publication date: Oct. 17, 2014


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Giles Named Deputy Director of Lurie Cancer Center


FRANCIS GILES
was named deputy director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

Giles will oversee Northwestern Medicine’s clinical research cancer programs and developmental therapeutics initiatives.

Giles previously served as the Lurie Cancer Center’s associate director for translational research and developmental therapeutics, and has been director of the Northwestern Medicine Developmental Therapeutics Institute since 2013. He is also a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, the Royal College of Pathologists, and the European Academy of Cancer Sciences.

“We have ambitious goals for the next few years, and our rapidly evolving translational programs will establish the Lurie Cancer Center as a national and international destination for tailored developmental therapeutics,” Giles said.


ZHU CHEN
was honored by the American Association for Cancer Research with its Award for Distinguished Public Service and Global Impact in Cancer Research in Biomedical Science.

Chen, a fellow of the AACR Academy, is the vice chairman of the 12th Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. From 2007 to 2013, he served as China’s minister of health. He received the award Oct. 9, where he delivered the opening plenary lecture at the AACR’s inaugural meeting in China.

Chen helped pioneer the concept of combination targeted therapies for cancer and, by combining traditional Chinese medicine with Western medicine, he provided the first successful model in the treatment of acute promyeloctyic leukemia with all-trans retinoic acid and arsenic trioxide.

Under Chen’s leadership, the Chinese National Human Genome Center has contributed to human genome sequencing and SNP HaploMap projects. They recently completed genome sequencing of Schistosoma japonicum, which revealed features of a host-parasite interplay that lead to better control and prevention of infection, a disease that remains a significant health problem in China.


LILI YANG
received the $2.3 million Director’s New Innovator Award from NIH for research into developing ways to genetically program blood stem cells to attack cancers. Yang is an assistant professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Her research focused on T cells and a smaller group of invariant natural killer T cells, which have a remarkable capacity to mount immediate and powerful responses to disease when activated. She and her colleagues hope to develop therapies designed to increase the number of iNKT cells in the blood.

“The potential for iNKT T cell receptor-based gene therapy is very exciting because it is very different from conventional T cell receptor-based gene therapy, which can only target specific types of tumor and a certain group of patients,” said Yang. “The kind of iNKT T cell receptor gene therapy we are investigating could have universal application, treating many types of cancer and a large group of patients no matter what types of tumor they have.”


THE INDIANA UNIVERSITY Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center
was recognized by NCI as a designated cancer center, and had their support grant increased by 20 percent, following an in-depth peer review.

NCI rated the cancer center’s research activities as “excellent,” and awarded it a five-year, $7.8 million support grant. The NCI designation places the IU Simon Cancer Center in a group of 68 cancer centers. It is the only NCI-designated cancer center in Indiana that provides patient care. The center first received the NCI designation in 1999, seven years after its founding.

“We are especially honored to be renewed with this very prized designation again,” said Patrick Loehrer, director of the IU Simon Cancer Center. “To receive a funding increase in the current funding climate is icing on the cake.”

Reviewers, composed of NCI officials and others from NCI-designated cancer centers, evaluated the cancer center’s five research programs and visited in February 2014. Members of those research programs are on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, IU Bloomington, IU South Bend and Notre Dame campuses.


CANCER TREATMENT CENTERS OF AMERICA
launched a fertility preservation program, OncoPrez, at its hospitals in Chicago, Philadelphia and Tulsa.

The program makes discussions about fertility and family planning an integral part of treatment planning for all men and women of childbearing years. The program will be offered at CTCA hospitals in Atlanta and Phoenix in early 2015.

Each CTCA hospital in the program has identified a local, dedicated fertility center to provide preservation services. Patients who are interested in exploring fertility preservation are provided with a direct referral to a reproductive specialist who will work collaboratively with the patient’s CTCA oncology team.


THE ROBERT H. LURIE COMPREHENSIVE CANCER CENTER
and the Northwestern Medicine Developmental Therapeutics Institute entered into an alliance with Perthera Inc. to conduct a translational research program designed to assess the utility of integration of next generation sequencing, proteomic, and phospho-proteomic data in oncology developmental therapeutics and clinical practice.

The Lurie Cancer Center and NMDTI will work with Perthera on clinical protocols that incorporate Perthera’s approaches and methodologies to cancer protocol treatment and will assess the impact on overall disease management and patient outcomes.

Separately, in June, Perthera announced a partnership with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to identify relevant pathways and mutations for pancreatic cancer, including previously unidentified targets.


THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CLINICAL ONCOLOGY
published a revised template for survivorship care plans.

Plans should contain information about treatment the patient received, their need for future checkups and cancer tests, the potential long-term late effects of the treatment they received, and ideas for ways survivors can improve their health, according to ASCO.

The new template, updating a previous version the society developed nearly a decade ago, was published in the Journal of Oncology Practice as part of a statement on the importance of complete survivorship care plans. The template is also part of ASCO’s Cancer Survivorship Compendium, and is available through ASCO’s patient information website.

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