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Pioneering Johns Hopkins Oncologist Dies

Albert H. Owens, Jr., MD, a Johns Hopkins oncologist who played a leadership role in developing oncology as a scientific discipline and clinical specialty-and who also served as President of The Johns Hopkins Hospital-died Jan. 13 at the age of 90.


In the 1960s, oncology was not a word that existed in the medical lexicon. Few specific medical facilities were set aside for cancer care, and there was no clearly recognized academic discipline. Owens, a 1949 graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and member of its faculty since 1956, set about devoting his career to advancing cancer research and treatment.

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Albert H. Owens, Jr.... - Click to enlarge in new windowAlbert H. Owens, Jr., MD. Albert H. Owens, Jr., MD

In 1957, A. McGehee Harvey-then head of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Department of Medicine-created a cancer research and treatment division within the department, noting that chemotherapy had recently joined radiotherapy and surgery as weapons in the battle against cancer. Harvey tapped Owens to head the new oncology division. Because The Johns Hopkins Hospital at that time lacked the space for such a service, Owens moved inpatient, clinical, and research oncology activities to Baltimore City Hospitals, now known as Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Owens opened Johns Hopkins' first cancer chemotherapy unit at Baltimore City Hospitals in 1961, making it one of the first university-based centers of its kind.


In 1973, Owens was named the first director of the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, which had won federal designation as one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers. In 1977, Owens moved the center from Baltimore City Hospitals back to the main Johns Hopkins Hospital campus, where it was housed in a brand-new facility, named the Oncology Center. Over the next decade, the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center became one of the most prestigious cancer centers in the country and is now named the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.


"Al was an exceptional leader who believed that the best way to foster science that would improve patient outcomes was to put basic scientists and clinicians into the same building so they would naturally bond as team members sharing projects, discoveries, frustrations, and coffee on a daily basis. He radiated interest and enthusiasm when it came to cancer research and frequently dropped unannounced into the offices of young faculty members, asking them to describe the most exciting research project they were working on that day," said Stuart A. Grossman, MD, Professor of Oncology, Medicine and Neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.


Owens was named Johns Hopkins Hospital President in 1987. Eighteen months later, he opted to relinquish the presidency to focus on developing the hospital's new multimillion-dollar oncology center. In doing so, Owens ensured his personal dedication to cancer care and research would leave a distinctive mark on the institution. Despite his brief tenure in the top job, the month he left, he decreed the hospital would become smoke-free.


The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building was completed in January 2000. It was soon followed by the opening of the Bunting Family and Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Family Cancer Research Building. In 2006, the David H. Koch Cancer Research Building opened. The latter two research buildings are connected by an auditorium named in Owens' honor.


In addition to his positions at Johns Hopkins, Owens also served as President of the Maryland division of the American Cancer Society, the Association of American Cancer Institutes, and ASCO.


Owens was born in Staten Island, N.Y., and earned his undergraduate degree from The Johns Hopkins University. He served as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. He is survived by his wife, Sally W. MacConnell; children Albert Henry Owens III, Elizabeth Ann Owens, David Tilden Owens, and Sarah Louise Owens; and five grandchildren.


Moffitt Cancer Center Names Gynecologic Oncology Program Chair

Moffitt Cancer Center appointed Robert Wenham, MD, MS, FACOG, FACS, as the new Gynecologic Oncology Program Chair.


Wenham has served as the Interim Chair over the past few months. He was recruited to Moffitt in 2004 after completing his fellowship in Gynecologic Oncology at Duke University Medical Center. Wenham has a strong interest in research and is a principal investigator of many investigator-initiated, industry, and cooperative groups. He is a member of several professional societies and serves as an editor or reviewer for medical journals.

Robert Wenham, MD, M... - Click to enlarge in new windowRobert Wenham, MD, MS, FACOG, FACS. Robert Wenham, MD, MS, FACOG, FACS

His research activities include the use of novel drugs for the treatment of gynecologic cancers. He has received the Molly Cade Ovarian Cancer Research Award from the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation. Wenham enjoys the challenge of helping women with complex issues and the opportunity to offer them cutting-edge therapies, from the latest chemotherapy approaches to biological targeted therapies, radical and minimally invasive surgeries, and clinical trials.


