publication date: Dec. 13, 2019

In Brief

Senate confirms Stephen Hahn as FDA commissioner

The Senate Dec. 12 voted 72-18 to confirm Stephen Hahn as FDA commissioner.

Hahn, 59, is chief medical executive at MD Anderson Cancer Center and professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology.

On Dec. 3, members of the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions voted 18-5 to confirm Hahn (The Cancer Letter, Dec. 6). The White House announced its intention to nominate Hahn Nov. 1 (The Cancer Letter, Sept. 6, Nov. 1).

In his Senate confirmation hearing Nov. 20, Hahn acknowledged that the rise in e-cigarette use among youths “is an important, urgent crisis in this country,” but made no specific pledges as Democratic and Republican Senate members pressed him on whether he would resist pressure from the administration and lobbying groups. (The Cancer Letter, Nov. 22).

Once sworn in, Hahn will become the 24th FDA commissioner, succeeding Scott Gottlieb.


Moderate levels of alcohol consumption linked to higher risk of some cancers, NCI writes in JAMA

Even moderate levels of alcohol consumption appear to be associated with a higher risk of some cancers—including cancers of the female breast—as well as adverse cardiovascular health effects, NCI researchers wrote in JAMA.

The article, “Alcohol and Cancer: Research and Clinical Implications,” is co-authored by three associate directors in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at NCI.

The paper highlights the low awareness of the association between alcohol use and cancer and makes a call for increasing clinician knowledge and patient-provider communication regarding the effects of alcohol on cancer. The authors also supports increased focus and research on the harms of moderate drinking, in addition to the more commonly studied harms from risky drinking and alcohol use disorders.

Alcohol is associated with almost 90,000 cases of cancer of the oral cavity, throat, liver, female breast, and colorectum per year. Awareness of this relationship is low not only in the U.S., but worldwide. The paper also notes evidence that reductions in alcohol use are associated with decreased cancer mortality.


MSK to open David H. Koch Center for Cancer Care in January 2020

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Dec. 10 marked the opening of David H. Koch Center for Cancer Care, a $1.5 billion cancer treatment facility, a 750,000-square-foot building which will open for patient care next month.

Located on East 74th Street between York Avenue and the FDR Drive, the David H. Koch Center for Cancer Care at MSK is staffed by 1,300 employees who will work with up to 1,300 patients daily. The outpatient facility occupies 25 floors, with 231 exam rooms, 110 infusion rooms, 37 procedure rooms, and 16 inpatient beds for those requiring a short stay.

Nearly every aspect of cancer care across numerous specialties will be available under one roof, including hematologic oncology, interventional radiology, dermatology, and endocrine, head and neck, pulmonary, and thoracic cancers, as well as phase I clinical trials and more.

The facility stems from the record donation of $150 million from the late David H. Koch, who served as a long-time member of the MSK Boards of Overseers and Managers. His gift represents the largest single donation in MSK’s history, and his lifelong gifts and pledges to the institution total $230 million. These include funds to establish the David H. Koch Center for the Immunologic Control of Cancer, and three chairs including the David H. Koch Chair.


Thomas Jefferson University receives $70 million for new biomedical research building

Thomas Jefferson University has received a $70 million gift from Sidney and Caroline Kimmel for The Caroline Kimmel Biomedical Research Building, which will expand Jefferson’s research capacity.

The Kimmels are philanthropists with a history of supporting medicine and the arts for many years in Sidney Kimmel’s native Philadelphia. They have given more than $200 million over the years to Thomas Jefferson University.

In 1970, Kimmel established his own clothing line, Jones New York. The Jones Group was sold for $2.2 billion in 2014.


Edmondo Robinson named chief digital innovation officer at Moffitt

Edmondo Robinson was named senior vice president and chief digital innovation officer at Moffitt Cancer Center.

Robinson, who brings over 16 years of clinical and technology experience to Moffitt, will oversee Moffitt’s portfolio of digital innovation, including the development and commercialization of health products, tools and technology. With this new role, Moffitt aims to create and test new services, programs, partnerships and technologies that leverage digital innovations, while challenging the status quo to reduce the cost of care, improve quality, increase access to care and enhance the patient experience.

Previously, Robinson was the chief transformation officer and senior vice president of consumerism at ChristianaCare, where he was responsible for the transformation of health care delivery to advance population health initiatives and the move from volume-based to value-based care.

Robinson is an associate professor of medicine at Thomas Jefferson University’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College. He holds a medical degree from UCLA; an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; and a master’s degree in health policy research also from the University of Pennsylvania.


Winship realigns its research programs to increase impact

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University has been granted formal approval from NCI to realign the four research programs funded by its NCI Cancer Center Support Grant.

The realignment creates a new Cancer Immunology Research Program, which builds on Winship’s growing strengths in cancer immunology and the integration of immunology research efforts across Emory University. 

“This realignment will open up more collaborative possibilities for our faculty and focus our efforts on research that advances cancer discoveries,” said Kimberly F. Kerstann, Winship senior director for research administration.

Madhav Dhodapkar, who joined in 2018 as inaugural director of the Winship Center for Cancer Immunology, and Rafi Ahmed, director of the Emory Vaccine Center, will lead this new program. The program will include translational physicians and scientists at Winship as well as from the Emory Vaccine Center and the Department of Immunology and Microbiology.

The realignment also creates another entity, the Cell and Molecular Biology Research Program, led by Jing Chen, and Wei Zhou. The research themes for the CMB program are cancer cell metabolism, cancer cell stress and survival, mechanisms of invasion and metastasis, and gene regulation.

Members of the former Cancer Cell Biology and Cancer Genetics and Epigenetics programs will migrate to the new CI and CMB programs. The other two Winship research programs will continue under the same names: Discovery and Developmental Therapeutics Research Program, led by Haian Fu, and Taofeek Owonikoko; and the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program, led by Timothy L. Lash, and Mylin Torres.

The benefit to patients will be significant because these research programs go to the core of how scientific discovery advances the prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer.

Copyright (c) 2020 The Cancer Letter Inc.