publication date: Aug. 31, 2018

In Brief

Rosenberg, June and Allison share 2018 Albany Prize

Steven Rosenberg, Carl June and James Allison received the 2018 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research.

  • Rosenberg is chief of the surgery branch at NCI.

  • June is director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapy at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Allison is chair of the Department of Immunology at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The $500,000 award has been given annually since 2001 to “those who have altered the course of medical research.”

A statement from the Albany Medical Center said the ”awardees were chosen to receive the 2018 Albany Prize for their groundbreaking research in immunology, the translation of their ideas into clinically meaningful therapies for diseases, including metastatic melanoma, lung cancer and leukemia, and their leadership in moving the field of immunotherapy forward.”

“We congratulate these amazing scientists for receiving this prestigious award. Their visionary work exemplifies the value of the national cancer program. Each has had a long history of NCI support and I celebrate their achievement,” NCI Director Ned Sharpless said in a statement. “Dr. Rosenberg is a pioneer whose immunotherapy work has advanced cancer treatment to an immeasurable degree. His innovations have changed patients’ lives.”

Vincent Verdile, the Lynne and Mark Groban Distinguished Dean of Albany Medical College and chair of the Albany Prize National Selection Committee, said that “because of the work of these three researchers, the nascent field of immunotherapy has already had spectacular success, leading to effective mitigation and often cures for thousands of cancer and HIV patients whose diseases were not treatable by other methods.”

The prize will be awarded during a celebration on Sept. 26, in Albany.


Karen Knudsen named AAACI president-elect

Karen Knudsen, enterprise director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center–Jefferson Health, was elected vice president/president-elect of the Association of American Cancer Institutes’ board of directors.

Knudsen, who has been serving as SKCC enterprise director since 2015, governs cancer research and cancer care across 14 hospitals within Jefferson Health.

Under Knudsen’s leadership, SKCC recently was evaluated as “Outstanding” in its most recent NCI Cancer Center Support Grant renewal. It was one of only three cancer centers to rank “Exceptional” by the NCI for Community Outreach and Engagement.

Knudsen is also the Hilary Koprowski Chair, Department of Cancer Biology at Thomas Jefferson University, and Professor of Cancer Biology, Urology, Medical Oncology, and Radiation Oncology. Her translational research centers on prostate cancer and has contributed to new mechanisms for treatment of advanced disease.

A member of AACI’s board of directors since 2016, Knudsen was program chair of the association’s 2017 annual meeting. She also serves on review, advisory, and elected panels for the NIH, Department of Defense, American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Association for Cancer Research, and is editor-in-chief of the journal Molecular Cancer Research.

Knudsen’s two-year term will begin Sept. 30 during the AACI/Cancer Center Administrators Forum annual meeting in Chicago.


Cory Wiegert named CEO of CancerLinQ LLC

Cory Wiegert was named chief executive officer of CancerLinQ LLC, a non-profit subsidiary of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Wiegert most recently served as vice president of product management for IBM Watson Health. He led the launch of major projects, including IBM’s first cloud-based offerings in healthcare and the creation of new solutions from the integration of several major acquisitions.

Prior to joining IBM, Wiegert held positions with Sterling Commerce, Siebel Systems, Inc., Centura Software Corporation, and Safety-Kleen.

CancerLinQ is a big data initiative that collects and analyzes data fromcancer patients at practices nationwide, drawing from electronic health records, to inform and improve the quality of cancer care. The effort has two major components: 1) the CancerLinQ quality improvement and data-sharing platform for oncology practices, and 2) CancerLinQ Discovery, which provides access to high-quality, de-identified datasets derived from the patient data to academic researchers, non-profit organizations, government agencies, industry, and others in the oncology community.

The CancerLinQ database contains more than a million cancer patient records, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive data sets of its kind. In addition, CancerLinQ LLC has established a number of collaborations with government and nonprofit entities—including American Society of Radiation Oncology, FDA, and NCI—as well as industry through its collaborators AstraZeneca, Tempus, and Concerto HealthAI.

