publication date: Jan. 9, 2015

Donald Trump to Lead Inova Research Institute


DONALD “SKIP” TRUMP was named the first CEO and executive director of the newly created Inova Cancer Care and Research Institute, part of the Inova Health System.

In October 2014, Trump stepped down as president and CEO of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, which he led since 2007. He will maintain his appointment there as a professor of oncology.

“Inova is committed to building a destination cancer care and research facility,” Trump wrote in an email to his colleagues. “We will be recruiting a number of clinical, administrative and research leaders.”


DARIO ALTIERI was named CEO of The Wistar Institute, following the announced retirement of President and CEO Russel Kaufman, effective March 2. Altieri will continue to serve as director of the Wistar Cancer Center, and Kaufman will become president emeritus.

Altieri also serves as Wistar’s executive vice president, chief scientific officer and the Robert and Penny Fox Distinguished Professor. He joined Wistar in 2010.

Kaufman joined Wistar in 2002 from Duke University School of Medicine where he was vice dean for Education and Academic Affairs as well as chancellor for Academic Affairs for the Duke University Health System.

Kaufman led the institute during its ongoing $35 million capital campaign, which began in 2010. The campaign supported Wistar’s first major building project since 1976, the Robert and Penny Fox Tower. According to the institute, Wistar has raised close to $80 million during Kaufman’s nearly 13 years.


SHARMILA MAKHIJA was named professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women’s Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System, effective April 1.

Previously, Makhija served as chair and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Louisville School Of Medicine.

Makhija has also held faculty positions at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine/Magee-Women’s Hospital, the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, and Emory University School of Medicine.

She is a fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a member of the American Medical Association, American Association of Cancer Research, and the American Society of Gynecologic Cancer. She is on the editorial board of the Journal of Oncology Practice and has served on the editorial boards of Women’s Oncology Review Journal and the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer.


NIPUN MERCHANT is joining the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center as chief surgical officer and director of Surgical Oncology Research Programs.

Merchant will also take on the newly created position of vice chair of Surgical Oncologic Services and Academic Affairs within the Department of Surgery, and will be the chief of Surgical Oncology at University of Miami Hospital as well as chief surgical officer at UMHC/Sylvester. In addition, he will serve as chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology.

He comes to the University of Miami from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he has been the director of the Vanderbilt Pancreas Center, chief of GI Surgical Oncology and co-leader of the GI Oncology Program at Vanderbilt-Ingram Comprehensive Cancer Center.

As vice chair, he will lead the clinical and research enterprises of surgical oncology and oversee the educational and academic programs. Merchant’s clinical practice is in GI malignancies with a focus on hepatobiliary and pancreatic cancers.


ST. JUDE CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL received a pledge of $2 million over the next 10 years from InfinityQS International Inc.

St. Jude has named the Large Auditorium Gathering Space in the Marlo Thomas Center for Global Education and Collaboration in honor of InfinityQS to commemorate the company’s support.

InfinityQS received the Cardinal Stritch Donor of the Year Award, which recognizes a donor whose commitment reflects the vision and leadership of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas’ spiritual mentor, Samuel Cardinal Stritch, the Catholic archbishop of Chicago. InfinityQS has also sponsored and participated as St. Jude Heroes in three of the hospital’s annual St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend fundraisers.


NCI DIRECTOR HAROLD VARMUS, in a new year’s message to NCI staff and grantees, outlined the NCI’s goals and obstacles for 2015 as the institute pursues new trials in precision medicine.

Though Congress has appropriated a slight increase in funding for NCI and NIH for the entirety of the 2015 fiscal year, Varmus pointed out that this small boost—amounting to approximately 0.6 percent—is still less than the rate of inflation.

“We who lead the NCI face a difficult dilemma: how to provide sufficient resources to our grantees to allow them to accomplish their ambitious goals, without reducing the numbers of awards we can make—further attenuating the cancer research community,” Varmus wrote.

His full letter follows:


To NCI staff, grantees, and advisors:

Now that the new year has begun in earnest, I am writing to send seasonal greetings and offer my views about the near-term prospects for cancer research.

This year, unlike most recent years, we are in the fortunate position of having received our appropriation for the rest of the fiscal year within the first quarter, helping us to plan and manage use of those funds. Although this year’s appropriation ($4.95 B) is slightly larger than last year’s (by about 0.6%), the increase is less than the rate of inflation, as has been the case nearly every year since 2003. This signifies further erosion of the NCI’s “buying power” at a time when cancer research is becoming more expensive, expanding in new directions, and showing unprecedented promise.

As a result, we who lead the NCI face a difficult dilemma: how to provide sufficient resources to our grantees to allow them to accomplish their ambitious goals, without reducing the numbers of awards we can make—further attenuating the cancer research community. Moreover, the recent, rapid growth in knowledge about cancer—its genetic basis, the signaling pathways that govern cell misbehavior, immune responses to cancer cells—is a spur to the development of new approaches and new programs that are difficult to finance under current circumstances without reducing support for existing worthwhile programs.

Despite these recurrent anxieties, the new calendar year promises to be pivotal and exciting for the NCI. We will be reviewing the first round of applications for the new Outstanding Investigator Award, which is intended to provide more stable funding for some of our best scientists. The newly reorganized National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN), in close collaboration with the reconfigured NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), will be expanding an array of scientifically informed trials—MATCH, MPACT, ALCHEMIST, and others—that will accelerate the on-going transformation of cancer therapy as a part of the broader movement to “precision medicine.” This transformation of oncology will proceed hand-in-hand with improvements in bioinformatics (helped by NCI’s new cloud computation pilots and our membership in the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health [GA4GH]); with expanded genomic studies of pediatric and common adult cancers and the creation of a Genomic Data Commons; and with rapidly increasing knowledge about how to manipulate the immune system to treat cancers.

While we celebrate these prospects, the NCI will also remain deeply engaged in confronting the problems created by growth of the scientific community in a time of fiscal constraint. At the forthcoming NCI Leadership Retreat in late January, we will be discussing some potential solutions to these challenges: new mechanisms to accelerate the training of the most promising young investigators; grants to encourage the careers of staff scientists; the merits and liabilities of some of the current grant mechanisms for supporting research; trends in NCI’s support of basic science; and various ways to enhance the diversity of the research community.

Throughout the coming year, we also expect to be giving close attention to the funding of NCI-designated cancer centers, a critical resource for the entire cancer research effort; to implementation of recommendations emerging from a recent evaluation of the NIH intramural program; to new ideas for preventing, screening for, and monitoring cancers; to proposals for new initiatives at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research; and to the evaluation of the Provocative Questions program as it enters its third year of grant-making.

Many of these topics and others are summarized in broad terms in NCI’s recently issued budget plan for FY2016 (the so-called “bypass budget proposal”), which can be viewed on line at In all of these domains, we seek the views of those we serve—extra- and intramural scientists, cancer research advocates, the health care community, and the general public—and we welcome your comments at


With best wishes for the new year,

Harold Varmus

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