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Roswell Park Receives Funding for New Studies on Cancer Treatment

Researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, N.Y., have received $2.77 million in new funding from federal agencies, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation for projects to advance cancer research and treatment.


"This is another incredible display of the depth of extraordinary research happening in this community at Roswell Park," said Congressman Brian Higgins, Co-Chair of the House of Representatives Cancer Caucus. "The awards, including over $834,000 in federal funding, demonstrate a confidence in the work of local researchers and inspire hope that the clues to better treatments and cures will be discovered right here in Western New York."

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Two Roswell Park researchers were awarded competitive grants from federal agencies:


James Mohler, MD, Associate Director, Senior Vice President for Translational Research and Chair of Urology, received a 3-year, $660,315 award from the Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program for a project that aims to determine the pathways prostate cancer uses to produce its own growth hormones that allow the cancer to survive and grow in spite of standard hormone therapy. Attacking these newly recognized pathways may improve survival of men with advanced prostate cancer, according to Mohler.


Eugene Kandel, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cell Stress Biology, received a 2-year, $174,100 grant from NCI for his work to determine which genes control a cancer cell's sensitivity to oxygen and nutrient deprivation.

James Mohler, MD. Ja... - Click to enlarge in new windowJames Mohler, MD. James Mohler, MD

Several Roswell Park researchers were awarded funding from foundations:

Eugene Kandel, PhD. ... - Click to enlarge in new windowEugene Kandel, PhD. Eugene Kandel, PhD

Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Professor of Oncology and Senior Vice President of Population Sciences, and Chi-Chen Hong, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control, received a 1-year, $250,000 grant from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for a project that aims to study why some women are more likely than others to develop aggressive breast tumors that lack the estrogen receptor and have poorer outcomes. The project will focus on associations between parity, or childbirth status, with and without breastfeeding, and expression of the FOXA1 gene in breast tumors from more than 1,000 patients.


Additionally, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, the nonprofit organization that raises funds and manages donations to Roswell Park Cancer Institute, awarded 32 research projects a total of $1.69 million.

Christine Ambrosone,... - Click to enlarge in new windowChristine Ambrosone, PhD. Christine Ambrosone, PhD
Chi-Chen Hong, PhD. ... - Click to enlarge in new windowChi-Chen Hong, PhD. Chi-Chen Hong, PhD

Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Welcomes New Board Members

The Conquer Cancer Foundation (CCF) of ASCO has added new members to its Board of Directors. These directors, which include clinical strategist Howard A. (Skip) Burris III, MD, and leading pediatric oncologist Susan Cohn, MD, FASCO, will help lead the foundation's efforts to fund the brightest minds in cancer research while supporting the missions of ASCO and CCF.


"We are energized by the broad range of expertise and fresh perspectives that our newest board members collectively bring to the Conquer Cancer Foundation," said Thomas G. Roberts, Jr., MD, Chair of CCF's Board of Directors. "Each is a distinguished leader in his or her field, and we are honored that they have all chosen to volunteer their time and talents to help us work toward achieving our vision of a world free from the fear of cancer."


Howard A. (Skip) Burris III, MD, is the Chief Medical Officer and President of Sarah Cannon's clinical operations, the global cancer institute of the Hospital Corporation of America, where he oversees and leads clinical strategy and drug development projects. Before this role, Burris established the first community-based phase I drug development program in Nashville, which later became the Sarah Cannon Research Institute. He has served on the ASCO Board of Directors and the ASCO Audit Committee, and was the Chairperson of the ASCO Nominating Committee.


Susan Cohn, MD, FASCO, is a pediatric oncologist at the University of Chicago, whose primary focus is developing treatments for children with neuroblastoma. Since 1990, Cohn has held several leadership positions in national pediatric cooperative clinical research groups, including serving as Chair of the Children's Oncology Group Neuroblastoma Disease Committee. She is currently Chief of the Section of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Dean for Clinical Research at the University of Chicago. Cohn has been a member of ASCO since 1988, having served both on ASCO's Board of Directors and as a past ASCO Treasurer.

