publication date: Jan. 12, 2018

In Brief

Emory receives $400 million pledge from Woodruff Foundation

A $400 million pledge to Emory University from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation will be used to construct a Winship Cancer Institute Tower in Midtown Atlanta and a new Health Sciences Research Building on Emory’s Druid Hills campus.

The Winship Cancer Institute Tower in Midtown will house a full range of outpatient cancer services.

The new Health Sciences Research Building on Emory’s Druid Hills campus, a laboratory-focused facility, will house faculty and staff who are charged with developing a pipeline of cures, interventions, and prevention methods, all aimed at improving the health of patients.

Research teams will partner with Emory colleagues to target five emerging priorities in 21st century medicine: cancer; brain health; heart and vascular health; immunology and infectious diseases; and radiology, biomedical engineering, and imaging sciences. Emory’s partnerships also include Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.


Children’s Mercy Kansas City receives gifts—totaling $150 million

Two of Kansas City’s families joined together to donate $150 million to Children’s Mercy Kansas City.

Their gift constitutes the largest one-time gift ever made to a children’s hospital for pediatric research, the Hall Family Foundation and the Sunderland Foundation each donated $75 million to kickstart the construction of the future home of the Children’s Research Institute and accelerate the recruitment of top researchers from around the globe.

Located on the hospital’s Adele Hall Campus in downtown Kansas City, the new research building consists of a nine-story structure making up approximately 375,000 square feet. As a result, the Children’s Research Institute will house nearly six times more space for pediatric research than currently exists at Children’s Mercy. When fully staffed, Children’s Mercy will grow its research enterprise tenfold as a result of this donation—with everyone striving to find much-needed answers for kids and their families.

“We have an opportunity to change the lives of children by conducting research that will create more understanding and deliver cures or diagnostics that go beyond the individual patient,” said Tom Curran, chief scientific officer at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, executive director of the Children’s Research Institute and the Donald J. Hall Eminent Scholar in Pediatric Research. “So, in a sense, by treating one child here at Children’s Mercy, we may impact thousands elsewhere.”

Several of the windows are a different color from the rest. Those windows represent the genetic anomalies found in the DNA of children with specific rare diseases – just some of the difficult cases and questions the researchers inside the building are trying to solve.

The Hall Family Foundation was founded in 1943 by Joyce and Elizabeth Hall, along with Joyce’s brother Rollie B. Hall, to promote the health, welfare and happiness of school-age children; the advancement and diffusion of knowledge; activities for the improvement of public health; and advancement of social welfare.

The Sunderland Foundation (formerly the Lester T. Sunderland Foundation) was established in 1945 by Lester T. Sunderland, who served as president of Ash Grove Cement Company for 33 years. Ash Grove Cement, which the Sunderland Family recently sold to CRH plc in Dublin, Ireland, is considered the largest cement company in the U.S.


Mary Beckerle receives NCI Knudson Award

Mary Beckerle, CEO and director of Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, is this year’s recipient of the Alfred G. Knudson Award in Cancer Genetics from the NCI.

The award is named after Alfred G. Knudson, a physician and researcher whose work added major insights to the understanding of the genetic basis of cancer. The award is presented by the NCI each year to a scientist who has made significant research contributions to the field of cancer genetics.

Beckerle will receive the award and present the award lecture, “Interface Between Cytoskeletal Dynamics and Tumor Biology” at NCI.

Beckerle’s research has discovered a new pathway that is critical for the ability of cells to respond to mechanical signals in their environment.  Such signals are now known to regulate cell growth and movement, two behaviors that are critically important in tumor biology.

Her lab is currently focused on understanding the impact of this pathway on tumor progression, particularly in Ewing sarcoma, a rare but deadly bone cancer that typically affects children and young adults.

In addition to leading HCI, Beckerle is a distinguished professor of biology and oncological sciences and holds the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Endowed Chair at the University of Utah.

Beckerle was appointed as a member of Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel where she co-chaired the working group on Precision Prevention and Early Detection. Beckerle is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Beckerle is the 22nd Knudson award winner. Past recipients of the award include Nobel laureates J. Michael Bishop, Robert Horvitz, Harold Varmus, Leland Hartwell, and Elizabeth H. Blackburn.


