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NIH Honors Oncologist With NCI Outstanding Investigator Award

Sanford Markowitz, MD, PhD, received a National NCI Outstanding Investigator Award from the NIH. This accolade is a highly competitive award that supports investigators with outstanding records of productivity in cancer research to continue or embark on projects with significant potential for major breakthroughs. Markowitz is head of the GI Cancer Genetics Program at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, Markowitz-Ingalls Professor of Cancer Genetics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, and medical oncologist at UH Seidman Cancer Center.


Markowitz is internationally recognized for making many landmark discoveries in the genetics of gastrointestinal cancers. His research identified two key colon cancer tumor suppressor genes, TGF-[beta] RII and 15-PGDH, that explain how and why colon cancer develops in certain families in whom the disease is inherited.

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Sanford Markowitz, M... - Click to enlarge in new windowSanford Markowitz, MD, PhD. Sanford Markowitz, MD, PhD

In addition, Markowitz discovered why taking aspirin can prevent colon cancer in some individuals but not others and developed a promising new drug that in mice speeds tissue repair after injury, including speeding recovery from colitis and speeding recovery after bone marrow transplantation. He pioneered the development of the first stool DNA tests for early detection of colon cancer and the first esophagus DNA test for early detection of Barrett's esophagus, a precursor to esophageal cancer.


Markowitz is principal investigator of the NCI-funded Case GI Cancers Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE). The Outstanding Investigator award will work together with SPORE to advance Markowitz's studies to harness the 15-PDGH colon cancer suppressor gene pathway to improve the ability to identify individuals at high risk of colon cancer and develop new methods and drugs for colon cancer prevention and treatment. Markowitz's contributions also have been recognized by his recent international award for achievements in medical research conferred by the ruling family of Dubai.


"Sandy's work has transformed our understanding of how colon cancers develop, leading to new ways to assess risk and detect cancers early when they are highly curable," said Neal J. Meropol, MD, Chief, Division of Hematology and Oncology, UH Cleveland Medical Center and the School of Medicine and Associate Director for Clinical Research, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. "This Outstanding Investigator Award will enable him to continue revolutionizing his field."


OSUCCC Names Associate Director for Basic Research

Denis Guttridge, PhD, was named Associate Director for Basic Research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC), Columbus.


In this role, Guttridge will be responsible for coordinating basic science across the OSUCCC research programs, with a focus on fostering existing and building new collaborative efforts. At Ohio State, this includes more than 300 cancer researchers and their teams from 12 of the university's 15 colleges who work collaboratively across disciplines to conduct cancer research aimed at improving the effectiveness of cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Denis Guttridge, PhD... - Click to enlarge in new windowDenis Guttridge, PhD. Denis Guttridge, PhD

Guttridge most recently served as co-leader of the Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention program at the OSUCCC, a role he will transition out of once he becomes the associate director for basic research.


"We are excited to have Denis is this expanded leadership role. He is a driven scientist and strong mentor to junior faculty. He has played a number of important roles within our cancer center, and I have no doubt he will continue to contribute in a big way to our vision of creating a cancer-free world," said Michael Caligiuri, MD, Director of the OSUCCC and Chief Executive Officer of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, Columbus.


Guttridge is a professor in The Ohio State University College of Medicine Department of Cancer Biology and Genetics. He is also principal investigator for multiple NIH research project grants and an NIH research-training grant. His research focuses on the NF-[kappa]B family of transcription factors and the role these molecules play in cell growth and differentiation. His specific interests are cancer cachexia and pancreatic cancer, and muscle disorders such as muscular dystrophy and rhabdomyosarcoma.


Karmanos Appoints Associate Center Director for Translational Sciences

Elisabeth Heath, MD, FACP, of the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, was appointed Associate Center Director for Transitional Sciences. In this new position, Heath will enhance the ongoing work being done in translational research, create opportunities by facilitating interactions and communications between scientists and clinicians, advocate for resources to expedite multi-principal investigator projects, and develop teams of scientists and clinicians for major research grants.


In addition to her new responsibilities, she will continue to lead the Genitourinary Oncology Multidisciplinary Team at Karmanos, serve as Medical Director of the Infusion Center, and remain Director of Prostate Cancer Research at Karmanos, She is the Patricia C. and E. Jan Hartmann Endowed Chair for Prostate Cancer Research.

