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Claudia Henschke, PhD, MD, Receives Annual Alton Ochsner Award

Claudia Henschke, PhD, MD, Director of the Early Lung and Cardiac Action Program (ELCAP) and Professor of Radiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has been awarded the Alton Ochsner Award Relating Smoking and Disease.


This prestigious award is named after Alton Ochsner, MD, who co-founded Ochsner Health in New Orleans and published the first paper linking smoking and health in 1939. It recognizes scientists who have made major contributions to the relationship between smoking and disease and who have advanced the development of major prevention and treatment modalities.

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Claudia Henschke, Ph... - Click to enlarge in new windowClaudia Henschke, PhD, MD. Claudia Henschke, PhD, MD

"It is an honor to receive this award for my work in lung cancer screening," Henschke noted. "The ability to be able to detect early lung cancer by screening and change it from an essentially incurable disease to one with a high cure rate, saving countless lives, is a culmination of 30 years of work."


Henschke pioneered the use of CT screening for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. "I have had the rewarding experience of first introducing low-dose CT screening in 1992 when almost nobody really believed it would work, and then partnering with a global community of researchers known as the Early Lung Cancer Action Program (I-ELCAP). This has allowed screening to achieve mainstream acceptance," she said.


"At Ochsner, we support pioneers who explore complex health care issues and develop innovative treatments relating to smoking cessation and disease prevention, because we know collaboration is a critical component of research and disease prevention," said Leonardo Seoane, MD, Chief Academic Officer for Ochsner Health. "We commend Dr. Henschke's dedication and passion to this important topic."


Starting in 2001, Henschke's I-ELCAP research consortium expanded to 80 national and international sites focused on developing the most effective diagnostic protocol. It was constantly updated to incorporate imaging advances and improve diagnosis of lung cancer at ever earlier and more curable stages. Her research triggered randomized controlled trials in the United States and five other countries that have validated mortality reductions, leading to public and private insurance coverage here and abroad. Her advancements have saved countless lives.


"I am most grateful for the participants in the screening program as they made all these results possible. This worldwide team effort is my greatest joy and I am honored to have had such a dedicated team of collaborators and participants," Henschke said.


Utilizing one of the largest collections of CT thoracic scans ever assembled, Henschke and her team continue to develop early identification of other smoking-related morbidities, such as coronary artery disease, emphysema, osteoporosis, and liver disease.


Remembering Legendary Biostatistician Pioneer Leslie Bernstein, PhD

Leslie Bernstein, PhD, passed away July 28 at 82. She joined City of Hope in 2007 and was a distinguished pioneer in breast cancer research spanning 40 years. In her decades-long career, her work as a biostatistician and cancer epidemiologist transformed the way researchers, clinicians, and others perceive the ability to modify cancer risk.


"Leslie was a pioneer in cancer epidemiology, a mighty advocate for women in science, a mentor to myriad epidemiologists, an inspiring collaborator, and a sounding board for students to executives. More than that, she was brilliant, personable, funny, a great communicator and listener, and kind," said Susan Neuhausen, PhD, Director of the Division of Biomarkers of Early Detection and Prevention, Department of Population Sciences, and The Morris & Horowitz Families Professor in Cancer Etiology & Outcomes Research at City of Hope. "Leslie was a beloved friend who truly cared about people. She was so proud of her children and grandchildren, who she loved to pieces. She will be sorely missed by me and countless others."

Leslie Bernstein, Ph... - Click to enlarge in new windowLeslie Bernstein, PhD. Leslie Bernstein, PhD

Bernstein would often share the story of how she chose her career path. It began in 1950, when she was a student at Hughes Junior High in Long Beach, Calif., and turned in a term paper entitled, "I'm Going to Be a Statistician." She always said it was baseball that influenced that choice.


"Our family didn't own a television, so we listened to baseball games on the radio, and I loved hearing about how good a batter was or what a pitcher did, and memorizing batting averages," she would say. "The announcers would refer to the people crunching all those numbers as 'the statisticians' and I thought, 'I want to be one of those.'"


In that career, she became internationally known for her groundbreaking research in breast and other cancers, hormones, and reproductive endocrinology. A one-time competitive swimmer, she garnered global recognition for her revolutionary research study, published in 1994, that identified the link between physical activity and reduced risk of breast cancer. In that same year, Bernstein also helped launch the California Teachers Study, a more than two decades-long seminal study of breast cancer and other diseases in 133,000+ public school professionals. In recent years, hers was the first published study showing that the use of low-dose aspirin reduces the risk of breast cancer in women.


