publication date: Mar. 25, 2016

In Brief

Hussain Joins Northwestern; Douillard Named ESMO CMO 


MAHA HUSSAIN will join the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University as associate director for clinical sciences research, effective Sept. 1.

Hussain will also serve as co-director of the Lurie Cancer Center’s Genitourinary Oncology Program, along with Edward Schaeffer, chair of the Department of Urology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Hussain is currently Cis-Maisel Professor of Oncology, and professor of medicine and urology at the University of Michigan.

She has served in many scientific and leadership roles at the University of Michigan including associate director for clinical research and co-leader of the Prostate Cancer/GU Oncology Program at the UMComprehensive Cancer Center, as well as associate chief for clinical research in the Division of Hematology/Oncology.

Hussain’s research focuses on the development of therapeutics for prostate and bladder cancer. At Northwestern, Hussain will oversee the clinical sciences research programs and working groups, and foster interdisciplinary and inter-programmatic collaborations.

“We are thrilled to welcome Maha to the Lurie Cancer Center,” said Director Leonidas Platanias. “She is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of prostate cancer and her presence will strengthen our clinical research efforts immensely.”

Hussain’s national scientific leadership roles include serving as co-chair of the Prostate Cancer Subcommittee/Genitourinary Cancer Committee of SWOG; as a member and chair of the integration panel of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Prostate Cancer Research Program; and as a member and chair of the FDA Oncology Drug Advisory Committee.

Hussain has held leadership roles within the American Society of Clinical Oncology and was recently elected to ASCO’s board of directors. She currently serves on ASCO’s Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee, as a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network International Committee and the Advanced Prostate Cancer Panel of the American Urological Association.


JEAN-YVES DOUILLARD was appointed the first chief medical officer of the European Society for Medical Oncology. A senior staff position based at the Society’s headquarters in Lugano, Switzerland for a fixed two-year term, the CMO will lead the development of ESMO’s scientific strategy and activities.

Douillard’s appointment follows a six-month selection process open to all ESMO members with the necessary high-level qualifications and experience for the role. Candidates were also required to have held senior ESMO leadership positions.

In a career spanning more than 30 years, Douillard has achieved international recognition as a leading expert in lung cancer and gastrointestinal oncology, holding a number of leadership positions.

At the University of Nantes, he was professor in medical oncology, while at the Integrated Centers of Oncology Rene Gauducheau, also in Nantes, he was head of the Medical Oncology Department and later director of clinical and translational research. In addition, he spent a total of four years working in the U.S., initially at the NCI and later at the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Douillard has led clinical trials in relation to lung cancer and GI tumors and investigated targeted therapies, publishing his work in leading scientific journals. He has also served as chair of the ESMO Educational Committee and as a member of the society’s executive board.


THE KARMANOS CANCER INSTITUTE recently promoted five scientific staff members: Jennifer Beebe-Dimmer, Michele Cote, Justin Klamerus, Larry Matherly, and Hayley Thompson.

Beebe-Dimmer was appointed co-leader of the Population Studies and Disparities Research Program at Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine. She is an associate professor in the Department of Oncology. Her research focuses on the epidemiology of genitourinary cancers with a special interest in hereditary prostate cancer and familial aggregation of prostate with other cancers. She also serves as the scientific director of the Epidemiology Research Core at Karmanos.

Cote was named associate center director for Education at Karmanos Cancer Institute. She is also an associate professor in the Department of Oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine. In this newly created position, Cote will coordinate educational activities across the Institute, overseeing the integration of research-focused education into the scientific research programs.

Cote joined the staff of Karmanos and Wayne State University in 2005 as assistant professor. Her research focuses on the intersection of molecular epidemiology and health disparities with a special interest in examining genetic and molecular factors in lung and female cancers that impact disease occurrence or prognosis in underserved populations.

Klamerus was appointed to the new position of associate center director for Community Oncology at Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine. He is also an assistant professor in the Department of Oncology, as well as vice president of Community-Based Programs and chief quality officer for Karmanos. Additionally, he serves as medical director for Clinical Oncology Research for McLaren Health Care. Klamerus joined the staff of Karmanos in 2014, and currently oversees operations at 12 community-based centers in the network.

Klamerus’s independent research has focused on upper aerodigestive cancers, health policy and health care disparities. He currently serves as program director of the Pathways initiative of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and also serves on committees and work groups within the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Matherly was appointed as associate center director for Basic Sciences at Karmanos Cancer Institute. He also serves as the leader of the Molecular Therapeutics Program and as is a professor in the Department of Oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine. His research focuses on the basic biology of membrane transporters and the biology and therapeutic applications of folates and related analogs. Additionally, he leads studies aimed towards drug discovery and translational studies of chemotherapy response and resistance.

Matherly joined the staff at assistant member of the Michigan Cancer Foundation in 1987, which is now known as Karmanos Cancer institute. He oversees the Basic Science Core Cluster, which includes the Animal Model and Therapeutics Evaluation; Microscopy, Imaging and Cytometry Resources; and Proteomics Cores. He promotes and facilitates intra- and inter-programmatic collaborations, recruits new faculty, mentors junior faculty and advocates for the interests of basic science research at Karmanos.