Elisabeth Heath, MD,... - Click to enlarge in new windowElisabeth Heath, MD, FACP. Elisabeth Heath, MD, FACP

"Dr. Heath, with her expertise, strategic abilities, proactive communication style and proven results, continues to advocate for and advance cancer research while engaging other scientists, physicians, and constituents," said Gerold Bepler, MD, PhD, President/CEO of Karmanos Cancer Institute and Chair of the Department of Oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine (WSU SOM). "She is driven and committed to develop solutions for this complicated disease. It's at the heart of everything she does so that more people survive cancer and thrive. This, and her ability to excite, engage, and retain talent, make her an excellent choice for this leadership position."


Heath's research focus is conducting clinical and translational research trials in genitourinary malignancies by investigating new therapies for preventing and treating cancer. She has been an active clinical and scientific member of Karmanos since 2003 and became a full professor of oncology at WSU SOM in 2013.


"It's critical that we as scientific leaders work together to move promising cancer research from the lab to the clinic, and with the resources and evidence-based findings, share innovative treatments with the community," said Heath. "Enhancing the patient's understanding of clinical trials and improving access to innovative treatments through trial enrollment is the driving force to develop new cancer treatments. I'm excited to accept this new role and work with our incredibly talented team of committed scientists to achieve best practices that lead to increased patient survival."


Heath is active with several organizations such as ASCO, Michigan Cancer Consortium, and Southwest Oncology Group. Recently, she received the Michigan Cancer Consortium Inaugural Champion Award for her leadership excellence, success, and impact in the fight against cancer.


In addition, she is the principal investigator for a U.S. Department of Defense grant supporting the nationally-recognized Prostate Clinical Trials Cancer Consortium, and is co-investigator on multiple scientific grants with her peers at Karmanos and WSU SOM. Heath spearheaded Karmanos' annual Prostate Cancer Symposium and created the Prostate Cancer Advocacy Program at Karmanos, which serves as a model to educate and engage survivors and raise awareness of prostate cancer screening. The program also offers an opportunity for patients to communicate directly with scientists. This invaluable experience increases the understanding between both parties and helps scientists enhance their application to secure research funding.


St. Jude Selects Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation & Cellular Therapy Chair

Stephen Gottschalk, MD, was named Chair of the Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation and Cellular Therapy at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. In his new position, Gottschalk will be responsible for management of the department's clinical, research, and educational activities.


"Bone marrow transplantation and cellular therapy represent some of the most innovative treatments in our fight against cancer and other life-threatening diseases," said James R. Downing, MD, St. Jude President/CEO. "With Dr. Gottschalk at the department's helm, St. Jude will expand this program and its efforts in cancer immunotherapy to offer children in Memphis and beyond the best hope for the future."

Stephen Gottschalk, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowStephen Gottschalk, MD. Stephen Gottschalk, MD

A distinguished clinician and scientist in the areas of bone marrow transplantation and cancer immunotherapy, Gottschalk comes to St. Jude from the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy and Texas Children's Cancer Center, which he joined in 2001. He has served as Director of Texas Children's Cancer Center Basic and Translational Research Division since 2012. He is also a professor in the Pediatrics and Immunology departments at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.


"Cell-based immunotherapies hold the promise to improve outcomes for children with cancer who currently cannot be cured," Gottschalk said. "Because cell therapies are also highly cancer specific, they might ultimately reduce the incidence of long-term, treatment-related complications endured by all cancer survivors. St. Jude is in a unique position to build a highly innovative pediatric cell therapy program; I am honored and delighted to lead this effort."


Gottschalk has developed innovative strategies to treat different types of cancer. He also holds numerous memberships in nationally recognized professional societies, including the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, American Society for Bone Marrow Transplantation, and American Society of Hematology.


Prominent Surgeon & Researcher to Lead Multidisciplinary Liver Cancer Initiative

Theodore H. Welling, III, MD, will lead a new liver cancer program at NYU Langone to advance clinical care and accelerate the translation of lab breakthroughs into superior treatments.


Welling joins the medical center's Perlmutter Cancer Center as Director of a new Liver Tumor Program following a distinguished career at the University of Michigan Health System, where he serves as co-director of its Multidisciplinary Liver Tumor Program.

