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New CEO Joins International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer

Karen L. Kelly, MD, will step down from her position as Associate Director for Clinical Research at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in early 2022 when she assumes her new role as Chief Executive Officer of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).


During her 10 years at UC Davis Health, Kelly helped forge a new future for cancer research as she led clinical trials development, fostered innovation, and streamlined the process for all faculty and staff in the department. Her own lung cancer research has helped elevate the standing of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in the oncology research world.

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Karen L. Kelly, MD. ... - Click to enlarge in new windowKaren L. Kelly, MD. Karen L. Kelly, MD

"It has been a privilege to be a part of the UC Davis team," said Kelly. "My years of service will be instrumental in guiding me on my new adventure." She said she intends to remain on the UC Davis faculty as emeritus professor.


"Dr. Kelly has been an invaluable and integral member of the cancer center for over a decade. We appreciate her tireless efforts on behalf of the Office of Clinical Research and the thousands of patients who benefited from groundbreaking and life-saving clinical trials here," said Primo "Lucky" Lara, Jr., MD, Director of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. "We are tremendously proud of this new opportunity for Dr. Kelly to advance and promote lung cancer and thoracic research on an international stage and wish her nothing but the best in this new endeavor."


Kelly is an active, long-standing member of the IASLC and former member of the IASLC Board of Directors. The IASLC is the only global network dedicated to the study and eradication of lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies. Since its founding in 1974, the association's membership has grown to more than 8,000 lung and thoracic cancer specialists from all disciplines and more than 100 countries. By hosting global conferences, funding cutting-edge research, and educating the health care community and the public about thoracic cancers, the IASLC works to alleviate the burden lung cancer places on patients, families, and communities.


Researchers Receive Funding to Address Race-Related Disparities in Prostate Cancer

African-American men currently have the highest rates of prostate cancer in the United States, as well as the poorest outcomes. New grants from the U.S. Department of Defense and American Cancer Society will fund work by two Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center teams focused on understanding and eliminating prostate cancer health disparities.


Compared with men in other racial and ethnic groups, African-American men are also at higher risk of being diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of prostate cancer at a younger age. Race-related differences in access to prostate cancer screening and treatment play a large role in these persistent health disparities, but the role of other contributing factors, such as genetic and epigenetic differences in susceptibility and treatment response, remains largely unknown.


Anna Woloszynska, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology in Roswell Park's Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, received a 2-year, $613,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to study the genetic and epigenetic vulnerabilities of prostate cancer in African-American men.


"We believe that identifying new molecular features, specific to African-American patients, will enable us to design novel diagnostic and prognostic tests that will help to reduce racial disparities," said Woloszynska, whose work will focus on the unique molecular pathways that influence prostate cancer biology.

Anna Woloszynska, Ph... - Click to enlarge in new windowAnna Woloszynska, PhD. Anna Woloszynska, PhD

Dhyan Chandra, PhD, Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, received a 2-year, $240,000 grant from the American Cancer Society to study cytochrome c deficiency in African-American men.


"Due to lack of the mitochondrial protein cytochrome c, standard prostate cancer therapies often are less effective in African-American men," said Chandra, who hopes the work will point the way to new, more effective therapies. "Our goal is to inhibit signals that promote prostate cancer in these men, which will allow cancer cells to enhance production of this key protein, cytochrome c, leading to the demise of prostate cancer cells in African-American men."

Dhyan Chandra, PhD. ... - Click to enlarge in new windowDhyan Chandra, PhD. Dhyan Chandra, PhD

"Prostate cancer's unequal impact on the African-American community punctuates the need for innovative research like these studies," said Elizabeth Bouchard, PhD, MA, Senior Vice President and Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement in Roswell Park's Department of Cancer Prevention and Control. "It's especially exciting to see this work advancing in the areas of both testing for prostate cancer and treatment options, and I'll be following these projects from our colleagues in pharmacology with great interest."


