Jefferson Scientists Discover a Key Protein Regulator of Inflammation and Cell Death

Reporting in the journal Nature, researchers led by Emad Alnemri, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson, discovered a key protein component involved in inflammation.

The protein, AIM2 (absent in melanoma 2), is involved in the detection and reaction to dangerous cytoplasmic DNA that is produced by infection with viral or microbial pathogens, or by tissue damage. AIM2 also appears to be a tumor suppressor, and its inactivation may play a role in the development of cancer, according to Dr. Alnemri.

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African-Americans Have Worse Prognosis Compared to Caucasians When Diagnosed With Colorectal Cancer

Dr. Edith Mitchell

Dr. Edith Mitchell

African-American patients with colorectal were more likely to present with worse pathological features at diagnosis and to have a worse five-year survival rate compared to Caucasian patients, according to a study conducted by researchers at Thomas Jefferson University.

The results are being presented at the 2009 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium. The study was led by Edith Mitchell, M.D., a clinical professor in the Department of Medical Oncology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. Dr. Mitchell is also associate director of Diversity Programs for the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson.

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A Place for Me

The Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson hosted “A Place for Me” in Bluemle Life Science Building on Saturday, November 10, 2007. A family program, “A Place for Me” supports and educates children whose parents or grandparents have cancer. The November program featured art, games, and storytelling to help children understand the disease process, and to cope with fears about losing a loved one. Separate groups were held for teens and younger children (aged 5-12). A third group, held concurrently, highlighted communication strategies for adults wanting to talk to children about serious illness, treatment side-effects and end-of-life issues.



Navigating the New Normal

Cartoon Boot Camp

Tongue cancer survivor Christian “Patch” Patchell lead a “Cartoon Boot Camp” for young adult survivors on October 25, 2008. This innovative program, held in Hamilton Building, focused on using art as a tool to manage difficult feelings associated with cancer treatment and survivorship. A graphic artist and art instructor at University of the Arts, Patch shared a personal sketchbook that he developed over the course of his own radiation therapy. With help from Patch and volunteers from the Philadelphia Cartoonists Society, program attendees used their newly-acquired skills to create “artists’ trading cards,” which they swapped with one another at the end of the day. This event was held as part of Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson‘s “Navigating the New Normal” program, which addresses the needs of young adult survivors between the ages of 18-45.



Therapy May Block Expansion of Breast Cancer Cells

Dr. Richard Pestell

Dr. Richard Pestell

Breast cancer stem cells are known to be involved in therapy resistance and the recurrence of cancerous tumors. A new study appearing in Clinical and Translational Science shows the mechanisms governing stem cell expansion in breast cancer (called Notch activity), and finds that therapy targeting a protein called cyclin D1 may block the expansion of cancerous stem cells.

The study, conducted by Dr. Richard Pestell and colleagues at Thomas Jefferson University was the first to show that cyclin d1 is required for breast cancer growth in mice. As cyclin d1 is known to be over-expressed in human breast cancer, the findings may explain how cyclin d1 contributes to breast tumor growth, and provide the rationale for targeted therapies at cancerous stem cells in humans.

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Dr. Edith Mitchell Receives ‘Tree of Life’ Award

Dr. Edith Mitchell

Dr. Edith Mitchell

Edith P. Mitchell, M.D., clinical professor, Department of Medical Oncology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and associate director of Diversity Programs for the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson, was recently honored with a ‘Tree of Life’ award from The Wellness of You, a local nonprofit health education and resource organization.

The ‘Tree of Life’ award recognizes health professionals who are committed to making a difference in community health. Recipients of this coveted award have made extraordinary contributions to health management in both the local and global community. Recipients include educators, physicians, authors, community activists, and masters of various disciplines such as martial arts and feng shui.

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Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall to Receive the Lennox K. Black International Prize for Excellence in Biomedical Research

Two-day Symposium at Jefferson Will Focus on Transformational Discoveries in Cancer Research

Barry Marshall, A.C., an Australian physician and researcher, was convinced that stomach ulcers developed from a bacterial infection and not from stress as commonly believed. In 1984, when working at the Royal Perth Hospital, he tested his theory on himself by drinking a petri dish of the bacteria Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori). He developed the classic signs of gastritis, and treated himself with antibiotics. Soon after, other researchers confirmed the connection not only between ulcers and H. pylori, but also between gastric cancer and H. pylori.

Thomas Jefferson University is honoring Dr. Marshall, who is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Western Australia, with the Lennox K. Black International Prize for Excellence in Biomedical Research. Dr. Marshall will receive the award during a two-day symposium, Transformational Discoveries in Cancer, from personal friend and Chair of the Symposium and Kimmel Cancer Center Director Dr. Rick Pestell and Vice President for International Affairs Dr. James Keen. The symposium will be held November 10 and 11, and take place on the Jefferson campus at the Bluemle Life Sciences Building, 233 S. 10th Street.