Theodore H. Welling,... - Click to enlarge in new windowTheodore H. Welling, III, MD. Theodore H. Welling, III, MD

His work includes nationally recognized advances in liver transplantation, laparoscopic liver surgery, and surgery requiring expertise in bile duct and hepatic vascular resection and reconstruction. His clinical expertise has been deepened by investigative work into new treatments for cholangiocarcinoma and hepatocellular carcinoma. Welling is also studying the role of the immune system and cancer stem cells on liver cancer development and progression. His investigative work has been consistently supported by NIH.


At Perlmutter Cancer Center, Welling will lead a strong team that has already made important strides in refining clinical practices to treat primary liver cancer, hepatic metastases (e.g., from colorectal cancer), and will help recruit additional investigators and clinicians. His appointment also complements important programmatic and research efforts already underway through NYU Langone's Transplant Institute, whose specialists will work collaboratively with the Liver Cancer Program to foster a team approach in personalized and comprehensive commitment to patient care.


"Like many malignancies, symptoms of liver cancer do not appear in early stages, so it tends to be diagnosed when it is more advanced and less likely to be cured," said Benjamin G. Neel, MD, PhD, Director of Perlmutter Cancer Center. "Our goal is to help change the course of this disease, develop better ways to identify it early, and improve patient outcomes. We are confident that under Dr. Welling's leadership our liver cancer program can make major advances."


New Editor-in-Chief of AACR Journal Clinical Cancer Research Named

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) recently announced the appointment of Keith T. Flaherty, MD, as Editor-in-Chief of Clinical Cancer Research, one of eight peer-reviewed journals published by the AACR.


Flaherty is Director of the Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies and Director of Clinical Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Boston, where he was named as the Richard Saltonstall Endowed Chair in Oncology, and a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Keith T. Flaherty, M... - Click to enlarge in new windowKeith T. Flaherty, MD. Keith T. Flaherty, MD

"I am thrilled to take on this role at a time when the opportunities to advance science through methodologically rigorous clinical investigation are at an all-time high," Flaherty said. "I benefit greatly from having served under Dr. Ken Anderson's visionary leadership of the journal for the past 6 years as a senior editor."


Flaherty is an active member of AACR. He has been a senior editor of Clinical Cancer Research with oversight of the melanoma section of the journal since 2010, as well as a Scientific Editorial Board Member of Cancer Discovery since its inception.


Flaherty's research focuses on the understanding of the molecular and clinical consequences of inhibiting oncogenes and oncogenic pathways in melanoma, while establishing individual therapeutic approaches and constructing rational combinatorial therapies. A pioneer in developing targeted therapies matched to the genetic characteristics of a patient's tumor, Flaherty led early clinical trials on the development of vemurafenib and trametinib and the dabrafenib/trametinib combination.


Flaherty is also the Deputy Chair for Biomarker Sciences and the Chair of the Developmental Therapeutics Committee in the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, a scientific advisory committee member for the Melanoma Research Foundation, and President of the Society for Melanoma Research.


FDA Oncology Center of Excellence Appoints Director

The FDA has established the Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE) and appointed Richard Pazdur, MD, as Director. This will make oncology the first disease area to have a coordinated clinical review of drugs, biologics, and devices across the agency's three medical product centers.


The FDA is taking important steps to formalize the structure and implementation of the OCE as part of its overarching effort to better address the needs of cancer patients, through reorganization within the FDA's Office of Medical Products and Tobacco. In addition, the OCE will improve the agency's ability to advance oncology-related regulatory science and policy and streamline stakeholder engagement.

Richard Pazdur, MD. ... - Click to enlarge in new windowRichard Pazdur, MD. Richard Pazdur, MD

While the review criteria and application requirements for medical products and the work of review staff in the centers will not change, uniting experts to collaborate on the clinical review of oncology products will enhance the agency's work in approving safe and effective cancer products.


Pazdur previously served as the Director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and will continue to serve as acting director. In this role, Pazdur facilitated coordination of oncology activities across all FDA centers and ensured an ongoing outreach and collaboration between the FDA, NCI, and other cancer-related organizations within and outside of the government.


In 2015, Pazdur was presented with the AACR Distinguished Public Service Award for his exceptional leadership in scientific and regulatory affairs during his tenure as Director of the FDA's Office of Hematology and Oncology Products.


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