Howard A. (Skip) Bur... - Click to enlarge in new windowHoward A. (Skip) Burris III, MD. Howard A. (Skip) Burris III, MD

Dana-Farber Names Robert T. and Judith B. Hale Chair in Pancreatic Cancer

Brian Wolpin, MD, MPH, has been appointed the Robert T. and Judith B. Hale Chair in Pancreatic Cancer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston.


Wolpin is Co-Director of the Pancreas and Biliary Tumor Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Wolpin succeeds Charles Fuchs, MD, the first incumbent of the Chair, which was established in 2013.

Brian Wolpin, MD, MP... - Click to enlarge in new windowBrian Wolpin, MD, MPH. Brian Wolpin, MD, MPH

"I am honored to serve as the Robert T. and Judith B. Hale Chair in Pancreatic Cancer at Dana-Farber and am extremely grateful for the Hale family's generosity and vision in supporting work to tackle pancreatic cancer, the third-leading cause of cancer death in the United States," said Wolpin.


Wolpin's research group is focused on understanding the factors that promote initiation and progression of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. These studies involve evaluation of blood-based circulating markers, germline alterations, and somatic alterations in hundreds to thousands of subjects. The near-term goals of this work are to translate cutting-edge laboratory science into approaches for early detection of pancreatic cancer and new treatments for patients with this malignancy.


Wolpin holds a number of leadership positions nationally and internationally, including Chair of the NCI Pancreatic Cancer Detection Consortium Steering Committee, Co-Principal Investigator of the NCI Pancreatic Cancer Cohort Consortium, Medical Oncology Study Chair for ALLIANCE A021501, and Chair of the OICR Pancreatic Cancer Translational Research Initiative External Review Committee.


Wolpin's clinical practice involves the care of patients with gastrointestinal cancers, with a particular focus on pancreatic cancer. He holds several leadership positions related to clinical expertise, including membership on the NCI Pancreas Cancer Task Force, Alliance/CALGB Gastrointestinal Cancer Committee, and NCCN Guidelines Committee for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma.


Mayo Clinic Physician-Researchers Honored by National Society

Two Mayo Clinic researchers have been named to the American Society for Clinical Investigation, bringing the total Mayo membership in the honorary society of physician-scientists to 39. Liewei Wang, MD, PhD, a pharmacologist, and Martin Fernandez-Zapico, MD, a pancreatic cancer biologist, were named to the society from several hundred nominees nationally. The society has 3,000 members.


Wang is a specialist in pharmacogenomics, the study of choosing the right medication, at the right dose to work with an individual's genomic makeup. In her laboratory, she uses genomic-based tools to identify biomarkers that can help predict a patient response to a given drug or dose. She also researches the genomics of cancer tumors to determine the most effective anti-tumor drugs.

Liewei Wang, MD, PhD... - Click to enlarge in new windowLiewei Wang, MD, PhD. Liewei Wang, MD, PhD
Martin Fernandez-Zap... - Click to enlarge in new windowMartin Fernandez-Zapico, MD. Martin Fernandez-Zapico, MD

"It is a real honor for me to be elected as a member of this group that includes many outstanding physician-scientists from great academic institutions," said Wang. "This is also recognition of Mayo as a premiere academic medical center, where basic and clinical scientists can perform state-of-the-art translational research and a place that provides a very supportive environment for translational research."


Fernandez-Zapico's research aims to understand the epigenetic pathways regulating the initiation and progression of pancreatic cancer, predicted to be the second cause of cancer death by 2030. Two main focus areas are the signaling regulation of transcriptional processes that fine-tune the growth of cancer and the epigenetic regulation of the tumor microenvironment. He and his team believe both avenues of research will provide foundation for new cancer therapies for this devastating disease.


"This is great. I feel honored, pleased, excited, and happy," Fernandez-Zapico noted about his selection. "This reaffirms my commitment to this disease, my present line of research, and the choices I've made during my career. It says I'm on the right track with my work, and the path I selected is a good one. Now, I can proceed with even greater confidence."


Fox Chase Oncologist Inducted as a Fellow of ABS

Eric M. Horwitz, MD, Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, has been selected by the American Brachytherapy Society (ABS) as an inaugural ABS Fellow. He will be formally recognized at the ABS 2017 Annual Conference in Boston this month.