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Dr. Baserga presents latest findings at the 7th International Symposium on Translational Research in Oncology

Translational scientists from around the globe will assemble in Huntington Beach this October for the 7th International Symposium on Translational Research in Oncology. The program, developed by co-chairs Dennis J. Slamon M.D., Ph.D., and John Crown M.D., M.P.H., includes discussions on the latest translational research developments, to improve the clinical outcomes for cancer patients.

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Thomas Jefferson University Hospital Cancer Program Recognized by U.S. News & World Report

The trusted U.S. News & World Report, in its 2008 ratings of America’s Best Hospitals, ranked the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital cancer program among the 50 best in the country. Ranked at number 28, the TJUH cancer program surpassed those of many prestigious institutions. The rankings include over 5,000 hospitals nationally, of which “only 170 scored high enough to appear in any of the specialty rankings.” The ratings are related to the hospital’s NCI designation of its cancer center (Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center recently renewed its designation with NCI to 2013), the ability to deal with unusual medical cases, the availability of key new cancer technologies, the hospital’s patient survival rate, its reputation and name recognition, and the quality of cancer center research and support programs. These rankings are highly regarded by health care professionals, academic researchers, and patients alike.

Dr. Richard Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., Vice President for Oncology Services at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Director of the Kimmel Cancer Center commented on this score by stating that “This is not only a victory for the exceptional physicians, nurses, staff, and scientists working hard at Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center, but it is a success for the people of Philadelphia. We are proud to offer our patients the latest cancer treatment, and look forward to opening our new Oncology Infusion Center that has been designed specifically with the holistic comprehensive care of our patients in mind.”



Jefferson Researchers Show Antibody to Breast Cancer- Secreted Protein Blocks Metastasis

Dr. Richard Pestell

Dr. Richard Pestell

Scientists at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia have made a key discovery about the mechanism of breast cancer metastasis, the process by which cancer spreads. Focusing on a gene dubbed “Dachshund,” or DACH1, they are beginning to pinpoint new therapeutic targets to halt the spread of cancer.

Reporting their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers led by Richard Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson and professor and chair of Cancer Biology at Jefferson Medical College, showed that breast cancer cells secrete a common inflammatory protein, IL-8. When the scientists blocked the protein in mice with an antibody, they found that it completely halted the spread of breast cancer to the lungs.

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Different Type of Colon Cancer Vaccine Reduces Disease Spread, Jefferson Scientists Show

Taking advantage of the fact that the intestines have a separate immune system from the rest of the body, scientists at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson in Philadelphia have found a way to immunize mice against the development of metastatic disease.

Reporting online Tuesday, June 24, 2008 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Scott Waldman, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and his co-workers have shown that mice immunized with an intestinal protein developed fewer lung and liver metastases after injection with colon cancer cells than did control animals that were not immunized. The work may portend the development of a different kind of cancer vaccine, the researchers say, that may help prevent disease recurrence.

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Blocking Signaling Protein Prevents Prostate Cancer Spread, Jefferson Scientists Find

Dr. Marja Nevalainen

Dr. Marja Nevalainen

Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson in Philadelphia have shown that by blocking a signaling protein, they can prevent prostate cancer cells from metastatic dissemination. The work opens the door to future studies examining the protein as a target for therapies aimed at keeping prostate cancer at bay.

In a series of experiments in both the laboratory and animal models, Marja Nevalainen, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Cancer Biology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and her co-workers found that the protein, Stat3, is key to the metastatic progression of prostate cancer. Dr. Nevalainen’s group reports its findings in the June 2008 issue of the American Journal of Pathology.

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Jefferson, Ohio State Team Find Gene Signature Profile for Metastasis

Dr. Raffaele Baffa

Dr. Raffaele Baffa

A common signature of tiny, specific pieces of non-coding genetic material known as microRNAs (miRNAs) may be directly involved in the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson in Philadelphia and Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus have identified such a signature, made up mostly of overexpressed miRNAs. The findings, reported at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, may represent a novel diagnostic tool in characterizing gene targets in metastatic cancer.

MiRNAs play a number of roles in biological regulation, including development and cell differentiation. When damaged, they can contribute to cancer by either turning on cancer-causing genes or by inhibiting tumor-blocking genes. The ways that MiRNAs are expressed have been used to profile tumor types in humans.

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Monitoring Blood Flow Helps Improve Prostate Biopsies, Jefferson Researchers Report

Dr. Edouard Trabulsi

Dr. Edouard Trabulsi

Using a special ultrasound technique to spot areas of blood flow in the prostate gland may substantially reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies, according to a new study by urologists and radiologists at the Jefferson Prostate Diagnostic Center and the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson in Philadelphia. The researchers found that biopsies targeted to areas of increased blood flow in the prostate were twice as likely to be positive for cancer compared with conventional prostate biopsy techniques. They reported their initial results from a clinical trial this week at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association in Orlando.

