publication date: Jan. 5, 2018

In Brief

Howard “Skip” Burris elected ASCO president for 2019-2020

Howard “Skip” Burris III was elected president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology for the term beginning in June 2019.

Burris is president of clinical operations and chief medical officer for Sarah Cannon, the cancer institute of HCA Healthcare. He is an associate of Tennessee Oncology, PLLC.

Burris completed his undergraduate education at the United States Military Academy at West Point, his medical degree at the University of South Alabama, and his internal medicine residency and oncology fellowship at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

The following physicians will begin four-year terms as members of ASCO’s Board of Directors starting in June 2018:

  • Laurie Gaspar, treasurer. Gaspar is professor emeritus in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Colorado.

  • Tracey Weisberg was elected to a Community Oncologist seat. Weisberg is the lead physician of New England Cancer Specialists, and oversees medical house staff at the Maine Medical Center Oncology inpatient unit.

  • Tony Mok was elected to an International Oncologist seat. Mok is the Li Shu Fan Medical Foundation Named Professor of Clinical Oncology and chair of clinical oncology at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He co-founded the Lung Cancer Research Group.

  • A. William Blackstock was elected to a Radiation Oncologist seat. Blackstock is professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and director of the Clinical Research Program at the Comprehensive Cancer Center.

  • Lee Ellis was elected to an Undesignated Specialty seat. Ellis is the William C. Liedtke Jr. Chair in Cancer Research and a professor in the Departments of Surgical Oncology and Molecular & Cellular Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, as well as the vice chair of Translational Medicine at SWOG.

The following physicians will serve a three-year terms on the ASCO Nominating Committee:

  • N. Lynn Henry will serve as the chair of the ASCO Nominating Committee in 2020-2021. Henry is an associate professor of internal medicine and interim division chief of oncology at the University of Utah and director of breast medical oncology at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

  • W. Kimryn Rathmell is the Cornelius A. Craig Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and a professor of biochemistry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Rathmell is the vice president for the American Society of Clinical Investigation, chairing the Advocacy Committee and serving as board representative for the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology.


Hochster named associate director, clinical research, and chief of GI med/onc at Rutgers

Howard Hochster assumed the role of associate director for clinical research and chief of gastrointestinal medical oncology at Rutgers Cancer Institute, as well as director of cancer clinical research for oncology services at RWJBarnabas Health.

Hochster is an expert in the development of cancer clinical trials, gastrointestinal oncology and early phase cancer drugs.  

Hochster, who is awaiting appointment as a distinguished professor of medicine in the Division of Medical Oncology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, was most recently on the faculty at the Yale Cancer Center and the Yale School of Medicine, where he served as a professor of medicine, associate director for clinical sciences and the disease aligned research team leader for the Gastrointestinal Cancers Program. He also served as a clinical program leader for the Gastrointestinal Cancers Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital.

In his new roles, Hochster will oversee clinical research activities, which include therapeutic cancer clinical trials offered at Rutgers Cancer Institute and throughout the RWJBarnabas Health system.

Hochster, whose most recent clinical trials work focused on checkpoint inhibitors, is chair of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Committee of SWOG.

Prior to Yale, Hochster spent more than two decades at the former New York University Cancer Institute, where he led the Office of Clinical Trials and Developmental Therapeutics and held other leadership roles.  

He is a medical director of the Chemotherapy Foundation and an associate editor of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and an editorial board member of Gastrointestinal Oncology and Current Colorectal Cancer Reports.


Whitten named president of Taiho Oncology

Timothy Whitten was named president of Taiho Oncology Inc., a subsidiary of Taiho Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.

Whitten, who until now has served as senior vice president and chief operating officer, will oversee corporate, commercial and clinical development-related functions at Taiho Oncology, as well as hold operational responsibility for Taiho Pharma Canada Inc. and Taiho Pharma Europe Ltd.

Whitten will continue to report to Taiho Oncology’s departing president, Eric Benn, who will remain chief executive officer until his retirement on April 1, at which time Whitten also will be named CEO.

At that time, Whitten will report directly to Masayuki Kobayashi, president and representative director of Taiho, headquartered in Tokyo.

Whitten joined Taiho Oncology in 2013 as senior vice president and chief commercial officer to oversee the company’s commercial functions and build Taiho Pharmaceutical’s first commercial business unit in the West.

Whitten also was responsible for development and execution of the company’s strategy for Lonsurf (trifluridine and tipiracil) tablets, Taiho Oncology’s first approved product in the United States.

Whitten was promoted to senior vice president and chief operating officer in 2017, adding human resources to his responsibilities, as well as operations of Taiho Pharma Canada Inc.

Prior to joining Taiho Oncology Inc., Whitten served as president and CEO of Transave/lnsmed from 2006 to 2012. During this time, he guided the company’s lead product from the preclinical stage into a global phase III program. From 2001 to 2006, Whitten was employed by Pharmacyclics, where he served in roles, including senior vice president, marketing & sales, and business development.

Whitten spent 17 years at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he served in various sales, marketing, and strategic planning roles. He also helped introduce Taxol into the U.S. oncology market.