Thompson was named leader of the Population Studies and Disparities Research Program at Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine. Thompson is also an associate professor in the Department of Oncology. Her research has primarily focused on the development and testing of culturally targeted interventions at all phases of the cancer care continuum, including community-based research implementation. She also works in the area of cancer survivorship, eHealth and the use of personal technologies in cancer care. Thompson joined the faculty of Karmanos and Wayne State University in 2011. She is also the director of the Witness Project of Detroit.


JENNIFER PIETENPOL was honored with the Medical Research Advancement Award during the T.J. Martell Foundation Nashville Honors Gala. Pietenpol is the B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology and director of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

The award is in recognition of Pietenpol’s career as a cancer researcher. She focuses on the p53 family of proteins and breast cancer, especially triple-negative breast cancer.

Pietenpol joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1994 and was named director of VICC in 2007. In addition, she has been named to the Institute of Medicine’s National Cancer Policy Forum and is a previous presidential appointee on the National Cancer Advisory Board.

Previously, Pietenpol has received the Burroughs Wellcome New Investigator Award, the Excellence in Teaching Award at Vanderbilt University and the Carleton College Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. She was inducted into the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars, and is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, for work including advances in the understanding of signaling networks in breast and other cancers. She has authored or co-authored over 125 articles published in peer-reviewed scientific literature.


DENNIS PATRICK MEEHAN HUGHES, a former pediatric oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center, pleaded guilty in federal court to collecting child pornography. Sentencing is set for June 1.

Hughes, 49, resigned from MD Anderson after being arrested in June 2015, and later turned in his license to the Texas Medical Board, according to the Houston Chronicle. He faces up to 40 years in prison.

MD Anderson has contacted the families of approximately 300 young cancer patients, the Chronicle reported.


THE AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY received a $1.58 million, four-year grant from The Merck Foundation to implement a comprehensive Patient Navigation Program in three U.S. communities where substantial cancer care disparities exist.

Sites selected to participate in the community-based program include the Queens Hospital Center in Queens, N.Y.; the Phoenix Cancer Center/Maricopa Integrated Health System in Phoenix; and the University of New Mexico Cancer Center in Albuquerque. The organizations were selected because they provide services to diverse, low-income and often underserved patient populations.

“Many people don’t know how to access the health care system. They don’t have insurance, they’re afraid or they have personal beliefs that lead them to ignore their health and avoid the health care system altogether,” said Katherine Sharpe, senior vice president of Patient and Caregiver Support for the American Cancer Society. “The Patient Navigation Program addresses these issues and helps people get the care they need even under very difficult cultural, economic, educational and financial circumstances. We are grateful to the Merck Foundation for providing this grant to bring much-needed support to cancer patients in vulnerable communities in Arizona, New Mexico and New York.”


MD ANDERSON CANCER CENTER submitted its plan to comply with Senate Bill 11, a state law commonly known as Campus Carry, to the University of Texas System and its Board of Regents, as a public institution of higher education.

Under the bill, any individual holding a valid concealed handgun license will be allowed to carry concealed handguns on some parts of MD Anderson’s campus. The UT Board of Regents will review and vote on MD Anderson’s plan in May. The law goes into effect Aug. 1.

The plan was developed by a working group composed of a cross section of more than 30 faculty, patients, staff, administrators, trainees and students, MD Anderson said in a statement, and was approved by Ronald DePinho, president of MD Anderson.

“Our primary goal at MD Anderson is to ensure the safety of our patients, visitors, faculty, staff and students while complying with Texas law,” said DePinho. “Our working group listened to many passionate opinions expressed about this issue and considered all feedback in putting together our plan. I am confident it addresses our goal.”

The plan recommended that concealed handguns not be allowed in patient care areas; research laboratories; animal care facilities and vivaria; child care facilities, pediatric activity areas, pediatric school areas, and areas where activities are conducted for children who are not registered at MD Anderson; chapels and prayer rooms; and areas required to be excluded by state or federal law.

According to MD Anderson, concealed handgun license holders will be allowed to carry concealed handguns in all parts of the Jesse H. Jones Rotary House and MD Anderson’s administrative building, the Fannin Holcombe Building. In addition, most of the Mid Campus Building 1 will be a carry area as well, except in the offices of Employee Health and Well-being and the Employee Assistance Program.

Other carry areas include a number of MD Anderson landscaping and storage warehouses, Mid Campus Garage A, Braeswood Garage and garages adjacent to the Fannin Holcombe Building and Mays Clinic.


Matthew Ong, associate editor of The Cancer Letter, was selected as a finalist in the 2015 Best in Business Awards for Outstanding Business Journalism.

The Society of American Business Editors and Writers recognized Ong’s series, “How Medical Devices Do Harm,” as the first runner up in the Print Weeklies/Biweeklies Investigative category. In a two-year investigation, Ong examined how doctors, hospitals, and manufacturers can, as a practical matter, conceal the fact that a device has caused harm and allow adverse outcomes to go unreported. The controversy, which stemmed from an initial focus on power morcellators and FDA regulation of medical devices, has become the focus of investigations launched by Congress, FBI and the Government Accountability Office.

“The Cancer Letter’s coverage of dangerous medical devices provided an important public service by examining the problems that arise with these devices and the regulatory lapses that helped these problems develop,” the judges noted. “The Cancer Letter covered incremental developments over a lengthy period, but also took the time to step back and do necessary big-picture stories on the issue.”

Ong previously won three first place awards, from the National Press Club, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Washington, D.C. Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, for his 2014 coverage of the controversy over power morcellation (The Cancer Letter, July 2, 2015). 

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