publication date: Aug. 7, 2015

Lehigh Valley Health Network Joins Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance

 

LEHIGH VALLEY HEALTH NETWORK announced it will join the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance.

Established in 2013, the MSK Cancer Alliance is a partnership between MSK and community oncology providers.

The Lehigh Valley Health Network includes five hospital campuses—three in Allentown, one in Bethlehem and one in Hazleton, Pa., as well as 13 health centers in five counties, and numerous primary and specialty care physician practices throughout the region.

Lehigh Valley’s cancer program has been selected a National Cancer Center Community Cancer Centers Program, and was responsible for the care of 3,200 newly diagnosed cancer patients in 2014. Children’s Hospital at Lehigh Valley Hospital, the only children’s hospital in the region, provides care in 28 specialties and general pediatrics.

Lehigh Valley Health Network has been recognized by US News & World Report for 20 consecutive years as one of America’s Best Hospitals and is a national Magnet hospital for excellence in nursing.

“Our collaboration with MSK will save lives by bringing evidence-based, world-class standards to our entire health network,” said Brian Nester, president and CEO of Lehigh Valley.

Over the next several months, healthcare providers from both institutions will work to ensure that resources, capabilities, and standards of care are in line the MSK Cancer Alliance.

Additionally, Lehigh Valley physicians will have opportunities to visit MSK’s New York City facilities to observe techniques, and both institutions will share educational resources and begin the process of putting into place the infrastructure necessary to measure outcomes data.

Educational programs and opportunities for the general public and professional audiences will be made available on-site at Lehigh Valley campuses.

“Central to our mission is eradicating cancer, and through the MSK Cancer Alliance—and in collaboration with Lehigh Valley Health Network—we have a unique opportunity to share our knowledge and best practices with a wider patient population,” said Craig Thompson, president and CEO of MSK.

With more than 800 clinical trials currently available at its facilities, MSK will be able to provide Lehigh Valley patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials not previously open to them.

“We look forward to learning firsthand how advances can be more easily applied in a community setting through the MSK Cancer Alliance, while doing so in the most cost-effective way, since our Alliance does not require major structural changes such as the development of new facilities,” said José Baselga, MSK physician-in-chief.

 

SITEMAN CANCER CENTER at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis was awarded an “exceptional” rating, the highest possible, by the NCI, based on a rigorous peer review of Siteman’s research programs. Siteman is an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Siteman earned its rating based on a January site visit by 26 researchers and administrators from academic cancer centers across the U.S.

“While this rating speaks to the extraordinary quality of our research, many of our researchers also are physicians who treat patients,” said Timothy Eberlein, director of Siteman Cancer Center and head of the School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery. “Being recognized as exceptional by one’s peers makes our work on behalf of our patients even more meaningful.”

During the visit, Washington University researchers and physicians presented their research programs in genomics, cancer imaging, cancer prevention and disparities, immunology and immunotherapy, and early-phase clinical trials.

including: vaccines against breast cancer and melanoma; goggles that help surgeons visualize cancer cells in the operating room; community-based research to understand cancer disparities; and promoting patient participation in innovative clinical studies.

Siteman was named Missouri’s only NCI-designated Cancer Center in 2001 and the state’s only Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2005.

 

JOHN CUNNINGHAM was appointed chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Chicago.

In December 2006, Cunningham joined the University of Chicago to become professor of pediatrics and section chief of hematology/oncology and stem-cell transplantation. He was named vice chairman for research in pediatrics in 2008. He also serves as the Donald N. Pritzker Professor, and has served as interim chair of the pediatrics department since 2014.

Previously, he was part of the Divisions of Experimental Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and was appointed director of the cell and gene therapy laboratories, as well as chair of the institutional review board.

A native of Ireland, Cunningham came to the U.S. in 1991 as a visiting associate in clinical hematology at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Cunningham research focuses on childhood leukemia as well as hemoglobinopathies. He is known for his work on understanding the molecular mechanism underpinning red blood cell production, and has developed stem cell transplant techniques for the 70 percent of children who do not have a sibling match.

Cunningham earned his medical degree from University College Dublin, followed by a master of science degree in biochemistry from King’s College London. He completed his residency at St. Laurence’s Hospital and a hematology fellowship at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, both in Dublin.

