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Physician-Scientist Selected as a Scholar to Promote Diversity in Gastroenterology

Fola May, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor-in-Residence of Medicine in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and scientist in the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, was selected as a 2019-2020 scholar by the American Gastroenterological Association for its new program to help promote diversity in the field of gastroenterology.


The FORWARD Program, which stands for Fostering Opportunities Resulting in Workforce and Research Diversity, is a new initiative funded by NIH that is designed to match young scholars with top gastrointestinal investigators to help develop their leadership skills and strengthen their research and management skills.

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Fola May, MD, PhD. F... - Click to enlarge in new windowFola May, MD, PhD. Fola May, MD, PhD

The inaugural class of scholars includes 10 promising underrepresented minority physician-scientists who are early in their career and helping shape the future for academic medicine.


May, the Director of Quality Improvement in Gastroenterology for UCLA Health, conducts research in racial and ethnic disparities in colorectal cancer screening. She is passionate about improving colorectal cancer awareness and screening in underserved populations for whom screening rates are lowest. Her health services research focuses on health disparities and cancer prevention/control at UCLA Health, in federally qualified health centers and in the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.


The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Names Chief Scientific Officer

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has named Giulio Draetta, MD, PhD, as Chief Scientific Officer (CSO), a new position that champions innovation, develops strong partnerships, and provides focused leadership on the science and clinical translation of research programs.


"Giulio is an accomplished physician-scientist with long-standing experience in cancer genetics and drug discovery in both academia and industry," said Peter WT Pisters, MD, President of MD Anderson. "This appointment continues the great work he has been doing since May 2018 when he began serving as CSO ad interim, at which time MD Anderson's basic and translational science responsibilities were placed under a chief scientific officer. He is an outstanding researcher and scientific innovator whose exceptional breadth and depth of experiences will serve him well in this new role."

Giulio Draetta, MD, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowGiulio Draetta, MD, PhD. Giulio Draetta, MD, PhD

Draetta joined MD Anderson in 2011. He has contributed through several roles, including Director of the Institute for Applied Cancer Science from 2011 to 2016. In 2013, Draetta began serving as Co-Leader of MD Anderson's Moon Shots Program, a collaborative effort to accelerate the development of scientific discoveries into clinical advances that save patients' lives.


In 2016, he became Vice President of the Therapeutics Discovery division, a unique group of clinicians, researchers, and drug development experts working collaboratively to develop small molecule, biologic, and cell-based therapies. He was named Senior Vice President for Discovery and Platforms in 2017 and later that year as Chief Academic Officer ad interim.


Draetta's faculty appointment is in the Department of Genomic Medicine, where he holds the endowed position of Sewell Family Chair. Prior to joining MD Anderson, he was on faculty at Dana-Farber/Harvard, where he was a Presidential Scholar, Chief Research Business Development Officer, and Deputy Director of the Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.


Weill Cornell Medicine Names Chief of the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology

Manuel Hidalgo, MD, PhD, a leading physician-scientist who specializes in pancreatic cancer and drug development, has been named Chief of the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology in the Weill Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, effective June 1. Hidalgo will also serve on the leadership team at the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine.


In his new position, Hidalgo will expand and enhance Weill Cornell Medicine's and NewYork-Presbyterian's cancer programs by recruiting outstanding new oncologists and hematologists. Working closely with the Meyer Cancer Center and other multidisciplinary institutes and academic departments, Hidalgo will enhance research and clinical collaborations across the academic medical center. He will also strive to broaden access to cancer care and clinical trials for underserved populations by leveraging Weill Cornell Medicine's and NewYork-Presbyterian's clinical expansions.

Manuel Hidalgo, MD, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowManuel Hidalgo, MD, PhD. Manuel Hidalgo, MD, PhD

Recruited as the E. Hugh Luckey Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Hidalgo comes to Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, where he served as Chief of the Division of Hematology as well as Clinical Director of the Rosenberg Clinical Cancer Center. He is also the Theodore W. and Evelyn G. Berenson Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Deputy Associate Director for Clinical Sciences at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.


