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Maureen Murphy Now Deputy Director of the Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center

Maureen Murphy, PhD, has been named Deputy Director of the Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center at The Wistar Institute. She will guide the growth of the facility through expanding research initiatives and collaboration, education and training programs, and recruitment to fast-track innovative basic cancer research discoveries into future transformative drugs and therapies.


"I am honored and excited to throw all my energy into achieving Wistar's strategic goals," said Murphy, the Ira Brind Endowed Professor. "I look in amazement at Wistar's progress these past 10 years, both scientifically and financially. We have a growing endowment, immense scientific impact, a newly revitalized culture of collaboration, the commitment of our leadership to provide new technology to support ambitious biomedical research, and the spearheading of education programs from high schoolers to non-traditional trainees to junior faculty-all under the direction of our president and CEO Dario Altieri."

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Maureen Murphy, PhD.... - Click to enlarge in new windowMaureen Murphy, PhD. Maureen Murphy, PhD

Murphy is known for her research on P53, a tumor suppressor gene mutated in almost every type of cancer. She studies the impact of genetic variants of p53 on cancer risk and therapy response, with a focus on genetic variants in African-descent populations. Murphy's research has relevance for understanding ethnic disparities in cancer risk and survival. Her lab also studies the HSP70 protein where she has pioneered pharmacologic targeting of HSP70 for cancer therapy, particularly metastatic melanoma and colorectal cancer.


Murphy holds vital administrative roles promoting institute stewardship, including program leader of the Molecular & Cellular Oncogenesis Program, Associate Vice President for Faculty Affairs, and principal investigator of the Training Grant in Cancer Biology, which provides support for top Wistar trainees and is one of the five longest-standing training grants in the history of the National Cancer Institute.


Murphy earned her BS degree in biochemistry from Rutgers University and her PhD in molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania. She conducted postdoctoral research at Princeton University in the laboratory of Arnold J. Levine, PhD, a co-discoverer of p53 and a pioneer in the field of tumor suppressor genes and cancer biology. Prior to joining Wistar, Murphy was Professor at the Fox Chase Cancer Center. She joined The Wistar Institute in 2011 and then in 2012 became program leader of the Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program. In 2019, she became the Ira Brind Endowed Professor. Murphy is Adjunct Professor at Drexel University College of Medicine and The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.


Kevin Cullen, MD, Retiring From University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center

Kevin J. Cullen, MD, the longtime Director of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC) and the Program in Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), will transition from these leadership positions in 2023.


Cullen, the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Distinguished Professor of Oncology at UMSOM, will remain at the cancer center while a national search is underway for his successor. Once a new director is in place, Cullen plans to continue treating patients at UMGCCC, teaching at the medical school and working on special projects at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and outside the university.

Kevin J. Cullen, MD.... - Click to enlarge in new windowKevin J. Cullen, MD. Kevin J. Cullen, MD

"We should all be proud of what the Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center has become. Through our innovative research and expert clinical care, we have helped untold thousands of patients here in Maryland and around the world," Cullen said. "I am incredibly optimistic that the contributions of the center will accelerate in the years to come."


Cullen said his decision to step down was timed to give the new director 2 years to organize and prepare UMGCCC's next core grant application to renew its National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation in 2025. "Now is the time to pass the baton to someone who can build on the strength and success we have achieved together these last 2 decades." He has overseen four applications for NCI designation at UMGCCC and a fifth as Interim Director of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.


Under Cullen's leadership, UMGCCC was named an NCI-designated cancer center in 2008 and gained comprehensive status in 2016. The NCI renewed the center's comprehensive designation in 2021. Cullen has also dramatically expanded the center's clinical and research programs since he was hired to lead the cancer center in 2003.


"It would be difficult, if not impossible, to put into words what Dr. Cullen has meant to this institution and the entire University of Maryland Medical System over the past 20 years," said UMSOM Dean Mark T. Gladwin, MD, Vice President for Medical Affairs, UMB, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor. "His focus and passion have served as the major drivers in designating the UMGCCC as one of the nation's top cancer programs, which has led to thousands of saved lives."


"Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Cullen has been a dedicated champion in the fight against cancer-from prevention and detection to treatments of all types," said Mohan Suntha, MD, MBA, President and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System.


Bert W. O'Malley, MD, President and CEO of UMMC, said, "Dr. Cullen has made it his life's mission to build a comprehensive cancer center devoted to providing cutting-edge therapies and individualized care for every cancer patient who walks through our doors."


Jennifer Wargo Receives TAMEST O'Donnell Award for Pioneering Microbiome Research

Jennifer Wargo, MD, Professor of Surgical Oncology and Genomic Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has received a 2023 Edith and Peter O'Donnell Award in Medicine from the Texas Academy of Medicine, Engineering, Science and Technology (TAMEST) for her contributions to the understanding of how the gut microbiome influences responses to immunotherapy and other cancer treatments.


