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Johns Hopkins Cancer Researcher Saul Sharkis Dies

Saul J. Sharkis, PhD, an internationally renowned scientist who studied the biology of blood stem cells and how they could be used to treat cancer through bone marrow transplantation, died Sept. 4 at age 72. He was a Professor of Oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a faculty member in the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center for more than 40 years.


A native of New York, Sharkis earned his bachelor's degree from Hunter College and his master's and doctoral degrees from New York University. After completing his postdoctoral research at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., he was recruited to the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Department of Oncology.

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Saul J. Sharkis, PhD... - Click to enlarge in new windowSaul J. Sharkis, PhD. Saul J. Sharkis, PhD

Sharkis was among the first to isolate and study hematopoietic stem cells. His research was important to the progress of bone marrow and stem cell transplants because it helped reveal the mechanisms of engraftment. His work also uncovered the biology of stem cells, isolating and tracking a stem cell population to show that small numbers of stem cells can reconstitute bone marrow following transplant.


He also studied the plasticity of blood stem cells and developed research models to explore their capacity to develop into other cells, particularly epithelial cells in the liver, pancreas, kidney, breast, and intestine. His hope was that one day, stem cells could be use as cellular therapy to treat cancers.


"Saul inspired us with his dedication, invaluable knowledge, and experience. He was a brilliant yet humble man, a superb scientist, and a Johns Hopkins innovator," said William G. Nelson, MD, PhD, Director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer. "He will be sorely missed by countless residents, fellows, and colleagues."


ASTRO Awards Grants to Support Early Career Researchers in Radiation Oncology

The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) selected four early career scientists to receive a total of $275,000 in research awards, including one winner of the ASTRO Junior Faculty Career Research Training Award and three recipients of ASTRO Resident/Fellows in Radiation Oncology Research Seed Grants.


All winners were recognized at ASTRO's 58th Annual Meeting, Sept. 25-28, at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.


"ASTRO awards and grants support work in the field of radiation and cancer biology, radiation physics, and translational research," said ASTRO Chair Bruce D. Minsky, MD, FASTRO. "These grants have been given for over a decade. With these four grants this year, we are excited to continue to fund important research in radiation oncology as part of the society's overall effort to prevent, treat, and cure malignancies."


The ASTRO Junior Faculty Career Research Training Award gives early career physicians and researchers the opportunity to develop careers and focus on research relevant to radiation oncology, biology or physics. Recipients must be board-eligible physicians, physicists in radiation oncology, or radiobiologists within the first 3 years of their junior faculty appointment. One junior faculty member was selected for this award, which provides $100,000 annually for 2 years.


The 2016 JFA grant recipient is Stephanie Markovina, MD, PhD, of Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Markovina joined the faculty there as a physician scientist in 2015, and she is building her lab to study molecular mechanisms of radiation resistance in solid tumors, with a clinical focus on treating patients with anal cancer. Markovina is interested in understanding molecular mechanisms of radiation resistance in cervical cancer and other solid and HPV-related tumors. She will be investigating the role of the lysosome, a sub-cellular structure involved in protein breakdown, in tumor cell response to radiation and how these signaling pathways might be modulated in cervical cancer to increase the effectiveness of radiation and other anti-cancer therapies.


The ASTRO Resident/Fellows in Radiation Oncology Research Seed Award supports residents or fellows planning a career in basic science or clinical research in radiation oncology. Three researchers were selected for this award, which provides $25,000 per recipient for 1 year. The three 2016 Resident/Fellows in Radiation Oncology Research Seed Award recipients are:

Stephanie Markovina,... - Click to enlarge in new windowStephanie Markovina, MD, PhD. Stephanie Markovina, MD, PhD

John Floberg, MD, PhD, PGY-3 resident, Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis. With his ASTRO seed grant, Floberg aims to develop a predictive biomarker for cervical cancer. He will investigate the use of functional imaging methods, including PET and MRI, to assess the state of cervical cancer cells and predict how tumors will respond to therapies designed to enhance radiation sensitivity.