In addition, he was a Wellcome research fellow in clinical science at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in London, where he also completed his clinical training in bone marrow transplantation.

He served on the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and is a reviewer for Blood; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Cancer Research; and Genomics. He is a member of the American Cancer Society’s Council for Extramural Grants, and pediatric series editor for The Oncologist.

 

JINGHUI ZHANG was named as the first chair of the Department of Computational Biology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She will hold the St. Jude Endowed Chair in Bioinformatics.

The department will occupy an entire floor in the Kay Research and Care Center, the newest building on the St. Jude campus. The 28,700-square-foot space will be named the Brooks Brothers Computational Biology Center and hold both laboratories and offices. It will also house a genome sequencing laboratory. The department plans to grow to include nine faculty members during the next several years.

“Dr. Zhang has created new computational methods for analyzing genomic data, leading to new directions in research involving high-risk leukemia, brain and solid tumors,” said James Downing, St. Jude president and CEO.

Five years ago, the hospital launched the St. Jude-Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project to map the genomes of childhood cancers. Data generated from the project, 100 trillion-plus pieces, encompass the complete normal and cancer genomes of 700 children and adolescents with 23 different childhood cancers.

Zhang joined St. Jude in 2010, leading the effort to analyze PCGP data and the creation of several new computational tools that have been adopted by biologists worldwide.

Her work has helped define the landscape of mutations that underlie pediatric cancers, resulting in the identification of new pediatric cancer genetic subtypes, insights into cancer-drug resistance and metastatic behavior, and new therapeutic targets against which drugs can be developed.

Prior to St. Jude, Zhang led genetic variation analysis of the first assembled human genome. She also contributed to key discoveries in the pilot phases of the NCI’s Cancer Genome Atlas Project and the Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatment initiative.

 

STEPHEN LESSNICK was named director of the Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Lessnick plans to foster collaborations with the clinical team within the Division of Hematology/Oncology/Blood and Marrow Transplantation at Nationwide Children’s.

The research team’s areas of focus include biology and therapy of a broad array of diseases that affect young children, adolescents, and young adults, including neuroblastoma, brain tumors, leukemia, and sarcomas. Lessnick’s personal research interest is in the area of Ewing sarcoma.

Lessnick is also a professor of pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

He attended Brandeis University for his undergraduate education and earned his MD and PhD degrees from the University of California in Los Angeles.

After completing his internship and residency at Children’s Hospital in Boston, Lessnick finished his pediatric hematology and oncology fellowship at Children’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

He completed his postdoctoral research in their Pediatric Oncology Department, where he studied the transcriptional consequences of the Ewing sarcoma fusion gene. He joined the University of Utah faculty in January 2004 and served as the director of the Center for Children’s Cancer Research at Huntsman Cancer Institute.

 

LOPA MISHRA has decided to leave MD Anderson Cancer Center, effective Aug. 31.

Mishra joined MD Anderson in December 2009 as professor and chair of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. In 2010, she was named holder of the Del & Dennis McCarthy Distinguished Professorship. Mishra also serves as associate director of the Texas Digestive Diseases Center.

During Mishra’s tenure, the department grew from one clinical program to eight programs in GI cancers.

In 2013, Gastrointestinal Cancer Program was awarded an “exceptional-outstanding” score by NCI as part of MD Anderson’s cancer center support grant. Mishra also initiated the first MD Anderson Global Academic Program with sub-Saharan Africa, including Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa.

Mishra’s research has focused on targeting liver and GI cancers using the TGF-beta signaling pathway and stem-like tumor initiating cells. Using mouse and human genetic studies, her team identified a group of liver and GI stem cell proteins crucial for TGF-beta signaling and modulation of human GI cancers and Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome. Studies have yielded insights into the origins of hepatocellular carcinoma, 40 percent of which are clonal and could arise from STICs. Her research has led to more than 80 original articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Mishra has received many honors including: American Gastroenterological Association Award for Top Women in Gastroenterology (2008), Funderburg Scholar in Gastric Cancer (2003-05), Betty and Harry Myerberg Award for Excellence in Research in Liver Development (1998), Elisabeth and John Cox Award for Innovative Clinical Therapy of Esophageal Cancer (1996), USV Industry New Investigator Award (1995) and the Stuart Mill Prize in Tropical Medicine (1981).