The O'Donnell Awards are given annually in five categories to recognize and support rising Texas researchers who are addressing the essential roles that science and technology play in society, and whose work meets the highest standards of exemplary professional performance, creativity, and resourcefulness. Wargo will be honored at the 2023 O'Donnell Awards ceremony in May in Houston.

Jennifer Wargo, MD. ... - Click to enlarge in new windowJennifer Wargo, MD. Jennifer Wargo, MD

"I am humbled to be a part of this outstanding group of researchers chosen for the O'Donnell Awards and to be recognized for our team's work on the microbiome," Wargo said. "I am proud to have worked with many talented team members over the years to bring a greater understanding of the gut microbiome and its major role in regulating the anti-tumor immune response. We will continue to advance this work to bring meaningful benefits to our patients."


Wargo led a team of researchers to discover that patients with metastatic melanoma had improved responses to immunotherapy if they had a more diverse population of microbes or an abundance of certain types of bacteria in their gut. These findings were published in Science.


Through continued research, her team has been able to determine how changes to the microbiome can positively impact immunity and immunotherapy response during cancer treatments. Follow-up research, also published in Science, demonstrated that a high-fiber diet was associated with improved responses to immunotherapy. This led to an ongoing MD Anderson clinical trial, led by Carrie Daniel-MacDougall, PhD, and Jennifer McQuade, MD, to prospectively evaluate the impact of a high-fiber diet on the microbiome and immunotherapy responses in patients with melanoma and other cancers.


"Dr. Wargo's commitment to understanding the role the gut microbiome plays in a patient's treatment response has been groundbreaking. This award is a testament to her tireless efforts to further our knowledge of cancer," said Giulio Draetta, MD, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at MD Anderson. "We applaud her team's dedication to this area of research and to improving the lives of her patients."


A world-renowned physician-scientist, Wargo is committed to the advancement of research and treatment of disease through science. Her previous research demonstrated that treatment with molecularly targeted therapy could sensitize tumor cells to treatment with immunotherapy, providing the rationale for combined targeted therapy and immunotherapy combinations.


Wargo came to MD Anderson in 2013 to help lead the Melanoma Moon Shot and to continue translational research on targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and the impact of the gut and tumor microbiome in cancer. She leads the Platform for Innovative Microbiome and Translational Research (PRIME-TR) at MD Anderson to advance novel microbiome-targeted therapeutic approaches. She is devoted to working with investigators across the institution and around the world to find better ways to treat, intercept and prevent cancer.


"I am proud to have nominated Dr. Wargo for this award so that she may be recognized for her insightful research and her relentless commitment to patients," said James P. Allison, PhD, Regental Chair of Immunology and Director of the James P. Allison Institute at MD Anderson. "Her team's pioneering work has already brought tremendous new insights and will continue to inspire many promising new cancer treatments in the future."


Northwell Names Top Physician to Lead Medical Oncology Programs

Richard D. Carvajal, MD, an internationally recognized clinician and researcher in melanoma and early-phase drug development, was appointed Deputy Physician-in-Chief and Director of Medical Oncology at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute. He also was named the R.J. Zuckerberg Chair in Medical Oncology. Carvajal's expertise includes the development of novel therapies for patients with melanoma and other cancers to control and cure these diseases.


Prior to joining Northwell, Carvajal led the Developmental Therapeutics Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and then served as Director of Experimental Therapeutics and Director of the Melanoma Service at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, as well as co-lead of the Precision Oncology and Systems Biology Program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Richard D. Carvajal,... - Click to enlarge in new windowRichard D. Carvajal, MD. Richard D. Carvajal, MD

At the Northwell Cancer Institute, Carvajal will oversee medical oncology across the cancer network, collaborating with the cancer institute's other two deputy physician-in-chiefs who specialize in surgical and radiation oncology. In this team structure, deputy physician-in-chiefs lead all cancer programs in their oncologic specialty, integrating and expanding the health system's services with regional and hospital cancer leaders across New York City, Long Island, and Westchester. He also will help lead efforts for Northwell's Cancer Institute to achieve National Cancer Institute designation as a Consortium with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.


"Dr. Carvajal is an innovator in clinical care, immunotherapy, and leading-edge research in the field of melanoma and other cancers," said Richard Barakat, MD, Physician-in-Chief and Director of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute, and Senior Vice President of the health system's service line. "We are very fortunate to have such an esteemed medical oncologist and cancer researcher join the Cancer Institute's leadership team. Our colleagues are looking forward to closely working with Dr. Carvajal to help design new clinical trials and treatment options more quickly to help patients fighting not only melanoma but other complex cancers."


At Northwell, Carvajal will see patients at the R.J. Zuckerberg Cancer Center in Lake Success and Northwell's Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital. He also will participate in clinical research at Northwell's Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, with which Northwell has a strategic affiliation. Carvajal will also serve as Professor of Medicine at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.


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