Two Drexel University College of Medicine Professors Receive Grants Through Statewide Refunds for Breast Cancer Research Campaign

Pat Haipin-Murphy, President  & Founder, PA Breast Cancer Coalition; Mauricio Rcginalo, PhD, Associate Professor; Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD, Professor; and Kenny Simansky, PhD, Vice

Pat Haipin-Murphy, President & Founder, PA
Breast Cancer Coalition; Mauricio Rcginalo, PhD,
Associate Professor; Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD,
Professor; and Kenny Simansky, PhD, Vice Dean for
Research

The Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition recently awarded two Drexel University College of Medicine researchers (and Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center Members) grants from its statewide Refunds for Breast Cancer Research campaign. Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD, professor in the Departments of Pharmacology & Physiology and Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, and Mauricio Reginato, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, each received a $50,000 award for their breast cancer research.

PBCC is honoring Reginato for his research in triple negative breast cancer. “My sister-in-law died from breast cancer at age 37 leaving behind two small children,” said Reginato. “As cancer researchers, these are the stories we want to eliminate. This program not only funds cutting-edge cancer research but also provides hope for patients who are dealing with this terrible disease.”
Fatatis won his grant for his research in cancer development. “It is virtually impossible for any PA resident not to be affected by the impact exerted by breast and cervical cancer on family, workplace and human society at large,” said Fatatis.

More than $3 million has been donated to the Refunds for Research campaign, which allows Pennsylvania taxpayers to donate their state tax refunds directly to this important work. More than 80 Refunds for Research grants have been awarded to Pennsylvania scientists looking for the cause of and cure for breast cancer. All Pennsylvania residents can contribute to the PBCC’s Refunds for Breast Cancer Research fund through the PA-40 income tax form by choosing code “A” on line 32.

For More Information see the Drexel Press Release

MEDIA CONTACT
Ed Federico
Media Relations Manager
215.255.7331
Edward.federico@drexelmed.edu



New genomic test can direct appropriate use of radiation therapy following prostate surgery

Dr. Robert Den

Dr. Robert Den

The identification of the right patients for post-operative radiation therapy and the timing of administering that therapy are not easily answered by clinical risk factors alone. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, showed that patients with low genomic risk may be optimally managed with observation after radical prostatectomy (prostate surgery), while those with high genomic risk may be better managed earlier with adjuvant radiotherapy. The study, conducted by researchers from Thomas Jefferson University and Mayo Clinic using a commercially available genomic classifier by GenomeDx.

“The optimal timing of post-prostatectomy radiation therapy is a subject of debate,” says Robert Den, M.D., of the Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and lead author of the study. “Common practice is to wait for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) rise after surgery before intervening with radiation treatment. The results of this study suggest that we can use a genomic test to identify a group of men who will benefit from earlier administration of additional local treatment.”

Current clinical practice guidelines from the American Urological Association (AUA) and the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) recommend physicians offer adjuvant radiotherapy after surgery for men who have been diagnosed with intermediate and high-risk prostate cancer. These recommendations are based on evidence from multiple randomized clinical trials, which demonstrated the efficacy of earlier, or adjuvant radiotherapy with reductions in recurrence and progression as compared to a “wait-and-see” approach after surgery. However, not all men receive a benefit from early radiation therapy, and there is an obvious need to identify patients who will and won’t benefit, so as to avoid overtreatment and serious side effects such as incontinence, impotence, and rectal bleeding.

According to the AUA, adjuvant radiation therapy is administered because of adverse pathology after radical prostatectomy, while salvage radiation therapy refers to initiation of radiation therapy only after PSA rise, commonly referred to as biochemical recurrence. Until now, clinicians have used pathology and clinical risk factors, which are less accurate measures of metastatic risk, to select men appropriate for treatment with radiation therapy.

“This potentially practice changing study is an example of the collaborative nature of the multidisciplinary genitourinary group at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University which provides the highest quality of care to our patients,” says Dr. Leonard Gomella, the Bernard W. Godwin Professor of Prostate Cancer and Chairman of Department of Urology.

“Determining the right patient and the right time for radiation therapy is not straightforward. Patients have to balance the potential complications from radiation treatment with the risk of prostate cancer recurring. This test may enhance our ability in deciding who should or should not be considered for adjuvant radiation versus close monitoring,” says R. Jeffrey Karnes, M.D., associate professor and vice chair in Urology at Mayo Clinic and an investigator on the study.