Marta Davila will serve as chair ad interim.

Davila earned her medical degree from Harvard and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and Fellowship in Gastroenterology at the University of California, San Francisco. Her first faculty appointment was as assistant professor at Stanford Medical School.

She joined MD Anderson in 2004 as associate professor, and was promoted to professor in 2010. In 2014 Davila was named medical director of endoscopy. From 2007 to 2009, she served as interim deputy chair.

 

THE LEUKEMIA & LYMPHOMA SOCIETY received a charitable donation from Bristol-Myers Squibb Company for chronic myeloid leukemia patients who need help paying for PCR testing.

The donation will also support awareness activities focused on educating patients, caregivers and healthcare providers about the importance of continued monitoring with PCR testing.

“Routine PCR testing is critical because oncologists rely on the results to determine their patients’ clinical status of early and ongoing response to CML treatment and to help detect when patients are potentially becoming resistant to treatment, which may allow for earlier intervention,” said Louis DeGennaro, LLS president and CEO. “Research indicates that early response to treatment and careful monitoring correlate with better overall survival rates.”

Recommendations suggest that a CML patient should receive a PCR test every three months for the first three years after diagnosis, and every three to six months thereafter based on how well their treatment is working. The average cost of a PCR test is $345 and can be as high as $500 per test.

The program will assist insured and uninsured patients with out-of-pocket costs for PCR testing.

LLS will also partner with The Max Foundation, Cancer Support Community and the National CML Society to facilitate ongoing promotion and awareness about the PCR Financial Assistance and Awareness Program.

 

THE COMMISSION ON CANCER of the American College of Surgeons granted its bi-annual Outstanding Achievement Award to 20 accredited cancer programs throughout the U.S. The awards were based on surveys conducted during the first half of the year.

The full list of award-winning cancer programs is available here.

The 20 award-winning programs represent approximately 9 percent of programs surveyed.

 

THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH announced a big data partnership with St. Joseph Health, in which the health system would collect and send structured pathology cancer data directly to the California Cancer Registry.

The pilot project—which began in January 2014—is the result of a collaboration between CDPH, St. Joseph Health, mTuitive and the College of American Pathologists.

Ten hospitals within the St. Joseph Health system are now sending data to the registry, and more health care facilities are expected to participate.

The partnership is the first of its kind in the U.S., said CDPH Director and State Health Officer Karen Smith.

“Every second we save in sharing data gives researchers more time to spend on curing cancer,” Smith said in a statement.

According to CDPH, the project enables the cancer registry to perform real-time surveillance on data reported via project partners—providing new research opportunities focused on patient outcomes.

Prior to the project, cancer pathology data was stored within a facility’s electronic records system as “narrative text data”, which limits its uses.

Members of the partnership use a system called the CAP electronic Forms and Reporting Module. With CAP eFRM, pathologists are able to securely share cancer data with CCR.

“This partnership is another way in which the California Department of Public Health works with the private sector and health care systems to optimize the health and well-being of the people in California,” Smith said.

 

A total of 6,000 cyclists participated in THE PAN-MASS CHALLENGE, a two-day bike fundraiser involving 12 routes and 46 Massachusetts towns, raising over $33.5 million.

Joined by Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, cyclists from 40 states and five countries rode to raise money for adult and pediatric cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund. The goal was to bring the PMC’s 35-year fundraising total to a half billion dollars raised since the organization’s inception in 1980.

“Each year, we are astonished by the unparalleled support that Dana-Farber receives from the PMC, and this year is no different,” said Edward Benz Jr., president and CEO of Dana-Farber. “We are deeply grateful for the PMC’s partnership and unwavering commitment.”

One-day routes include riding from Wellesley or Sturbridge to Bourne, Wellesley to Patriot Place and Bourne to Provincetown. Two-day routes include Wellesley or Sturbridge to Provincetown, and Wellesley or Sturbridge to Bourne and back. The average cyclist trains for three months, solicits 40 sponsors, and raises more than $6,500, according to PMC.

The PMC is presented by the Red Sox Foundation and the New Balance Foundation. Another 200 companies support the event by providing more than $4 million in goods and services each year. During PMC weekend and throughout the year, more than 4,000 volunteers donate their time to support the organization.

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