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Cyrus Ghajar, PhD, Director of the Laboratory for the Study of Metastatic Microenvironments within the Translational Research Program in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has received a $4.1 million Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program "Era of Hope" Scholar Award. Ghajar will use the funds to research ways to prevent breast cancer metastasis by treating dormant disseminated tumor cells.


"Basically, we are hedging our bets. You might be able to keep these cells asleep forever, but this carries an inherent risk because you are leaving these ticking time bombs in your body. Perhaps we can mitigate this with a strong enough 'sedative,'" Ghajar said in a news release.

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"We're also going to profile the outside of the blood vessel and figure out if there are molecules that uniquely mediate chemo resistance. We want to see if there are interactions we can disrupt that would make dormant cells die when patients are given chemo."


The award is meant to encourage high-impact, collaborative research, particularly among innovative young researchers. For this work, Ghajar has teamed up with other Fred Hutch researchers as well as investigators at Harvard Medical School and at the University of Colorado, Denver, and he has involved two local breast cancer patient advocates on the project.


Roswell Park Cancer Institute has received a continuation of a program project grant from the National Cancer Institute for research through the Roswell Park Photodynamic Therapy Center that will total $10 million over the next five years for RPCI to continue its research program on photodynamic therapy-specifically for research in head and neck cancer. The research and the grant are led by Sandra Gollnick, PhD, Head of the Department of Cell Stress Biology and Director of the Photodynamic Center.


"Our achievements over the past two decades have resulted in numerous innovative advances in the field," she said in a news release. "We now seek to employ our expertise and clinical program to address an unmet need in the treatment of head and neck cancers. We believe that successful completion of this program will also move PDT (photodynamic therapy) from a niche therapy to a standard-of-care treatment for these malignancies."


Photodynamic therapy, an FDA-approved cancer treatment developed at Roswell Park, combines light-sensitizing drugs with laser light and has quality-of-life benefits. It does not induce treatment resistance or result in cumulative toxicity, so it can be repeated multiple times to generate an effective cure. At Roswell Park, the therapy is offered as an option for many skin, lung, and esophageal cancers as well as for Barrett's esophagus and other precancerous conditions. Previous studies suggest it is safe and well-tolerated therapy for early-stage cancers of the oral cavity/oropharynx and larynx, and it has resulted in excellent outcomes with good functional and cosmetic results for both early- and late-stage head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.


With the new funding, RPCI's Photodynamic Therapy Center will launch three new projects:


* Clinical trials involving Roswell Park, the University of Minnesota, the University of Rochester, and Johns Hopkins University, in collaboration with Photolitec LLC, to evaluate photodynamic therapy as a frontline treatment for early-stage disease and assess the ability of the therapy to reduce the toxic effects of chemotherapy in treatment of recurrent and advanced head and neck cancers;


* Research into how photodynamic therapy can be improved by enhancing cancer cells' retention of the photosensitizing drugs, based on tumor-specific characteristics; and


* Investigation of how photodynamic therapy impacts patient antitumor immunity to understand how the local therapy results in systemic immune response that may combat metastatic disease.



Moffitt Cancer Center has received a $3.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the use of e-cigarettes. The goal is to learn how e-cigarettes are used over time, and whether users are eventually successful at quitting smoking.


"Millions of smokers are using e-cigarettes to try to quit smoking, yet because there is a lack of data, we are not able to advise them whether that is an effective smoking-cessation strategy," Thomas Brandon, PhD, Director of the Tobacco Research & Intervention Program, said in a news release. "This study should provide some answers that will be very useful to smokers as they consider ways to quit."


Mark Soloway, MD, Chief of Urologic Oncology at Memorial Cancer Institute in Florida, has received the St. Paul's Medal for 2015 from the British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS). The medal is awarded annually to recognize an individual from outside of the U.K. who has made major contributions to the field of urology or to BAUS.


