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MD Anderson Researchers Elected as AAAS Fellows

In honor of their notable contributions to the field of cancer research, Juan Fueyo, MD, and Victor Prieto, MD, PhD, from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Being named an AAAS Fellow is among the highest honors in the scientific research community.


Juan Fueyo, MD, is Professor of Neuro-Oncology and Director of Neuro-Oncology Experimental Research. He was chosen for his innovative conceptualization of Delta-24, a novel tumor-selective oncolytic adenovirus to treat recurrent glioblastoma and brain metastases. His development of new immune therapies and oncolytic adenoviruses from bench to bedside has been a vital contribution to the field of oncolytic viral therapy. Because of his work, oncolytic viruses are now viewed as a promising new type of immunotherapy.

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Victor Prieto, MD, PhD, is the Department Chair of Pathology and Professor in both Pathology and Dermatology. He was selected for his seminal contributions to molecular biology of melanocytic neoplasms, discovery of biomarkers for prognostication, evaluation of therapy response in patients with cutaneous neoplasms, and standardization of pathology reporting. His work has enabled scientists to better understand melanocytic neoplasms, which are a historically difficult type of lesion to classify and diagnose, and to utilize sentinel lymph node biopsies to determine whether a cutaneous malignancy has metastasized, along with those histologic features that have predictive prognostic value.

Juan Fueyo, MD. Juan... - Click to enlarge in new windowJuan Fueyo, MD. Juan Fueyo, MD

"We are very proud of Juan and Victor for being elected as AAAS Fellows and for their numerous scientific accomplishments," said MD Anderson President Peter WT Pisters, MD. "This recognition honors their longstanding effort, creativity, and motivation to advance cancer research and to ensure MD Anderson's patients-and cancer patients around the world-receive outstanding cancer care."

Victor Prieto, MD, P... - Click to enlarge in new windowVictor Prieto, MD, PhD. Victor Prieto, MD, PhD

The 2021 class of AAAS fellows includes 564 engineers, inventors, and scientists. The fellows are elected by their peers, a tradition that began in 1874 in order to recognize invaluable contributions to science and technology. With the addition of Fueyo and Prieto, MD Anderson's faculty now includes 48 AAAS Fellows.


"The AAAS Fellows exemplify research excellence and the power of science to change the world," said Giulio Draetta, MD, PhD, MD Anderson Chief Scientific Officer. "Having 48 of our stellar researchers recognized as a part of this group is a testament to the incredible science being led at MD Anderson."


Hematology Expert Appointed Director at Perlmutter Cancer Center

Faith E. Davies, MD, a nationally renowned hematology expert, has been appointed the inaugural Director of the Center for Blood Cancers at NYU Langone Health's Perlmutter Cancer Center. She currently serves as Professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Director of the Clinical Myeloma Program at Perlmutter Cancer Center.


In her new role, Davies will work with established NYU Langone clinicians and scientists to enhance the new Center for Blood Cancers' clinical and translational research programs; help to recruit new basic, translational, and clinical researchers in hematological malignancies; and oversee the development of a powerful biospecimens resource to facilitate research on blood cancers across Perlmutter Cancer Center.

Faith E. Davies, MD.... - Click to enlarge in new windowFaith E. Davies, MD. Faith E. Davies, MD

The Center for Blood Cancers supports new and ongoing research efforts and provides expanded educational resources for students and faculty at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. As part of the center's mission to enhance services for patients, the recently opened Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Center provides patients with a health care team and services dedicated to blood and marrow transplants and cell therapy. This new facility will offer outpatient transplants to appropriate patients and house a cell processing facility to enable increasing efforts in cell therapy.


"We are delighted that Dr. Davies will be leading the Center for Blood Cancers," said Michael L. Grossbard, MD, Professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Section Chief of Hematology at Perlmutter Cancer Center. "Her work has been fundamental to revealing the importance of achieving complete remission in myeloma therapy and, under her leadership, the center is poised to extend treatment advances for all blood cancers."


