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ACR Foundation Presents Global Humanitarian Awards

The American College of Radiology Foundation presented its 2022 Global Humanitarian Award that honors individuals who have had a positive global impact on radiology services. The 2022 award recipients are Kassa Darge, MD, PhD, and David H. Epstein, MD, FACR.


"The 2022 ACR Foundation Global Humanitarian Award recipients are pillars of the global radiological community and have earned our respect for their efforts to provide better health outcomes for citizens of underserved countries," said Dana H. Smetherman, MD, MPH, MBA, FACR, Chair of the ACR Foundation Executive Committee. "The ACR Foundation also recognizes the work that Drs. Darge and Epstein have done to educate and train radiologists across the globe. Their efforts have enabled more radiologists to learn techniques that will help save lives."

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Kassa Darge, MD, PhD... - Click to enlarge in new windowKassa Darge, MD, PhD. Kassa Darge, MD, PhD
David H. Epstein, MD... - Click to enlarge in new windowDavid H. Epstein, MD, FACR. David H. Epstein, MD, FACR

Darge has been a leader in international medical outreach for more than 30 years, 20 of which have been dedicated to pediatric radiology outreach. His outreach is primarily centered in Ethiopia, caring for more than 150,000 pediatric patients at Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa. His medical outreach also extends to Liberia, Ghana, South Africa, Brazil, and Eastern Europe.


Among his work, Darge points to the creation of a first-of-its-kind pediatric radiology fellowship outreach program accredited by the Addis Ababa University as one of his greatest accomplishments. The 2-year program includes on-site training through rotating international pediatric radiology faculty, distance learning supported by an educational team from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), a 3-month observership at CHOP, and mentored research concluding with a board exam. He also continues to support the residency program with a CME course dedicated to pediatric radiology, held annually in collaboration with the Radiological Society of Ethiopia.


Epstein has worked for 8 years with the Global Surgical and Medical Support Group, a nonprofit that provides medical care and training in places such as Honduras, Panama, and Iraq. The programs in Panama and Honduras were performed in remote areas with Global Brigades, primarily for pre-med students with physician oversight and participation in general clinic work. Epstein provided general clinic care and was also able to utilize diagnostic ultrasound for over 300 patients in the two 1-week programs.


The Iraq program began in 2015 in the Kurdish Region when ISIS was fewer than 30 miles west of Baghdad and the medical system was overwhelmed. Epstein assisted with direct care to Iraqi security forces, citizens, and refugees. He performed more than 100 image-guided procedures and worked side by side doing procedures with other radiologists. He has given more than 30 lectures and workshops to medical staff and has also generously donated medical supplies to Iraqi doctors and patients.


Johns Hopkins Researchers Awarded Funding for Novel Cancer Research Projects

The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and the Departments of Gynecology/Obstetrics, Neurosurgery and Pathology have been awarded funding for novel, multicenter projects designed to intercept and find cures for several deadly cancers, including pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, and glioblastoma.


"We are grateful to Break Through Cancer for funding these innovative new avenues of research, which could help us find novel treatments or management approaches for some devastating cancers," said William Nelson, MD, PhD, Director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and Chairman of the board for Break Through Cancer. "Their model, combining forces across several leading comprehensive cancer centers, we hope will produce exciting results."


One project will investigate how to intercept ovarian cancer before it occurs. Many high-grade, serous ovarian cancers have been found to originate in the fallopian tubes, explained Ie-Ming Shih, MD, PhD, Director of the TeLinde Gynecologic Pathology Laboratory in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics and co-Director of the Women's Malignancies Research Group at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, and Rebecca Stone, MD, Director of the Kelly Gynecologic Oncology Service, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics. Data published show that prophylactic removal of the fallopian tubes may substantially decrease the general population risk for ovarian cancer.


Investigators will examine the safety and feasibility of expanding fallopian tube removal as a primary cancer prevention strategy to women beyond those having gynecologic surgery. There is tremendous opportunity to offer this to women at the time of other planned abdominal surgeries, such as hernia repair or gallbladder removal. Investigators then can advocate for health insurance coverage of preventive fallopian tube removal and create educational materials for surgeons and patients.