Soloway has been involved with research identifying cisplatin's anticancer activity in bladder cancer; has led research to define the role of placing drugs inside the bladder for the treatment of early-stage bladder cancer to diminish the chance of local recurrence; and has championed the role of active surveillance for low-grade bladder and prostate cancers, resulting in quality-of-life improvements.

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Soloway has also twice chaired the International Consultation on Urologic Diseases Recommendation Panel on Bladder Cancer (2004 and 2011); and he previously received the Willett Whitmore Jr. Memorial Lecture by the Society of Urologic Oncology (2014).


He currently leads a new division at Memorial focused on the care of bladder, prostate, and kidney cancers, as well as the research program there.


Timothy Gilligan, MD, has been appointed Vice Chairman of Education for Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute. In the new role, he oversees and supports the Institute's education activities including the fellowship and residency programs, medical students and resident rotations, continuing education programs, and faculty development activities.


He continues as a medical oncologist at Cleveland Clinic and as Associate Professor of Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. He specializes in genitourinary cancers in general and testis cancer in particular, and has appointments in the Departments of Urology and Bioethics.


He is also Co-director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Excellence in Healthcare Communication, which has trained some 4,000 physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners in an "experiential communication skills" course.


In other Cleveland Clinic news, James Stevenson, MD, has been appointed Vice Chairman of the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Taussig Cancer Institute. In the role, Stevenson will assist the Chairman and department administrator in operations, including managing and coordinating disease-specific programs and the duties of advanced practice providers within the department; and he will focus on the clinical, academic, and administrative development of junior faculty members.


A specialist in lung cancer and mesothelioma, Stevenson joined the staff of Cleveland Clinic in 2012.


John A. Zaia, MD, the Aaron D. and Edith Miller Chair in Gene Therapy at City of Hope, has been named Director of the Center for Gene Therapy at the Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute there. Zaia is also the principal investigator of the Alpha Clinic for Cell Therapy and Innovation at City of Hope, which is dedicated to identifying new stem cell cures for currently incurable diseases and helping those cures become standard treatment options.


"The researchers and clinicians at City of Hope have both the potential and the determination to change the course of HIV, cancer, and other life-threatening diseases; and I'm looking forward to working with them to develop new gene therapy options," Zaia said in a news release.

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He specializes in gene transfer as HIV-related therapy, and has focused on two potential avenues for fighting AIDS: one involves genetic modification of blood stem cells as a way to create resistance to the AIDS virus; and the other involves genetic modification of stem cell genes so that they prevent replication of the virus.


Janelle Yorke, PhD, has been appointed the first Chair for Cancer Nursing and Allied Health Professionals, which is a joint venture between the Christie NHS Foundation Trust School of Oncology and the University of Manchester to support the development and growth of academic nursing and health professionals at the Trust.


She has served at the University of Manchester's School of Nursing, Midwifery, and Social Work's Cancer Supportive and Palliative Care Research Group Deputy Lead, and has also been Senior Lecturer for Project Diamond. A former Chair of the British Thoracic Society Nurse Advisory Group, Yorke is also Editor of Respiratory Nursing Today and is an editorial board member for Community Nursing, Pulmonary Research, Respiratory Medicine-online, and Thorax.

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Her work has focused on the non-pharmacological management of breathlessness, cough, and fatigue in lung cancer and the symptom experience of patients with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.


The Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology has recognized six oncology practices from across the U.S. with 2015 Clinical Trials Participation Awards. Practices that receive the awards are selected based on a variety of criteria, with preference given to research sites that have demonstrated the ability to overcome barriers in clinical trials accrual, as well as provide care and outreach to underserved populations in their communities.


Recipients of the awards, which were presented this spring at the ASCO Annual Meeting, are:


* Blue Ridge Cancer Care in Roanoke, Virginia;


* Cancer Care Specialists of Central Illinois in Decatur, Illinois;


* Cone Health Cancer Center in Greensboro, North Carolina;


* Oncology Hematology Care, Inc., in Cincinnati, Ohio;


* Scottsdale Healthcare in Scottsdale, Arizona; and


* The Division of Gynecologic Oncology at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona.