Chirayu G. Patel, MD, MPH, radiation oncology resident, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn. Patel will use his seed funding to investigate altered tumor metabolism, particularly tumor reliance on the amino acid glutamine, as a mechanism of radioresistance in non-small cell lung cancer. He will explore if this altered metabolism occurs by increased scavenging of reactive oxygen species and will employ small molecule inhibitors to disrupt glutamine metabolism.

John Floberg, MD, Ph... - Click to enlarge in new windowJohn Floberg, MD, PhD. John Floberg, MD, PhD

Cheng-Chia "Fred" Wu, MD, PhD, radiation oncology resident, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, New York City. With his ASTRO grant, Wu will investigate if the integrity of the blood-brain barrier limits communication between the central nervous system and the systemic immune systems, namely whether the disruption of the blood-brain barrier with focused ultrasound can enhance the effects of checkpoint inhibitor-targeted therapy and the abscopal effect in the brain.

Chirayu G. Patel, MD... - Click to enlarge in new windowChirayu G. Patel, MD, MPH. Chirayu G. Patel, MD, MPH

AACR & CEO Honored With PHL Life Sciences Ultimate Solution Award

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and its Chief Executive Officer, Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), were honored with the PHL Life Sciences Ultimate Solution Award Sept. 14 for their significant contributions to and impact on the field of cancer research.


The award is presented annually by PHL Life Sciences, a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, to recognize an individual or organization who has raised Philadelphia's profile as a life sciences meeting and convention destination.

Margaret Foti, PhD, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowMargaret Foti, PhD, MD. Margaret Foti, PhD, MD

The award recognizes how the mission and growth of the AACR, locally and globally, continue to elevate the City of Philadelphia's profile as an international life sciences destination, while paying tribute to Foti as a lifelong Philadelphian and one of the most influential voices in the field of cancer research. Of its 37,000 members worldwide, 1,500 AACR members live and work in Philadelphia and the region.


"We at the American Association for Cancer Research are very proud to have helped catalyze the progress made against cancer through our many programs, services, and initiatives. I am deeply honored to accept this award from PHL Life Sciences," Foti said. "The AACR is at the center of the cancer research world. Philadelphia is home to world-class hospitals, research centers, universities, and cancer institutes, including four NCI-designated cancer centers, and we are fortunate to be able to collaborate extensively with our local renowned scientific network.


"We could not achieve our mission to prevent and cure cancer without such a powerful, connected scientific community, and it is through our strong collaboration that we are able to reach out and touch the lives of cancer patients from Philadelphia and throughout the world," Foti continued. "As the CEO of the AACR, I feel privileged to be a part of this collaborative spirit and to witness the progress that has been achieved."


Foti was named co-chair of PHL Life Sciences during the award reception to further enhance Philadelphia's life sciences appeal.


Moffitt CEO Recognized By Becker's Hospital Review for Outstanding Leadership

For the second year in a row, Moffitt Cancer Center President and CEO Alan F. List, MD, was named to Becker's Hospital Review's 110 Physician Leaders of Hospitals and Health Systems list. The 2016 edition features presidents and CEOs of hospitals and health systems who also hold medical degrees.


Each of the recipients has demonstrated outstanding leadership and clinical expertise throughout their careers, leading initiatives to improve their individual organizations, and the health care of the communities they serve.

Alan F. List, MD. Al... - Click to enlarge in new windowAlan F. List, MD. Alan F. List, MD

List is internationally recognized for his many contributions in the development of novel, more effective treatment strategies for myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia. His pioneering work led to the development of lenalidomide (Revlimid) from the laboratory to clinical trials, which went on to receive fast-track designation from the FDA and approval for the treatment of patients with MDS and multiple myeloma.


