publication date: Jan. 26, 2018

In Brief

Attila Seyhan named Fox Chase director of translational medicine operations

Attila Seyhan was named director of translational medicine operations, a newly created position, at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Seyhan will work closely with Wafik S. El-Deiry, deputy cancer center director for translational research, to manage and promote multiple initiatives, including development of investigator-initiated clinical trials and other translational protocols, protocol writing and manuscript preparation, organization of translational medicine events, support for translational requests for application, and grant preparation and submissions.

He also will work with industry to follow through on investigator-initiated basic and translational letters of intent and concepts. This work will involve collaboration with clinicians, scientists, regulatory personnel, administrators, tech transfer office staff, the grants management office, institutional review board, institutional advancement, and external entities.

A molecular biologist, Seyhan has more than 16 years of experience in drug, target, and biomarker discovery and development, as well as preclinical and clinical translational research, focused on diabetes and metabolic diseases, cancer, inflammation and immunology, molecular virology, and rare genetic diseases.

His most recent position was associate professor at the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes at Florida Hospital in Orlando, FL, and adjunct associate professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, in Orlando. In addition, he served as a research affiliate in the department of chemical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Douglas Fraker joins Rutgers Cancer Institute as surgeon-in-chief

Douglas Fraker, an endocrine and oncologic surgeon, has joined Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School as chair of the Department of Surgery.

Fraker, who led the Division of Endocrine and Oncologic Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, began his duties as department chair on Jan. 1. He leads the department in each of its mission areas, including the clinical arm, which is a component of Rutgers Health.

He also serves as surgeon-in-chief at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and as chief of the surgical service at RWJBarnabas Health’s Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital—New Brunswick.

“One of the most attractive aspects of this job is the quality and dedication of the leadership across all divisions,” Fraker said in a statement. “As chair of surgery, I intend to work for them to allow each division to grow into a nationally recognized clinical enterprise.”

Fraker received his bachelor of arts degree in molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Medical School, and completed his residency training in general surgery at the University of California, San Francisco.


Pancreatic Cancer Action Network receives $25 million gift

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network said it has received a $25 million gift—the largest donation in the history of the organization. The gift was made to honor the memory of Skip Viragh, one of the country’s most influential mutual fund investment experts, who died in 2003.

PanCAN said it will use the multimillion dollar gift to advance its existing programs and services, including the launch of its clinical trial platform Precision PromiseSM, as well as early detection efforts, the Know Your Tumor molecular profiling service, patient services and research.

Another $15 million gift was made to PanCAN in 2015 in Skip’s memory. That gift led the organization’s goal to raise $200 million by 2020 and to launch initiatives considered critical to transforming patient outcomes, such as the Know Your Tumor precision medicine service and the Patient Registry.


NYU and Columbia researchers awarded $3.7M NIH grant for work on oral cancer

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has awarded Brian Schmidt of the Bluestone Center for Clinical Research at New York University College of Dentistry and Nigel Bunnett of Columbia University’s Departments of Surgery and Pharmacology, a $3.7 million, five-year grant to study proteases and neuronal signaling responsible for oral cancer pain.

Schmidt and Bunnett seek to identify the proteases—or enzymes that catalyze the breakdown of proteins—and signaling pathways that initiate and sustain oral cancer pain. Bunnett and Schmidt collaboratively investigated the role of proteases in oral cancer pain in 2009 when they were faculty at the University of California San Francisco.

Schmidt moved to NYU Dentistry in 2010 and Bunnett moved to Monash University in Australia in 2011. In August, 2016, Bunnett accepted the position of Vice Chair of Research in Surgery and Professor of Surgery and Pharmacology at Columbia University; once again in the same city,  Bunnett and Schmidt renewed their collaboration.

Bunnett is an expert on G protein-coupled receptors—over many years, he investigated how proteases and a specific GPCR termed protease-activated receptor 2, mediate neurogenic inflammation and pain.

PAR2 is a signaling receptor that can be activated on the surface of a cell. Bunnett’s Nature Medicine publication in 2000 on the role of PAR2 and neurogenic inflammation set the stage for pioneering work that determined the role of PAR2 and TRPV in colitis, neurogenic inflammation, and pain.  The role of PAR2 in cancer pain, however, remained unexplored.

Bunnett investigated PAR2 and endosomal signaling.  During the signaling process, an activated cell surface receptor, such as PAR2, is internalized within endosomes—small membrane-bound compartments within a cell.  Bunnett and Schmidt now propose to delineate the mechanism by which proteases associated with oral cancer initiate pain signaling through cell surface receptors and subsequently through endosomal signaling.


