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The Wistar Institute Welcomes New Professor

The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, recently announced the appointment of medical oncologist and National Academy of Medicine member Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD, as Professor.


Dang, the Scientific Director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in New York, shapes scientific strategy, as well as oversees operations of its Lausanne, Oxford, and San Diego Branches. He is also responsible for aligning the missions of six independent Ludwig Centers across the U.S.

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Chi Van Dang, MD, Ph... - Click to enlarge in new windowChi Van Dang, MD, PhD. Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD

Wistar will host Dang's Ludwig Laboratory, which will focus wholly on his own seminal research on cancer and immune cell metabolism and the MYC cancer gene, which was discovered by Dang and his lab to control gene expression that affects metabolism and cancer cell growth.


"We are incredibly excited about Chi's role as global Scientific Director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, and we are thrilled to host his laboratory here," said Dario C. Altieri, MD, President and CEO, Cancer Center Director, and the Robert and Penny Fox Distinguished Professor, at The Wistar Institute. "Chi's efforts in harmonizing and inspiring among the best cancer research programs in the world will provide an incredible impetus for us to continue on the remarkable path of impactful discoveries."


At his Ludwig Laboratory at Wistar, Dang will continue his cancer biology work to connect the field of circadian biology, which focuses on how animals and their cells function in response to the day-night, feeding-fasting cycle, which profoundly affects metabolism. This research could lead to optimizing therapies that affect or utilize metabolism. His aim is to capitalize on an interest in cancer metabolism and determine how cancer cells interact with the immune system, hoping to identify new pathways that could be manipulated to disable cancer cells and awaken the immune system.


"I have spent the past 20 meaningful years in clinical academic leadership roles at Johns Hopkins and Penn committed to upholding and ensuring the highest standards of science from the bench to bedside," said Dang. "I will apply that same dedication here at my Ludwig-Wistar lab as a scholar-researcher focused exclusively on discovery science in an environment that will provide me with the sanctuary to think and discover."


Dang has authored more than 200 scientific and medical articles and book chapters as well as books. He is the recipient of numerous honors, including appointment to the Blue Ribbon Panel of Former Vice President Joe Biden's National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. Dang is currently Chair of the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors. He is a fellow to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, American Society for Clinical Investigation, and The Association of American Physicians.


CWRU Researcher Awarded Funding to Develop Drug-Delivery Nanotechnology

Nicole F. Steinmetz, PhD, George J. Picha Professor in Biomaterials, member of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Director of the Center for Bio-Nanotechnology at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine (CWRU), Cleveland, has received two major grants from the NIH to develop microscopic drug-delivery systems for patients living with breast cancer, and individuals at risk for serious blood clots.


The new R01 awards are provided by the NCI, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Steinmetz plans to collaborate with fellow members of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, Case Center for Imaging Research, and the CWRU Cardiovascular Research Institute, as well as collaborators at Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine for the funded studies.

Nicole F. Steinmetz,... - Click to enlarge in new windowNicole F. Steinmetz, PhD. Nicole F. Steinmetz, PhD

"Nanoparticle engineering is an evolving field, with enormous potential in molecular imaging and therapeutics. We are thrilled that the NIH is supportive of this new frontier in medicine," Steinmetz said.


As part of a $2.2 million NCI award, Steinmetz will develop therapeutic nanotechnology specifically for triple negative breast cancer patients. Last year, Steinmetz and colleagues found virus-like particles from a plant virus-cowpea mosaic virus-can stimulate the immune system to fight tumors and prevent outgrowth of metastasis. The new funding will allow Steinmetz and her team to explore mechanisms behind the anti-tumor effects and develop dual-pronged therapeutic approaches through drug-delivery strategies.


"These plant virus-like particles have cancer-fighting qualities on their own, but they can also be used as vehicles to encapsulate therapeutics, such as chemo and immune drugs, to synergize and potentiate the cancer immunotherapy," noted Steinmetz. "With the new grant, we will test whether combining the particles with breast cancer medications can combat breast cancer in mice." Steinmetz will also investigate how the size and shape of the virus-like particles influence immune cells, to identify characteristics that could be used to develop other therapeutic molecules.


A separate $2.6 million NHLBI award will enable Steinmetz to develop nanotechnology to identify deep vein thromboses before they become fatal. According to Steinmetz, combining nanotechnology with MRIs could improve early diagnoses and guide therapeutic intervention.


"We are developing a biology-derived plant virus nanotechnology, here using the tobacco mosaic virus, for molecular imaging and drug delivery. The noninvasive MRI approach will allow us to gain molecular information about the thrombus, therefore aiding prognosis," she said. Steinmetz and her team will engineer the molecule-injected into the bloodstream during MRIs-to not only help doctors see blood clots, but also disrupt clots and deliver medications. "By integrating imaging and therapeutic capabilities, our approach will help diagnose patients, treat the disease, and monitor disease progression over time."


