publication date: Apr. 6, 2018

In Brief

Primo Lara named director of UC Davis cancer center

Primo Nery Lara was named director of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Lara replaces Ralph de Vere White, who retired in 2016. As director, Lara will hold the Codman-Radke Chair in Cancer Research and serve as executive associate dean for cancer programs. Lara has served as acting director since July 2016 and was selected for the permanent position after a national search.

He is the first Filipino-American to lead an NCI-designated cancer center, the cancer center said.

Known to most as “Lucky” Lara, the new director began his career at UC Davis as a hematology-oncology fellow specializing in cancers of the lung, prostate and bladder. He was invited to join the faculty in 1999.

Lara has served as the cancer center’s associate director for translational research since 2008.

In March, Lara was named incoming deputy chair of SWOG, where he will also oversee the National Clinical Trials Network portfolio of treatment trials.

UC Davis is the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center that cares for patients throughout the Central Valley of California, a diverse region of more than five million people.

Lara serves as principal investigator of the NCI-funded K12 Paul Calabresi Clinical Oncology Training Grant, which trains junior faculty scholars to be independent, patient-oriented cancer researchers.

Lara’s key priorities include building upon the multi-disciplinary programs and projects across UC Davis to develop novel approaches to diagnose, monitor and treat cancer:

  • Comparative oncology, which teams medical, radiation, and surgical oncologists at the cancer center with veterinary oncologists to test novel therapies or biomarkers in canine cancer patients that can be more rapidly translated into human clinical trials. One study, for example, explores integrating immunotherapy with radiation therapy for dogs with cancer—which led to clinical research now underway at the cancer center in human patients.

  • Biomedical engineering, to design and build tools to better diagnose, track and treat cancer. EXPLORER, for example, will be the world’s first total-body PET scanner, capable of imaging the entire body with high resolution, while using less radiation and potentially transforming the way cancer treatments can be delivered and evaluated in the clinic.

  • Nanotheranostics, a field of study that integrates imaging and therapy in a single platform, allowing scientists to develop drugs that specifically target cancer cells and monitor how drugs are released and distributed in the body. Nanotheranostics will allow providers to predict whether a drug reaches its tumor target and may be more effective than standard untargeted therapies.


Fitzpatrick steps down as CancerLinQ CEO; ASCO CMO Schilsky named interim CEO

Kevin Fitzpatrick will step down from his role as CEO of CancerLinQ LLC, a wholly owned non-profit subsidiarity of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, on April 13 to pursue a new opportunity outside of ASCO.

Richard Schilsky, ASCO chief medical officer, will serve as interim CEO. CancerLinQ LLC will initiate a global search for a permanent CEO to oversee the continued expansion and implementation of CancerLinQ.

“Under Kevin’s leadership we’ve taken CancerLinQ from a bold and ambitious idea to a reality for physicians and researchers across the country who seek to learn from everyday patient care,” Clifford Hudis, CEO of ASCO and chair of the CancerLinQ board of governors, said in a statement. “He played a crucial role in establishing CancerLinQ, overseeing its rollout to physician practices and securing novel strategic collaborations with government, for-profit and non-profit entities.

“We are fortunate to have Dr. Schilsky, with his extensive experience with CancerLinQ and oncology data, and his relationships throughout the oncology community, to step in to sustain our momentum through the transition,” Hudis said.

Schilsky is a past president of ASCO and has served as CMO since 2012. In addition to being closely involved with CancerLinQ since its inception. He leads ASCO’s Center for Research & Analytics, which makes various cancer data sets—including CancerLinQ Discovery—available to the oncology community and provides consultation and support for research and analysis.

Last year, ASCO and two companies—Tempus and Precision Health AI—announced a deal to curate and license the data in CancerLinQ. The ten-year collaboration, announced Dec. 21, 1017, gives Tempus and PH.AI access to de-identified data from over a growing database of more than a million records contained in CancerLinQ (The Cancer Letter, Jan. 5)


Emory Winship awards three new endowed chairs 

Three members of Winship Cancer Institute’s Department of Radiation Oncology received endowed chair appointments:

  • Xingming Deng is the inaugural holder of the Chair in Cancer Biology.