The study, entitled, “A Genomic Classifier Identifies Men with Adverse Pathology after Radical Prostatectomy Who Benefit from Adjuvant Radiation Therapy,” included 188 prostate cancer patients who received radiation therapy after prostate surgery at Thomas Jefferson University and Mayo Clinic between 1990 and 2009. The genomic classifier stratified patients with low, average, and high genomic risk with 0%, 9%, and 29% five-year cumulative incidence of metastasis (p=0.002). Patients with average-to-high genomic risk who were treated with the more aggressive adjuvant radiation therapy had a five-year metastasis incidence of only 6% compared to 23% (p=0.008) for those who waited for PSA recurrence to trigger initiation of salvage therapy. In addition, the study found no disadvantage for salvage therapy in men with low genomic risk, suggesting that these men may improve quality of life by waiting for possible PSA rise rather than taking a course of immediate radiation therapy after radical surgery.

The researchers included Drs. Adam Dicker, Leonard Gomella, Edouard Trabulsi, and Costas Lallas.

The abstract is available at PubMed and the full publication is available at the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Discussions of the publication can be found at the UrologyTimes.com and OncologyPractice.com and the GenomeDX Press Release and at the ASCO Post and The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink.

Media Only Contact:
Edyta Zielinska
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
Phone: (215) 955-6300
Published: 2/17/2015



Dr. William Kevin Kelly appointed leader of the Biology of Prostate Cancer Program

Dr. William Kevin Kelly

Dr. William Kevin Kelly

The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center would like to congratulate Wm. Kevin Kelly, D.O., Professor of Medical Oncology and Director of the Division of Solid Tumor Oncology, on his new appointment as the Leader of the Biology of Prostate Cancer Program.  Dr. Kelly has been a considerable asset to the cancer center and Jefferson as a whole since his recruitment in 2010, and he brings substantial translational and clinical expertise to this role.

In addition to his 25 years of experience as a clinician, Dr. Kelly is a nationally recognized translational researcher, known for his work on urological malignancies and his expertise in drug design and development.  Kelly’s research linking elevated prostate-specific antigen levels to prostate cancer treatment outcomes remains a foundation for drug development in patients with advanced prostate cancer today.

Prior to joining the Jefferson faculty, Dr. Kelly directed the Clinical Research Management Office at the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center and co-directed prostate and urological oncology program at Yale University. He spent the previous 15 years on the faculty at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the Genitourinary Oncology Division.



Hold Your Breath to Protect Your Heart

Dr. Pramila Rani Anne

Dr. Pramila Rani Anne

A recent article in the Practical Radiation Oncology was highlighted in Eureka Alerts. The research, performed by members of the Department of Radiation Oncology and the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center of Thomas Jefferson University, indicated the importance of breathing control during radiation therapy for left breast cancer in protecting the heart from radiation exposure. Harriet Eldredge-Hindy, first author of the article, explained “We wanted to determine how effective breath-hold could be in shielding the heart from extraneous radiation exposure during treatment of the left breast.” Dr. Pramila Rani Annne, senior author of the article, remarked “Given that this technique helps to shield the heart during radiation treatment for breast cancer, we routinely offer breast cancer treatment with the breath hold technique at Jefferson.”



Dr. Carmine Fedele is awarded an AICF Fellowship

Dr. Carmine Fedele

Dr. Carmine Fedele

Carmine Fedele, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Languino’s lab, has been awarded a 2014-2015 Fellowship (2nd year) from the American Italian Cancer Foundation. His project involves determining the effect of integrin expression on the composition and function of exosomes in prostate cancer cells. For more details about the American Italian Cancer Foundation, please see their website




Dr. Nevalainen wins SKCC Innovator of the Year Award

Drs. Pestell and Nevalainen

Drs. Pestell and Nevalainen

On December 16, 2014, Dr. Marja Nevalainen was awarded the 2014 Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center Innovator of the Year award. The award was presented presented by Dr. Richard G. Pestell, Director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.




Dr. Gomella, Associate Director for Clinical Affairs Appointed to NCI Genitourinary Cancers Steering Committee

Dr. Leonard Gomella

Dr. Leonard Gomella

Dr. Leonard Gomella, Chairman of the Department of Urology and Associate Director for Clinical Affairs for the Sidney Kimmel Cancer at Jefferson has been appointed to serve on the NCI Genitourinary Cancers Steering Committee (GUSC). The GUSC is one of sixteen steering committees formed to leverage current NCI-supported NCTN Groups, Consortia, SPOREs and Cancer Center structures to design and prioritize national cancer related clinical trials. The GUSC charge is to prioritize and review concepts for phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials and provide a forum for critical review of concepts for new trials by a broad spectrum of experts from across the NCI-supported clinical trials enterprise and from international partners.