According to Prostate Diagnostic Center co-director Edouard Trabulsi, M.D., assistant professor of Urology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, finding the best areas to perform biopsies in the prostate has always been difficult. Standard methods entail simply dividing the prostate into a dozen regions within the gland, almost randomly. Center co-director Ethan Halpern, M.D., who is principal investigator on the four-year, National Cancer Institute-supported trial, has been developing and refining techniques to enhance targeted biopsy of the prostate for more than a decade.

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Traditional Herbal Medicine Kills Pancreatic Cancer Cells, Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Researchers Report

Dr. Hwyda Arafat

Dr. Hwyda Arafat

An herb used in traditional medicine by many Middle Eastern countries may help in the fight against pancreatic cancer, one of the most difficult cancers to treat. Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer at Jefferson in Philadelphia have found that thymoquinone, an extract of Nigella sativa seed oil, blocked pancreatic cancer cell growth and killed the cells by enhancing the process of programmed cell death.

While the studies are in the early stages, the findings suggest that thymoquinone could eventually have some use as a preventative strategy in patients who have gone through surgery and chemotherapy or in individuals who are at a high risk of developing cancer.

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Kimmel Cancer Center Scientist Elected to Interurban Clinical Club

Dr. Michael Lisanti

Dr. Michael Lisanti

Michael Lisanti, M.D., Ph.D., has recently been elected membership to the Interurban Clinical Club. This prestigious club was founded by Sir William Osler in 1905 for the purpose of exchanging ideas and fellowship among medical teachers in some of the leading Eastern medical schools. Dr. Lisanti, joins existing members of the Interurban Clinical Club, Dr. Richard Pestell, Dr. Barry J. Goldstein and Dr. Scott Waldman, from the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson.



Jefferson Scientists’ Discovery May Help Explain Smoking-Pancreatic Cancer Link

Dr. Hwyda Arafat

Dr. Hwyda Arafat

If lung cancer and heart disease aren’t bad enough, cigarette smokers are also at higher risk for developing, among other things, pancreatic cancer. Now, researchers at the Kimmel Cancer at Jefferson in Philadelphia have preliminary evidence indicating one possible reason why. Data being presented April 13, 2008 during the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research shows that they have found that nicotine in cigarettes increases the production of a protein that is known to promote cancer cell survival, invasion and spread.

According to Hwyda Arafat, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, the protein, osteopontin, is found in a variety of fluids in the body, such as plasma, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid and breast milk. Osteopontin is also present in different organs and plays an important role during embryonic development. Recent studies have demonstrated that osteopontin levels are significantly higher in the blood and pancreas tissue of pancreatic cancer patients. The protein, when over-produced, can make cancer cells more likely to become metastatic.

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Neal Flomenberg, M.D., Named Chair of the Department of Medical Oncology at Jefferson

Dr. Neal Flomenberg

Dr. Neal Flomenberg

Bone marrow transplant expert Neal Flomenberg, M.D., has been named the new chair of the Department of Medical Oncology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson in Philadelphia.

Dr. Flomenberg, who is also Clinical Deputy Director at the Kimmel Cancer Center and professor of Medical Oncology and Microbiology and Immunology at Jefferson Medical College, has been interim chair since 2006. Prior to that, he was director of the Division of Medical Oncology from 2003 to 2006, and acting director from 2001 to 2003. He has been director of the Hematologic Malignancies and Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the Kimmel Cancer Center since coming to Jefferson in 1994.

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Blood Pressure Drugs Halt Pancreatic Cancer Cell Growth, Jefferson Researchers Find

Dr. Hwyda Arafat

Dr. Hwyda Arafat

Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia are inching closer to understanding how common blood pressure medications might help prevent the spread of pancreatic cancer. They have found in the laboratory that one type of pressure-lowering drug called an angiotensin receptor blocker inhibits pancreatic cancer cell growth and causes cell death.

In earlier work in the laboratory, Hwyda Arafat, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College, and her team showed that angiotensin receptor blockers may help reduce the development of tumor-feeding blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis. Other studies have linked a lower incidence of cancer with the use of angiotensin blocking therapies. Such drugs, she says, may become part of a novel strategy to control the growth and spread of cancer.

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Jefferson, PanCAN Holding Program April 5 to Help Patients, Families, and Public Learn More About Pancreatic Cancer

The message about pancreatic cancer is changing, says renowned surgeon Charles J. Yeo, M.D.

New imaging techniques, improved early detection and screening of high-risk groups, and new therapies on the horizon have begun to change the way pancreatic cancer is viewed. “There’s been a shift in the way we treat and think about this disease,” says Dr. Yeo, the Samuel D. Gross Professor and Chair of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson in Philadelphia. “We’re actually making great progress when it comes to pancreatic cancer.”

It’s against this background that Jefferson, Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), a national advocacy organization, are sponsoring a pancreatic cancer symposium on Saturday, April 5, 2008 on the Thomas Jefferson University campus. The program will be held in the Dorrance H. Hamilton Building, 1001 Locust Street, beginning at 9 a.m. It is free to the public.

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