A respected oncologist and premier investigator, Hidalgo's work has centered on translational and clinical research in anticancer drug development with a particular emphasis in gastrointestinal cancers. He has developed, tested, and helmed the early clinical development of more than 50 new anticancer agents for pancreatic and other solid tumor cancers. Three of those agents, including nab-paclitaxel, are now approved by the FDA for treatment of GI cancers, including pancreatic cancer. His team also pioneered the development of a personalized cancer model using mice, called mouse avatars, to pre-test cancer treatments.


"We are delighted that Dr. Hidalgo will be joining Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian as the new Chief of Hematology and Medical Oncology," said Anthony Hollenberg, MD, the Weill Chairman of the Weill Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and Physician-in-Chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. "He is a gifted clinician, skilled leader and educator, and his innovative research in pancreatic cancer and drug development is unparalleled. He will undoubtedly be instrumental in the institutions' vision to both broaden health care access for underserved populations and strive for the ultimate goal of discovering treatments and cures for cancer."


In his new role, Hidalgo will oversee a division comprised of nearly 100 physicians and advanced practitioners, 13 fellows, and 14 research groups focused on basic and translational research in hematology, vascular biology, and oncology. Division oncologists and hematologists work to create individualized treatment plans for patients based on the latest technological and scientific advances, collaborating with cancer researchers to ensure that their medical discoveries are translated into effective, leading-edge therapies. Specialized programs include medical oncology, blood cancers, non-malignant hematology and vascular diseases, and bone marrow and stem cell transplantation.


Under Hidalgo's direction and working with the Joint Clinical Trials Office at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, the division will enhance its already robust clinical trials portfolio, which takes the innovative approaches to cancer therapy from the lab to the patient. "Our priority is ensuring that our clinical trials portfolio is modern, comprehensive and diverse," he said, "so patients with advanced cancers have the opportunity to receive the latest therapies."


Hidalgo plans to leverage opportunities afforded by Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian's clinical expansion into Lower Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn to enhance the division's distinguished clinical and research programs. This work will also improve access to cancer care for underserved communities, he said, and provide opportunities for researchers to learn about cancer variations among different, diverse patient populations. "By broadening our clinical services throughout the city, it is a great opportunity to offer better care, including prevention programs, and for clinical research," he said. "This will allow us to learn more about the genetic basis of cancer in different ethnicities, which is still quite unknown."


City of Hope Physician Honored in the Field of Bone Marrow Transplantation

Stephen J. Forman, MD, the leader of City of Hope's Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute and the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, received the 2019 DKMS Mechtild Harf Science Award in honor of his outstanding achievements in cancer immunology, hematology, stem cell transplantation, and CAR T-cell therapy.


The award is given by DKMS, an international nonprofit organization founded 27 years ago in Germany by Peter Harf, MD, to increase the number of stem cell donors after he lost his wife, Mechtild, to leukemia.

Stephen J. Forman, M... - Click to enlarge in new windowStephen J. Forman, MD. Stephen J. Forman, MD

Forman also delivered the E. Donnall Thomas Lecture on Feb. 22, 2019 in Houston at the Transplantation & Cellular Therapy Meetings of the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation and Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR.)


The lecture is named after the Nobel Prize recipient in 1990 and the father of bone marrow transplantation, it and recognizes individuals such as Forman who have contributed meritoriously to the advancement of knowledge in bone marrow or stem cell transplantation.


Under Forman's direction for the last 32 years, City of Hope's Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute has grown tremendously. City of Hope's bone marrow transplantation program is the only program in the nation that has had 1-year survival above the expected rate for 14 consecutive years, according to an analysis by CIBMTR.


"Dr. Forman has led the development of City of Hope's bone marrow transplantation program into one of the largest and most successful in the nation," said Michael Caligiuri, MD, President of City of Hope National Medical Center and the Deana and Steve Campbell Physician-in-Chief Distinguished Chair. "He has committed his life to improving the bone marrow transplantation process, making it more effective and safer, and with fewer side effects, for patients. In addition, Dr. Forman epitomizes City of Hope's emphasis on ensuring that the research being performed in our laboratories reaches a patient's bedside as quickly as possible and delivering the utmost compassionate care to patients."