Dr. Gomella, one of the founding members of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, also serves as Clinical Director for the Jefferson Sidney Kimmel Cancer Network and as Urology Chair for NRG, formerly the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group. In addition to being recognized as an outstanding clinician in regional and national “Top Doctor” listings, he is involved in translational basic science and clinical research in the development of new diagnostic techniques and treatments for prostate, bladder and kidney cancer.



Dr. Gomella elected to the Clinical Society of Genitourinary Surgeons

Dr. Leonard Gomella

Dr. Leonard Gomella

Leonard G. Gomella, MD, The Bernard W. Godwin Professor of Prostate Cancer, Chairman, Department of Urology, Associate Director, Jefferson Kimmel Cancer Center, Clinical Director Jefferson Kimmel Cancer Center Network, Editor-in-Chief, Canadian Journal of Urology has been elected to the Clinical Society of Genitourinary Surgeons. This is considered one of the most prestigious societies in the field with active membership limited to 25 of the top academic urologists in the US.



Jefferon’s Kimmel Cancer Center Holds 5th Annual Men’s Event

Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center hosted its 5th Annual Men’s Event to benefit prostate cancer research and awareness at the Prime Rib Restaurant on November 14.

Below are some photos of the night, award ceremony and entertainment provided by Comedy Central’s “100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time,” Jim Breuer of Saturday Night Live.


“Spirit of Caring” Awardee:

Wm. Kevin Kelly, D.O.

Professor, Medical Oncology and Urology,
Director, Division of Solid Tumor Oncology

The “Spirit of Caring Award” is presented to an individual to recognize outstanding leadership in cancer research and the hope they hold for improving the quality of life in every community.

“Spirit of Courage” Awardee:
Anthony DiPrimio, PhD

Author, Prostate Cancer: What Men Need to Know About this Disease and Its Treatment

The “Spirit of Courage Award” is presented to an individual who has demonstrated great personal courage, strength and dignity while battling cancer and supporting others in their fight against cancer.

“Spirit of Commitment” Awardee:
Neal Rodin

President, International Financial Company, LLC

The “Spirit of Commitment Award” is presented to an individual to recognize outstanding commitment to supporting the work of the Kimmel Cancer Center through personal and professional contributions dedicated to finding a cure.

“Spirit of Innovation” Awardee:
Dendreon:
The company applies its expertise in antigen identification, engineering and cell processing to produce active cellular immunotherapy (ACI) product candidates designed to stimulate an immune response. They pioneered a novel, first in class autologous immunotherapy first approved for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer. Dendreon is headquartered in Seattle with corporate operations based locally in the Delaware Valley and manufacturing plants in Georgia and California.

The “Spirit of Innovation” Award is presented to an organization whose innovation in cancer measurably improves business and/or clinical processes that impact product development, prevention programs, research, or patient care.



A Link between Hormones and DNA Repair Provide New Clues to Treat Advanced Prostate Cancer

Karen Knudsen, Ph.D.

For advanced prostate cancers, new strategies for therapeutic intervention are urgently needed, and require a better understanding of how tumor cells go from slow growth to aggressive behaviors that threaten patient lives.

A new study, published by Thomas Jefferson University’s Kimmel Cancer Center researchers in the September 11th online edition of the journal Cancer Discovery, showed that hormones promote DNA repair, and that this process is critical for prostate tumor cell survival. The research also revealed a new therapeutic target that has potential for improving management for patients with advanced disease.

“We’ve known for decades that in prostate cancer, disease development and progression are dependent on the action of androgens (testosterone), but the means by which androgens promote these events remain poorly defined,” says lead author Karen Knudsen Ph.D., Professor of Cancer Biology at Thomas Jefferson University and the Deputy Director for Basic Science at Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center. “The concept that androgens assist cancer cells in repairing DNA damage helps to explain how tumors evade therapeutic intervention. The good news is that these discoveries may point toward a new way to treat patients with aggressive disease.”

Inhibiting androgens is the first line of treatment for advanced prostate cancers, but this therapeutic strategy is only transiently effective, generally because tumors develop “rescue” pathways to restore androgen action. To try and understand the implications of this process, and to find means for treating such advanced disease, the researchers identified new molecular pathways involved in relaying messages from the androgen receptor to DNA repair genes. They found that androgens enhanced DNA repair by turning on the gene for a powerful DNA repair enzyme called DNAPK.

When the researchers inhibited DNAPK, they saw a reduction in tumor cell growth, and using disease models, observed that standard therapies were more effective. By acting on a more selective target in the androgen pathway, the researchers hope to improve androgen inhibition strategies and to help patients who no longer respond to androgen-inhibition-based therapies.

