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Neil J. Ganem, PhD, Awarded Grant for Esophageal Adenocarcinomas Research

Neil J. Ganem, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine in the Section of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Department of Pharmacology, at the Boston University School of Medicine, was awarded a research grant from the DeGregorio Family Foundation. He is working on defining gene dependencies in whole-genome doubled esophageal adenocarcinomas to ultimately discover new drug targets.


Recent work from Ganem's lab has demonstrated that, while whole genome-doubling confers traits that favor the formation of tumors, it also imposes numerous physiological stresses upon cancer cells. With support from the DeGregorio Foundation, the Ganem lab will test its hypothesis that WGD+ esophageal adenocarcinoma cells must acquire specific genetic adaptations to tolerate the numerous defects imparted by a doubled DNA content, and that these tumor cells may therefore possess specific genetic dependencies not present in normal, healthy cells. Identifying these adaptations and gene dependencies to discover new drug targets in WGD+ esophageal adenocarcinoma cells is the overarching goal of this study.

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Neil J. Ganem, PhD. ... - Click to enlarge in new windowNeil J. Ganem, PhD. Neil J. Ganem, PhD

In 2020, gastric and esophageal cancers combined to kill over 1.3 million people worldwide-making it the second-leading cause of cancer-related death. Patients continue to face poor prognoses following gastric and esophageal cancer diagnoses due to their chemo-resistant behavior and ability to metastasize.


The DeGregorio Family Foundation, founded in 2006 after a 10th member of the DeGregorio family died of stomach cancer, has raised more than $5 million to fund innovative research focused on curing gastric and esophageal cancers. "We are honored to fund grants for deserving research that has the potential to significantly improve how we approach and treat gastroesophageal cancers," stated Lynn DeGregorio, President and Founder.


Commenting on his award, Ganem said, "Support from the DeGregorio Foundation will enable us to conduct this innovative study, which we feel has the strong potential to reveal new strategies to specifically target and kill WGD+ esophageal adenocarcinoma cells while sparing the normal, non-cancerous WGD- cells that comprise normal human tissue."


Fidel Valea, MD, Garners New Leadership Roles in Gynecologic Oncology

With more than 30 years of clinical research and academic leadership at several major medical institutions, Fidel A. Valea, MD, has been appointed System Chief of Gynecologic Oncology at Northwell Health and Director of Gynecologic Oncology at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute. He will see patients in New Hyde Park and Manhattan.


In his role at Northwell, Valea will direct the gynecologic oncology programs across the health system ensuring the quality of gynecologic oncology clinical services. Key areas of responsibility include advancing a patient-centered approach to care, overseeing performance improvement and quality assurance studies, enhancing operational efficiencies and excellent care, spearheading educational/academic offerings for the fellowship program and other clinical staff, and expanding gynecologic oncology research efforts.

Fidel A. Valea, MD. ... - Click to enlarge in new windowFidel A. Valea, MD. Fidel A. Valea, MD

"We are thrilled to have Dr. Valea join our growing Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Northwell and lead our strategy and expansion of our academic, research and clinical programs in the region," said Michael Nimaroff, MD, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of Ob/Gyn Services at Northwell. "As a champion for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the profession, Dr. Valea is a strong asset to our team as well as the patients we serve in our communities."


"As a nationally recognized physician and educator, we look forward to working closely with Dr. Valea as he helps the Cancer Institute standardize care and build multidisciplinary programs in gynecologic cancer across the health system," said Richard Barakat, MD, Physician-in-Chief and Director of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute and Senior Vice President of Cancer Services. "We are especially pleased to welcome Dr. Valea to Northwell as he has strong professional ties to the New York City area, which is an asset as he starts his new role."


Valea joins Northwell from the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke, VA, where he was Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology for 5 years. Prior to that, he held several leadership roles during his 12-year tenure at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC, including Vice Chair of Education, Residency Program Director in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Fellowship Director in Gynecologic Oncology, as well as a tenured professor. He also held top positions in his field as a physician-researcher and educator at Stony Brook School of Medicine.


Born in Havana, Cuba, Valea was raised in New York City where he earned a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering from Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences before medical school at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He completed both his residency in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as fellowship in gynecologic oncology, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill before joining the faculty at Stony Brook in 1992 to 2004. At Stony Brook, he was the Residency Program Director and principal investigator for the Gynecologic Oncology Group, as well as Director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology.


Valea is a member of several organizations, including the Society of Gynecologic Oncology; the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, where he serves on the board of directors; and the Association of Professors in Gynecology and Obstetrics, where he also serves as faculty for the Surgical Education Scholars course. He recently completed his prestigious tenure as Director of Gynecologic Oncology for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and served on its board.


With a national reputation for medical education, Valea has served as a visiting professor at universities across the globe and authored or co-authored more than 100 articles, abstracts, and peer-reviewed chapters. He was part of the working group that created the upcoming Gynecologic Oncology Milestones 2.0. He is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society and he has won numerous regional and national teaching awards. He is one of four editors of Comprehensive Gynecology. His research interests are in pre-invasive disease of the cervix, minimally invasive surgery, and evidence-based perioperative care.


