publication date: Apr. 7, 2017

In Brief

Michael Caligiuri starts term as AACR president

Michael Caligiuri became president of the American Association for Cancer Research for 2017-2018.

Caligiuri is the director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and chief executive officer of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, and the John L. Marakas Nationwide Insurance Enterprise Foundation chair in cancer research and a professor in The Ohio State University College of Medicine Departments of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics, and Internal Medicine.

Caligiuri is a physician-scientist known for his work in immunology in the treatment of leukemia, myeloma, and glioblastoma. Well over 1,500 cancer patients have been treated on clinical protocols that have emanated from the Caligiuri laboratory.

“Game-changing cancer research breakthroughs can’t come fast enough—and as an oncology community we must continue to be an unwavering force for progress in research that benefits the many people affected by cancer,” Caligiuri said in a statement.

Caligiuri has been involved with the AACR since 1990, serving on the board of directors (2013-2016) and as chairperson of the Publications Committee since 2003. He has also served as:

  • A member of the Clinical and Translational Cancer Research Committee (2001-2004, 2012-present),

  • A member of the Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research Committee (2015);

  • Landon Foundation-AACR INNOVATOR Award for Cancer Prevention Research Scientific Review Committee (2011);

  • Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research Selection Committee (2010);

  • Chairperson of the Annual Meeting Program Committee (2009);

  • Member of the Scientific Program and Scientific Review Committees for the Translational Cancer Medicine Meeting (2008);

  • Steering Committee of the Cancer Immunology Working Group (2007-2012);

  • Clinical Research and Experimental Therapeutics Awards Selection Committee (2004);

  • Chairperson (2002) and member (2001) of the Scientific Committee of the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics;

  • Member of the editorial boards of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics (2001-2005) and Clinical Cancer Research (1996-2008);

  • Associate editor of Cancer Research (2001-2003);

  • Member of the Science Policy and Legislative Affairs Committee (2001-2004, 2006-2009, 2012-2015);

  • The Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award Selection Committee (1999); and

  • Chairperson of the Membership Committee (1999).

He served as a member of the faculty for the Scientist Survivor Program at the AACR Annual Meeting (2003-2009) and as a member of the faculty for the educational workshop, Methods in Clinical Cancer Research (2003-2007).

Additionally, he is president of the Society of Natural Immunity, chair of the Institute of Medicine’s National Cancer Policy Forum, and a member or chair of the external boards for 12 of the nation’s cancer centers. He is a past president of the Association for American Cancer Institutes, as well as a former councilor and executive committee member of the American Society of Hematology, past member of the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors and the Board of Scientific Counselors, and past vice chair of the scientific advisory board of the Cure for Lymphoma Foundation.

Elizabeth Jaffee, deputy director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, and associate director of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, was inducted as president-elect. Nancy E. Davidson, executive director of oncology for Fred Hutch/University of Washington Cancer Consortium and president of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, now serves as past president.


SU2C names researchers to $12 Million “Dream Team” on colorectal cancer

Stand Up To Cancer announced the formation of a “Dream Team” of researchers to take on one of the toughest challenges in cancer research and treatment.

The announcement was made at a special event during the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, SU2C’s Scientific Partner.

“We are urgently in need of new approaches to colorectal cancer,” said Phillip A. Sharp, institute professor at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Nobel Laureate, and chairman of SU2C’s Scientific Advisory Committee. “We have made great progress in prevention through widespread screening, but new methods are needed to treat colorectal cancer when it actually occurs.”

The SU2C Colorectal Cancer Dream Team, with funding of up to $12 million from SU2C, will be led by Luis Diaz, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as leader, and Charles Fuchs, director of the Yale Cancer Center; Lewis Cantley, director of the Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian Hospital; and Zhenghe Wang, of the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, as co-leaders.

More than 50 researchers at six institutions are involved in the team.

“Through a combination of new avenues in immunotherapy, targeted therapeutics, metabolomics, and precision prevention, we believe we can find new ways to fight colorectal cancer and bring new hope to patients,” Diaz said.

The team’s research program will also include clinical trials to investigate drugs that could attack genetic vulnerabilities in many types of colorectal cancer tumors.

“The metabolism of cancer cells, how they process nutrients, is different from normal cells,” Cantley said. “The trials are designed to take advantage of that knowledge and hopefully kill the cells.”

Serving as Dream Team Principals are Ryan Corcoran, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, and Nilofer Azad, Johns Hopkins University. 

Serving as Dream Team Advocates are Anjee Davis, president, Fight Colorectal Cancer; Ivelisse Page, executive director and co-founder, Believe Big Inc.; Joanna Fuchs, patient advocate, Yale University; Martha Raymond, executive director, Michael’s Mission; Thomas Herbert Marsilje; and Vanessa Whiting, president, A.E.S. Management Corp.