Davies received her medical degrees from University of Wales College of Medicine and completed her hematology specialty training in the United Kingdom. She completed fellowships at the Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute of Cancer Research, London, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.


Davies joined NYU Langone in 2019 as Director of the Clinical Myeloma Program at Perlmutter Cancer Center from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, where she was Medical Director of the Myeloma Institute. Throughout her career, Davies has worked to examine potential new drugs and genetic technologies that can be used to treat myeloma more effectively. She has helped to define the role of changes in chromosomes (cytogenetics) in myeloma prognosis, which has led to the identification of myeloma subgroups that determine prognosis and promise to result in ever more personalized therapy.


At Perlmutter Cancer Center, she and her colleagues are building a clinical trial portfolio concentrating on new immunotherapy approaches, and current studies include the investigation of new immunomodulatory drugs, bispecific antibodies, and CAR T-cell approaches. The strength of these studies is enhanced by translational work using patient samples. In collaboration with Gareth J. Morgan, MD, PhD, Professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Director of Multiple Myeloma Research at Perlmutter Cancer Center, Davies is investigating the impact of both tumor genomics and the immune microenvironment on the outcome of these immune strategies.


"I am excited to lead the Center for Blood Cancers," Davies said. "Perlmutter Cancer Center has an outstanding team of hematologists and medical oncologists, and I am looking forward to building on this strong foundation to provide improved care for our patients."


Innovative Proposals From Researchers at Roswell Park Garner Research Grants

Scientists from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center garnered prestigious "R01" Research Project awards from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).


A 5-year R01 grant from the NCI will enable research into a new strategy for supporting families of kids with cancer, a project led by Elizabeth Bouchard, PhD, Senior Vice President and Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement and Professor in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control; Kara Kelly, MD, Chair of Department of Pediatric Oncology; Elisa Rodriguez, PhD, Director of Community Engagement Resource in the Department of Cancer Prevention & Control; and Kristopher Attwood, PhD, Co-Director of the Biostatistics and Statistical Genomics Shared Resource. The funds will be used to develop CareMeds, a parenting skills-focused intervention strategy to improve adherence to home-based chemotherapy treatment in children with cancer.


"In pediatric health care, nonadherence to medications is a significant driver of avoidable suffering and death," Bouchard noted. "Our research to understand more about families' experiences giving medicine to young children has identified a child's resistance to medication as a barrier to treatment adherence for some families. This study will develop and test an innovative intervention to teach pediatric cancer caregivers strategies to help children take their medicine quickly and calmly."


A second team led by Sai Yendamuri, MD, FACS; Mary Reid, PhD, MSPH; and Joseph Barbi, PhD, earned an R01 award from the NCI to study the effectiveness of an anti-diabetic drug, metformin, for the prevention of lung cancer in obese patients at high risk. The funds will enable a clinical trial investigating how effective this drug may be in preventing lung cancer.


"Despite several groundbreaking advances in the treatment of lung cancer, the overall outlook remains dismal, necessitating the urgent development of preventive therapies," said Yendamuri, Roswell Park's Chair of Thoracic Surgery. "We have observed that metformin can improve lung cancer outcomes in patients who are overweight or obese, and we have linked this effect to immunological changes that we will now be further exploring."


Other highlighted projects from Roswell Park teams who recently earned competitive awards supporting their novel research ideas include the following.


* Matthew Buas, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cancer Prevention & Control, and Li Yan, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Biostatistics & Bioinformatics, were awarded a 4-year R01 grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to study genetic susceptibility to Barrett's esophagus, a precancerous lesion that gives rise to esophageal adenocarcinoma, one of the most lethal of all cancers.



"The goal of this project is to identify the causal variants, target genes, and biological pathways that mediate inherited genetic risk of Barrett's esophagus, through integration of statistical, computational, and experimental approaches and unique data resources," Buas stated. "Discoveries and insights from this study are expected to inform the development of novel strategies for prevention and treatment."