Atlantic Health System Cancer Care Names Chief of Hematology & Oncology

Nationally renowned head and neck cancer and lung cancer researcher Missak Haigentz, MD, has joined Atlantic Health System Cancer Care, Morristown, N.J., as Chief of Hematology and Oncology at Morristown Medical Center and Medical Director of Atlantic Hematology and Oncology for Atlantic Medical Group at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center.


Haigentz joins Atlantic Health System from the NCI-designated Albert Einstein Cancer Center in New York City, where he served as Director of the Clinical Trials Office and led several national and multicenter trials of cancer drugs. He most recently held the academic rank of Professor of Medicine and Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, with which the Albert Einstein Cancer Center is affiliated.

Missak Haigentz, MD.... - Click to enlarge in new windowMissak Haigentz, MD. Missak Haigentz, MD

Haigentz was the lead or co-author of major studies presented at 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting. His research covered a variety of cancer treatments and treatment related issues, including: the first analysis of patient survival data from a multicenter phase III study of a drug combination that included bevacizumab for people with advanced head and neck cancer; an early stage study of whether certain cancer patients who are living with HIV can tolerate a combination treatment of paclitaxel and carboplatin; whether there were racial/ethnic disparities in lung cancer patient treatment with immunotherapies; and a long-term analysis of the risks and benefits of phase I clinical trials.


"Dr. Haigentz is a leader in head and neck cancer research, treatment, and education," said Eric Whitman, MD, Medical Director, Atlantic Health System Cancer Care. "We are proud that he has chosen to join our cancer care team. His appointment enhances Atlantic Health System's capabilities in clinical trials for head and neck cancers, as well as for lung cancer. He also brings with him extensive experience in using the most innovative, targeted cancer treatments and immunotherapy, which we will now be able to offer to our patients."


Ohio State Appoints Clinician-Scientist to Lead Medical Oncology Division

Claire Verschraegen, MD, has been appointed Director of the Division of Medical Oncology and Associate Director of the Translational Research Program at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC - James).


Verschraegen also holds the Diane Nye and Michael Rayden Chair in Innovative Cancer Research and serves as a Professor of Internal Medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Claire Verschraegen,... - Click to enlarge in new windowClaire Verschraegen, MD. Claire Verschraegen, MD

In her new role, Verschraegen oversees a division of more than 50 faculty who provide subspecialized care and/or conduct research for breast, endocrine, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, gynecologic, head and neck, prostate, and skin cancer as well as soft tissue sarcoma and spine tumors.


Prior to joining The OSUCCC - James, Verschraegen served as Professor of Internal Medicine and Hematology/Oncology Division Director at the University of Vermont Cancer Center. In this role, she held numerous leadership roles including Director of the Cancer Service Line at Fletcher Allen Health Care and Co-Director of the University of Vermont Cancer Center. She also led the cancer center's phase I clinical trials program.


"Claire is nationally and internationally recognized as an accomplished clinician, scientist, leader, and mentor. She brings steadfast, enthusiastic leadership and more than 30 years of experience in clinical research and drug development to our cancer center," said Michael Caligiuri, MD, Director of The OSUCCC and CEO of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. "Perhaps most importantly, she is known nationally as an outstanding mentor in the conduct of clinical investigation. Her experience and track record of success in all three mission areas, as well as her administrative experience, will be of great value to the division and department, as well as the OSUCCC - James."


Throughout her professional career, Verschraegen has been active in the EORTC early in her career, then in national cooperative oncology groups SWOG, GOG, and the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, where she served as the Institutional Principal Investigator of these cooperative group trials at the University of Vermont. She will serve in the same capacity for the OSUCCC. She also serves on the Alliance Board of Directors.


Karmanos Professor to Receive ESTRO Lifetime Achievement Award

Michael C. Joiner, PhD, Professor in the Division of Radiation Oncology, Department of Oncology, at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine (WSU SOM), Detroit, has a passion for teaching tomorrow's radiation oncologists.


He not only teaches clinical residents and medical physicists who go through the residency programs at WSU, he teaches radiation oncologists in training all over the world, from Paris to Russia to Australia. Over the past 30 years or so, he has taught more than 6,000 students globally the basics of clinical radiobiology.

Michael C. Joiner, P... - Click to enlarge in new windowMichael C. Joiner, PhD. Michael C. Joiner, PhD

For Joiner's global teaching efforts, the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO) will honor him with the 2018 ESTRO Lifetime Achievement Award, which he will receive in Barcelona during ESTRO's Annual Conference next year. Joiner is the first American to receive the award since it was established in 2007.