“These findings give us new insight into how tumors can evade existing therapies. Most importantly, the fact that prostate cancer cells use androgens and DNAPK to survive therapeutic intervention unveiled an Achilles heel for advanced tumors that we can capitalize on,” said Dr. Knudsen.

The researchers discovered that pharmacologic agents, some of which are already in clinical trials for other malignancies, can be used to suppress DNAPK activity. “The next step for us is to translate these findings into the clinical setting. Luckily, our prostate group is highly collaborative, and we are already in the midst of designing clinical trials to fast-track DNAPK inhibitors into the clinic”, said Dr. Knudsen. “There are always challenges in introducing new therapeutic targets, but if we are correct, there is every reason to believe that DNAPK inhibitors can be used to improve outcomes for patients with advanced disease.”

The study from Dr. Knudsen’s laboratory was a result of an inter-institutional team effort, including contributions of the first author and graduate student Jonathan F. Goodwin, key collaborators from the Thomas Jefferson University Department of Radiation Oncology, Dr. Adam P. Dicker, and Dr. Robert B. Den, and from the University of Michigan, Dr. Felix Y. Feng.

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Media Only Contact:
Edyta Zielinska
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
Phone: (215) 955-6300
Published: 9/11/2013



KCC Researchers Awarded $480,000 from Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Richard Pestell, MD, PhD and Andrew Quong, PhD

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation recently announced that Dr. Richard Pestell and Dr. Andrew Quong received unanimous approval for studies in breast cancer, the second most prevalent cancer-related cause of death in women in the United States.

Beginning October 1, 2013, Dr. Pestell will receive $240,000 to continue the “Molecular Genetic determinants of Breast Cancer Stem Cells” study and Dr. Quong will receive $240,000 to continue the “Clinical Proteomics for Breast Cancer Diagnostics” study.

Dr. Pestell’s study will focus on basal breast cancer including triple negative breast cancer, defined by the absence of three receptors (estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor, and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 [HER2]). Triple negative breast cancer is prominent among African-American women, and currently no targeted therapies for this type of breast cancer exist. Within human breast cancer a subset of cells have characteristics of stem cells (BTIC), which may contribute to recurrence and therapeutic resistance. The mechanism by which the gene DACH1 inhibits BTIC is being determined as a new approach to enhance therapeutic responsiveness. Dr. Pestell’s findings over the last year that DACH1 binds to and enhances function of the p53 tumor suppressor, but fails to bind mutations of p53 identified in human breast cancer, adds further weight to the original hypothesis that DACH1 is a breast tumor suppressor. Dr. Pestell’s studies in 2012-2013 will continue to define the role of endogenous DACH1 as a breast cancer suppressor.

Support from BCRF has also allowed Dr. Quong to complete his studies examining changes in protein levels in breast tumors. From these observed changes, Dr. Quong’s team found changes in the metabolism of tumor cells that are related to the local microenvironment of the tumor. These changes in metabolism can potentially be exploited for both imaging and drug development. In addition, Dr. Quong has continued his work identifying markers that are indicators of toxicity and response to therapy.

In 2012-2013, the goal of Dr. Quong’s research is to determine new strategies for patient treatment that include radiation therapy. By measuring the protein and gene expression in tumors, his will use this information for choosing treatment and also monitoring the patients’ response to treatment both for effectiveness and adverse side effects.



Researchers Find New Clues to Treat Rare and Aggressive Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Massimo Cristofanilli, M.D.

A study led by investigators from Thomas Jefferson University’s Kimmel Cancer Center has discovered molecular clues that may help physicians therapeutically target inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a highly aggressive form of breast cancer.

Their study, reported in the June 21 online issue of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, identified two molecules (ALK and FAK1) involved in the IBC cancer pathway. Drugs already exist that inhibit both of these two cancer-promoting proteins at the same time, which the researchers are now testing in animal preclinical studies.

“Women diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer are in great need of therapies that are tailored to this aggressive form of breast cancer. Survival rates are much lower than for other forms of breast cancer,” says the study’s lead author Sandra V. Fernandez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Medical Oncology department at Jefferson.

IBC is a particularly aggressive and highly metastatic form of breast cancer characterized by very rapid onset of progression— weeks to a few months — and metastasis that spreads quickly to the brain, bones, and soft tissues. The three-year survival rate is 40 percent for IBC patients compared with 85 percent in other forms of breast cancer. Additionally, IBC patients are younger when diagnosed.

The disease is also difficult to diagnose because it appears as redness and swelling of the breast. There are no classic tumor masses.