  • David Yu is the inaugural holder of the Jerome Landry Chair of Cancer Research.

  • Hyunsuk Shim is the inaugural holder of the Crocker Family Chair in Cancer Innovation.

Deng, professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology and director of the discovery theme in Winship’s Discovery and Development Therapeutics Research Program, joined Winship in 2009. He has unique experience in uncovering cell death and DNA repair mechanisms.

He has contributed the understanding of the Bcl-2 and Bax family of proteins and how their anti and pro-apoptotic functions influence the development of aerodigestive malignancies and their subsequent response to anticancer therapies. He has obtained four patents for new anticancer drug discovery.

Yu, associate professor and director of cancer biology in the Department of Radiation Oncology, began his faculty career at Winship in 2010. His research focuses on the role of acetylation in directing the replication stress response and whether it will translate to cancer therapeutics and diagnostics, especially for patients with pancreatic cancer. In 2014, Yu received the Michael Fry Research Award from the Radiation Research Society recognizing the most outstanding junior scientist in the field of radiation research.  

Shim, professor and scientific director of medical physics in the Department of Radiation Oncology, is a molecular oncologist with a specialty in diagnostic imaging and drug discovery. In her 16 years at Emory and Winship, she has contributed groundbreaking insights into the involvement of chemokine receptor modulation in cancer invasion and metastasis. She is known as a global expert in working with the alpha chemokine receptor CXCR4. Shim leads Emory’s NCI Quantitative Imaging Network team on developing advanced 3D whole-brain spectroscopic MRI for the management of brain tumor patients.


Fisher named executive director, research, business administration at Siteman  

Nick Fisher  was named executive director of research and business administration at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Fisher now leads the fiscal and managerial administration of research facilities, information systems, human resources and day-to-day operations of Siteman. He has 14 years of experience with academic clinical research and cancer center operations and was selected after a national search.

Fisher has worked in the School of Medicine’s Division of Oncology and at Siteman Cancer Center since 2003. Since then, he has served in many positions, including director of operations, director of clinical research and manager of oncology clinical research.


Bill Louv named Project Data Sphere president 

Bill Louv was named president of Project Data Sphere, LLC, an independent, not-for-profit initiative of the CEO Roundtable on Cancer, Inc.’s Life Sciences Consortium.

Louv is a former member of GlaxoSmithKline’s corporate executive team.

A free digital library-data laboratory, the Project Data Sphere cancer research platform was launched in April 2014. The platform has grown to patient-level data representing more than 120,000 clinical trial cancer patients.

The registered user community has increased to more than 1,700 authorized users who have performed more than 8,800 downloads of data for research purposes for various cancer tumor types including bladder, breast, colorectal, gastric, kidney, lung, melanoma, pancreatic and prostate.


NCCN awards grants to five young investigators 

The NCCN Foundation has announced five recipients for this year’s Young Investigator Awards. The grantees come from National Comprehensive Cancer Network Member Institutions, and will each receive up to $150,000 in funding over a two-year period.

This marks the eighth year for the NCCN Foundation Young Investigator Awards supporting career development for innovative cancer researchers.

The 2018 awardees are:

Rebecca Arend, University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Role of TGF-β in Immune Suppression in Suboptimally Debulked Ovarian Cancer Patients

Yin Cao, Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine

Disparities in Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Survival According to Patient, Treatment, and Tumor Molecular Characteristics

Tim Luetkens, Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

CD229 Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cells for the Treatment of Multiple Myeloma

Edwin Manuel, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center

Altering the Local Immune Landscape in Lung Cancer to Improve Anti-PD-1 Therapy

Cecilia Yeung, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

Optimization of a Rapid Point of Care Device for Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia Diagnosis and Therapy Guidance

These five awardees were selected out of a pool of 48 applicants nominated from across the 27 NCCN member institutions. The NCCN Oncology Research Program will manage and oversee the projects for the next two years. The awardees will then present the results from their research at the NCCN 25th Annual Conference in 2020.

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