Conrad Prebys, a San Diego-based developer and philanthropist, has donated $100 million to Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, which has been renamed Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in recognition of the gift.


"A gift of this magnitude is significant in many ways," CEO Perry Nisen, MD, PhD, said in a news release. "It enables us to conduct translational research to advance laboratory discoveries and clinic-ready drug candidates further along the development pipeline, progressing toward therapies, preventions, and cures for patients who desperately need them. We are profoundly grateful to Conrad Prebys for this extraordinary gift."

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The Institute plans to form more pharma and clinical partnerships in order to advance translational research discoveries; and the gift will further the Institute's work in its focus disease areas of cancer, neuroscience, immunity, and metabolic disorders. Prebys had previously donated $11 million to the institute, including a $10 million gift in 2009 to support the Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics.


Five New Appointees to the National Cancer Advisory Board

President Barack Obama has appointed the following five members of the oncology community to serve on the National Cancer Advisory Board for six-year terms. The primary task of the Board is to advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Director of the National Cancer Institute, and the President of the U.S. on a range of issues affecting the nation's cancer program and on NCI operations. The Board reviews and recommends grants and cooperative agreements following technical and scientific peer review, among other responsibilities.


The new appointees are:


* Peter C. Adamson, MD, Attending Physician in the Division of Oncology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, also serves as Chair of the Children's Oncology Group. He was previously Chief of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics at CHOP (1999 to 2014), and Director of the Office of Clinical and Translational Research (2005 to 2011). He has also previously served as Professor of Pediatrics and Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania (1999 to 2006); and was an investigator in the Pediatric Oncology Branch of NCI (1995 to 1999).


* Deborah Watkins Bruner, MSN, PhD, is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Nursing at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Professor of Radiation Oncology, and Associate Director for Outcomes Research at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University-positions she has held since 2011. Bruner also previously served as Professor of Nursing and Radiation Oncology (2006 to 2011) and as Co-Leader of the Abramson Cancer Center (2008 to 2011) both at the University of Pennsylvania; she also served in various roles at Fox Chase Cancer Center before Penn (1989 to 2006); and has also worked at Albert Einstein Medical Center and Crozer-Chester Medical Center.


* Yuan Chang, MD, is Professor of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh (since 2002), and she has been a Distinguished Professor of Pathology there since 2012. Chang is also the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Chair of Cancer Virology. Chang was previously at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgery (1993 to 2002) as Professor of Pathology (2000 to 2002), Associate Professor of Pathology (1997 to 2000), and Assistant Professor of Pathology (1993 to 1997); and at Stanford University Medical Center as Clinical Instructor in the Department of Pathology.


* Timothy J. Ley, MD, is Chief of the Stem Cell Biology Section in the Division of Oncology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis; and he is also Associate Director for Cancer Genomics at McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University. He has been at Washington University since 1986 and has been Professor of Medicine and of Genetics, Director of the Hematopoiesis Research Center, and Director for Basic Science at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, where he is also a research member. Ley has also served as Senior Investigator for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health (1984 to 1986), and was also a Clinical Associate there, too (1980 to 1983).


* Max S. Wicha, MD, is the Madeline and Sidney Forbes Professor of Oncology at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center (since April). Wicha has also served as Attending Physician for Medical Oncology In-Patient and Consultation Services for the University of Michigan Health System since 1980. In 1986 he founded the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and was its Director until earlier this year. Also at the University of Michigan, Wicha has been Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology, Director of the Simpson Memorial Research Institute, and Distinguished Professor of Oncology. Wicha has also served at NCI as Associate Investigator in the Laboratory of Pathophysiology, and then as a Clinical Oncology Fellow.



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