“Because of how this cancer looks, physicians often think it is dermatitis, or inflammation, or an infection, such as mastitis. I know of many patients who were misdiagnosed from the start, and by the time they were referred to an oncologist, their cancer had progressed,” says the study’s senior investigator, Massimo Cristofanilli, MD, FACP, Professor of Medical Oncology and Director of the Jefferson Breast Care Center.

“We need to improve both diagnosis and treatment of this cancer, which is on the rise for reasons that are not understood,” he says.

The advances reported in the study were possible because the research team developed a new animal model of IBC, derived from tumor  cells from a patient with metastatic triple negative (estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative, Her2-negative) inflammatory breast cancer under an IRB-approved study. At the present, there are few animal models to study this particular disease.

In addition to identifying some of the pathways involved in IBC, the researchers were able to characterize the pattern of spread of the disease, which moved quickly to organs and the brain. They found that clumps of the cancer — not tumor masses — obstruct lymphatic channels in the breast, causing the swelling of breast tissues.

“This animal model is a really important tool to use to study IBC progression and metastasis, and to test potentially beneficial drugs,” says Dr. Fernandez.

Researchers from the University of Texas M D Anderson Cancer Center and Fox Chase Cancer Center contributed to the research.

The study was supported by the American Airlines-Komen for the Cure Foundation Promise Grant KGO81287, NIH NCI 1R01 CA 138239, and the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Foundation.

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

For more information, contact Jackie Kozloski, 215-955-5296, jackie.kozloski@jefferson.edu.



Researchers Discover Molecule That Drives Aggressive Breast Cancer

Richard G. Pestell, M.D., Ph.D.

Recent studies by researchers at Thomas Jefferson University’s Kimmel Cancer Center have shown a gene known to coordinate initial development of the eye (EYA1) is a powerful breast tumor promoter in mice. The gene EYA1 was also shown to be overexpressed in a genetic breast cancer subtype called luminal B.

The scientists found that excess activity of this gene —EYA1 — also enhances development of breast cancer stem cells that promote resistance to cancer therapy, recurrence, and poor survival.

Because EYA1 is an enzyme, the scientists are now working to identify a natural compound that could shut down EYA1 activity, says Richard Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Kimmel Cancer Center.

“It was known that EYA1 is over-expressed in some breast cancers, but no one knew what that meant,” he says. “Our studies have shown the enzyme drives luminal B breast tumor growth in animals and the enzyme activity is required for tumor growth.”

In a mouse model of aggressive breast cancer, the research team targeted a single amino acid on the EYA1 phosphatase activity. They found that inactivating the phosphatase activity of EYA1 stopped aggressive human tumors from growing.

“We are excited about the potential of drug treatment, because it is much easier to develop a drug that targets a phosphatase enzyme like EYA1, than it is to target a gene directly,” he says.

Tracing how EYA1 leads to poor outcomes

The study, which was published in the May 1 issue of Cancer Research, examined 2,154 breast cancer samples for the presence of EYA1. The researchers then linked those findings to patient outcomes. They found a direct relationship between increased level of EYA1 and cyclin D1 to poor survival.

They then chose one form of breast cancer —luminal B — and traced the bimolecular pathway of how EYA1 with cyclin D1 increases cancer aggressiveness. Luminal B breast cancer, one of five different breast cancer subtypes, is a hormone receptor-positive form that accounts for about 20 percent of human breast cancer. It is more aggressive than luminal A tumors, a hormone receptor-positive cancer that is the most common form of breast cancer.

Their work delineated a string of genes and proteins that are affected by EYA1, and they also discovered that EYA1 pushes an increase in formation of mammospheres, which are a measure of breast cancer stem cells.

“Within every breast cancer are breast cancer stem cells, which give rise to anti-cancer therapy resistance, recurrence and metastases,” Dr. Pestell says. “We demonstrated in laboratory experiments that EYA1 expression increase the number of mammospheres and other markers of breast cancer stem cells.”

“As the EYA1 phosphatase activity drove breast cancer stem cell expansion, this activity may contribute to worse survival,” he says.

This study was supported in part by the NIH grants RO1CA132115, R01CA70896, R01CA75503, R01CA86072 and P30CA56036 (RGP), a grant from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (RGP), a grant for Dr. Ralph and Marian C. Falk Medical Research Trust (RGP), Margaret Q. Landenberger Research Foundation, the Department of Defense Concept Award W81XWH-11-1-0303.