2016 Lasker Awards Honor Achievements of Seven Scientists

The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation presented the 2016 Lasker Awards for Medical Science Sept. 23. Given annually, the awards recognize the contributions of scientists, clinicians, and public citizens around the world who have made major advancements in the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of human disease. The 2016 Lasker Awards carry an honorarium of $250,000 for each category.


"The work of this year's honorees epitomizes the power and impact of dedication to rigorous and innovative medical research. These outstanding advances have illuminated fundamental aspects of life, developed a cure for a deadly disease, and raised public engagement with science," said Claire Pomeroy, President of the Lasker Foundation. "The innovative and highly original achievements of these scientists highlight the critical importance of sustained support for biomedical research in attaining a healthier future for all."


The 2016 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award honors William G. Kaelin, Jr., MD, Professor of Medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston; Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe, MD, FRS, Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at Oxford University, United Kingdom; and Gregg L. Semenza, MD, PhD, Director of the Vascular Program at the Institute for Cell Engineering at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, for their discovery of the pathway by which cells from humans and most animals sense and adapt to changes in oxygen availability, a process that is essential for survival.


Ralf F. W. Bartenschlager, PhD, Head of the Molecular Virology Department at the University of Heidelberg; Charles M. Rice, MD, Maurice R. and Corinne P. Greenberg Professor in Virology at Rockefeller University in New York; and Michael J. Sofia, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at Arbutus Biopharma in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, were recognized with the 2016 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for developing a system to study the replication of the virus that causes hepatitis C and used this system to revolutionize the treatment of this chronic, often lethal disease.

William G. Kaelin, J... - Click to enlarge in new windowWilliam G. Kaelin, Jr., MD. William G. Kaelin, Jr., MD
J. Ratcliffe, MD, FR... - Click to enlarge in new windowJ. Ratcliffe, MD, FRS. J. Ratcliffe, MD, FRS
Gregg L. Semenza, MD... - Click to enlarge in new windowGregg L. Semenza, MD, PhD. Gregg L. Semenza, MD, PhD

Bruce M. Alberts, PhD, Chancellor's Leadership Chair in Biochemistry and Biophysics for Science and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, received the 2016 Lasker~Koshland Special Achievement Award for fundamental discoveries in DNA replication and protein biochemistry; for visionary leadership in directing national and international scientific organizations to better people's lives; and for passionate dedication to improving education in science and mathematics.

Ralf F. W. Bartensch... - Click to enlarge in new windowRalf F. W. Bartenschlager, PhD. Ralf F. W. Bartenschlager, PhD
Charles M. Rice, MD.... - Click to enlarge in new windowCharles M. Rice, MD. Charles M. Rice, MD
Michael J. Sofia, Ph... - Click to enlarge in new windowMichael J. Sofia, PhD. Michael J. Sofia, PhD

Novartis Prizes for Immunology Awarded at 16th International Congress of Immunology

The Novartis Prizes for Immunology are awarded every 3 years for breakthrough contributions to the fields of basic and clinical immunology.


The winners were selected by an independent jury of seven world-class immunologists for their groundbreaking research into the biology of the immune system. Each recipient has had a tremendous impact on the understanding of T-cell mediated mechanisms such as tolerance and how these principles can be exploited to design therapeutic approaches.


Steven Rosenberg, MD, PhD, Chief of Surgery at the NCI in Bethesda, Md., and Zelig Eshhar, PhD, Professor in the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, were awarded the Novartis Prize for Clinical Immunology 2016 for their work on the pre-clinical and clinical development as well as technological application of cellular immune therapy using chimeric antigen receptor T cells for diseases such as cancer. Carl H. June, MD, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania was also a recipient (Oct. 10, 2016 Oncology Times).


