publication date: May. 1, 2020

In Brief

Kristin Brill named enterprise director of Breast Oncology at SKCC

Breast  surgeon Kristin L. Brill has joined the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center–Jefferson Health as enterprise director of Breast Oncology.

Particular areas of focus for Brill include young women with breast cancer and those at high risk.

Brill joins SKCC from Cooper University Health Care, where she was head of the Division of Breast Surgery and Director of the Janet Knowles Breast Cancer Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper and assistant professor of surgery at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. She also directed the Breast Surgical Oncology Fellowship at Cooper Medical School and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center.


UCLA researchers receive $2.8M NCI grant to develop blood-based test for liver transplant candidate selection

Researchers from the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center received a $2.8 million, five-year grant from NCI to help develop a blood-based test to improve the selection and prioritization for patients with liver cancer who need a liver transplantation.

The grant, led by Vatche Agopian, associate professor of surgery, liver and pancreas transplantation; and HR Tseng, professor of molecular and medical pharmacology, helps fill an unmet need for more accurate ways to predict how well patients with hepatocellular carcinoma—the most common form of liver cancer—will do after a liver transplant, using a blood-based assessment of tumor biology to make these predictions. 

“For patients with liver cancer whose tumors cannot be surgically removed due to prohibitive underlying liver dysfunction and portal hypertension, liver transplantation becomes their only option for a cure,” Agopian said in a statement. “But current imaging tests do not take into account the tumor biology that actually makes some patients better candidates than others.”

The gold-standard to decide who is a candidate for a successful liver transplant for liver cancer is known as the Milan criteria, which defines a strict tumor size and number criteria.

“Unfortunately, the Milan criteria has numerous limitations,” Agopian said. “On the one hand, up to 20% of patients who meet the Milan criteria still develop post-transplant cancer recurrence, which usually leads to patient death. Conversely, some patients who don’t meet these criteria would potentially have excellent outcomes following liver transplant and are denied the possibility of even having one. These shortcomings of our current patient selection criteria highlight the need for better ways to select candidates for liver transplants.”

The UCLA blood-based test uses circulating tumor cells, which are cancer cells that are released into the bloodstream and have the ability to provide vital information about a person’s specific cancer. The grant will help the team build on their previous research to integrate liver cancer circulating tumor cells to create an assay that will allow them to look at both cell phenotype and molecular characterization that will help better define patients’ tumor biology. 

The UCLA team has created five generations of the novel method they call NanoVelcro, each with different clinical utilities.

“We anticipate that our integrated assay will better assess this risk of tumor progression and prioritize patients to receive a transplant before tumor progression,” Tseng, who led the development of the assay, said in a statement. “Should we confirm our assay outperforms the Milan criteria, this could be a transformative change and paradigm shift in how patients with liver cancer are selected and prioritized for liver transplantation.”

Sungyong You, an assistant professor of surgery and biomedical sciences at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, will be co-PI on the grant.


2020 Stovall award nominations due May 1

National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship is accepting nominations for the 2020 Ellen L. Stovall Award through May 1.

Anyone can submit a nomination for the 2020 Ellen L. Stovall Award, and submissions from cancer survivors are especially encouraged.

The Ellen L. Stovall Award for Innovation in Patient-Centered Cancer Care honors the legacy of our former CEO, Ellen L. Stovall, a pioneering advocate who dedicated her life to making cancer care better for patients and their families.

Self-nominations are welcome.

Copyright (c) 2020 The Cancer Letter Inc.