publication date: Feb. 5, 2021

In Brief

Jeremy Rich named deputy director of research at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

Jeremy Rich was named deputy director of research at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Rich will also serve as the Pittsburgh Foundation Chair in Personalized Cancer Therapy and a professor of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Rich will help oversee Hillman’s strategic cancer research efforts.

Rich is a board-certified neuro-oncologist and physician-scientist specializing in diagnosing and treating brain tumors, with a focus on brain metastases. He is also a brain tumor biology researcher, studying cancer stem cell clinical relevance and how they interact with the tumor microenvironment to help the cancers grow and resist current treatments.

Previously, Rich was a professor of medicine, director of the Brain Tumor Institute and co-director of the Solid Tumor Therapeutics Program at the University of California San Diego. Before that, he was chair of the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Cleveland Clinic.


Yen-Michael Hsu named director for cell therapy laboratory at UPMC Hillman

Yen-Michael Hsu was named director of the Immunologic Monitoring and Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Hsu was also named associate professor of hematology and oncology in the Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He was awarded a Hillman Fellowship for Innovative Cancer Research to support his research.

Hsu, a board-certified pathologist specialized in laboratory medicine, assumes his role from Theresa Whiteside, who directed the IMCPL for nearly three decades.

The IMCPL is responsible for the generation of therapeutic cellular products, or living drugs, to treat cancer and other diseases, monitoring immune function in patients treated with these therapies, and banking patient tissues for basic and clinical research. The IMCPL is also part of Pitt and UPMC’s COVID-19 research efforts, manufacturing the PittCoVacc delivered through a fingertip-sized patch, and has shown promise in animal models.

UPMC Hillman plans a significant expansion to the IMCPL to support a steadily increasing demand for cell therapies. The facility will manufacture cell therapies for cancer and other diseases.

Hsu will help translate science into cellular therapies to benefit patients. A trained immunologist, he will also focus on research to optimize or develop new protocols to improve the cellular manufacturing process.

Prior to his appointment at Hillman, Hsu was the founding medical director of the first cGMP cellular therapy laboratory at Weill Cornell Medicine for six years, and led the successful certification effort to make New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center an early treatment center for the first CAR T therapies developed by Novartis and Kite.


Jeffrey Bradley named interim chair of Emory Department of Radiation Oncology

Jeffrey Bradley was named interim chairman of the Emory University Department of Radiation Oncology.

Bradley, previously the executive vice chairman of the department, succeeds former Winship Cancer Institute Executive Director Walter J. Curran, Jr., who announced in October 2020 that he would be stepping down from his role as chair (The Cancer Letter, Jan 22, 2021).

Bradley joined Winship in 2019 from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis where he was the S. Lee Kling Endowed Professor of Radiation Oncology and clinical director of the Kling Proton Center.

Bradley led the effort to open the world’s first single-room proton center at Washington University’s Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He is a founding member of the Particle Therapy Oncology Group of North America and the chairman of the NRG Oncology Lung Cancer Committee.

Since joining Winship, Bradley has been appointed the James W. Keller, MD Distinguished Professorship in Radiation Oncology in support of his research in innovative radiation therapy technologies such as proton beam therapy and stereotactic body radiation therapy.

Curran was chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology for 13 years. He led efforts to open the Emory Proton Therapy Center, exclusively operated by department faculty and staff, which treated over 400 patients in its first year, and expanded basic, translational, and clinical research during his tenure.

In mid-January, the Department of Radiation Oncology appointed Curran as professor emeritus.


ASCO 2021 annual meeting to be virtual

The 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting will be an online only experience, June 4-8, 2021.

“We had hoped for a return to an in-person meeting as we all miss the opportunity to see and engage with our colleagues,” ASCO said in a statement. “While that will not be possible, due to continuing COVID-19 concerns, ASCO remains committed to delivering the latest groundbreaking science in oncology and timely information on clinical application and treatment.”

ASCO’s scientific and education programs will be held simultaneously June 4-8. The meeting platform will provide attendees with live and on-demand access to presentations and slides. The online meeting will also offer opportunities to engage with oncology thought leaders, including interactivity and live question and answer in key sessions.

Registration for the meeting launched Feb. 3.


Roswell Park, BMS Foundation create $3.3 million program to address cancer burden for native and rural communities

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation have established a $3.3 million program to address the cancer burden in rural areas and Native Nations across New York State, with an emphasis on the Western New York region.

The grant from the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation supports a service collaboration between Roswell Park, the Indian Health Service and geographically matched rural federally qualified health centers across New York.

It will allow Roswell Park to provide on-site and virtual patient navigation consisting of cancer prevention, screening, treatment and education as well as available education on clinical trials, palliative care and survivorship. The primary focus will be on breast cancer and prostate cancer and secondarily on co-occurring conditions that have high rates in these communities.

Six full-time patient navigators in the high-need communities as well as two virtual navigators will be created through the grant. The funding will support:

  • Mobilization of a network of patient navigators in collaboration with IHS health centers and adjacent FQHCs that serve Native American and rural community members to provide a tailored program to improve screening and co-occurring disease management.

  • Administration of in-person, phone-based and virtual web-based navigation systems for tribal and FQHC communities.

  • Work by patient navigators with healthcare staff and participating clinics to provide education on breast and prostate cancer screening guidelines, cancer care continuum and management of co-occurring conditions.

The initiative was designed to incorporate the Two Row Wampum philosophy developed by the Haudenosaunee and based on the Two Row Wampum Belt and the Covenant Chain of Friendship.

Historically, this Wampum agreement was used as a guideline between Native Americans and the Dutch, French, British and Canada. Like the Two Row Wampum, this patient navigation collaboration will provide a bridge between two health delivery systems that are functioning in parallel, like two boats in the same river.

“This work allows us to expand efforts with federally qualified health centers and move into more rural and remote areas, strengthening our established relationships to reshape and refocus our breast and prostate cancer screening,” Kate Glaser, assistant professor of oncology in Roswell Park’s Department of Cancer Prevention and Control, said in a statement. “With limited navigation in IHS sites or rural health centers focused on addressing cancer disparities, this service is providing a unique opportunity to improve cancer screening and cancer care in this population.”

“The initiative does align with the IHS vision of healthy communities and quality health care systems through strong partnerships and culturally responsive practices by creating a Native American patient navigator team focusing on breast and prostate cancer and co-occurring conditions,” Rear Admiral Michael Toedt, chief medical officer of the Indian Health Service, said in a statement.

The grant will serve residents in Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegheny, Niagara and Oneida counties and further north into the St. Regis Mohawk territory, Tuscarora and Tonawanda Band of Senecas through Indian Health Services–Lockport, as well as the Allegany and Cattaraugus Territories of the Seneca Nation. Recruitment for the navigator positions is underway in partnership with tribal partners, IHS clinics, IHS regional offices and our partnering FQHCs to ensure that the hiring reflects the unique perspectives of the area.

Over the three-year project, it is expected that 3,200 community members will be engaged and educated.

Copyright (c) 2021 The Cancer Letter Inc.