Dr. Jeannie Hoffman-Censits leads Walk for Bladder Cancer

On Saturday, May 5, 2012 Jeannie Hoffman-Censits, M.D. led Team Jefferson from the Kimmel Cancer Center‘s Bluemle Life Sciences Building to Independence Hall. Dr. Hoffman-Censits teamed up with “the first national advocacy organization devoted to bladder cancer,” the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, to help raise public awareness of bladder cancer and much needed funding.

Team Jefferson will be walking again on May 4, 2013. For more information, please contact Jessica Soens at Jessica.Soens@JeffersonHospital.org or call 215-955-2054.



Dr. Ronald Myers selected to chair Expert Working Group discussion

Ronald E. Myers, Ph.D.

Ronald Myers, Ph.D., Professor of Medical Oncology and Director of the Division of Population Science at Thomas Jefferson University, has been selected to chair an Expert Working Group discussion at the World Endoscopy Organization meeting on May 18, 2012. The discussion entitled “Improving Population Engagement in Screening” is being held ahead of the DDW Conference in San Diego, CA. and will be the Expert Working Group’s first meeting. The focus of this discussion is Engaging Populations in International CRC Screening Programs.

For more information on this event please contact Dr. Myers at Ronald.Myers@Jefferson.edu or 215-503-4085.



Scott Waldman Awarded CURE Grant to Move Colon Cancer Test Closer to Commercialization

Scott Waldman, M.D., Ph.D.

Scott Waldman, M.D., Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Thomas Jefferson University, has been awarded a Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) grant for almost $750,000 to help advance a molecular diagnostic test for colon cancer into commercialization.

Such a test would better detect recurrence in a group of colon cancer patients whose metastases are hidden, and help reduce racial disparities, particularly in the African-American community, who are at higher risk of dying from metastatic disease.

The nonformula grant was awarded competitively from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. One of this year’s priorities for the Department’s Health Research Advisory Committee is Cancer Diagnostics or Therapeutics with Commercialization Potential.

About 25 percent of colon cancer patients who are deemed node-negative, or pN0, (meaning the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes) after treatment end up recurring with metastatic disease.  Known as occult tumors, these hidden metastases often escape detection, be it imaging modalities or histopathology.

Today, no such test exists to distinguish these colon cancer patients, and as a result, they are often treated the same.

To better stratify this group, Dr. Waldman and colleagues have developed a diagnostic test that uses the hormone receptor guanylyl cyclase C (GCC) as a biomarker.

Previous research shows that a quantitative, molecular analysis of lymph nodes in patients deemed colorectal cancer-free was found to be an effective predictor of recurrence. Expression of GCC in the nodes, they found, is associated with an increased risk.

“This approach can improve prognostic risk stratification and chemotherapeutic allocation for these colon cancer patients,” said Dr. Waldman, a member of Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center. “With this CURE grant, we can now move a much-needed technology closer to commercialization, meaning closer to patients.”

The test will ultimately determine who can benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy, which is designed to eradicate whatever occult disease is left after surgery and other treatments.

This test would benefit the African-American community, in particular. Beyond the general population risk, there is an established stage-specific difference in outcomes in pN0 African Americans, who are 40 percent more likely to die from the metastatic colon cancer than whites.

Stratifying these patients could ultimately reduce related racial disparities in mortality and survival.

The primary purpose of this nonformula grant is to support research activities that commercialize and bring to market new cancer diagnostics and therapeutics for which proof of concept has previously been demonstrated and has the capability to solve or diminish a specific problem related to the diagnosis or treatment of one or more malignant diseases.



You Can Help Save PA Research Funding

For more than a decade, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement Program (CURE) has supported a broad range of biomedical research at 39 institutions across Pennsylvania. These funds have led to research advances in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, infectious diseases, and other health areas and improvements in public health.

In his budget for fiscal year 2013, Governor Corbett proposes defunding the CURE program created by Act 77 in 2001, diverting almost $60 million in research funds from the tobacco settlement into the general budget for other purposes.

If the defunding takes place, Jefferson stands to lose $2 to $4 million per year in research funding.

Left intact with sustained funding, the CURE program will advance promising medical discoveries, support the hiring and retention of skilled workers, leverage federal and private research funding, and catalyze the formation of biotechnology companies.

Please voice your support of the CURE program by taking a moment to send a note (see suggested letter HERE) to your PA State representative. You can find your representative on this website.

Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center is a member of the Pennsylvania Cancer Alliance.



Dawn Scardino named 2012 LLS Woman of the Year

Dawn Scardino named LLS Woman of the Year

Dawn Scardino, Coordinator of Academic Services in the Department of Medical Oncology, was named the 2012 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year for the eastern Pennsylvania Chapter.

Dawn took the top recognition for raising almost $27,000 in a 10-week fundraising “race” that began on Jan. 30 and ended on April 12.  Four women and nine men took part in the race.

Participants had 10 weeks (Dawn did it in eight!) to organize and run their campaigns, with the goal of raising the most money in their chapters. The man and woman who raises the most are named the winners.

The winners–the top male prize went to Anthony Falco, who raised over $200,000–were announced at the Grand Finale Celebration at the Union League of Philadelphia on April 12.

In total, the whole group raised almost $443,000.

All proceeds from the effort go to the LLS, whose mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life for patients with these diseases.

The funds Dawn raised are in honor of LLS’s Boy of the Year, Andrew Clark, a 13-year-old leukemia survivor who began his battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, at the age of 3.

Since 1949, the LLS has funded over $680 million in medical research aimed at curing different cancers. LLS supports therapies that not only help blood cancer patients but are now used to treat patients with rare forms of stomach and skin cancers and are being tested in clinical trials for patients with a range of cancers including lung, brain, breast, pancreatic and prostate.

Dawn started at Jefferson in 1991.  Since her arrival in Medical Oncology in 2008 she has helped with the recruitment of 27 new faculty members to the department. This was Dawn’s first year participating in the LLS campaign race.



Kimmel Cancer Center Founding Directors Portrait Unveiled


Dr. Richard G. Pestell, Martha Mayer Erlebacher, Dr. Carlo M. Croce, Dr. Richard L. Davidson

A portrait of Dr. Carlo Croce, the founding Director of the Jefferson Kimmel Cancer Center, painted by Philadelphia artist Martha Erlebacher, was unveiled on Tuesday, April 10, 2012, at 4:00 PM in the Bluemle Life Sciences Building.

Martha Mayer Erlebacher has been recognized as one of the leading representational figurative and still-life artists in America who has shown her work nationally and internationally. A number of books and periodicals feature her work, much of which “examines the deep metaphorical and social themes of contemporary culture through her painterly and aesthetic images.”

Dr. Croce is world-renowned for his contributions involving the genes and genetic mechanisms implicated in the pathogenesis of human cancer. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine in the United States and the Accademia Nazionale delle Scienze detta deiXL in Italy. He has earned a plethora of awards in recognition of his hard work and dedication including two Outstanding Investigator awards from the National Cancer Institute and most recently, an Elected Membership to The American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Joesph S. Gonnella and Dr. Carlo M. Croce

Dr. Croce is a principal investigator on eleven federal research grants and has more than 950 peer-reviewed, published research papers. A native of Milan, Italy, Dr. Croce earned his medical degree, summa cum laude, in 1969 from the School of Medicine, University of Rome. He began his career in the United States the following year as an associate scientist at the Wistar Institute of Biology and Anatomy in Philadelphia. In 1980, he was named Wistar Professor of Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania and Institute Professor and Associate Director of the Wistar Institute, titles he held until 1988. From 1988-91, he was Director of the Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

In 1991 Dr. Croce was named Director of the Kimmel Cancer Institute at Thomas Jefferson University.  While here, Dr. Croce discovered the role of microRNAs in cancer pathogenesis and progression, implicating a new class of genes in cancer causation.  After thirteen years as Director of the Kimmel Cancer Center, Dr. Croce moved to Ohio State University in 2004.  Under his direction at OSU, faculty within the Human Cancer Genetics Program conduct both clinical and basic research.  Basic research projects focus on how genes are activated and inactivated, how cell-growth signals are transmitted and regulated within cells, and how cells interact with the immune system. Clinical research focuses on discovering genes linked to cancer and mutations that predispose people to cancer.



Leading the Way to a Cure

It is estimated that more than 70,000 new cases of bladder cancer were diagnosed in 2011, making it the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S.

Please join Team Jefferson and Dr. Jean Hoffman-Censits of the Department of Medical Oncology, Solid Tumor Division and the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson in raising awareness of the disease.