In nearly 20 years at Fox Chase, he has guided the growth of the Radiation Oncology Department in both size and impact. Under Horwitz's leadership, Fox Chase has notably expanded its radiation oncology treatment options and patient volumes. His achievements include implementation of an MRI treatment simulator into prostate cancer treatment, and making Fox Chase the first in the northeastern U.S. to offer high dose rate brachytherapy implants to men with prostate cancer. Since 2009, Horwitz has held the Gerald E. Hanks Chair in Radiation Oncology.

Eric M. Horwitz, MD.... - Click to enlarge in new windowEric M. Horwitz, MD. Eric M. Horwitz, MD

Horwitz is a Past-President and Board Chair of ABS, and he currently serves on the editorial board of its journal, Brachytherapy.


"This is a tribute to Dr. Horwitz's fine career and his contributions to the field of brachytherapy and to the ABS," said Steven Frank, MD, President of the American Brachytherapy Society.


Horwitz's prior honors include being recognized as a top doctor by Philadelphia magazine for more than a decade, and he was most recently recognized in America's Top Doctors 2016 by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd.


Yale Scientist Recognized for Chemistry in Cancer Research

Yale scientist Craig M. Crews, MD, PhD, is the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research Award granted by the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR).


This award is presented for outstanding, novel, and significant chemistry research, which has led to important contributions to the fields of basic cancer research, translational cancer research, cancer diagnosis, the prevention of cancer, or the treatment of patients with cancer.

Craig M. Crews, MD, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowCraig M. Crews, MD, PhD. Craig M. Crews, MD, PhD

Crews is the Lewis B. Cullman Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and Professor of Chemistry, as well as Executive Director of the Yale Center for Molecular Discovery.


His lab at Yale has developed a new form of drug, Proteolysis Targeting Chimeras (PROTACs), which engages the cells' own protein degradation machinery to destroy targeted proteins by tagging them for removal. Crews delivered his award lecture, titled "PROTACs: Targeted Protein Degradation as a Therapeutic Strategy," at the AACR annual meeting in Washington, D.C., April 4.


UAB Receives $16 Million Grant to Reduce Cancer Disparities

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has received a 5-year, $16.6 million renewal grant from the NCI for the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), and Tuskegee University (TU) partnership to address cancer disparities among African-Americans.


"Culture, environment, health care access, socioeconomics and population-specific genetic differences contribute to high cancer incidences and to cancer health disparities," said Upender Manne, PhD, lead principal investigator and Professor in the UAB Department of Pathology. "Our efforts are focused on answers to these problems. We use a persistent, multifaceted strategy, combining multidisciplinary approaches to unravel the molecular basis for cancer disparities, training of health professionals and community health educators across the cancer care continuum, and accelerating the development of cancer scientists."


This tripartite research effort, initially funded by NCI as a cooperative grant in 2006, pairs federally designated comprehensive cancer centers such as the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center with institutions of higher learning that historically serve minorities. The collaboration between MSM, TU, and the UAB Cancer Center is especially relevant since Georgia and Alabama have high cancer mortality rates.


Partnership activities include bench- and community-level cancer research with a goal of understanding the causes for cancer disparities, as well as education and training programs that encourage students, fellows and junior faculty to pursue studies in biomedical sciences so they will be linked with seasoned investigators within the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.


The community outreach activities of the Partnership promote cancer awareness and healthy lifestyles among underserved populations and encourage minority participation in therapeutic clinical trials. In the Greater Atlanta area, the MSM outreach effort has screened 600 people for colon cancer. In the Tuskegee area, the TU outreach effort increased physical activity for more than 400 rural residents who participated in healthy lifestyle programs, and improved dietary choices for more than 60 residents. At the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, more than 500 African-American cancer patients participated in therapeutic trials.


The lead principal investigator at MSM is James Lillard, PhD, who works with co-principal investigator Brian Rivers. At TU, the lead principal investigator is Roberta Troy, PhD, and the co-principal investigator is Clayton Yates, PhD.


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