"We are so pleased to announce the promotion of Dr. Wenham as the Department Chair and fully expect his experience and expertise to enhance our program here at Moffitt," said G. Douglas Letson, MD, Executive Vice President and Physician-in-Chief.


Surgeon & Researcher to Lead NYU Langone Pancreatic Cancer Center

NYU Langone Medical Center announced that internationally recognized surgeon and scientist Diane M. Simeone, MD, will join its Perlmutter Cancer Center March 1 to serve as Associate Director for Translational Research and to lead its newly established pancreatic cancer center.


Currently Director of the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at University of Michigan's Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor, Simeone has had a long and distinguished career in pancreatic cancer research and treatment. Her laboratory was the first to identify pancreatic cancer stem cells, a discovery that might explain why current drug therapies are ineffective against the disease. She also leads a prolific research program on pancreatic cancer prevention, early detection, and therapeutics, and holds major leadership positions with organizations advancing pancreatic cancer research and advocacy worldwide.

Diane M. Simeone, MD... - Click to enlarge in new windowDiane M. Simeone, MD. Diane M. Simeone, MD

As Director of the new pancreatic cancer center, Simeone will set its overall clinical and research direction with the goal of establishing NYU Langone and Perlmutter Cancer Center as a major site for cutting-edge clinical trials for the disease. In her laboratory, she will continue to investigate the molecular events important in pancreatic cancer development-with the goal of identifying biomarkers for early detection and new therapies that improve patient survival. On the clinical side, she will maintain her focus on the management of pancreatic neoplasms, while as the cancer center's Associate Director for Translational Research she will expedite the progression of laboratory studies or research on all types of cancer to clinical practice.


Simeone joins an already strong pancreatic cancer team at Perlmutter Cancer Center, whose laboratory researchers are world leaders in pancreatic cancer biology, metabolism, and immunology, while its clinicians are experts in new approaches to imaging, as well as the surgical and medical management of the disease. Besides adding her own research program to this group, Simeone will help recruit additional investigators and clinicians with a focus on pancreatic cancer.


New Appointment to COA Board of Directors

Edward J. Licitra, MD, PhD, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) has been elected to the board of the Community Oncology Alliance (COA), a nationwide, non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring patients receive quality, affordable, and accessible cancer care in their own communities.


"I am honored to be joining the board of COA, a grassroots organization that does important work on behalf of cancer patients and the community-based physicians and practices who care for them," said Licitra, a medical oncologist who practices with the Central Jersey Division of RCCA.

Edward J. Licitra, M... - Click to enlarge in new windowEdward J. Licitra, MD, PhD. Edward J. Licitra, MD, PhD

"Dr. Licitra will bring a great depth and breadth of experience to our board, and we look forward to drawing on his expertise," said Ted Okon, MBA, Executive Director of COA. Okon noted that, in addition to being a practicing oncologist, an RCCA partner, and Chairman of its board, Licitra serves as the Chief Financial Officer of the Central Jersey Division and the Medical Director of the RCCA Oral Pharmacy. "With the majority of Americans battling cancer receiving treatment in the community setting, it is imperative that the vitality of the community cancer care system be preserved, and Dr. Licitra's clinical, managerial, and fiscal acumen will be of considerable value as we pursue that goal."


Board-certified in internal medicine and medical oncology, Licitra is a member of ASCO and the Medical Society of New Jersey. He has been recognized as a "Top Doctor" by New Jersey Monthly magazine.


Leading Cancer Researcher to Receive Honor From the Queen

Jack Cuzick, PhD, FRS, FMedSci, FRCP(hon), Professor, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), as published in the Queen's New Year 2017 Honours List.


The appointment, which has been recommended to the Queen by the Prime Minister, is in recognition of his achievements in cancer research, particularly the use of preventive medicine in cancer.

Jack Cuzick, PhD, FR... - Click to enlarge in new windowJack Cuzick, PhD, FRS, FMEDSCI, FRCP(HON). Jack Cuzick, PhD, FRS, FMEDSCI, FRCP(HON)

Cuzick, Director of QMUL's Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and Head of the Centre for Cancer Prevention, said: "It is a great honor to be recommended for such a prestigious appointment. This is particularly important for the recognition it provides of the need to develop preventive therapies to tackle cancer before it occurs, much as now is done for heart disease.


