data sets that are increasingly key to addressing the most important scientific and medical challenges.


"My hope is that our investment will help overcome the technological barriers in managing and analyzing data, enabling patients to benefit from research breakthroughs," Hill said in a news release. She has contributed more than $37.5 million to UT Southwestern including this most recent gift.

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LYDA HILL. LYDA HILL... - Click to enlarge in new windowLYDA HILL. LYDA HILL

The donation will be used to: recruit new faculty to establish research centers of excellence in neuroinformatics and complementary areas; support renewed investments in modern computing infrastructure; and integrate bioinformatics faculty members into complementary research programs through joint faculty appointments and training programs. The new department will be chaired by Gaudenz Danuser, PhD, Professor of Cell Biology and the Patrick E. Haggerty Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science at UT Southwestern, and a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Scholar.


Northwestern University has received a five-year, $9.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for the new Chicago Region Physical Science-Oncology Center (CR-PSOC), which unites physical scientists and cancer researchers from Northwestern, the University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Chicago. The Center is part of a larger coalition assembled by the NCI to bring breakthroughs in the physical sciences to bear on the complex problem of cancer. It is one of four such centers that has been funded in the U.S. this year.


"Cancer patients expect us to increase the speed with which we apply discoveries in the basic sciences to prevention, detection and treatment," CR-PSOC principal investigator Thomas V. O'Halloran, PhD, the Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, said in a news release. "The center's mission is to advance our understanding of cancer by examining the role of physical and chemical forces involved in transforming a normal cell into a cancer-causing cell."


O'Halloran and Jonathan D. Licht, MD, the Dobe Professor of Hematology-Oncology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, will lead the CR-PSOC. Both are members of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. This is the second PS-OC at Northwestern. The first center, under the leadership Licht and the late Jonathan Widom, was funded in 2009 for five years.


The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute has received a $100,000 gift from the Salvino family, matched by a $100,000 gift from Accenture's University Giving Program where Mike Salvino serves as group chief executive. The funding will support brain tumor research efforts at OSUCCC-James-including bringing top, new trainees to OSUCCC-James to collaborate in new research in understanding the drivers of brain tumors and targeted therapies to treat them.

JONATHAN D. LICHT, M... - Click to enlarge in new windowJONATHAN D. LICHT, MD. JONATHAN D. LICHT, MD

Among the first new researchers supported by the fund is Prerana Jha, PhD, a research graduate who received a postdoctoral fellowship and will investigate brain tumor cells' resistance to radiation and chemotherapy, as well as the role that microRNA play in that process.


The research fund is named in honor of Mike Salvino's father, the late James Salvino, who was treated for glioblastoma at OSUCCC - James. A longtime resident of Worthington, Ohio, James Salvino spent 25 years leading the Dictation Office Products Company (DOPCO) and was an active Rotarian, Corvette aficionado, and father.


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Frederick Pei Li, MD, Cancer Genetics Pioneer & Epidemiologist, Dies at 75

Frederick Pei Li, MD, an early researcher of population cancer genetics, died in June. He was 75. Until his death he served as Professor of Clinical Cancer Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, where he also held the position of Harry and Elsa Jiler American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor.

FREDERICK PEI LI, MD... - Click to enlarge in new windowFREDERICK PEI LI, MD (1940-2015). FREDERICK PEI LI, MD (1940-2015)

"Fred Li is best known for his pioneering work in heritable aspects of cancer (the Li-Fraumeni Syndrome), but as his career progressed, he turned his attention to cancer prevention," David Christiani, MD, MPH, Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics at Harvard Chan School, said in a news release. "He was very devoted to community-based research, health communication, epidemiology, and prevention strategies. In 1991, his efforts in prevention were recognized when he became head of Dana-Farber's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Control. Fred will be sorely missed in the cancer epidemiology community."


Before Harvard, Li served in the Epidemiology Branch of the National Cancer Institute, where he, with colleague Joseph Fraumeni, MD, identified a small number of families in which the same rare cancers had arisen across populations, which is now known as Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, a rare, but devastating condition in which people are highly prone to develop a variety of serious cancers at an early age. Li and his colleagues continued research to identify the gene responsible for the syndrome, which in 1990, they found to be a mutation in the tumor suppressor gene p53. Their work led to the development of a genetic test for Li-Fraumeni syndrome, which became a paradigm for the evolving field of genetic epidemiology.


"Fred had a knack for making important clinical and epidemiological observations and taking them to the next level," Fraumeni, who continues to serve as Senior Investigator and Advisor in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at NCI, said in a news release. "This often meant crossing disciplines, which in my experience is not always easy-but collaborators were drawn not only to the scientific ideas and generated by Fred, but also by his friendly, calm, and thoughtful demeanor, and his generosity of spirit."


Li previously worked at New England Medical Center (1971-1978), Boston Children's Hospital, and Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (1974-1979). He joined Dana-Farber as an attending physician in 1976, after have serving as a medical officer in the NCI's Epidemiology Branch at Dana-Farber before that. He joined the Dana-Farber faculty in 1981; he headed the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Control there from 1991 to 1998; and he served as Vice Chair for Population Sciences in the Department of Adult (now Medical) Oncology from 1998 to 2002.


Li was appointed to the NCI National Cancer Advisory Board in 1996; he served as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention and served on the editorial boards of several other journals; and he received the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor in Clinical Research in 1999.