publication date: Mar. 17, 2017

In Brief

Marshall Hicks named interim president of MD Anderson Cancer Center

Marshall Hicks was named interim president of MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The appointment, announced by the UT System Chancellor William McRaven, will become effective March 21, “following Dr. Ronald A. DePinho’s retirement as president on March 20.”

Earlier this month, when DePinho announced his resignation, he said that he had been asked to remain in his job through the end of the Texas legislative session, which is scheduled to end on May 29 (The Cancer Letter, March 10).

According to the announcement that was distributed to MD Anderson faculty and staff March 8, “discussions between Dr. DePinho and Chancellor McRaven are ongoing to coordinate the details and timing of his transition.”

According to an MD Anderson spokesperson, DePinho had communicated to MD Anderson’s faculty and staff March 13 that McRaven accepted his request that March 20 be his final day as president. He will transition to past president and become a member of the faculty.

Hicks, 59, has served as Division Head of Diagnostic Imaging at MD Anderson since 2010. According to the cancer center, he has “played a leading role in the development of the institution’s Shared Governance Committee.”

“Dr. Hicks is a widely respected leader within the MD Anderson family, with nearly 20 years of service on the faculty,” McRaven said in a statement. “When we discussed potential candidates for the interim presidency, Dr. Hicks’ name came up time and time again. His colleagues throughout the institution have great trust and confidence in him.”

Dr. Hicks specializes in interventional radiology and served nationally as former president of the Society of Interventional Radiology. He has been a collaborator in many clinical research studies of a wide range of different types of cancers, including, among other sites, those involving the lung, liver, colon, head and neck.

“I am honored to be asked to serve MD Anderson as its interim president,” Hicks said. “This extraordinary institution holds a special place in the hearts of its patients and their families, our outstanding faculty and trainees, our dedicated staff, the Houston community and people across the world.”

Recently-appointed Chief Operating Officer Stephen Hahn, said Hicks is “one of our most seasoned leaders on campus and he has been a great partner with me in our efforts to position MD Anderson for the challenges and opportunities ahead. He has a calming and reassuring style that will help us through the leadership transition.”

While serving as interim president, Hicks will appoint an interim head of the Division of Diagnostic Imaging to serve until he returns to that position, MD Anderson officials said.

A national search for a permanent president would launched soon and will include the appointment of a search advisory committee, MD Anderson offocoals said. The committee will aim to recommend top candidates to the UT System Board of Regents by the end of 2017.

“Given the national prominence of MD Anderson, we expect significant interest in this position from the most renowned cancer experts in the country,” UT System Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Raymond Greenberg, said in a statement.

Greenberg said the search advisory committee “would look for an established leader with proven skills in managing a large and complex health care organization, ideally with both clinical and research expertise.”


Stupp named associate director, strategic initiatives at Lurie Cancer Center

Roger Stupp, a Swiss neuro-oncologist, was named associate director for strategic initiatives at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

An expert in the treatment of primary and metastatic brain cancer, Stupp will join Northwestern Medicine in April as a professor of neurological surgery. He will work at the Division of Neuro-Oncology in the Department of Neurology and Lurie Cancer Center’s Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute.

In 2005, Stupp led clinical research demonstrating that chemotherapy with the drug temozolomide in conjunction with radiotherapy increases survival for patients with glioblastoma. Later, Stupp and colleagues showed that electromagnetic waves called tumor treating fields can substantially improve outcomes for patients suffering from glioblastoma. These breakthrough discoveries led to the last two FDA-approved treatments for the disease.

“The ‘Stupp Protocol’ is a standard of care for patients with malignant glioma around the world,” said Maciej (Matt) Lesniak, chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery. “Northwestern is fortunate to have recruited an international leader in the field who will champion the development of new therapies for patients with brain cancer.”

Stupp went on to discover a predictor of response to his chemotherapy-radiation treatment: Patients who carry an inactivated MGMT gene respond better to the combination therapy. Stupp’s ongoing research touches not only primary and secondary brain tumors, but also head and neck tumors and lung cancers.

Stupp serves as president of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer and section editor of the European Journal of Cancer. His honors and awards include the European Society for Medical Oncology’s Hamilton Fairley Award and the Society for NeuroOncology’s Victor Levin Award.


City of Hope vice provost to focus on faculty growth initiatives

Arti Hurria, City of Hope’s new vice provost, plans to focus on faculty growth and development, including fostering faculty career development and ensuring more diverse voices are represented.

Hurria, a geriatrician and oncologist who has been at City of Hope for 10 years, is also its director of Cancer and Aging Research Program. As vice provost, she will have primary oversight of academic and faculty affairs for physicians in the clinical professor series.