Stand Up To Cancer Awards 2019 Laura Ziskin Prize in Translational Research

Stand Up To Cancer awarded the 2019 Laura Ziskin Prize in Translational Research to two highly respected clinical investigators who will join in a collaboration to use radiation and immunotherapy pre-operatively to help the body create its own vaccine to fight breast cancer. A clinical trial is currently in development. The Prize was awarded at the 2019 SU2C Scientific Summit in Santa Monica.


Award winners Silvia Formenti, MD, of Weill Cornell Medicine Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center in New York City, and Heather McArthur, MD, MPH, of Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles will share a $250,000 grant for their year-long project. They will be working with a team of immunologists, bioinformatics specialists, and biostatisticians.


"These two doctors, with their complementary backgrounds, have serious potential to develop treatment protocols that could provide better outcomes for breast cancer patients and perhaps reduce mortality," said the selection committee chair John Glaspy, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center of UCLA School of Medicine.

Silvia Formenti, MD.... - Click to enlarge in new windowSilvia Formenti, MD. Silvia Formenti, MD
Heather McArthur, MD... - Click to enlarge in new windowHeather McArthur, MD, MPH. Heather McArthur, MD, MPH

Formenti is a recognized leader in breast cancer research and an international expert in the use of radiation therapy for cancer treatment. Her work in radiation biology demonstrates the efficacy of combining radiation therapy with immunotherapy to control cancer cell growth in solid tumors. It aims to have patients create a personalized immunotherapy by recruiting their immune system to reject an individual tumor.


Formenti has translated preclinical work to clinical trials in metastatic breast cancer, lung cancer, and melanoma. Her work has opened a new field of application for radiotherapy, whereby localized radiation can be used as an adjuvant to immunotherapy of solid tumors and lymphomas.


McArthur researches novel immuno-oncology strategies for treating breast cancer with a specific interest in multidisciplinary approaches. She is currently evaluating the impact of tumor destruction with cryoablation or radiation in combination with immune stimulation for the treatment of women with early-stage breast cancer. By augmenting one's immune response to the unique biologic features of one's tumor, it is hoped that an affected individual may develop long-term immunity against their tumor.


Awarded annually, the Ziskin Prize is named for legendary Hollywood producer and Stand Up To Cancer Co-Founder Laura Ziskin, who lived with breast cancer for 7 years before it took her life in 2011. The prize, inaugurated in 2012, was created with $1.1 million designated for this purpose in Ziskin's will.


2019 AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship Awarded

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has awarded the 15th AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship to Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD. The award was presented during the AACR Annual Meeting 2019, held March 29-April 3 in Atlanta.


The AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship was established in 2004 to acknowledge an individual whose outstanding personal innovation in science and whose position as a thought leader in fields relevant to cancer research has had, and continues to have, the potential to inspire creative thinking and new directions in cancer research. The recipient of this award is selected annually by the AACR President.

Jeffrey Bluestone, P... - Click to enlarge in new windowJeffrey Bluestone, PhD. Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD

Bluestone is being recognized for his scientific contributions to the fields of molecular biology and immunology, specifically his work involving the characterization of CD28 and CTLA-4 function, and subsequent studies demonstrating the role of T cells in modulating autoimmunity and organ transplant rejection. Collectively, his research accomplishments have revolutionized the understanding of T-cell biology and have been essential to the development of countless studies dedicated to understanding the role of the immune system in cancer initiation and progression.


Bluestone is President and CEO of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and the A.W. and Mary Margaret Clausen Distinguished Professor at University of California San Francisco (UCSF). He is also Director of the Hormone Research Institute in the Diabetes Center at UCSF.


While Bluestone is well-known for his role in the discovery of CTLA-4, his research has covered many facets of immunity. Over the past few years, his work has focused on regulatory T cells (Tregs), a subset of T cells capable of preventing the immune system from attacking normal cells and tissues. Most recently, he has used preclinical models to facilitate the development of biological treatments and cell-based therapies for patients with autoimmune disease. Moreover, he continues to initiate new projects to determine Treg stability control mechanisms, with the goal of developing therapeutics aimed at targeting Tregs in autoimmunity and cancer.


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