The colorectal team is the 20th Dream Team launched by Stand Up To Cancer since its inception in 2008, which has also launched six Translational Research Teams, 46 Innovative Research Grants, and a host of other grants and awards to encourage innovative and collaborative cancer research, with funds committed by philanthropic, organizational, corporate, and individual donors, as well as nonprofit groups working with SU2C.


BMS gives SU2C to $7.5 million to fund immuno-oncology grants

Stand Up To Cancer announced the award of $7.5 million in Innovative Research Grants focused on immuno-oncology to 10 early-career scientists, in a program funded by a grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

The awards are part of SU2C’s overall IRG program, which has provided funding to 36 early-career scientists in three classes thus far (in 2009, 2011, and 2016), in an effort to support outstanding members in the rising generation of cancer researchers.

The 2017 class is unique in that funds are being provided by BMS through a grant to SU2C, and applicants were asked to focus on some aspect of immuno-oncology. The process of selecting grantees was conducted by the IRGC, with the assistance of AACR, and was independent of BMS.

From its inception in 2008, SU2C has been committed to creating opportunities for early-career researchers. Its model for the IRGs was designed specifically to support work that utilizes new ideas and approaches to solve critical problems in cancer research.

Traditionally, the projects most likely to be funded in the oncology field are those with a demonstrable expectation of success, which means that some of the research has to be done before an investigator can submit a proposal. SU2C’s IRG program is one of the few opportunities for young scientists to receive funding for cancer research that does not have a “proof of concept” data requirement.

These innovative IRG-funded projects are characterized as “high-risk” because they challenge existing paradigms, and, if successful, the projects have the potential for “high-reward” in terms of saving lives. The 2017 class of immuno-oncology Innovative Research Grant recipients and their proposals are:

  • Daniel Bachovchin, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, “Harnessing Dipeptidyl Peptidase Inhibition for Cancer Immunotherapy”

  • David Barrett, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “Rescuing T-Cell Function for Immunotherapy of Pediatric Malignancies”

  • Gregory Beatty, University of Pennsylvania, “Targeting the Pro-Metastatic Niche in the Liver for Cancer Immunotherapy”

  • Marie Bleakley, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, “T-Cell Immunotherapy for Core Binding Factor Acute Myeloid Leukemia”

  • Michael Farwell, University of Pennsylvania, “Imaging CAR T Cells with a Dual Function PET Reporter Gene”

  • Rizwan Haq, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, “Identifying and Targeting Mechanisms of Resistance to Immunotherapy”

  • Meenakshi Hegde, Baylor College of Medicine, “Reworking Negative Receptor Signals for Improved Anti-Glioma T-cell Therapy”

  • Marcela Maus, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center/Harvard Medical School, “Potentiating Novel Engineered Cellular Therapies for Solid Tumors”

  • Jennifer Wargo, MD Anderson Cancer Center, “Delineating the Role of the Microbiome in Modulating Tumor and Host Immunity”

  • John Wilson, Vanderbilt University, “Reprogramming Tumor Immunogenicity with STING-Activating Nanoparticles”

The term of the grants begins July 1 and runs for three years. The scientists will report their progress twice yearly to SU2C and the AACR, which organized the application and review process, and will administer the grants.


David Sabatini wins FNIH Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences

The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health has selected David Sabatini to receive its fifth annual Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences for discovery of the mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) cellular pathway as a key regulator of growth and metabolism in response to nutrients.

Sabatini is a pioneer in the study of nutrient sensing and the impact of caloric restriction on health and lifespan. The Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences will be presented to him at the FNIH Award Ceremony hosted by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on May 17 in Washington, D.C.

Sabatini is a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, a Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His research identified the specific protein components of the mTOR pathway, including mTOR and two large complexes that contain it called mTOR Complex 1 (mTORC1) and Complex 2 (mTORC2), and documented how mTOR regulation and dysregulation affects normal and diseased physiology.

As caloric restriction is associated with the slowing of cellular aging, Sabatini’s research suggests that one day, the mTOR pathway could be manipulated to trick the body into mimicking a fasting state even under nutrient replete conditions, and thereby protect against age-related diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. The Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences recognizes outstanding achievement by a promising scientist aged 52 or younger.

Sabatini was selected by a jury of six distinguished biomedical researchers, chaired by Solomon Snyder, Distinguished Service Professor of Neuroscience, Pharmacology & Psychiatry, The Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University and Vice Chairman for Science of the FNIH.

The prize includes a $100,000 honorarium, donated by philanthropist and FNIH Board Member Ann Lurie. Lurie is President of the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Foundation, which she founded with her late husband Robert, and the President of Lurie Holdings Inc.

Previous recipients of the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences are Jeannie Lee, from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School (2016), Karl Deisseroth, from Stanford University (2015), Jennifer Doudna, from the University of California, Berkeley (2014) and Ruslan Medzhitov, from Yale University School of Medicine (2013).