Study co-authors are, from Kimmel Cancer Center: first author Kongming Wu, Zhaoming Li, Shaoxin Cai, Lifeng Tian, Ke Chen, Jing Wang and Adam Ertel; Junbo Hu, from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China; and Ye Sun, and Xue Li from Boston Children’s Hospital.

For more information: Jackie Kozloski, 215-955-5296, jackie.kozloski@jefferson.edu.



KCC Ranked as One of Best Cancer Hospitals in US

Men’s Health magazine recently ranked the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson among the best in the nation, calling out its success in treating prostate cancer, a leading cancer in men.

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 1.5 million new cancer diagnoses in 2013.

Jefferson scientist, Matthew Schiewer, Ph.D., recently received the Prostate Cancer Benjamin Franklin Young Investigator Award, and will use the funds to help find treatments for advanced-stage prostate cancers.

Jefferson is home to top-of-the-line equipment and high-tech features like electron and photon-beam treatment and complete 3-D treatment planning.  We offer comprehensive diagnostic and treatment options for prostate cancer in addition to state-of-the-art prostate imaging and biopsy service.

When indicated, a prostatectomy can be performed either laparoscopically or via open surgery.  Jefferson physicians were the first in the Delaware Valley to remove the prostate laparoscopically, and have extensive experience with and numerous scientific publications on the use of the da Vinci® Surgical System.

“It is rewarding for our team to be recognized for excellence in cancer care,” says Richard G. Pestell, MD, PhD, MBBS, FRACP, MBA, Kimmel Cancer Center Director.  “We are one of only eight NCI-Designated cancer centers in the United States with a prostate program formally reviewed and endorsed by the National Cancer Institute. This program, led by Leonard Gomella, MD and Karen Knudsen, PhD, is a powerhouse of key advances in prostate cancer.  Our leading edge research and clinical care excellence across a wide spectrum of cancer specialties, including men’s health, enable us to deliver the best outcomes for our patients.”

Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson

The Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson is a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated clinical cancer center for excellence in cancer care and research. U.S.News & World Report also recognizes Jefferson as one of the best hospitals in the nation for Cancer care. Taking into account your varied needs, our nationally renowned cancer experts bring together a team of specialists in a wide range of disciplines to work with you and your primary care or referring physician to devise a personalized treatment plan.

The physicians and scientists of the Kimmel Cancer Center have helped pioneer new approaches to cancer treatment by transforming scientific discoveries into improved patient care. Our physicians are experienced in using the most advanced treatment methods and technologies and are at the forefront of developing new therapies. As a result, you may have the opportunity to take part in one of the more than 120 clinical trials for promising new cancer treatments being conducted at Jefferson at any given time.

by Danielle Servetnick on Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 in Cancer CareIn The News.



Ladies of Port Richmond Featured in Inquirer

Mary Louise Leuters is a two-time breast cancer survivor and president of the Ladies of Port Richmond, a local group of breast cancer survivors who have raised over $400,000 for breast cancer research in the last nine years.Nearly 300,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and 40,000 will die from it, according to the American Cancer Society. There are nearly three million survivors.The Ladies of Port Richmond host a local walk each year along with many fundraising events including bake sales and church breakfasts.In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Richard Pestell, MD, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson, explains that the money is especially valuable because it comes with no strings attached. Jefferson researchers have used it as seed money – almost impossible to find otherwise – to do preliminary research that has helped win National Cancer Institute grants worth millions. He adds, ”There’s been a tremendous return on their efforts.”

Read the full “The fighting ladies of Port Richmond” story.

Learn more about the Jefferson Breast Care Center and treatment of breast cancer at Jefferson.

by Danielle Servetnick on Wednesday, July 17th, 2013 in Cancer CareIn The News.



Keatley Foundation Donation

The Keatley Foundation made a generous $10,000 donation to the Kimmel Cancer Center.   Events like their second annual Beef and Beer contributed to this generous donation. The Keatley Foundation was created by Bob Lyons during his treatment at Jefferson Hospital. The foundation name comes from the street name where Bob lives. According to Bob, That street sign was “The sign that I started my road to recovery on every morning, gaining strength to take a few more steps towards that street sign on the corner each day”. For more about Bob’s story please see the following Jefferson Hospital blog post.

Mr. Bob Lyons presents donation check to Dr. Richard Pestell

Ms. Angela Cantone and Mr. Bob Lyons present donation check to Dr. Richard Pestell






KCC Investigator wins Prostate Cancer Foundation Benjamin Franklin Young Investigator Award

Matthew Schiewer, PhD

Matthew Schiewer, PhD

Matthew Schiewer, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Karen Knudsen’s lab in the Department of Cancer Biology, is the recent recipient of a Prostate Cancer Foundation Young Investigator Award. Dr. Schiewer’s investigations will focus on the role of PARP-1 in DNA damage repair and the inhibition of PARP with specific medications as a potential therapy for advanced, metastatic prostate cancer. PARP-1 may reduce cancer progression by reducing the activity of the androgen receptor, the engine of prostate cancer. This project is highly translational in nature, and a greater understanding of the relationship between PARP inhibition and AR activity may provide new therapeutic opportunities for prostate cancer patients with advanced disease.

