publication date: Mar. 3, 2017

In Brief

Karmanos, Wayne State receive grant to conduct nation’s largest study of factors affecting African Americans with cancer

The Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine will launch the nation’s largest study of African American cancer survivors to better understand disproportionately high incidence and mortality from cancer and its impact on this specific patient population.

The study is being funded with a five-year, $9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.

“This study is uniquely poised to investigate the major factors affecting African-American cancer survivors,” Douglas Lowy, acting director of NCI, said in a statement.

“Efforts like this will help us move toward bridging the gap of cancer disparities, ensuring that advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment reach all Americans.”

Principal Investigators Ann Schwartz, professor and deputy center director, and Terrance Albrecht, professor and associate director for population sciences at Karmanos and Wayne State, will lead the research.

According to Schwartz and Albrecht, the Detroit Research on Cancer Survivors (Detroit ROCS) study will include 5,560 cancer survivors to better understand major factors affecting cancer progression, recurrence, mortality and quality of life in African American cancer survivors.

African Americans continue to experience disproportionately higher cancer incidence rates than other racial/ethnic groups in the United States. They are also diagnosed with more advanced-stage disease and experience higher cancer mortality rates than other groups.

The Detroit ROCS study will focus on lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers—the four most common cancers—each of which is marked by poorer survival rates among African Americans than whites.

A unique aspect of this study is the inclusion of 2,780 family members to understand how a cancer diagnosis affects the mental, physical and financial health of those providing care.

The study also brings an added benefit to doctors who treat African American cancer patients.

An earlier pilot study, supported by a $400,000 grant from GM Foundation and additional funds from Karmanos Cancer Institute, made it possible for Karmanos’ scientists to collect the data necessary to secure the NCI funding for the larger study.


Feldman named chief of breast surgery & surgical oncology, director of breast cancer services at Montefiore and Einstein

Sheldon M. Feldman was named chief of the division of breast surgery and surgical oncology, and director of Breast Cancer Services at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care, the clinical arm of the Albert Einstein Cancer Center.

Feldman will also join the faculty of Albert Einstein College of Medicine as a professor of clinical surgery. Feldman has pioneered techniques such as intraoperative radiation. He is also an innovator in reducing risk of lymphedema. Feldman is the president of the American Society of Breast Surgeons.

Feldman is the former chief of the breast surgery division at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/ Columbia University Medical Center and as the Vivian L. Milstein Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery. Feldman will serve as a principle investigator on multiple breast cancer studies focused on advancing prevention, early diagnosis and patient centered treatment of the disease.


Michael Rosen named chief communications officer at Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Michael Rosen was named chief communications officer at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

One of Rosen’s key roles will be increasing awareness about the organization’s ground breaking research and clinical initiatives like Precision Promise, a revolutionary clinical trial that will dramatically accelerate progress and bring promising therapies to patients faster.

Most recently, Rosen served as executive vice president of marketing and communications for the Mental Health Association of New York City, where he managed all marketing, communications strategies and development.

Between 2013 and 2016, Rosen led strategic communications for Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism advocacy organization.

Prior to entering the nonprofit sector, Rosen was the executive producer first of The Saturday Early Show and then CBS This Morning Saturday. At ABC News, Rosen was second in charge for the network’s Peabody Award-winning coverage of 9/11, and covered the war in Kosovo on location. Rosen has won three Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards and four DuPont Awards.


Open Science Prize goes to software tool for tracking viral outbreaks

After three rounds of competition — one of which involved a public vote — a software tool developed by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Basel to track Zika, Ebola and other viral disease outbreaks in real time has won the first-ever international Open Science Prize.

Fred Hutch evolutionary biologist Trevor Bedford and physicist and computational biologist Richard Neher of the Biozentum Center for Molecular Life Studies in Basel, Switzerland, designed a prototype called nextstrain to analyze and track genetic mutations during the Ebola and Zika outbreaks.

Using the platform Bedford and Neher built, anyone can download the source code from the public-access code-sharing site GitHub, run genetic sequencing data for the outbreak they are following through the pipeline and build a web page showing a phylogenetic tree, or genetic history of the outbreak, in a few minutes, Bedford said.