Amit Maity, MD, PHD, to Lead Radiation Oncology at University of Utah Health

Amit Maity, MD, PhD, will serve as Professor and Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology for the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at the University of Utah. Maity is a physician-scientist who currently serves as Professor and Executive Vice Chair of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine where he holds the Morton L. Kligerman, MD, Professorship.


Maity cares for patients with hematologic malignancies using radiation therapy. His laboratory focuses on ways to improve the efficacy of radiation therapy through research in new therapeutics that may enhance the sensitivity of tumor cells to radiation.

Amit Maity, MD, PhD.... - Click to enlarge in new windowAmit Maity, MD, PhD. Amit Maity, MD, PhD

"Dr. Maity is a national leader in his field," said Michael L. Good, MD, CEO of University of Utah Health. "His expertise, experience, and leadership will help bring an already exceptional department to even greater heights in caring for our patients, advancing research, and training the next generation of clinicians and scientists."


As Chair, Maity will oversee all radiation oncology clinical care, research, and training programs at U of U Health. The department is located at Huntsman Cancer Institute and provides radiation oncology care to adults and children in the areas that include Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming. As home to the region's first and only center for proton therapy among all other state-of-the-art radiation therapy modalities, the department is broadly recognized for expertise in medical physics with sophisticated technologies for precision-guided delivery of radiation therapy.


Clinical trials evaluating new methods of radiation therapy for cancer patients is a priority of the department. A major focus of its clinical research efforts is evaluation of methods that reduce the number of radiation therapy doses required to treat a tumor, an effort to meet unique needs of HCI's rural service area where many patients must travel significant distances for such treatment.


"We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Maity to Huntsman Cancer Institute," said Sachin Apte, MD, Chief Clinical Officer of HCI. "Approximately half of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment. Radiation therapy is a critical area of focus for Huntsman Cancer Institute in terms of advancing compassionate, science-based medicine and training the next generation of radiation therapy care providers."


Maity completed his medical degree at Boston University, followed by a residency in internal medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and then a residency in radiation oncology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He subsequently completed a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, then pursued postdoctoral research training at Johns Hopkins University, and later leadership training at Harvard University.


"I am excited by the opportunity at University of Utah Health and Huntsman Cancer Institute because of their commitment to exceptional patient-centered cancer care, and to cutting-edge research aimed at improving outcomes," said Maity. "I am looking forward to working with the exceptionally talented teams there and helping them to achieve even more in our field."


Maity begins his service on June 1, 2022. He succeeds Dennis Shrieve, MD, PhD, who has served as Chair of the department since 2000. Shrieve will remain on staff where he will continue to care for cancer patients at HCI.


"We are extremely grateful to Dr. Shrieve for his visionary leadership of the Department of Radiation Oncology for over 2 decades, and for his continued service to cancer patients," said Good. "Dr. Shrieve was instrumental in bringing new modalities like stereotactic radiosurgery and proton therapy to Utah, and his leadership of the department has brought together a robust group of radiation oncologists, medical physicists, dosimetrists, technicians, administrative professionals and more who are united in advancing radiation therapy care for the benefit of cancer patients."


Investigators Honored With 2022 Emerging Leader Awards

The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research has awarded seven grants to promising early-career investigators for projects aimed at addressing unmet needs in cancer research. The Emerging Leader Award program empowers scientists to take on innovative, high-risk/high-reward projects that have significant potential to improve outcomes for cancer patients.


These leaders are pursuing important studies in areas of basic, translational, and clinical cancer research, ranging from work shedding light on fundamental questions of cancer development and progression, to projects that tackle the latest challenges arising in the fields of cancer immunology and immunotherapy.


"This is the fourth year The Mark Foundation is encouraging the next generation of oncology superstars through our Emerging Leader Awards," said Ryan Schoenfeld, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer and interim CEO of the foundation. "These grants will enable researchers who are still in the early stage of their careers to pursue innovative projects that might never launch without our support. Our relationship with these scientists will continue for many years, and we look forward to the results of their research as well as their emergence as leaders in the field."