$2.1 Million Gift Launches Comprehensive Breast Cancer Database

In an important step that could help answer research questions about breast cancer and develop more personalized solutions for patients, philanthropists Richard and Carol Dean Hertzberg have committed $2.1 million to develop and maintain the Dean-Hertzberg Breast Cancer Database System (BCDS) at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health. The gift will support the work of Anne Wallace, MD, Director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Center at UC San Diego Health and her collaborators at Moores Cancer Center.


The interactive database will further UC San Diego Health's efforts to advance the understanding of breast disease and develop new treatments. The BCDS will combine biological, biographical, and demographic data in novel ways that will allow researchers to study breast cancers with similar clinical features, as well as rare subtypes.

Anne Wallace, MD. An... - Click to enlarge in new windowAnne Wallace, MD. Anne Wallace, MD

"I am excited about the BCDS's potential to bring research collaborators together with practicing providers to use advanced technologies, data and knowledge to find better ways to improve each patient's experience, based on their specific breast cancer," Wallace said. "I am grateful to Carol and Dick for helping us launch this project."


The Hertzbergs' generosity has enabled Wallace and colleagues to begin collaborating with the laboratory of Thomas J. Kipps, MD, PhD, Deputy Director of Research Operations for UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. Wallace and Kipps will use the system as flagship for data analysis and accessibility.


Previously, the Hertzbergs contributed two gifts to help create the BCDS. Their latest gift brings the BCDS initiative fully to life, and includes the addition of a clinic data manager to support work.


"When we asked Dr. Wallace how we could help, she had a wish list of projects that could not be funded by traditional grant sources," said Carol Hertzberg. "She described this project to us and we knew it was something we wanted to support. We are excited to see the impact that this collaboration will make for research and care."


Stand Up To Cancer Announces Research Team for Head & Neck Cancers

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) announced the Stand Up To Cancer-Fanconi Anemia Research Fund-Farrah Fawcett Foundation Head and Neck Cancer Research Team. The new endeavor will concentrate on new approaches to address head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, with an emphasis on cancers related to the human papillomavirus (HPV) and Fanconi anemia.


The team has been awarded $3.25 million over 3 years to advance therapies, support new approaches and improve patient outcomes for head and neck cancers. The team will receive $1.5 million each from the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund and the Farrah Fawcett Foundation. The American Head and Neck Society and the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance have each provided $125,000 to support the team. This is the first time these four organizations have come together to take on some of the toughest challenges in head and neck cancers. This is also the first time SU2C has worked with a nonprofit foundation that is not directly focused on cancer research-the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund.


"There is tremendous work that needs to be done to make progress in treating head and neck cancers, which approximately 66,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this year," said Sung Poblete, PhD, RN, CEO of SU2C. "It is truly groundbreaking for these four donors to come together in this unique collaboration to support this team and make this critical research possible. I'm grateful for their vision and focus on our shared goal: to make more people impacted by head and neck cancers long-term survivors."


Agata Smogorzewska, MD, PhD, Associate Professor at The Rockefeller University will lead the research team and Barbara Burtness, MD, Professor of Medicine, interim Associate Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and co-leader of the Developmental Therapeutics Program at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital, will serve as co-leader of the team.


The collaboration will bring together experts working on different aspects of head and neck cancers with a focus on collaboration that speeds the discovery of new treatments. Using a variety of state-of-the-art tools to better understand how head and neck cancers develop, the team will improve treatments by identifying new combinations of current and emerging therapies that may be effective for these types of cancers.

Agata Smogorzewska, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowAgata Smogorzewska, MD, PhD. Agata Smogorzewska, MD, PhD
Barbara Burtness, MD... - Click to enlarge in new windowBarbara Burtness, MD. Barbara Burtness, MD

"By improving our understanding of HPV-related and Fanconi anemia-associated cancers, we will be able to identify and develop new treatment and preventive strategies for individuals with these cancer types," said Smogorzewska. "Our ultimate goal is to achieve better survival without compromising quality of life that is currently limited by treatment toxicity. The challenges of treating patients with Fanconi anemia who develop cancer are profound due to the inability to use standard chemotherapy. Similarly, for patients with HPV-related cancer, development of treatment resistance leads to poor outcomes."


Head and neck cancers can appear in the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, thyroid gland, throat or larynx. Fanconi anemia is a rare inherited disease characterized by the inability to repair DNA leading to bone marrow failure and cancer; the incidence of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma in people with Fanconi anemia is 500- to 700-fold higher than in the general population and treatment options are limited. Fanconi anemia, although rare, affects people of all ethnicities. HPV is a very common virus that can cause cancer, including cancer of the throat; approximately 45,300 people with HPV will get a cancer diagnosis every year in the U.S.


"The incidence of HPV-related head and neck cancer is increasing in all populations," Burtness said. "Existing treatments for HPV-related head and neck cancer are often toxic. New treatments offer the promise of reducing toxicity and are an option for patients who do not respond to standard treatment. Our team's approach to identifying new effective combinations of current and emerging treatments that could allow for safer and more effective therapies is critical in order to save more lives."


In all races and ethnicities, men have higher rates of HPV-associated cancers of the oropharynx (back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils) than women. These diagnostics rates have surpassed cervical cancer in women bringing new urgency for this crucial research. Black and Hispanic men and women have lower rates of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers than White and non-Hispanic men and women. In addition to oropharyngeal cancers, HPV can also cause anal, cervical, penile, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.