"Les, as we fondly called her, is known by many as the 'mother' of cancer epidemiology. I believe her experience as a mother crafted the woman we know as an exceptional scientist, communicator, and educator. She worked hard to earn the respect and appreciation she so deserved within the broad field of cancer research," said Kimlin Tam Ashing, PhD, Deputy Director and Professor in the Division of Health Equities, Department of Population Sciences. "She was supremely dedicated to her mentees, always caring and wholly attentive. She imparted her knowledge generously with both rigor and compassion. I always felt that she was fully present with me and cared about my scientific success as well as my whole person, including my family. She will always have a very special place in my heart."


As the former Director of City of Hope's Division of Cancer Etiology in the Department of Population Sciences and Dean of Faculty Affairs, Bernstein received numerous awards and honors for her incredible work in research and mentorship, including City of Hope's Lifetime Achievement Mentoring Award. She was also the recipient of the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction, the Rosalind E. Franklin Award for Women in Science given by the National Cancer Institute, the Abraham Lilienfeld Award for Lifetime Contributions to Epidemiology given by the American College of Epidemiology, the Award for Research Excellence, and the Prevent Cancer Foundation Award from the American Association for Cancer Research.


"Leslie Bernstein's scientific work as a pioneer in breast cancer helped save thousands of lives across the globe. She was an outstanding role model for both women and men in medicine. She was also a generous, giving woman, who cared about others through her deeds as well as her words. We have lost a giant, and I have lost a very dear friend," said Alexandra Levine, MD, MACP, Professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope.


Bernstein also received the Medal of Honor from the American Cancer Society for her life's work to greatly advance public health, public communication, and public policy to impact new directions in cancer control. Earlier this year, Bernstein received the 2022 Margaret L. Kripke Legend Award for her significant contributions in advancing and promoting women in cancer medicine and cancer science.


In addition, she was a devoted supporter and philanthropic friend to City of Hope. Bernstein and her husband Saul, an orthopedic surgeon who died in 2010, had three children, 11 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.


"Dr. Bernstein was a visionary and scientific leader. She blazed a scientific trail for hundreds of women scientists; she opened doors for all of us," said Victoria Seewaldt, MD, Ruth Ziegler Chair in Population Sciences. "Dr. Bernstein was also a humanitarian. She gave her time to everyone. She mentored; she gave people courage to do the things they thought they could not do. A great woman has left us, but her legacy will live on and shine like the stars in heaven."


Owhofasa Agbedia, MD, MPH, Honored With 2022 ASH-CIBMTR-ASTCT Career Development Award

The Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplantation (CIBMTR) selected Owhofasa Agbedia, MD, MPH, to receive the ASH-CIBMTR-ASTCT Career Development Award. It includes a stipend of $100,000 to conduct clinical or laboratory-based hematology research projects and to be mentored in person by faculty at the CIBMTR's two parent institutions.


The CIBMTR is a research collaboration between the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match and the Medical College of Wisconsin. The award is part of program to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the next generation of medical professionals.

Owhofasa Agbedia, MD... - Click to enlarge in new windowOwhofasa Agbedia, MD, MPH. Owhofasa Agbedia, MD, MPH

"NMDP/Be The Match is proud to provide Dr. Agbedia mentorship and support research with ASH and the CIBMTR that will positively impact patients and expand representation in our field," said Stephen Spellman, Vice President of Research of the NMDP/Be The Match. "We believe that diversity, equity, and inclusion in our field are essential to innovation and eliminating health care disparities."


Agbedia is a fellow in Hematology/Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and a graduate student at MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He is interested in investigating an innovative cellular therapeutic option for treating CD94-expressing NK/T-cell lymphoproliferative disorders.


"Along with our partner organizations, the CIBMTR is committed to supporting the career development of our next generation, particularly those with diverse backgrounds. In doing so, we ensure the future success of our field by fostering the minds and hearts of those who will discover novel approaches to improve patient outcomes," said Jeffery Auletta, MD, Chief Scientific Director of the CIBMTR.


The award enrolls Agbedia in the American Society for Transplant and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT) Leadership and the ASTCT Clinical Research Training courses and includes membership on the ASTCT Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. He will receive registration for the 2023 Tandem Meetings: Transplantation & Cellular Therapy Meetings of ASTCT and CIBMTR. Additionally, he will be invited to present research findings during the Promoting Minorities in Hematology event at the ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition.