Wiegert replaces Richard Schilsky, who was serving as interim CEO of CancerLinQ.  Schilsky will continue his role as ASCO’s chief medical officer.


Moffitt’s chief information security officer named fellow to America’s cybersecurity think tank

Moffitt Cancer Center’s chief information security officer will join a group of experts charged with protecting and enhancing national cybersecurity.

Dave Summitt has been named a Fellow of the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, the nation’s leading cybersecurity think tank.

The institute focuses on safeguarding national security, economic security, and national public health and safety under the Department of Homeland Security. As an ICIT Fellow, Summitt will share his expertise with the cyber and national security community by participating in thought leadership and educational engagements.

ICIT provides objective, nonpartisan advisory to the Senate, House of Representatives, and federal government leaders in civilian, defense and intelligence agencies.  Research conducted in ICIT’s labs, and distributed through its publications, is used by United States leaders, embassies, allied governments, and critical infrastructure operators around the globe.

Summitt has been with Moffitt since 2015. He has more than 30 years of experience in the technology field, with over 13 years working directly in cybersecurity.


Exact Sciences, Pfizer enter into U.S. promotion agreement for Cologuard

Exact Sciences Corp. and Pfizer Inc. announced an agreement through 2021 to co-promote Cologuard, the only FDA-approved non-invasive stool DNA screening test for colorectal cancer. Pfizer will join the Exact Sciences sales representatives in reaching both physicians and health systems and will also actively participate in extending and deepening the Cologuard marketing campaign.

Exact Sciences brings a sales force with expertise in colorectal cancer, the innovative science of Cologuard and a recognizable direct-to-consumer marketing campaign. Pfizer brings a large and experienced sales force and relationships integrating with the leading health systems, two areas where Cologuard is most often prescribed.

Under the agreement, Pfizer will co-promote Cologuard with Exact Sciences beginning in the fourth quarter of 2018. Exact Sciences will maintain responsibility for all aspects of manufacturing and laboratory operations of Cologuard. Pfizer will share gross profits and marketing expenses equally above an agreed upon baseline. 

Cologuard was approved by the FDA in August 2014 and results from Exact Sciences’ prospective 90-site, point-in-time, 10,000-patient pivotal trial were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in April 2014. Cologuard is included in the American Cancer Society’s 2018 colorectal cancer screening guidelines and the 2016 recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

Cologuard is indicated to screen adults of either sex, 50 years or older, who are at typical average-risk for CRC. Cologuard is not for everyone; not for high risk individuals, including those with a family history of colorectal cancer, a personal history of cancer or advanced adenoma, IBD, and certain hereditary syndromes. Positive Cologuard results should be referred to diagnostic colonoscopy.


MD Anderson, Accelerator Life Science form Magnolia Neurosciences

MD Anderson Cancer Center and Accelerator Life Science Partners announced the launch of Magnolia Neurosciences Corp., a company developing a new class of neuroprotective medicines, with $31 million in Series A funding. The company will develop novel therapeutics based on discoveries made by researchers in MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery division, including the Institute for Applied Cancer Science and the Neurodegeneration Consortium.

Magnolia Neurosciences will focus on neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and chemotherapy-induced neuropathy in cancer patients.

More than 200,000 patients each year suffer from a condition known as “chemobrain,” characterized by general cognitive and memory problems, which can last for years. Additionally, roughly two-thirds of patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment develop peripheral neuropathy, in which nerve damage causes pain, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.

Neurodegenerative diseases include a range of conditions characterized by progressive deterioration of neurons in the human brain. These conditions affect millions of Americans and are largely untreatable.

The NDC is a multi-institutional initiative launched to better understand the biology of neurodegenerative diseases and translate that knowledge into effective therapeutics interventions.