"We at Karmanos are enormously proud of Dr. Joiner for this lifetime achievement award," said Gerold Bepler, MD, PhD, President and CEO of Karmanos Cancer Institute. "Dr. Joiner exemplifies what is so extraordinary about the partnership between Karmanos and WSU SOM. Our medical staff receives the benefit of consulting with world-renowned experts like Dr. Joiner, which translates to superior care for our patients. I personally congratulate him on this tremendous honor."


The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to an ESTRO member who is nearing the end of his or her active career and has contributed "tremendously" to ESTRO activities, according to ESTRO officials. Joiner has continually taught classes through ESTRO since 1990. He came to Wayne State University in 2001, where he gained tenured professorship in 2002.


A prostate cancer survivor himself, Joiner is a great believer in radiation providing highly effective therapy for treating cancer and he considers it a "weak carcinogen." In 1986, he and his colleagues at the CRC Gray Laboratory at Mount Vernon Hospital in Middlesex, England, discovered the process of low-dose hyper-radiosensitivity. They found that delivering radiotherapy to the body in multiple low-dose fractions can sometimes be a safer method for fighting cancer since the body can dispose of those cells more quickly than it can cells treated with higher-dose fractions of radiation.


Arun Paul, MD, PhD, Chief Resident in Radiation Oncology at Karmanos and WSU SOM, was one of Joiner's students. "Dr. Joiner is what I call a master teacher. His passion for teaching is reflected in his availability to his students and radiation oncology colleagues, which in many cases includes providing a simple answer to a complicated radiation biology question, often times late at night," he said.


"As a radiation biologist, he is one of the founding fathers of modern radiation biology and his legacy goes far beyond the text books, publications, and lectures for which he is famous. He belongs to a rare breed of intellectuals who inspire the imagination and challenge the minds of his pupils."


Cancer Treatment Center of America Names Chief of Medical Oncology

Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Eastern Regional Medical Center in Philadelphia recently named Arturo Loaiza-Bonilla, MD, MSEd, FACP, Chief of Medical Oncology and Medical Director of Research.


In this role, Loaiza-Bonilla will be responsible for mentoring, supervising, and directing the medical oncology staff. He will see patients, oversee the clinical research department, and guide processes that achieve improvement in the quality of patient care through evidence-based clinical practices and promote best practices for CTCA's integrative model of care.

Arturo Loaiza-Bonill... - Click to enlarge in new windowArturo Loaiza-Bonilla, MD, MSED, FACP. Arturo Loaiza-Bonilla, MD, MSED, FACP

Loaiza-Bonilla comes to CTCA from the University of Pennsylvania where he served as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine. While in this role, he specialized in clinical and transitional research trials as well as the multidisciplinary, comprehensive care of patients suffering from gastrointestinal malignancies, with particular emphasis in pancreatic, hepatobiliary, colorectal, and upper digestive cancers.


"We are excited to welcome Dr. Loaiza-Bonilla to our team of skilled physicians and clinical care experts," said Nancy Hesse, President and CEO at CTCA at Eastern Regional Medical Center. "Dr. Loaiza-Bonilla's extensive background in cancer care education and research will further CTCA as a leading provider of precision cancer care."


Chair of Urology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute Named

Khurshid Guru, MD, has been named Chair of the Department of Urology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, N.Y. Guru, who was recruited to Roswell Park in 2005 to direct the institute's robotic surgery program, will lead a team of more than 50 faculty members, clinicians, researchers, and staff who provide care for patients with various genitourinary diseases, including prostate, bladder, and kidney cancer.


"Khurshid is one of the most creative and energetic people I've ever met," said Roswell Park President and CEO Candace S. Johnson, PhD. "In his work as a surgeon, educator, researcher, entrepreneur, and volunteer, he always seems to blend the best of science and human compassion together. He will be an outstanding leader for this very dedicated team."

Khurshid Guru, MD. K... - Click to enlarge in new windowKhurshid Guru, MD. Khurshid Guru, MD

Guru previously served as Vice Chair of the Department of Urology, a role he'd held since April 2016. He was one of a select group of surgeons who had completed a fellowship in robot-assisted surgery under the "father of robotic surgery," Mani Menon, MD, of Henry Ford Health System's Vattikuti Urology Institute. After completing this training, Guru performed one of the first robot-assisted radical cystectomies in the world.


As Guru's efforts pushed the boundaries of robot-assisted surgery forward on an international scale, he was named the Dr. Robert P. Huben Professor of Urologic Oncology at Roswell Park in March 2012. In 2015, he was recognized with the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation's Thomas B. Tomasi, MD, PhD, Hope Award, paying special tribute to Guru for his innovation, leadership, and philanthropy.


Regarded as one of the top robotic surgeons in the world, Guru has performed more than 2,500 robot-assisted surgical procedures. He has performed live surgeries in 10 countries, and earlier this year performed his 500th robotic radical cystectomy. He leads the International Robotic Cystectomy Consortium, which includes more than 50 surgeons in 23 countries.