The CIBMTR/American Society of Hematology/American Society of Transplantation and Cellular Therapy award is part of the ASH Minority Hematology Fellow Award program, which supports early-career researchers from racial and ethnic groups that were historically underrepresented in medicine. This award is exclusively for fellows pursuing careers in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy. It is one of six programs under ASH's Minority Recruitment Initiative, a series of programs committed to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in physicians training in hematology-related fields and in hematologists with academic and research appointments.


National Cancer Center Announces Recipients of 2022-23 Research Fellowship Awards

A total of 15 awards totaling more than $700K marks another record year of postdoctoral cancer research support. Grants benefit researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, The Rockefeller University, Icahn School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, New York University Medical School, and The University of California, Los Angeles, among other institutions


The 2022-23 research grant awards from the National Cancer Center support research fellows pursuing promising and innovative cancer research. This year's class includes a total of 15 recipients-nine first-time awards and six renewals-from a broad universe of premier cancer research institutions. The four women and 11 men come from China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Belgium, Spain, and the U.S., forming a truly global constellation of best-in-class research.


Recipients of the new postdoc fellowship awards, of $50,000 each, include the following: He Eric Zhu, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Pietro Berico, PhD, New York University Medical School; Audifas Salvador Matus Meza, PhD, University of Nebraska Medical Center; Yongji Zeng, PhD, Baylor College of Medicine; Gaurav Chauhan, PhD, Cleveland Clinic; Youngbin Cho, PhD, University of Pittsburgh; Ines Godet, PhD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Jungmin Lee, PhD, University of California, San Francisco; and Lizhong Ding, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles.


In addition, the NCC renewed grants, in the amount of $42,000 each, go to Murilo Ramos Rocha, PhD, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Chiwei Xu, PhD, The Rockefeller University; Elena Grossi, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine; Carmen Adriaens, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital; Narek Darabedian, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; and Varadha B. Venkadakrishnan, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.


All award decisions are made by the NCC's Scientific Advisory Board, which is chaired by Darell D. Bigner, MD, PhD, Duke University Medical Center. In addition to Bigner, the Scientific Advisory Board includes Jerome Ritz, MD, Harvard Medical School; John M. Kirkwood, MD, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute; Janet M.D. Plate, PhD; Victoria L. Seewaldt, MD, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center; and David Knorr, MD, PhD, Rockefeller University Hospital.


National Cancer Center's total funding for the 2022-23 year increased by 6.7 percent to an annual record of $702,000. This growing public support also enabled the organization to increase the size of its awards by a significant margin. This year, first-time recipients will receive $50,000, up from $40,000 the prior year. Each recipient is eligible to receive a renewal grant of $52,000 (up from $42,000 the prior year) if he or she has demonstrated significant progress at the conclusion of the first year.


"National Cancer Center's mission is to fill an often-overlooked role in the quest to cure cancer by identifying and funding promising projects by the best up-and-coming research fellows," said Regina English, Executive Director of the National Cancer Center. "We are excited by the high quality and promise of this year's winning research projects. And we are grateful for the generosity of our supporters, who have allowed us to meaningfully increase the size of this year's awards, and for the members of our Scientific Advisory Board, who graciously commit their time and expertise to select the award winners."


Poetry Corner: The Last Night

By Bhushan Bhalgat, MBBS, MS, MCH


Heart pumping slower from Adriamycin in her veins;


Carpet filling with her hair as I caressed her forehead;


Hardly any craving left for the home-made hot curry at her bedside;


Uncanny blank eyes filled with fear and in anticipation of a miracle to happen!


The sun had just bid goodbye, And


Dark fiery night had knocked the door.


Lightening had just struck the house in the neighborhood,


While the rains continued to drench our backyard!


Phone rang, The Oncologist had called; with shaky voice, I said "Namaste"


Tears rolled down my cheeks while he spoke.


Walking towards her room; composing myself to break IT to my ailing wife,


My legs quivered at the thought of losing her.


Deep asleep, face to the wall; I tried waking her up.


Little did I know; I was the only soul left in the room.


The dark night had triumphed; lightening had struck our house too.


The backyard had drowned in the rains and me in her memories!


BHUSHAN BHALGAT, MBBS, MS, MCH, is a Senior Resident at SMS Medical College and Hospital in Jaipur, India. He has a dual specialization in General Surgery and Surgical Oncology.

Bhushan Bhalgat, MBB... - Click to enlarge in new windowBhushan Bhalgat, MBBS, MS, MCH. Bhushan Bhalgat, MBBS, MS, MCH