She will support City of Hope’s mission to increase the diversity of clinical faculty, and is responsible for designing, implementing and assessing various programs to address faculty diversity, recruitment, retention and advancement.

Hurria’s goals toward those ends include developing pilot grant awards for junior faculty, organizing a regular meeting for women leaders in the oncology field to share experiences and advice with female faculty, informing faculty of career development opportunities outside City of Hope, and supporting diversity at all levels.

“As the daughter of Indian immigrants and doctors, I am particularly passionate about ensuring that diverse voices are represented at the table,” Hurria said.

“One of the opportunities that truly helped me grow was serving as chair of the ASCO Professional Development Committee, where I was able to strategically plan professional development activities for members. I realized just how many opportunities there are within our own field to help foster the careers of individuals within our own profession. As vice provost, I will work to bring those opportunities to City of Hope and develop programs that can foster the career development for all of our faculty members.”


Nichols named LLS chief medical officer

Gwen Nichols was named chief medical officer of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

A physician and scientific researcher, Nichols has advanced cures for cancers through a unique combination of clinical, academic and pharmaceutical experience. AS CSO, she will oversee LLS’s scientific research portfolio, patient access services and policy and advocacy initiatives.

Most recently, Nichols was oncology site head of the Roche Translational Clinical Research Center, where she worked to develop new cancer therapies, translating them from the laboratory to clinical trials. Prior to joining Roche in 2007, Nichols was at Columbia University for more than ten years, where she served as the director of the Hematologic Malignancies Program.


Penson named chair of  Science & Quality Council at American Urological Association

David Penson was named chair of the Science & Quality Council at the American Urological Association. He will assume the role of chair-elect on June 1 and begin his two-year term as chair on June 2018.

As council chair, Penson is expected to provide strategic oversight to shape and execute the broad science, quality, and data agenda of the AUA. This includes supporting and expanding the AUA Quality Registry, and developing and disseminating evidence-based guidelines, patient safety and quality improvement initiatives, physician performance measures and white papers.

He will also oversee the activities of the following AUA committees: Data, Practice Guidelines and Quality Improvement & Patient Safety.

Penson is the former chair of the AUA Public Policy Council and previously held leadership positions on the AUA Quality Improvement and Patient Safety Committee and AUA Practice Guidelines Committee. He was also the AUA representative to the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and the National Quality Forum.


NCI selects ATCC to provide end-to-end cancer epidemiology services

NCI awarded ATCC a five-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to support the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics’ Molecular Epidemiology Assay Support program.

DCEG’s mission is to conduct population and multidisciplinary research to discover the genetic and environmental determinants of cancer and new approaches to cancer prevention. The MEAS program provides support services for studies on the genetic and other cellular events that influence the onset of different types of cancer.

Under the contract, ATCC will provide collection supplies to study sites; perform aliquoting and advanced molecular assays; and provide short-term storage for human biospecimens and environmental samples obtained through family and population-based collection efforts, both domestically and internationally. ATCC will track all specimens using a customized biospecimen inventory and resource management system, ensuring that specimens are safeguarded appropriately for use in long-term epidemiology research projects.

“We understand that the proper collection, tracking and storage of specimens is of critical importance to cancer research, and take pride in maintaining and distributing these unique samples to the global research community,” said Joseph Leonelli, vice president for ATCC’s Microbiology and Government Solutions business.


ILO delays vote on whether to cut ties with tobacco industry 

The International Labour Organization voted on Wednesday to delay the decision on whether to cut ties with Big Tobacco until November.

The decision could remove one of the tobacco industry’s final avenues of influence in the United Nations. Most other UN agencies developed firm policies against collaboration with the tobacco industry after the negotiation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the global anti-tobacco treaty.

The vote was originally scheduled due to public health, labor, and human rights communities escalating their call for the ILO to extricate itself from Big Tobacco, one of the deadliest industries on the planet. 

Since 2015, the ILO has received more than $15 million USD from Japan Tobacco International and other tobacco corporations for programs that boost the industry’s public relations yet do little toward the ILO’s stated purpose of curbing child labor violations in tobacco fields, a problem largely caused by the tobacco industry itself.    

“The ILO cannot address major human rights violations by collaborating with the perpetrators,” said Laurent Huber, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, who helped negotiate the global tobacco treaty. “Working with the tobacco industry on child labor is like inviting the fox to consult on how best to guard the henhouse.”   

United Nations officials, including the Secretariat of the FCTC, have also called on the ILO to distance itself from the tobacco industry. The ILO’s coziness with the tobacco industry violates a core tenet of the FCTC, which establishes a firewall between the tobacco industry and public health policymaking.   

Child labor in tobacco production is not a problem limited to the developing world. The U.S. government has acknowledged the risks of tobacco farming to children, which includes exposure to carcinogens and acute nicotine poisoning.

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