A passionate educator, Guru created one of the first robotic surgery simulators in the world and has helped train more than 300 surgeons through the Applied Technology Laboratory for Advanced Surgery Program at Roswell Park, which operates under his direction.


Fred Hutch Names Leader of Global Oncology Program

Immunotherapy researcher and oncologist Edus H. Warren, MD, PhD, has been selected to lead Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's program in Global Oncology in its effort to transform cancer care in sub-Saharan Africa, China, and other regions by providing greater access to the latest research and treatment.


Warren, who goes by the nickname, "Hootie," has been at Fred Hutch for 24 years, making important contributions in immunotherapy and global oncology. He designed and led Fred Hutch's first clinical trial on T-cell therapy for patients with leukemia. More recently, he has concentrated on global oncology, and today about half of the research in his lab is focused on cancers that are particularly prevalent in Uganda, where Fred Hutch has a long-standing collaboration with the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI).

Edus H. Warren, MD, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowEdus H. Warren, MD, PhD. Edus H. Warren, MD, PhD

As program head, Warren will lead the research program with UCI, which was initiated because of the high incidence of infection-associated cancers in the region, and now encompasses Kaposi sarcoma, Burkitt, and other non-Hodgkin lymphomas, cervical cancer, breast cancer, and Hodgkin lymphomas. He will also spearhead collaborations between Fred Hutch and Chinese medical researchers that go back decades. Today, Fred Hutch's China Initiative focuses on such health issues as infection-associated cancers, environmental exposures, immunotherapy, and cancer biomarkers for precision medicine.


"The opportunities to grow these and other international partnerships, while bringing the full breadth of Fred Hutch's expertise and ingenuity to bear, make this an exciting time for Global Oncology at Fred Hutch," said Gary Gilliland, MD, PhD, Fred Hutch's Director and President. "Under Hootie's leadership, Global Oncology will work to engage oncologists, infectious disease doctors, epidemiologists, and other researchers from Seattle, Uganda, and elsewhere in unique research and training opportunities aimed at improving patient outcomes in the near-term and amplifying our impact globally in years to come."


Warren is active in the clinic's research and treatment, traveling twice a year to Kampala and engaging in weekly Skype sessions to discuss cases with the UCI staff. He said that he plans to visit the clinic more frequently and spend more time there with his new responsibilities.


Warren aims to build on the Uganda work as well as look for synergies with other Fred Hutch international efforts, including its China Initiative and a Fred Hutch laboratory in Cape Town, South Africa, built to do HIV vaccine research.


"We produce breathtaking science on a daily basis here," he said. "The problem is that much of the world's population doesn't have access to it. One of our major goals is to think outside the box, to figure out how we can adapt the incredibly exciting work that's done here so that it can benefit people all around the world."


Warren is committed to translating the scientific research and innovations developed at Fred Hutch to improve care half a world away. "We're not going to be doing bone marrow transplants and T-cell therapy in sub-Saharan Africa this year," said Warren. "But we can adapt the breathtaking discoveries and advances that we make here in Seattle to benefit the other 7 billion people in the world more than they do now."


ACS & Melanoma Research Alliance Forge Research Partnership

A new partnership between the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) will fund much-needed research aimed at decreasing rare but serious, and at times even life-threatening, side effects associated with checkpoint inhibitors in hopes of increasing further cancer immunotherapy benefit to patients.


"Melanoma has served as the proving ground for several immunotherapies," said Michael Kaplan, President and CEO of the Melanoma Research Alliance. "The first checkpoint immunotherapy approved by the FDA in 2011 was to treat melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer."


Since then, the FDA has approved use of checkpoint drugs to combat seven additional cancer types including lung, head and neck, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma, classical Hodgkin lymphoma, and MSI-H cancers. They are now being tested in more than 30 other malignancies. Last month, the FDA approved the first immunotherapy to treat any solid tumor based on a specific genetic marker.


The new research partnership will create a joint grant-making program with the goal of maximizing the overall outcomes for treated patients by preserving checkpoint inhibitor activity and minimizing toxicity by finding ways to better predict, prevent, and/or minimize the side effects of checkpoint inhibitor therapy.


"The partnership with MRA is timely and important for patients getting new immunotherapy drugs," said William Chambers, PhD, Senior Vice President for Extramural Research at the American Cancer Society. "Together, we believe we can really move the field forward and more rapidly improve outcomes for patients."


MRA and ACS have each committed $1 million for the grant awards. The combined $2 million will be used to fund at least one team at $1 million and to support five pilot projects at $200,000 each. The research will include some aspect of melanoma research, but may include other cancers.


A request for proposals was issued on July 1, 2017, and open to researchers at academic institutions in the U.S. with the first grants expected to be awarded in April 2018. More information about submitting proposal requests can be found at:


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