This year’s walk will begin at the Kimmel Cancer Center’s Bluemle Life Sciences Building. Walk with us to Independence Hall, where we will have a tent and table with refreshments and information about bladder cancer and treatment options at Jefferson.

Can’t make it to the walk? Please consider donating to the team. All proceeds will benefit the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, host of the annual Bladder Think Tank – the only national scientific meeting focusing solely on bladder cancer. For more information, visit www.bcan.org.

Date and Time: May 5, 2012 at 10 a.m

Location:

Bluemle Life Sciences Building
233 South 10th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Registration Info:

Registration is free and fundraising is optional. Preregister for the event online or contact Teresa Bryant at 215-503-5455 or teresa.bryant@jefferson.edu.



Edith Mitchell, M.D., FACP, Named 2012 Recipient of ASCO Humanitarian Award

Edith Mitchell, M.D., to receive 2012 Humanitarian Award at ASCO annual meeting

Edith  Mitchell, M.D., FACP, a medical oncologist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center (KCC) and Clinical Professor of Medicine and Medical Oncology in the Department of Medical Oncology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, has been named the 2012 recipient of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Humanitarian Award for her personification of the society’s mission and values, and for going above and beyond the call of duty in providing outstanding patient care.

For her efforts, Dr. Mitchell will be presented with the award during the opening session of the ASCO Annual Meeting on Saturday, June 2.

The ASCO Humanitarian Award recognizes an oncologist who provides outstanding patient care through innovative means or exceptional service or leadership in the United States or abroad. It is presented to an ASCO member who distinguishes himself/herself through voluntary and non-compensated humanitarian endeavors.

“Receiving this award is a great honor, and I thank the Society for the acknowledgement,” said Dr. Mitchell. “A big part of my work over the course of my career has focused on helping those in need of medical care—to reach those who have no access to it, who have no opportunities for health, and no means to seek out conventional medical advice. It is important to help these individuals realize that simple changes in lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on cancer care and one’s health. I look forward to continuing on this path.”

Dr. Mitchell has spent her medical career helping individuals in medically underserved areas and demonstrating the importance of community service and outreach. She has participated in flood relief, supportive patient advocacy, and organized vaccination clinics.

Dr. Mitchell also serves as a program leader of Gastrointestinal Oncology at JMC, Associate Director for Diversity Programs for the KCC, and Director of the KCC’s newly established Center to Eliminate Cancer Disparities.

In addition to her professional roles, she has spent many years in service with the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard. Dr. Mitchell entered active duty after completion of her internship and residency in Internal Medicine at Meharry Medical College and a fellowship in Medical Oncology at Georgetown University. She is now a retired brigadier General from the United States Air Force.

Dr. Mitchell received a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry “With Distinction” from Tennessee State University and her medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.

Dr. Mitchell’s research in pancreatic cancer and other gastrointestinal malignancies involves new drug evaluation and chemotherapy, development of new therapeutic regimens, chemoradiation strategies for combined modality therapy, patient selection criteria and supportive care for patients with gastrointestinal cancer.

As a distinguished researcher, she has received numerous Cancer Research and Principal Investigator Awards, and serves on the National Cancer Institute Review Panel and the Cancer Investigations Review Committee.  She has also authored and co-authored more than 100 articles, book chapters, and abstracts on cancer treatment, prevention, and cancer control. And in 2011, she was named “Practitioner of the Year” Award by the Philadelphia County Medical Society.

She also travels nationally and internationally teaching and lecturing on the treatment of gastrointestinal malignancies.

Dr. Mitchell is one of 12 honorees to receive an ASCO Special Award.

“All of the oncology professionals and leaders who will be receiving this year’s Special Awards have made a great impact on cancer prevention, care and treatment around the globe,” said George Sledge, M.D., ASCO Immediate Past President and Chair of the Special Awards Selection Committee. “We are honored to commend their contributions and accomplishments in the field of oncology with ASCO’s most prestigious awards.”