He and Neher envision the tool as adaptable for any virus — a goal to which they will apply the $230,000 prize announced today by its three sponsors, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the British-based charitable foundation Wellcome Trust and the U.S.-based Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

“Everyone is doing sequencing, but most people aren’t able to analyze their sequences as well or as quickly as they might want to,” Bedford said. “We’re trying to fill in this gap so that the World Health Organization or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — or whoever — can have better analysis tools to do what they do. We’re hoping that will get our software in the hands of a lot of people.”

For now, the tool is easy to use for Zika and Ebola. (The researchers also built a separate platform called nextflu for influenza.) But adapting the platform for other pathogens still involves a fair amount of work and technical skill, so Bedford is working with a web developer to “get that bar down so it will be easier to have this built out for other things.”

By lowering the technical bar, he and Neher hope to nudge researchers to overcome another obstacle: a longstanding reluctance to share data. That is also a goal of the Open Science Prize. Bedford and Neher were among six teams of finalists chosen in May from 96 entries representing 450 innovators and 45 countries.


Fred Hutchinson announces Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award winners

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center today announced the recipients of the Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award, which recognizes the outstanding achievement of graduate studies in the biological sciences. The thirteen award recipients were chosen by a selection committee of Fred Hutch faculty members and students for the quality, originality and significance of their work, and for representation of a diverse range of research topics.

The 2017 awardees attend universities across the U.S. — from Caltech to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to Baylor College — and one international recipient who attends the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Their studies explore areas as far ranging as evolvability and order in the nervous system, how microbiome dynamics may control host immunity and metabolism and innovative treatment strategies for mitochondrial disease.

Named for the late Harold Weintraub, the award honors Weintraub’s scientific leadership in the field of molecular biology and his legacy as an extraordinary mentor, colleague, collaborator and friend. He was passionate about understanding how a certain protein drives cell development, investigating RNA interference, and applying molecular manipulations pioneered in his lab to other areas of medical research, such as stem cell transplantation.

Weintraub helped found the Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutch and died of brain cancer in 1995 at age 49.

Weintraub Award recipients will travel to Seattle for an award symposium held May 5 on the Fred Hutch campus. At the symposium, recipients will give scientific presentations and have the opportunity to convene with other students and faculty members.

Each awardee will receive a certificate, travel expenses and honorarium from The Weintraub and Groudine Fund, created to foster intellectual exchange through supporting programs for graduate students, fellows and visiting scholars.

2017 Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award recipients:

  • Thomas Bartlett
    Molecular Biology Princeton University

  • Lynne Chantranupong
    Biology Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Raphael Cohn
    Neurophysiology and Behavior Rockefeller University

  • Kelsie Eichel
    Cellular Biology University of California, San Francisco

  • Qing Feng
    Molecular and Cellular Biology Fred Hutch/University of Washington

  • Isha Jain
    Health Sciences and Technology Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Daniel Lin
    Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Caltech

  • Lucy Liu
    Neuroscience Baylor College of Medicine

  • Siew Cheng Phua
    Cellular and Molecular Biology Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

  • Dheeraj Roy
    Brain & Cognitive Sciences Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Sukrit Silas
    Chemical and Systems Biology Stanford University

  • Christoph Thaiss
    Immunology Weizmann Institute of Science

  • Candice Yip
    Neurobiology Harvard Medical School


Boehringer Ingelheim, Vanderbilt expand collaboration to tackle hard-to-treat cancers

Boehringer Ingelheim announced a new multi-year collaboration with Vanderbilt University, complementing an already existing collaboration by focusing on the research and development of small molecule compounds targeting the protein SOS (Son Of Sevenless).

This molecule activates KRAS, a molecular switch that plays a central role in the onset of some of the deadliest cancers. The collaboration combines pioneering research in the laboratory of Stephen Fesik, Orrin H. Ingram II professor in cancer research at Vanderbilt, with the unique expertise and strength of Boehringer Ingelheim in drug discovery and clinical development.

The collaboration adds to an ongoing joint project with Vanderbilt initiated in 2015 that achieved two major milestones by identifying lead compounds that bind to KRAS with high affinities. These discoveries raise the prospect of developing novel cancer treatment options based on molecules that are able to block this critical cancer driver.

Mutations in the genes that encode KRAS are among the most powerful and frequent cancer drivers. They contribute to some of the most aggressive and deadly cancers, including up to 25 percent of lung, 35-45 percent of colorectal and about 90 percent of pancreatic tumors.