Johnson & Johnson Innovation will sponsor the 2017 FNIH Award Ceremony.


Jennifer Pietenpol named chief scientific advisor for Susan G. Komen

Jennifer Pietenpol, executive vice president for research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and director of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, was named a chief scientific advisor for the nonprofit breast cancer organization Susan G. Komen.

She joins George Sledge Jr., professor of Medicine at Stanford University Medical Center, in the CSA role, which includes responsibility for guiding the Komen Scientific Advisory Board.

The scientific advisory board helps guide Komen’s research programs and priorities. Since 2010, Pietenpol has served as a Komen Scholar, an advisory group of distinguished leaders in breast cancer research and advocacy who are chosen for their knowledge and leadership within the scientific, research and advocacy communities, and for their own contributions to breast cancer research.

Pietenpol, the Benjamin F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology at Vanderbilt, is an expert in molecular genetics and triple negative breast cancer. She and her colleagues were the first to identify subtypes of TNBC and are spearheading clinical research trials to determine the best potential therapies for each subtype.


Mark Soberman becomes president of ACCC

Mark Soberman, was elected as the 2017-2018 President of the Association of Community Cancer Centers during its annual meeting March 31.

A thoracic surgeon and thoracic oncologist, Soberman is the medical director, Oncology Service Line and chief physician executive, Monocacy Health Partners at Frederick Regional Health System.

Soberman has been an active member of ACCC, serving on the executive committee of the board of trustees and as President-Elect (2016-2017).

He is a reviewer for the Annals of Thoracic Surgery and an active member of numerous organizations, including the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association, the General Thoracic Surgical Club, the American Association for Physician Leadership, the American College of Healthcare Executives, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Previously, Soberman served as vice-chair of the Department of Surgery; director, Section of Thoracic Oncology; and director, Section of Thoracic Surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Soberman has held leadership positions as Director, Division of Thoracic S urgery at Georgetown University Hospital, and Director, Section of Thoracic Surgery at Sibley Memorial Hospital.

His academic appointments include clinical associate professor of surgery at Georgetown University School of Medicine and Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at George Washington University School of Medicine.


Biocept, OHSU announce collaboration to increase clinical use of liquid biopsy

Biocept Inc. has entered into a Preferred Provider Collaboration and Services Agreement with Oregon Health & Sciences University on behalf of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.

The multiphase agreement grants OHSU the rights to commercially offer Biocept’s Target Selector liquid biopsy testing services exclusively throughout the state of Oregon. Additionally, Biocept and OHSU plan to engage in technology transfer, whereby OHSU will have the ability to use Target Selector assays in-house, and act as a secondary laboratory for Biocept’s research and testing activities.

Biocept and OHSU also plan to co-develop additional liquid biopsy assay technologies and platform capabilities including highly sensitive, multiplexed assay panels for molecular biomarker detection and assessment.

OHSU’s Knight Diagnostic Laboratories selected Biocept’s Target Selector platform after evaluating several commercially available and research-stage liquid biopsy technologies throughout the industry. Additional R&D and commercial pilot projects are anticipated under the agreement.


Sylvester, Syapse to launch precision medicine initiative

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of UHealth–the University of Miami Health System, and Syapse, a precision oncology company, announced that they will team up to launch a new precision medicine initiative at Sylvester.

By partnering with Syapse, Sylvester physicians will be able to more efficiently deliver personalized care that matches patients with targeted, cutting-edge therapies based on the clinical and molecular profile of the patient, leading to improved survival rates and better health outcomes.

Through the partnership with Syapse, Sylvester physicians will now have a robust platform that brings together clinical, molecular, treatment, and outcomes data to power this new era of precision medicine clinical workflows.

The Syapse platform will provide access to the largest, real-world precision oncology data sharing consortium in the world, enabling oncologists to make better decisions for their patients using real-world treatment and outcomes data on clinically and molecularly similar patients.

The Syapse platform is adopted by Intermountain Healthcare, Providence St. Joseph’s Health, Stanford Healthcare, Henry Ford Health System, Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health.


Invitae starts Patient Insights Network to enable sharing of health information

Invitae Corp. announced the launch of the Invitae Patient Insights Network, a permission-based, patient-centered network designed to make it easy for patients to share health experiences, contribute de-identified clinical data, and maintain their privacy while being connected to the latest research, treatment, and disease education opportunities.

The Invitae Patient Insights Network is a patient-directed approach to the traditional patient registry.

The Invitae PIN enables patients with specific health conditions to share information, be connected to clinical trial and research opportunities, and contribute de-identified data across a wide variety of health conditions.

The information patients share can be used by clinicians, researchers, and therapeutic developers to locate screened cohorts for possible participation in research studies. Through the Invitae PIN, patients direct and control how their de-identified information is shared and can opt in or opt out at any time.