Purdue Center for Cancer Research receives $10 million from Walther Cancer Foundation

Purdue University’s Center for Cancer Research received a $10 million matching-funds gift from the Indianapolis-based Walther Cancer Foundation to advance its research in drug discovery, treatments and potential cures.

The gift is designed to inspire endowed gifts to Purdue’s center to sustain it throughout its existence. It is the latest gift from the Walther Cancer Foundation, which has given more than $16 million in grants to Purdue over the years, including $4.2 million in the last three years before its latest gift.

The gift will be available for a variety of needs, such as faculty recruitment and retainment, needed equipment, and research in such areas as drug discovery and development; breast, pancreatic, prostate and other forms of cancer; and the role obesity plays in the disease.


METAvivor announces 2017 grant awards for metastatic cancer research

METAvivor Research and Support Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to funding research for stage IV metastatic breast cancer, announced twelve grant awards totaling $1,650,000.

These research grants are focused on metastatic breast cancer. Since its founding in 2009, METAvivor has put 100% of donations into its peer-reviewed research grant program.

This is the eighth annual grant cycle funded by METAvivor, and this year, METAvivor is awarding grants from two award programs.  

The newly established Young Investigator Award program is focused on funding grants for early career metastatic breast cancer researchers, while our standard awards program, now named the Translational Research Award, has changed to increase the amount of funding granted to $200,000 per grant for 2017. 

METAvivor also announced the Kristin Keydel Endowment for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research Award and the Quinn-Davis Northwest Arkansas METSquerade Award. The grants named for donors and generous anonymous donors have helped METAvivor fund more exceptional research in 2017.

Following are the METAvivor 2017 grant recipients:

METAvivor Young Investigative Awards

  • Katherine Cook, assistant professor, Wake Forest University: “Dietary considerations effecting lung metastatic therapeutic responsiveness and co-morbidities.”

  • Joshua Donaldson, fellow in oncology, Johns Hopkins University: “Resistance mechanisms to palbociclib in hormone positive metastatic breast cancer”

  • David Soto-Pantoja, assistant professor, Wake Forest School of Medicine: “Anti-CD47 Immunotherapy as a treatment for metastatic breast cancer”

The Kristin Keydel Endowment for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research presents

  • Gina Sizemore, postdoctoral fellow, Ohio State University: “Targeting novel tumor-stroma interactions in breast cancer brain metastases” 

  • Rebecca Watters, research assistant professor, University of Pittsburgh: “Discovery of Clinically Actionable Genes in Breast Cancer Bone Metastases”

Research awards

  • Diana Cittelly, assistant professor, University of Colorado: “Targeting BDNF/TrkB in brain metastases from young women with TNBC “

  • Michael Flister, assistant professor, Medical College of Wisconsin: “Personalized therapy for curing metastatic breast cancer”

  • Melanie Hayden-Gephart, assistant professor, Stanford University: “Halting the Progression of Breast Cancer Leptomeningeal Brain Metastases”

The Quinn-Davis Northwest Arkansas Metsquerade presents

  • Cheryl Jorcyk, director of clinical/translational research, Boise State University: “High impact therapeutic for the elimination of breast cancer metastasis to bone”

  • James McIntyre, research professor of radiology and radiological sciences, VUMC Nashville: “A Novel Self-Reporting Paclitaxel Prodrug without Systemic Neurotoxicity: Preclinical Assessment for Targeted Treatment of Metastatic Breast Cancer“ 

  • Vivek Mittal, professor, Weill Cornell Medicine: “Targeting epigenetic regulator PRC2 as a therapy for established metastasis”

  • Partha Roy, Professor of Bioengineering,  Cell Biology, and Pathology, University of Pittsburgh: “Pharmacological inhibition of myocardin-family proteins as a novel strategy to combat metastatic breast cancer”


JAX starts canine cancer initiative to find predictors, treatments for humans, dog

The Jackson Laboratory launched the Tallwood Canine Cancer Research Initiative, which will create a biobank of dog tumors that the nonprofit biomedical research institution plans to use and share with researchers around the world to provide new insights into cures for cancer in humans and dogs.

JAX will identify and work closely with veterinary centers. When a canine patient at one of the JAX’s veterinary partner organizations is diagnosed with a cancer of interest, its owner can opt to have the veterinarian donate their dog’s tumor to TCCRI when it’s removed during the dog’s cancer treatment.  

JAX will use the tumor to create a patient-derived xenograft cancer model and sequence each tumor model established, much like the organization’s human PDX resource. PDX tumors are grown in mice, and can provide information including how cancer changes over time and what therapeutics are most effective. JAX will use these PDX models for its ongoing cancer research programs, as well as make them available to researchers around the world to accelerate the process of cancer treatment discovery.

JAX investigators will also sequence the DNA from healthy canines of specific breeds.  

JAX received a $500,000 gift for the Tallwood Canine Cancer Research Initiative from an anonymous Hartford-area donor. The TCCRI project began last month with the collection of DNA from the first healthy canine sample—the donor family’s dog, Patrick, an Irish Wolfhound.

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