Established in 2012 by an inaugural $25 million gift from the Robert A. and Renee E. Belfer Family Foundation, the NDC brings researchers from Baylor College of Medicine, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai together with drug discovery and development experts from MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery division.

Investors participating in the $31 Million Series A financing include AbbVie Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments, ARCH Venture Partners, Eli Lilly and Company, Innovate NY Fund, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc., the Partnership Fund for New York City, Pfizer Ventures, Watson Fund, L.P., WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund and 180 Degree Capital Corp.


UCLA awarded $9.3 million to help provide prostate cancer treatment

Members of the UCLA urology department received $9.3 million of funding from the state of California to help combat the financial burden of cancer treatment for men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

During the next three years, the award will directly support the 17-year-old IMPACT program, which stands for Improving Access, Counseling and Treatment for Californians with prostate cancer.

Mark Litwin, professor of urology in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, and his team have led the efforts of the state-funded program that provides free, high-quality prostate cancer treatment to California men who are underinsured or uninsured.

While more people are signing up for health insurance, many cannot afford the costs of important health care services, especially when it comes to cancer treatments. More than one-third of insured people who have cancer and are receiving some type of therapy for their disease face out-of-pocket costs that are far greater than expected, with some paying almost one-third of their income in health care-related costs. This number is even higher for those at or below the federal poverty level.

Along with providing comprehensive care to a population that would otherwise go without, the program combines health care and public health approaches to treating the whole patient. IMPACT promotes increased self-efficacy, knowledge, and health literacy through its clinical team model, in which each patient is paired with a nurse case manager to assist with their care coordination and management.

To date, more than 2,200 men have enrolled and received prostate cancer treatment services under the IMPACT Program. Backed by more than $85 million in support from the California Department of Health Care Services since it began, IMPACT contracts with more than 600 health care providers across the state who treat men enrolled in the program, as well as with mental health professionals, local health departments, hospitals, outpatient facilities, pharmaceutical companies and others for the additional services patients need.

“Since the Affordable Care Act was passed, everybody thinks everybody is insured,” said Laura Baybridge, the IMPACT program’s original administrator and currently the chief administrative officer for the urology department. “What they don’t recognize is that even though someone is insured, it doesn’t mean they can afford their out-of-pocket expenses. We’re finding people simply can’t afford their insurance, so we really want those patients that don’t have a safety net to call and to get enrolled.”


Ana María López to lead medical oncology at Sidney Kimmel

Ana María López joined the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center–Jefferson Health as the vice chair of medical oncology and chief of cancer services at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center–Washington Township.

López comes from the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, where she was director of Cancer Health Equality, in addition to associate VP for Health Equity and Inclusion at the University of Utah Health; associate director of Collaboration and Engagement Services at the Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences; and professor of medicine at UU School of Medicine.

She is an expert in breast and gynecological cancers, integrative medicine, telehealth and cancer disparities. Currently she is president of the Philadelphia-based American College of Physicians, which is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States. Additionally, her strong commitment to cancer disparities is reflected in her leadership of the American Society of Clinical Oncology committee on cancer disparities.

López will be based out of SKCC in Center City until the New Jersey site is remodeled. Once she moves into the new site, she will continue to collaborate with research and physician teams throughout the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center Network and will still spend some days in Center City.


Noriega joins Fox Chase Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care

Fox Chase Cancer Center has hired Julio Noriega as an assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine.

Noriega comes to Fox Chase from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where he completed fellowships in both pulmonary medicine and critical care. He is board-certified in internal medicine and earned his medical degree and completed a residency in internal medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine.


Yahanda, Loaiza-Bonilla receive promotions at CTCA

Cancer Treatment Centers of America Global Inc. announced enterprise-wide promotions:

Alan Yahanda, chief of staff at CTCA– Atlanta was promoted to chair of the Department of Surgery,

Arturo Loaiza-Bonilla, chief of medical oncology and medical director of research at CTCA Philadelphia was named vice chair of the Department of Medical Oncology.

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