* Prasenjit Dey, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Immunology, received a 5-year R01 grant from the NCI to study new therapies to treat pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. "This study will test whether an antifungal treatment, when used in combination with an immune checkpoint inhibitor, can improve antitumor responses and therapy outcomes," Dey stated.


* Dhyan Chandra, PhD, Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, earned a 5-year R01 grant from the NIH to study how heat-shock protein 60 controls aggressive prostate cancer. "The study will look at the role of this protein in cancer growth and therapy resistance, as well as whether its inhibition can block cancer growth and prevent recurrence of prostate cancer," Chandra explained. "The successful completion of this study will provide alternative treatment options for men with this lethal disease."


* Gal Shafirstein, DSc, Director of PDT Clinical Research, and Nathaniel Ivanick, MD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Thoracic Surgery, received a 2-year grant from the NCI to study a new image-based treatment for interstitial photodynamic therapy (I-PDT) of inoperable malignant tumors with airway obstruction.



"During I-PDT in the clinic, there is a need to adjust the irradiance (light dose rate) and fluence (light dose) to account for patient-specific tissue and tumor optical properties or changes in fiber placement that occur after an initial pretreatment plan is generated," said Shafirstein, the co-principal investigator. "This can be accomplished with novel, near real-time computational software that will be employed in this Phase IIa trial to calculate the intratumoral fluence and irradiance, which will impact tumor response in I-PDT of locally advanced cancers."


* Irwin Gelman, PhD, Director of Research Integration and Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cancer Genetics and Genomics, received a 3-year grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to investigate the role of a particular protein, HBP1, in controlling reawakening of breast cancer in the bone.



"Even with the advent of improved surgery, radiation, and targeted chemotherapy for breast cancer, a significant number of cases recur after many cancer-free years," Gelman noted. "These lesions, often found in the bones, likely disseminated early from the original cancer but remained dormant." The grant will enable Gelman to propose possible therapeutic interventions to increase patient survival by preventing this type of cancer recurrence.


* Michael Feigin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, received a 4-year grant from the American Cancer Society to study how cancer-causing genes are activated in the development of pancreatic cancer.



"Our work will lead to a deeper understanding of cancer progression and has the potential to lead to new treatments for pancreatic cancer," Feigin stated.


* Pamela Sung, MD, PhD, a leukemia specialist who is Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Departments of Medicine and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, received a 4-year grant from the NCI to take a closer look at a protein that is frequently mutated in acute myeloid leukemia and causes an aggressive form of this blood cancer.



"While drugs blocking this protein, FLT3, are effective, they are not curative," Sung said. "I have found a new function of FLT3 that keeps leukemia cells from becoming healthy blood cells and will investigate potential ways to use this to develop new therapies."


* Eric Kauffman, MD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Departments of Urology and Cancer Genetics, received a 1-year grant from the Kidney Cancer Foundation to study the biology of spontaneously regressing kidney cancer primary tumors.


* Ethan Abel, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, received a 1-year grant from the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer to decipher the role of the HNF1A-SKP2 AXIS in the therapeutic response in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.



Three other important recent grants awarded to Roswell Park teams have been previously announced:


* Kirsten Moysich, PhD, MS, Distinguished Member and Professor of Oncology in the Departments of Immunology and Cancer Prevention and Control, received a Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the NCI to to develop new and better treatments for ovarian cancer.


* Theresa Hahn, PhD, Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control, and Qianqian Zhu, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology in the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Roswell Park, garnered a R01 NCI grant to expand their investigation of genetic factors that contribute to the success of blood and marrow transplant in cancer patients.


* Two grants were awarded from outside funders to advance testing and treatments for prostate cancer in African-American men. Anna Woloszynska, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, received a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense; and Dhyan Chandra, PhD, Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, was awarded a grant from the American Cancer Society.



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