KRAS has been a particularly difficult protein to target and no effective treatments targeting KRAS have been developed since its discovery in human cancers more than 30 years ago. The development of the first molecules inhibiting KRAS activation promises huge potential for the development of improved cancer therapies, which would offer treating physicians unprecedented options to complement existing treatment regimens.


iKnowMed recognized as No. 1 oncology EHR by Black Book Research

For the sixth year in a row, iKnowMed electronic health record has been named the top-ranked EHR platform for oncologists and hematologists by Black Book Research, an industry-leading source for polling, surveys and market research.

iKnowMed was recognized for its superior focus on meeting the unique needs of community-based oncology practices.  Implemented in nearly 650 sites of care nationwide and used by 1,700 providers, iKnowMed was the top-ranked oncology EHR across all practice sizes and delivery sites.

The EHR platform received number one rankings in nine key performance areas – the most in this year’s report – including support and customer care, client relationships and cultural fit, reliability, best of breed technology and process improvement, and strategic alignment with client goals.

iKnowMed Generation 2, developed in collaboration with oncologists in The US Oncology Network and supported by McKesson Specialty Health, was the first next generation EHR for oncology and hematology available. This innovative EHR platform seamlessly integrates with McKesson Specialty Health’s technology solutions.


CTCA, Allscripts, NantHealth to launch clinical pathways, custom oncology treatment platform

Cancer Treatment Centers of America, in collaboration with NantHealth and Allscripts, is implementing a custom technical solution that, for the first time, enables eviti, a NantHealth clinical decision support solution, access to clinical workflows in the Allscripts Sunrise electronic health record.

With integration of this clinical decision support solution, the Clinical Pathways program helps inform the cancer treatment process, without interrupting the physician’s clinical workflow.

The direct interface of the clinical operating system was built with the input of hundreds of oncologists across the nation and holds a comprehensive collection of evolving cancer care data. Clinical Pathways integrates the latest cancer research available, treatment regimens and complementary therapies into the Allscripts Sunrise EHR, giving oncologists the ability to create a curated list of care protocols at the point of care.

When the treatment platform is engaged, it provides:

  • Custom treatment regimens specific to the patient, their health and specific disease state

  • Comparisons between treatment options, including average market cost of delivery

  • Computer order entry with the tap of the screen – safe for the patient and efficient

  • Each treatment regimen recommended by eviti is mapped within the EHR to proprietary CTCA order sets that reflect an integrative approach to care delivery, which combines evidence-based clinical approaches with supportive therapies to meet each patient›s unique needs and optimize their quality of life while undergoing cancer treatment

  • Access to referenced up-to-date guidelines, response rates, adverse drug reactions and toxicity

  • Supporting clinical data

  • Real-time functionality

The integration of the eviti solution with Allscripts Sunrise EHR for Clinical Pathways allows physicians to retrieve information from an unbiased Evidence-Based Medical Library, which encompasses over 2,700 treatment regimens covering all cancers and cancer subtypes and all modalities.

Each regimen incorporates the level of evidence, expected clinical outcomes, treatment costs, toxicities and supporting literature. Once a regimen is selected, providers can launch directly into order entry through Allscripts’ open ability to integrate eviti regimens with Sunrise order sets.


Blackfynn and CHOP expand partnership for data integration and analysis in pediatric brain tumors

Blackfynn and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said they have expanded their relationship. Under the expanded relationship, Blackfynn’s Data Platform will be used by CHOP and the Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium to bring together complex non-identifiable patient data for collaboration and analysis, thereby accelerating translational discovery toward treatments for brain cancer in children.

Blackfynn and CHOP began their relationship focused on pathology data one year ago. The expanded relationship will allow ongoing access to the Blackfynn Data Platform for CHOP and CBTTC members to conduct research across non-identifiable patient data, including pathology, imaging, genomics, EEG, clinical and other data. The ability to integrate and conduct analyses across all relevant data together is crucial to identifying meaningful patterns in treatment and disease.

Blackfynn is a privately held life sciences company focused on the development of a data platform to enable integration and analytics of complex, multimodal research and clinical data to enable better therapeutics and clinical care for patients with
neurologic disease.

Copyright (c) 2020 The Cancer Letter Inc.