Researchers also will work to create noninvasive imaging methods to improve and streamline the detection and harvesting of early cancerous lesions in the fallopian tubes; identify new biomarkers that can be used to advance ovarian cancer screening; and apply new technologies for detecting and analyzing pre-cancers. These include OvaSeek, a system to rapidly image fallopian tubes that have been surgically removed, and the iCollector to harvest living cells from fallopian tube lesions.


Additionally, the group will look to compile an ovarian "precancer atlas" using molecular analyses of minuscule precancerous fallopian tube lesions obtained from participating cancer centers.


Other Johns Hopkins investigators on this project are Bert Vogelstein, MD, Clayton Professor of Oncology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, and Director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics and Therapeutics, who will serve as a research advisor on this project; Nickolas Papadopoulos, PhD, Professor of Oncology; Tian-Li Wang, PhD, Director of the Molecular Genetics Laboratory (MOLGEN) of Female Reproductive Cancer; Leslie Cope, PhD, a bioinformatician; and members of the MOLGEN lab.


The grant is funding three additional lines of research as noted below:


1. Targeting Minimal Residual Disease in Ovarian Cancer


A key factor underlying poor ovarian cancer cure rates is the ability of cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy to persist after therapy. This minimal residual disease (MRD) is clinically undetectable and represents the "seed" that manifests as a cancer recurrence. The main approach to slow recurrence has been to place patients on so-called maintenance therapies-medications to try to prevent cancer from reappearing.


This project, led by Stephanie Gaillard, MD, PhD, Director of early phase clinical trials in gynecologic cancer; Elana Fertig, PhD, Associate Cancer Center Director and Division Director of Quantitative Sciences and Co-Director of the Convergence Institute; and Christopher VandenBussche, MD, PhD, aims to develop new capabilities for understanding and targeting MRD. Researchers will study blood biopsies to detect minute levels of residual cancer DNA in the blood after surgery is complete and use "second-look laparoscopies"-surgeries in which MRD cells can be harvested and studied-to study these cells' properties. These investigations could uncover novel immune and targeted therapies for MRD.


Additionally, the team will partner to develop new therapeutics using MRD as a clinical endpoint to watch. The team will also grow and treat laboratory models of disease that may be used to help predict which patients will and will not respond to new therapies.


2. Conquering KRAS in Pancreatic Cancer (in partnership with the Lustgarten Foundation)


The key driver of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma includes mutations in the KRAS gene. Many cells in the body need KRAS to function; however, several promising new therapies in development target only the mutant form of KRAS.


In this project, researchers will integrate clinical and laboratory approaches to understand why tumor cells become resistant to KRAS inhibition, and how to use these new drugs in combination with other agents. The primary goal is to develop effective combination therapy strategies to target KRAS in pancreatic cancer through preclinical studies and human clinical trials. The team will develop pharmaceutical partnerships to accelerate the translation of new KRAS inhibitors into effective drugs.


Johns Hopkins investigators working on this project are Nilo Azad, MD, Co-Director of Cancer Genetics and Epigenetics; Jacquelyn Zimmerman, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology; Elizabeth Thompson, MD, PhD; Katrina Purtell, RN, Clinical Research Nurse Manager; Elana Fertig, PhD; Associate Cancer Center Director and Division Director of Quantitative Sciences, and Co-Director of the Convergence Institute; and Hao Wang, PhD, Associate Director of the Quantitative Sciences Division and Director of the Biostatistics Shared Resource.


3. Revolutionizing GBM Drug Development Through Serial Biopsies


New therapeutics for glioblastoma have been stunted after several large Phase III clinical trials were unsuccessful. Most cancer therapeutics fail to penetrate the tumor due to the protective effect of the blood-brain barrier. Repeat biopsies have been used in evaluating promising oncology therapies for other types of cancer but have not been considered for brain tumors because of safety concerns.


Through this project, researchers will assess the safety and feasibility of a carefully performed series of biopsies. They also will work to evaluate blood and cerebrospinal fluid samples for molecular or other markers to indicate a cancer treatment is working. In addition, investigators will try to understand how the immune response is blocked by glioblastoma tumor cells.