"An enormous amount of research has been carried out which has provided clear evidence of the benefits of acting early to identify those at risk of cancer and prevent the onset of the disease with appropriate medication, rather than offering treatments when it may be too late."


The CBE comes just months after Cuzick's election as a Fellow of the Royal Society.


Cuzick was the first to show that the drug tamoxifen was highly effective in the prevention of breast cancer, and subsequently demonstrated the superior efficacy and safety of aromatase inhibitor drugs, which can reduce breast cancer incidence by over 50 percent. He also developed a widely used model for assessing breast cancer risk.


The discovery that HPV was the cause of cervical cancer prompted Cuzick to use HPV DNA testing as an alternative to the conventional Pap smear test. HPV testing has now become the primary screening method in many places. In collaboration with others, he also showed that a type of HPV vaccine can virtually eliminate cervical cancer, and will lead to a much reduced need for screening.


He developed a method to identify a larger group of prostate cancer patients that can be safely managed by active surveillance than was previously possible, thus avoiding the morbidity associated with surgery or radiation therapy.


Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Hospital Names President

Justin F. Klamerus, MD, MMM, has been appointed President of the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Hospital, the clinical operation of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. The appointment is effective immediately.


Klamerus will report directly to Gerold Bepler, MD, PhD, President and CEO of Karmanos Cancer Institute. Klamerus assumes the role after serving as Interim President since April 2016, following the departure of Margaret Dimond, PhD. He will oversee all clinical operations at Karmanos' treatment locations in Detroit and Farmington Hills. He will also continue as Associate Professor of Oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine.

Justin F. Klamerus, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowJustin F. Klamerus, MD, MMM. Justin F. Klamerus, MD, MMM

"I'm confident Dr. Klamerus will continue to do an outstanding job leading our clinical operations," said Bepler. "His experience prior to coming to Karmanos as well as his track record since arriving here in early 2014 has earned the respect of staff; those working day-to-day with our most valued customers-our patients and their families. His insight as a physician and his ability to bring people together to work toward our mission of providing our patients with outstanding cancer care will continue to be a priority as we navigate the ever-changing healthcare environment."


Prior to being appointed president, Klamerus oversaw operations of the Karmanos Cancer Network-14 cancer centers including nine radiation centers throughout Michigan. Klamerus has served in various roles since joining the staff of Karmanos in early 2014, including Executive Vice President/Chief Quality Officer and Associate Center Director for Community Oncology.


Klamerus served as the President and Medical Director of the McLaren Cancer Institute from 2012-2014; and Cancer Program Director at McLaren Northern Michigan from 2009-2012, where he also practiced medical oncology. At McLaren, Klamerus lead cancer research operations, serving as principal investigator for cancer research. During his tenure, McLaren saw a four-fold increase in cancer research accruals.


Klamerus is a member of ASCO, having served on several committees including the Clinical Practice and the Government Relations Committees. He is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Michigan Oncology Quality Consortium. Klamerus has served as the Program Director of the Michigan Oncology Clinical Treatment Pathways Program, a clinical quality initiative of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.


He is board certified in medical oncology and internal medicine. His published works include the book, The Johns Hopkins Patient Guide to Lung Cancer, and several papers on access to cancer clinical trials, health care disparities, and cancer care delivery.


Funding Opportunity for Young Scientists Researching Bladder Cancer

Young scientists interested in bladder cancer research can compete for up to two awards totaling $100,000 from a joint effort between the Johns Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute and the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN).


The deadline to apply for the funds is March 1. The awards are open to scientists in any discipline who have nearly completed their postdoctoral studies or are starting their first faculty position at an academic-based medical center.


"Young scientists use this type of funds to do independent research projects that are out of reach because they lack a large base of research funding," said David McConkey, PhD, Director of the Johns Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute, which has distributed $750,000 in additional research grants to scientists at Johns Hopkins and other institutions. "We want to inspire more early-career scientists to join this field."


A review panel of experts organized by BCAN will evaluate each proposal. The awards are highly competitive and add recognition to young scientists' portfolios. BCAN, headquartered in Bethesda, Md., has distributed more than $900,000 to young scientists.


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