The Novartis Prize for Basic Immunology 2016 is shared by John W. Kappler, PhD, Department of Biomedical Research, National Jewish Health in Denver; Philippa Marrack, PhD, FRS, Chair, Biomedical Research Department National Jewish Health; and Harald von Boehmer, MD, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Medical School, Boston, for their work in demonstrating how the immune system is able to discriminate "self" from "non-self" through a process in the thymus based on positive and negative selection via T-cell receptor mediated recognition of peptide-MHC complexes.

Steven Rosenberg, MD... - Click to enlarge in new windowSteven Rosenberg, MD, PhD. Steven Rosenberg, MD, PhD
Zelig Eshhar, PhD. Z... - Click to enlarge in new windowZelig Eshhar, PhD. Zelig Eshhar, PhD

The awards were presented during the 16th International Congress of Immunology in Melbourne, Australia.

John W. Kappler, PhD... - Click to enlarge in new windowJohn W. Kappler, PhD. John W. Kappler, PhD
Philippa Marrack, Ph... - Click to enlarge in new windowPhilippa Marrack, PhD, FRS. Philippa Marrack, PhD, FRS
Harald Von Boehmer, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowHarald Von Boehmer, MD, PhD. Harald Von Boehmer, MD, PhD

Professor Receives ESMO Women for Oncology Award

Sumitra Thongprasert, MD, has been awarded the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Women for Oncology award, honoring her position as a role model for women in the profession and for her distinguished career.


This is the second year of the ESMO Women for Oncology award, which was established to acknowledge an individual who has significantly supported the career development of women in oncology.

Sumitra Thongprasert... - Click to enlarge in new windowSumitra Thongprasert, MD. Sumitra Thongprasert, MD

Thongprasert is currently the Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, and Director of the Centre of Excellence in Cancer at Bangkok Hospital Chiang Mai, Thailand.


She began her career with a fellowship in hematology-oncology at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, after which she returned to Chiang Mai University in Thailand and set up the Medical Oncology Unit. She served as Professor of Oncology at the Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University from 1999-2012.


Previous positions include being on the Board of Directors for the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer from 2011-2015, a member of the ESMO Developing Country Task Force during 2005-2010, and the Far East Regional representative for ESMO from 2008-2015. Most recently, she was chairperson of the Asia Pacific Lung Cancer Conference in May 2016. Thongprasert was a founding member of the Thai Society of Clinical Oncology, serving as its President during 2002-2006.


Thongprasert said she was particularly honored to be receiving such an award from ESMO: "The award is further impetus to strive towards contributing something meaningful to ESMO and especially to women oncologists."


The ESMO Fellowship and Award Committee acknowledged Thongprasert's advocacy across Asia for female participation in the oncology workforce, and promotion of women in leadership positions.


"Prof. Sumitra Thongprasert has been essential to the support of women's careers in Asia and beyond. She is a role model for what ESMO wants to convey with the Women for Oncology Award," said Chair of the ESMO Fellowship and Award Committee Christoph Zielinski.


Breast Surgeon Joins Department of Surgical Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center

Allison Aggon, DO, has joined the Department of Surgical Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, and is focusing on breast surgery. Aggon comes to Fox Chase from Crozer-Keystone Health System-Delaware County, where she has practiced as a Breast Surgeon and served as Medical Director of the Center for Breast Health since 2014.


"We're thrilled to bring Allison on board," said Richard J. Bleicher, MD, FACS, Leader of the Breast Service Line and Director of the Breast Fellowship Program at Fox Chase. "She is a very skilled surgeon, and we are lucky to have her on our team."

Allison Aggon, DO. A... - Click to enlarge in new windowAllison Aggon, DO. Allison Aggon, DO

Aggon completed her fellowship training in breast surgical oncology at Fox Chase after completing a general surgery residency at Pinnacle Health-Community General Osteopathic Hospital in Harrisburg, where she also served as Administrative Chief Surgical Resident. In addition, Aggon has participated in medical missions with SurgiCorp International throughout Guatemala and Project Haiti in Pandiassou, where she helped raised $500,000 for medicine and supplies.


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