Study finds cancer patients want to be asked to consider end-of-life care

A study published in JNCCN, Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, finds a vast majority of patients would like their doctor to ask them about their preferences for end-of-life care.

This is at odds with the fact that less than 10 percent had spoken with their physician about details such as where they would like to die, according to the survey. The researchers found that patients are more likely to spend their final days in a costly hospital environment, despite preferring to be at home or in a hospice facility.

The study was led by Amy Waller, of the Health Behavior Research Group at the University of Newcastle, in Australia. The researchers distributed a paper survey to patients in the waiting room of an oncology outpatient clinic. A total of 203 participants provided survey answers. Of those, 87 percent said they wanted their doctor to ask them about their end-of-life care location, while only 7 percent had actually had that conversation.

Forty-one percent of respondents had discussed their preferences with a support person. Forty-seven percent responded to the survey by stating they would wish to remain at home, 34 percent preferred a hospice/palliative care unit, and just 19 percent would prefer a hospital.

However, a multi-national study found that among cancer patients, between 12 percent and 57 percent spend their final moments at home, while between 22 percent and 78 percent are in hospitals.

Given the sensitive nature of any discussion around end-of-life care, questions remain as to how exactly doctors should start these types of conversations.

In the JNCCN article, the researchers recommend using communication tools such as question prompt lists and hypothetical scenarios to introduce various end-of-life settings as a way of jump-starting this important discussion. Complimentary access to the study, “The Right Place at the Right Time: Medical Oncology Outpatients’ Perceptions of Location of End-of-Life Care” is available until March 11, 2018 at


Hale family gives $100 million to Brigham and Women’s and Boston Children’s

Boston Children’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital received gifts of $50 million each from Rob and Karen Hale and their family to support innovation and patient care.

Karen and Rob Hale are Boston-area philanthropists with ties to BWH and BCH. Karen serves on BWH’s Cancer Advisory Board and Rob, who is CEO of Quincy-based Granite Telecommunications, serves as a chair of BWH’s $1.5 billion Life.Giving.Breakthroughs. campaign, as well as on the Steering Committee for Boston Children’s Dream, Dare, Deliver campaign.

In recognition of the gift, BWH will name their recently opened building the Hale Building for Transformative Medicine. The building houses the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases; the Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases; The Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation; The Neurosciences Center; the Orthopaedics and Arthritis Center, and the Brigham Innovation Hub.

The building is also home to an infusion suite and imaging center featuring technologies such as a 7 Tesla MRI, the first to be installed in a clinical setting in North America.


Mt. Sinai receives NIH grant for microscope that sees real-time cellular activity

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $1.2 million grant to the Mount Sinai Microscopy Core for a state-of-the-art microscope with resolution capabilities that can show structures as small as viruses. The instrument will be used by research teams throughout Mount Sinai Health System.

The grant will fund the purchase of a Leica TCS SP8 STED 3X, a super-resolution microscope, the first at Mount Sinai Health System. This new microscope will allow researchers to perform fluorescence nanoscopy and the ability to see tiny cellular processes that have previously been impossible to see.

The microscope will enable researchers to learn about several cellular processes, by, for example, observing a virus infecting the body, or seeing the molecular changes that occur when a tumor progresses to metastasis. The microscope’s super-resolution abilities will allow researchers to make gains in the study of viral infection, neurodegenerative disease progression, developmental brain disorders, metastasis, glaucoma, stress, and depression.

The microscope is set for installation in mid-December and will be accessible to all researchers in various areas of medicine throughout the health system.


NCCN Imaging Appropriate Use Criteria endorsed by Intermountain Healthcare

Intermountain Healthcare has endorsed the NCCN Imaging Appropriate Use Criteria.

NCCN and Intermountain are both recognized by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as approved provider-led entities for development of imaging AUC.  Intermountain will aggregate the NCCN AUC for lung cancer with its own AUC and utilize the content for decision support.

Intermountain is one of the largest hospital systems in the United States, serving patients across Utah, Southeastern Idaho, and the surrounding area.

“This agreement with Intermountain helps ensure patients throughout the mountain region are receiving the best, most up-to-date treatment,” said Robert Carlson, CEO of NCCN. “The NCCN Imaging AUC is designed as a reference that can be integrated into the appropriate use criteria already in place at Intermountain. By working with a system that includes both large hospitals and community health clinics, we can make sure that the best care is available to patients regardless of location or circumstances.”

Derived from the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology, the NCCN Imaging AUC supports clinical decision-making around the use of imaging in patients with cancer by outlining all imaging procedures recommended in the NCCN Guidelines®, including radiographs, computed tomography scans, magnetic resonance imaging, functional nuclear medicine imaging, and ultrasound.

Copyright (c) 2018 The Cancer Letter Inc.