Johns Hopkins investigators working on this project are Chetan Bettegowda, MD, PhD, the Jennison and Novak Families Professor of Neurosurgery and Vice Chair of Research for Department of Neurosurgery; Matthias Holdhoff, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology; Charles Eberhart, MD, PhD, Director of Neuropathology and Ophthalmic Pathology; and Jessica Wollett, Clinical Trial Manager.


Leaders in Cancer Research Join Stand Up To Cancer Health Equity Committee

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) announced the appointment of five national leaders in cancer research and health equity as new members of the SU2C Health Equity Committee. This group oversees SU2C's Health Equity Initiative, which focuses on one of the organization's core goals: increasing equity in cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, and research.


"I'm honored to welcome this esteemed group of experts to our Health Equity Committee, which has been informing and guiding Stand Up To Cancer's health equity efforts since 2018 thanks to the leadership of our current committee members," said Russell Chew, President of SU2C. "With this expanded committee and their deep knowledge and experience, I believe our Health Equity Initiative will continue to make a significant impact in overcoming disparities in cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and research in the years to come."


Disparities in cancer research and treatment have persisted for decades, leading to an increased focus on correcting these inequities. Black Americans have the highest death rate and lowest survival rate of any racial or ethnic group for most cancers. Hispanic Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stages of disease and experience poor quality of life following a cancer diagnosis.


Furthermore, cancer clinical trial participation remains significantly lower for minority groups compared to their population levels in the United States. According to 2020 data from the FDA, 73 percent of cancer trial participants are White, 14 percent are Asian, 6 percent are Hispanic, and 5 percent are Black.


The named SU2C Health Equity Committee members include the following individuals.


* Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, is the Daniel K. Podolsky Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Professor in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is Chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Director of Cancer Epidemiology at MGH. He also co-leads the Cancer Epidemiology Program at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Chan leads research in the prevention and interception of gastrointestinal cancer, and he is the leader of the SU2C Gastric Cancer Interception Research Team and a co-investigator on the SU2C Colorectal Cancer Equity Dream Team.


* Shawna Hudson, PhD, is a medical sociologist and a member of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. She is internationally known for her research examining long-term follow-up care for cancer survivors and transitions between specialist and primary care. Hudson's research aims to increase the ability of patients and health care organizations to understand and use evidence-based guidelines to prevent and control chronic disease.

Andrew T. Chan, MD, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowAndrew T. Chan, MD, MPH. Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH

* Chanita Hughes Halbert, PhD, Vice Chair for Research and Professor in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences and Associate Director for Cancer Equity at the University of Southern California's Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, is a nationally recognized leader in cancer prevention and minority health research. She is a translational behavioral scientist who has worked throughout her career to reduce disparities in cancer outcomes that affect patients from underrepresented communities. She especially focuses on African-American communities. Halbert has worked to identify a range of determinants of cancer health disparities and then translate this knowledge into improving health equity among underserved groups.

Shawna Hudson, PhD. ... - Click to enlarge in new windowShawna Hudson, PhD. Shawna Hudson, PhD

* David R. Wilson, PhD, was appointed as the first Director of the National Institutes of Health's Tribal Health Research Office in January 2017. In this leadership role, Wilson unites NIH representatives, resources and research to address tribal health concerns. He works to build a unified NIH presence with which to engage and ensure input from tribal leaders across the nation, and aims to expand training opportunities for American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Wilson is a molecular and cellular biologist with a commitment to encouraging underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in science. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health at the Center for American Indian Health.

Chanita Hughes Halbe... - Click to enlarge in new windowChanita Hughes Halbert, PhD. Chanita Hughes Halbert, PhD

* Robert A. Winn, MD, Director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center, is committed to community-engaged research centered on eliminating health inequities. He is a principal investigator on several community-based projects funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. He is also a pulmonologist whose lab focuses on lung cancer. He has received national and international recognition for his efforts to empower underserved patient populations, improve health care delivery, and ensure equal access to cancer care. Winn is also the namesake of The Robert A. Winn Diversity in Clinical Trials Award Program, a 5-year initiative to increase diversity in clinical trials research.

David R. Wilson, PhD... - Click to enlarge in new windowDavid R. Wilson, PhD. David R. Wilson, PhD

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