Each award is $250,000 per year for 3 years, totaling $750,000. Since its founding in mid-2017, the foundation has awarded over $20 million to 28 early-career scientists. The recipients the 2022 awards include the following:


* Karim-Jean Armache, PhD, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, Molecular mechanisms of epigenetic crosstalk between histone modifications and DNA methylation in cancer: New avenues for drug development


* Jaehyuk Choi, MD, PhD, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Exploiting naturally occurring mutations to engineer next-generation T-cell therapies


* Nikhil Joshi, PhD, Yale University School of Medicine, Investigating how T-cell immunosurveillance restricts progression of developing tumors


* Dan Landau, MD, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Genome Center, Deciphering the fitness determinants of clonal mosaicism


* Kamila Naxerova, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Towards an "earliest detection" assay for early-onset colorectal cancer


* Yuliya Pylayeva-Gupta, PhD, University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Reprogramming B-cell fate and function in cancer


* Sarah Slavoff, PhD, Department of Chemistry, Yale University, Discovery of microproteins in melanoma



CAR T Immunotherapies for Patients in Need of Kidney Transplants

Penn Medicine has been awarded a 7-year, $14 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to promote organ transplantation for patients with end-stage renal disease who are currently on the waitlist for a kidney transplant. The team will launch a clinical trial harnessing synthetic chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells for use in patients for whom a compatible kidney cannot be found due to pre-existing antibodies against potential donors.


A major barrier to successful transplantation in some of these patients is the existence of pre-formed antibodies against potential organ donors, which arise when patients are exposed to other people's cells or tissues, such as through pregnancy, blood transfusion, or previous organ transplants. Patients who form high levels of donor-specific antibodies, termed "highly sensitized," tend to wait longer on the transplant list and may never receive an organ.


"Engineering novel cellular immunotherapies to help improve access to kidney transplants is an exciting area of research for a unique patient population in great need of lifesaving organs," said Ali Naji, MD, PhD, the J. William White Professor of Surgical Research in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and principal investigator of the study. "We're committed to discovering an approach to help these currently transplant-ineligible end-stage renal disease patients find a path forward to an organ match."


The NIH-funded clinical trial led by Penn will leverage CAR T cells, a form of immunotherapy that has proven remarkably effective as an anti-cancer treatment. Two experimental CAR T-cell therapies developed at Penn will be used to deplete immune B cells and plasma cells that make donor-specific antibodies with the hope of achieving a compatible kidney match.


"CAR T cells represent a powerful and specific therapy targeting immune cells that produce antibodies that preclude successful transplantation," said Carl H. June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies and the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy in Penn's Abramson Cancer Center. "By combining two CAR T therapies targeting antigens that are found on B cell and plasma cells, we hope to achieve successful kidney transplantation in patients with pre-existing antibodies."


The trial, which intends to begin enrolling patients by the end of 2022, will be offered at three sites, led by Penn and including the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University and New York University Langone Health.


"Based on previous success with proving that engineered T-cell immunotherapies employing synthetic CARs can induce durable remission of B-cell lineage and plasma cell malignancies, we are excited for the opportunity to explore this further," said Alfred Garfall, MD, Assistant Professor of Hematology at Penn. "With the favorable safety record we observed with this combination cellular approach, there is great anticipation for what Penn's two experimental CAR T-cell therapies could do for patients with cancer, and other conditions, who might benefit from innovative immunotherapies."


"There is a very high degree of enthusiasm for this research and the impact it can have for patients in need with a treatment approach that could change clinical practice and expand access to transplantation for those with immunologic barriers that currently make them unlikely to receive a transplant," added Vijay Garud Bhoj, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Penn. "The proposed research we are looking forward to conducting is based on strong preliminary data that suggest both safety and efficacy, which is highly innovative in the field of transplantation."


The study will be supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Special Emphasis Panel's Clinical Trials in Organ Transplantation in Children and Adults (1U01AI163087-01).


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