publication date: Oct. 24, 2014

Neel Named Director of NYU’s Perlmutter Cancer Center


BENJAMIN NEEL
was named director of the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. He will begin Jan. 1, 2015.

Neel will oversee translational programs in immunotherapy, cancer genetics/targeted therapies and epigenetics, imaging, community outreach and supportive oncology. He will also be responsible for all programs throughout NYU Langone’s network of cancer-related clinical care.

Neel most recently served as director of the Ontario Cancer Institute at Princess Margaret Cancer Center. He also served as professor of medical biophysics at the University of Toronto, and holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in signal transduction and disease. His research has focused on cell signaling in cancer and developmental disease, functional genomics of breast cancer and ovarian cancer tumor initiating cells.

He was appointed assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in 1988, and began his own independent research laboratory in the Molecular Medicine Unit at Beth Israel Hospital, now known as Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He also served as the director of the Cancer Biology Program from 1994-2007 and as deputy director for basic research in the Hematology Division at BIDMC from 2003-2007. In 2006, he was appointed to the William B. Castle Chair of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

He is also an elected member of the Board of Directors for the American Association for Cancer Research, and previously served as the program chair for the annual meeting of the AACR.


BRAD POLLOCK
was named chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the UC Davis School of Medicine.

Pollock came to UC Davis from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, where he was the founding chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the School of Medicine.

He is the principal investigator of a $19 million NCI grant to engage community physicians in expanding participation in cancer clinical trials as well as research on cancer control and cancer care delivery. The grant includes a focus on underserved populations, including Latinos, adolescents and young adults. While his research focuses on pediatric oncology, Pollock also has extensive experience in multi-institutional studies on adult cancer, HIV, diabetes and obesity.

He also co-chairs the Clinical Trials Task Force for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute’s PCORnet national network, and he previously chaired the Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Research Design Key Function Committee of the national Clinical Translational Science Award Program.


RICHARD ZELLARS
was named professor and chair of radiation oncology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, pending approval by the IU trustees. He will begin his new duties in January.

Zellars is a breast cancer research and associate professor of radiation oncology at The Johns Hopkins University, and is assistant director of clinical trial accrual at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. He previously held faculty positions at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and Georgetown University.

Zellars’ research focuses on the safety and efficacy of radiation for the treatment of breast cancer. He also does research into health care disparities in African-American women who typically have more severe radiation toxicities. He also founded the Cancer in the Under-Privileged, Indigent or Disadvantaged Summer Fellowship, which exposes first-year medical students who have a demonstrated interest in serving disadvantaged populations to the specialty of oncology.


DAVID MAURO
was named as executive vice president and chief medical officer of Advaxis Inc.

Mauro will oversee the company’s clinical immuno-oncology programs. He most recently served as executive director and section head of Oncology Clinical Development at Merck & Co., where he was involved in oversight and implementation of multiple programs within the oncology portfolio, including its recently approved PD-1 inhibitor, Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

Prior to joining Merck, Mauro was director at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where his responsibilities included Erbitux (cetuximab) and Oncology Early Development.

During his career, Mauro has participated in multiple FDA submissions and approvals, including three successful new drug applications for Erbitux, Sprycel (dasatinib) and Sylatron (peginterferon alfa-2b), and two PMA filings for EGFR PharmDx and KRAS Companion Diagnostics.


JAMES TULSKY
received the Pathfinder in Palliative Care Award from the American Cancer Society.

Tulsky is chief of Duke Palliative Care and professor of medicine and nursing at Duke University.

Presented at the Kathleen Foley Palliative Care Research Retreat, the award recognizes innovation and ingenuity in contributing to the advancement of the palliative care field. Tulsky received the award for his work on oncologist-patient communication; being an advocate for palliative and supportive care research; and his mentorship of faculty in palliative care research.

In the 1990s, Tulsky was the first to examine how residents and faculty talk to patients about resuscitative choices. His landmark study identified major deficiencies in communication and he became a leader in developing interventions to improve clinician communication skills. This led to the development of an NCI-funded online intervention which improved the oncologist’s ability to identify and respond to empathic opportunities and improved trust between clinician and patient.

He was also a member of the Institute of Medicine committee that recently authored the study on “Dying in America,” which recommended major changes to care for seriously ill patients.


MARY KOZIK
was named senior director of development at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

Kozik is the former chief of institutional advancement for The Preservation Society of Newport County in Newport, R.I. She was responsible for raising over $21 million since 2012. Previously, she served as the vice president for institutional advancement and chief development officer at Fox Chase Cancer Center. She has also held positions at the Lifespan Health System and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Kozik will succeed Vicki Riedel, who will oversee principal gifts for the Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University. She will lead a team that was responsible for raising more than $11 million in private donations in the 2014 fiscal year.

NORTHWESTERN MUTUAL, through its foundation, will fund four young investigator grants for childhood cancer research. The awards support Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s young investigator program.

The addition of these four research projects results in eight total funded research projects this year, an $800,000 commitment. Each researcher receives a total grant of $100,000 over two-years. Four of the recipients received their initial funding last year.

The eight grant recipients are: Charalambos Kaittanis, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, for studying the effects of radiation therapy; Laura Schuettpelz, of Washington University at St. Louis, for harvesting bone marrow; Shizhen Zhu, of the Mayo Clinic, for neuroblastoma development; Cigall Kadoch, of Dana Farber Institute, for sarcoma tumor research; Jeffrey Huo, of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, for studying the epigenetic origins of the retinoblastoma tumor-initiating cell; Carl Koschmann, of University of Michigan, for therapy for pediatric glioblastoma; Katherine Tarlock, of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, for therapeutic strategies for leukemia; and Mireya Velasquez, of Baylor College of Medicine, for research for leukemia and lymphoma.


THE ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITY CANCER CENTERS
received a charitable contribution from Bristol-Myers Squibb to develop a comprehensive program in immuno-oncology for community-based providers.

The contribution will enable ACCC to establish the Institute for Clinical Immuno-Oncology to educate providers about its implementation and delivery in the community setting.

The initial phase of the program will involve the establishment of the project infrastructure, including staffing, project planning, and marketing, and identification of potential partner organizations. An advisory committee comprised of ACCC members and other IO leaders will be created to oversee the planning and development of ICLIO.

Early phases of the program will include the identification and engagement of clinician scholars and thought leaders, an educational needs assessment of the ACCC membership, a one-day national conference, a monthly series of online courses and newsletters for clinicians and fellows, and multiple scientific and policy publications highlighting the project findings and outcomes.


A STAND UP TO CANCER
inaugural Dream Team launched in 2009 to focus on epigenetic therapy will continue with a commitment of $7.5 million from the Van Andel Research Institute.

Peter Jones, the institute’s research director and chief scientific officer, and Stephen Baylin, deputy director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Johns Hopkins University, will serve as leaders of the Dream Team.

The VARI-SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team will include top scientists from four other leading institutions: Charles Rudin, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Jean-Pierre Issa, and Patricia Kropf, of Temple University and Fox Chase Cancer Center; Kirsten Grønbæk, of the University of Copenhagen; and Anthony El-Khoueiry, of the University of Southern California Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We are extremely excited to build on the foundations already laid by the Epigenetics Dream Team by moving promising therapies into clinical trials,” Jones said.

The original Dream Team, with Baylin as leader and Jones as co-leader, has received nearly $11 million in funding from SU2C, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation.

The team’s work has involved clinical trials investigating the response of patients with lung cancer to epigenetic therapy alone, or as a way to sensitize patients to subsequent chemotherapy. VARI’s support over three years will allow the team to move forward with more extensive clinical trials in other cancer types.

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