In addition, Invitae will continue to contribute de-identified data to public research databases such as ClinVar, a freely available genetic information database from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Patients who enroll in the Invitae PIN are guided through a series of questions to gather their diagnostic experience, genetic information, treatment experience and other relevant health and family history information. Based on their responses, patients gain access to a dashboard that allows them to explore de-identified information contributed by others with the same diagnosis, for example viewing the treatment experiences of other breast cancer patients. Using the dashboard, patients can manage their preferences to share data or receive notifications about clinical trials and research opportunities that match their profile.

The Invitae PIN will open enrollment to people with a personal or family history of cancer or who have had genetic testing for cancer predisposition. Enrollment for patients with conditions in additional clinical areas, such as cardiology and neurology, will open throughout 2017.


LLS Commits $4 Million to Forty Seven Inc.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society made a $4 million funding commitment in an investigational therapy being developed by Forty Seven Inc. for lymphoma patients.

LLS’s investment will support Forty Seven’s clinical trial using an antibody therapy (Hu5F9-G4) aimed at treating two types of NHL – diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma.

DLBCL represents approximately 30 percent of NHL patients, with 60 percent of patients surviving five years after diagnosis; however, more than one-third of patients either relapse or do not respond to therapy. Approximately 25 percent of NHL patients are diagnosed with FL, a slow-growing form of the disease.

While most patients with FL respond to initial therapy, more than 70 percent are diagnosed with advanced stage disease and are considered incurable. The novel drug will be tested in combination with the FDA-approved rituximab, already part of standard treatment for several types of NHL.

The therapy is directed against CD47, a protein that provides a “don’t eat me” signal to the immune system and blocks the ability of immune cells called macrophages to devour those cancer cells. The combination Hu5F9-G4 and rituximab displayed synergy in preclinical animal models of NHL.

Forty Seven was founded in 2015 by Stanford University researchers Irv Weissman and Ravi Majeti, both of whom have been recipients of LLS grants supporting their early work targeting CD47. Forty Seven has licensed the therapy from Stanford.


NCCN imaging appropriate use criteria published for 13 additional guidelines

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services-approved provider-led entity for imaging appropriate use criteria continues to build its library of AUC and has published NCCN Imaging Appropriate Use Criteria (NCCN Imaging AUC) for an additional 13 NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines). 

Launched in June 2016, NCCN Imaging AUC currently are available for 48 NCCN Guidelines. The newest NCCN Imaging AUC™ include recommendations for:

  • Anal Cancer

  • B-Cell Lymphomas

  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia/Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma

  • Colon Cancer

  • Hairy Cell Leukemia   

  • Hepatobiliary Cancers

  • Primary Cutaneous B-Cell Lymphomas   

  • Rectal Cancer

  • Soft Tissue Sarcoma

  • Systemic Light Chain Amyloidosis   

  • Testicular Cancer

  • T-Cell Lymphomas

  • Waldenström’s Macroglobulinemia/Lymphoplasmacytic Lymphoma

NCCN Imaging AUC are an easy-to-use, single source for imaging recommendations pertaining to cancer screening, diagnosis, staging, treatment response assessment, follow-up, and surveillance as outlined within the library of NCCN Guidelines. NCCN Imaging AUC include all imaging procedures recommended in the NCCN Guidelines, including radiographs, computed tomography scans, magnetic resonance imaging, functional nuclear medicine imaging, and ultrasound.

NCCN Imaging AUC are available through a web-based user interface that provides a searchable and user-customized display of approved NCCN Imaging AUC. The complete library of NCCN Imaging AUC™ is scheduled to be available in 2017. The NCCN Guidelines are the recognized standard for clinical policy in cancer care and are often the most thorough and most frequently updated clinical practice guidelines available in any area of medicine. Other NCCN Guidelines derivative products include:

  • The NCCN Drugs & Biologics Compendium (NCCN Compendium) contains authoritative, scientifically derived information designed to support decision-making about the appropriate use of drugs and biologics in patients with cancer. The NCCN Compendium is recognized by public and private insurers alike, including CMS and UnitedHealthcare, as an authoritative reference for oncology coverage policy.

  • The NEW NCCN Radiation Therapy Compendium includes NCCN Guidelines recommendations pertaining to indications, modalities, clinical scenario, purpose, as well as the dosing regimens used for treatment. Additional information includes the clinical notes related to the specific recommendation.

  • The NCCN Biomarkers Compendium contains information designed to support decision-making around the use of biomarker testing in patients with cancer.

  • The NCCN Chemotherapy Order Templates (NCCN Templates) include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, supportive care agents, doses, schedules, monitoring parameters, and safety instructions for regimens recommended in the NCCN Guidelines.

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