Prostate Cancer Foundation Young Investigator awards are designed to promote long-term careers in the field of prostate cancer research by providing three-year grants for transformational research focused on prostate cancer advances and new treatments to improve patient outcomes. Since 2007, PCF has invested more than $25 million in Young Investigator awards.

Project Title: Determining the translation capacity of the PARP-1/AR axis in prostate cancer

For more info about the 2013 Awards please see the Prostate Cancer Foundation announcement.




Jefferson Post-Doc Receives National Cancer Center Fellowship

Dr. Edward Hartsough

Dr. Edward Hartsough

Edward Hartsough, Ph.D. received a post-doctoral fellowship from the National Cancer Center Organization ( http://www.nationalcancercenter.org/ ).  The fellowship grant is entitled “Next-Generation RAF Inhibitors in V600E BRAF Melanoma.”  Dr. Hartsough works in Dr. Andrew Aplin’s lab at the Kimmel Cancer Center.

The National Cancer Center was founded by Dr. J. Ernest Ayre in 1953 as a non-profit organization committed to research and education about cancer. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and its incidence is on the rise. BRAF mutations are found in half of melanomas and the funded work will study new mutant BRAF targeting agents in preclinical models.




Massimo Cristofanilli, M.D., Appointed Director of the Jefferson Breast Care Center

Massimo Cristofanilli, M.D.

Massimo Cristofanilli, M.D., FACP, an internationally renowned breast cancer researcher and clinician, has been appointed Director of the Jefferson Breast Care Center at the Kimmel Cancer Center (KCC) and Thomas Jefferson University and Hospitals.

With more than 25 years of clinical, basic science and educational experience, Dr. Cristofanilli will also serve as Deputy Director of Translational Research at the KCC.

Prior to joining Jefferson, Dr. Cristofanilli served as chairman of the department of medical oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center and head of the center’s Inflammatory Breast Cancer Clinic. Before that, he founded and served as Executive Director of the Morgan Welch Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program and Clinic at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Dr. Cristofanilli is a widely-recognized leader in the translational research and treatment of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), the rare and aggressive form of breast cancer in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. Moreover, he has recognized expertise in the development of novel diagnostic and prognostic markers in primary and metastatic breast cancer (MBC).

“Dr. Cristofanilli is a proven leader whose translational research expertise will fit in perfectly with the overall mission of the KCC to link our already excellent basic science in breast cancer with more patient-directed therapies in a time-efficient manner,” said Richard G. Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the KCC and Chair of the Department of Cancer Biology and Vice President for Oncology Services at Jefferson. “We look forward to tackling some of the most innovative questions in breast cancer precision oncomedicine with cutting edge research and the latest clinical trials.”

Dr. Cristofanilli’s research aims to improve personalized medicine for breast cancer patients, focusing on molecular targeted agents, biomarkers and gene therapies, and bridging the gap between the bench and bedside in a more practical and smarter way. A forte of Dr. Cristofanilli is his team-based and multidisciplinary approach to medicine.

His 2004 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine on circulating tumor cells (CTCs)—found to be a predictor of progression-free survival and overall survival in MBC patients—sparked a slew of subsequent preclinical and clinical investigations that continue to further our knowledge and molecular understanding of the metastatic process with the potential to impact the treatment and improve the prognosis of these patients affected by recurrent disease.

Recently, he presented a study at the 2012 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium on commercially-available genomic tests and their ability to better classify tumor subtypes in breast cancer to help guide treatment plans.

“We’re proud that Jefferson is the new home for Dr. Cristofanilli, whose work in cancer research and in the clinic goes unmatched and whose passion to initiate and grow programs speaks for itself, particularly for aggressive forms of breast cancer,” said Neal Flomenberg, M.D., Chair of the Department of Medical Oncology at Jefferson. “We’re looking forward to this new chapter at the Jefferson Breast Care Center and the KCC, where his experience in compassionate clinical care and cutting edge research will better serve the institution and ultimately the patients in the region and beyond.”