Chi Van Dang as editor-in-chief of AACR journal Cancer Research

Chi Van Dang was named editor-in-chief of Cancer Research, a journal published by the American Association for Cancer Research.

Dang is the scientific director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, an international, not-for-profit organization of distinguished scientists dedicated to preventing and controlling cancer. He is also a professor in the molecular and cellular oncogenesis program at the Wistar Institute.

Dang’s lab was the first to report a link between an oncogene and altered cancer cell metabolism through the discovery that the oncogenic transcription factor MYC plays a pivotal role in the re-programming of fuel utilization in cancer cells, making cancers addicted to certain fuel sources. Research in the Dang laboratory currently focuses on exploiting metabolic vulnerabilities of cancer cells for therapeutic benefit.

Dang is the chair of the National Cancer Institute’s Board of Scientific Advisors, a member of the Blue-Ribbon Panel of former Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the National Academy of Medicine.


Mark Israel named executive director of Israel Cancer Research Fund

Mark Israel, a pediatric oncologist and translational scientist, was appointed national executive director of the Israel Cancer Research Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated solely to funding cancer research in Israel.

Israel joins ICRF from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, where he is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Medicine, and Molecular and Systems Biology. From 2001 to 2016, Israel served as the director of Dartmouth’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

For the last 12 years, Israel has been a volunteer member of the ICRF’s scientific review panel and the chair of the panel that evaluates translational cancer research proposals.

“Cancer research has never been more exciting or promising—and that is particularly true in Israel,” Israel said in a statement. “Israeli science knows no bounds. ICRF provides a singular opportunity to help build more recognition and support for the world-class cancer research of Israeli scientists, and to arm and empower its finest practitioners with the resources necessary to change the world.”


International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer becomes member of registry of real-world data

The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer has become a member of the Lung Cancer Patient Registry.

IASLC joins the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE, the registry’s current member organizations.

The registry’s objective is to provide a real-world view of patient outcomes and treatment effectiveness. Lung cancer patients enter information anonymously into the Registry. Registered patients, their families, health care providers, and researchers can access that information.

The registry enables registered researchers to query de-identified data in any combination of data elements using the research portal online search tool. Researchers interested in submitting proposals for placing clinical trials within the Registry may now submit a proposal.

“Anytime patients and doctors can collaborate more effectively, we improve the experience for both,” said Fred R. Hirsch, CEO of the IASLC. “As a global, multidisciplinary organization with a mission to conquer lung cancer, we look forward to the collaboration and the impact of the Lung Cancer Registry and are thrilled to join the partnership.”

This month, the Lung Cancer Registry will launch a study on the side effects of immunotherapy on non-small cell lung cancer patients using data provided by patient participants.

Patients with any form or stage of lung cancer can join the Registry at Patients can opt-in to contribute their information, set their contact preferences and compare their lung cancer experience with others in The Registry. Patients can choose to receive information about research opportunities or other relevant news as part of their participation.


Elizabeth Barrett named CEO of Novartis Oncology

Elizabeth Barrett was appointed CEO Novartis Oncology and a member of the executive committee of Novartis.

Barrett is currently Global President Oncology at Pfizer Inc.

Barrett succeeds Bruno Strigini who is retiring from Novartis for personal reasons, the company said.

Barrett’s appointment is effective Feb. 1, and she will be based in Basel.

In her most recent role at Pfizer, Barrett led the oncology business through a significant period of growth achieved in less than three years. Before joining Pfizer in 2009, she worked at Cephalon Inc. and Johnson & Johnson. She started her career at Kraft Foods Group Inc. in 1984.

Novartis also announced today that Robert Kowalski, head of global regulatory affairs, will assume ad interim leadership of the drug development organization effective Feb. 1. Kowalski has been head of global regulatory affairs for Novartis since February 2016 and has played an important leadership role in securing approvals for several breakthrough medicines including our revolutionary CAR-T therapy Kymriah, the company said.

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