Dr. Cristofanilli received his medical degree from the University of La Sapienza in Rome, Italy, where he also completed a fellowship in medical oncology.  He completed an internship at the Cabrini Medical Center in New York, as well as his residency in internal medicine. That was followed by a fellowship in medical oncology at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Dr. Cristofanilli is Board Certified by the American Board of Medical Oncology and the European Society for Medical Oncology.

“Jefferson, as an institution, has a tradition, but at the same time is always projecting towards the future, forever expanding upon research and clinical programs, bringing innovative technologies into the lab and clinic, and attracting new physicians and patients,” said Dr. Cristofanilli. “I want to bring my vision to Jefferson and look forward to us to being able to grow together.”

The Jefferson Breast Care Center was founded in 2006 and is one of 466 centers in the nation accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. The Center gives the patient a comprehensive experience where surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology, pathology risk assessment / genetics, social work and a breast care navigator are all working together with the patient at the center of care.



Jefferson Opens Calorie Restriction Trial for Early Stage Breast Cancer Patients on Radiation Therapy

Nicole Simone, M.D.

Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center will begin a first-of-its-kind clinical trial that uses calorie restriction to help treat early stage breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.

Evidence suggests that reducing patients’ calorie intake could help shrink tumors and improve survival because it enhances the effectiveness of radiation therapy, the team explains in a recent review published in the Oncologist.

“In our research, we’ve seen a 30 percent reduction in tumor size in mice, and they live much longer than mice not on a diet,” said Nicole Simone, M.D., Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospitals. “The next step is to investigate if early stage breast cancer patients are able to adhere to caloric restriction while on radiation. This will then allow us to determine others benefits and factors, such as toxicity, recurrence, and survival.”

Until now, the use of calorie restriction to treat cancer or augment standard cancer treatment, such as radiation therapy, has received little attention, with few trials underway in the U.S. Jefferson’s trial, however, is the first in breast cancer patients.

The study is being partly funded by a donation from the Ladies of Port Richmond, a local breast cancer group that raises awareness and funds for research.

Caloric restriction has been shown to alter molecular pathways that make cancer cells more susceptible to radiation, enhancing its effectiveness and thus shrinking tumors and improving survival in mice. What’s more, clinical evidence over the last several decades has shown a link between cancer incidence and calorie restriction.

Beginning in February, Jefferson will begin enrolling 40 women on a calorie reduction diet (a 25 percent reduction of the patients typical total intake) while undergoing treatment. Stage 0 and I breast cancer patients who are not diabetic but who are candidates for breast conserving therapy will be given dietary counseling and guidance to carry out a liquid diet 36 hours prior to lumpectomy and then a calorie reduction of 25 percent will be done during radiation therapy.

Calorie restriction will start the week of radiation planning and continue for the six weeks of radiation, for a total of 10 weeks. Patients will keep a nutritional journal, have counseling in Jefferson’s own Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine to tailor the diet reduction for each individual patient and also meet with counselors during weekly visits.

For the trial, the feasibility of treating breast cancer patients with a calorie-restriction diet modification in conjunction with standard radiation will be assessed. Acute toxicity as per National Cancer Institute Common Toxicity Criteria, quality of life, local recurrence, progression-free survival, distant metastases and overall survival will be also assessed.

In the lab, calorie restriction has been used prior to implantation of tumor cells in mouse breast cancer models and has been shown to slow or even prevent tumor growth.

Dr. Simone’s laboratory has investigated calorie restriction as a treatment modality, implanting tumors in mice prior to initiation of the diet to mimic the use of a diet in a newly diagnosed patient. For the second approach, calorie restriction was administered with cytotoxic therapy to determine the value of calorie restriction as part of a combination therapy.

Preliminary data demonstrated that calorie restriction repressed tumor growth when administered concurrently with radiation in two types of breast cancer: triple negative breast cancer, which has a propensity for metastases and locally aggressive breast cancer.

Calorie restriction alters molecular pathways, including the insulin and AMP-kinase pathway, the researchers posit, leaving cancer cells more sensitive to radiation therapy. Both pathways have been shown to play a role in breast cancer cell proliferation and progression of disease.

Dr. Simone presented the work at the 2012 American Society for Radiation Oncology, and has published several studies on the topic in Cell Cycle and International Journal of Breast Cancer

“Dieting is likely an effective method to enhance the cytotoxicity of radiation therapy because of the overlapping induction of molecular profiles, and it may also provide a beneficial means of improving the overall health and metabolic profiles of patients,” said Dr. Simone. “This trial could provide evidence to implement calorie restriction into the care of cancer patients in treatment. What’s more, it may provide a cost-effective addition to current treatment modalities that enhances cancer therapy while minimizing side effects.”