For more on Dr. Mitchell’s award, please see:

http://www.asco.org/ASCOv2/Press+Center/Latest+News+Releases/Meetings+News/Oncology+Professionals+and+Leaders+Honored+for+Contributions+in+the+Progress+Against+Cancer

http://www.cancer.net/patient/Publications+and+Resources/Find+an+Oncologist/ASCO+Humanitarian+Award



Ovarian, Glioblastoma & Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: Jefferson Researchers Present at AACR

Several researchers from Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center presented abstracts at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2012 in Chicago. Some of those findings include:

HuR and Ovarian Cancer

Silencing HuR may be a promising therapeutic approach for the treatment of ovarian cancer, according to an abstract presented at AACR by researchers from Thomas Jefferson University, Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, the Geisinger Clinic and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

HuR is a RNA-binding protein that post-transcriptionally regulates genes involved in the normal cellular response to cancer-associated stressors, like DNA damage, nutrient depletion and therapeutic agents.  When triggered by stress, HuR translocates from the nucleus to the cytoplasm where it potently influences translation of key tumor promoting mRNAs by mRNA stabilization and direct facilitation of translation.

Previously, it has been shown that HuR expression is a prognostic marker in ovarian cancers. Thus, researchers tested the effects of manipulating HuR expression levels on ovarian tumor growth characteristics and tested the hypothesis that silencing HuR through delivery of an HuR siRNA would be effective in suppressing the growth of ovarian tumors.

Following treatment of ovarian cancer cells in culture with an adenovirus containing the HuR coding sequence, HuR expression was increased by about 40% above control cells.

In the patient cohort, researchers also detected HuR activation (i.e., cytoplasmic HuR positivity) in twenty-four of thirty four patients (71 percent), providing evidence that the majority of patients have activated HuR.

“These data provide evidence that silencing HuR, even as a monotherapeutic strategy, may be a promising therapeutic approach for the treatment of ovarian cancer,” wrote the authors.

Authors of the paper include Janet A. Sawicki and Yu-Hung Huang, of Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, Charles J. Yeo, Agnieszka K. Witkiewicz, Jonathan R. Brody, of Thomas Jefferson University, Radhika P. Gogoi, of Geisinger Clinic, Danville, Pa., and Kevin Love and Daniel G. Anderson, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

This work was supported by the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research.

Radiotherapy and Glioblastoma

Radiotherapy’s effect on glioblastoma (GBM) is enhanced in the presence of a heat shock protein and a P13K inhibitor, researchers from the Department of Radiation Oncology reported at AACR.

Glioblastoma tumors frequently contain mutations in the tumor suppressor gene, PTEN, leading to loss of PTEN activity, which causes overactivation of the PI3K pathway, inducing inhibition of apoptosis and radioresistance.

Heat-shock protein 90 (HSP90) is a molecular chaperone that is over-expressed in GBM and that has among its client proteins, PI3K and Akt.

It was hypothesized that dual inhibition of HSP90 and PI3K signaling would additively or synergistically radiosensitize GBM through inhibition of radiation-induced PI3K/Akt signaling, leading to enhanced apoptosis.

Confirming their theory, the researchers found that the response of glioblastoma to radiotherapy was enhanced in the presence of BKM120 and HSP990. Enhanced apoptosis also contributed to the mechanism of cell death.

Authors of the study include Phyllis Rachelle Wachsberger, Yi Liu, Barbara Andersen, and Adam P. Dicker, of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Richard Y. Lawrence, of Jefferson and the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel.

This work was supported by a grant from Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

Non-Small Lung Cancer and DACH1

Researchers from the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson have identified a protein relationship that may be an ideal treatment target for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).  They presented their findings at AACR.

DACH1, a cell fate determination factor protein, appears to be a binding partner to p53, a known tumor suppressor, which inhibits NSCLC cellular proliferation.

As cancer develops and becomes more invasive, the expression of DACH1 decreases. Clinical studies have demonstrated a reduced expression of the DACH1 in breast, prostate and endometrial cancer.

In a previous study of more than 2,000 breast cancer patients, Jefferson researchers found that a lack of DACH1 expression was associated with a poor prognosis in breast cancer patients. Patients who did express DACH1 lived an average of 40 months longer.

Genetic studies have identified several oncogenes activated in lung cancer, including K-Ras and EGFR. Given the importance of the EGFR in human lung cancer, researchers examined the role of DACH1 in lung cancer cellular growth, migration and DNA damage response.

For this study, endogenous DACH1 was reduced in human NSCLC, with expression levels of DACH1 correlating inversely with clinical stage and pathological grade.

Re-expression of DACH1 also  reduced lung cancer cell colony formation and cellular migration. Cell cycle analyses demonstrated that G2/M block by ectopic expression of DACH1 occurs synergistically with p53.

Fluorescent microscopy demonstrated co-localization of DACH1 with p53, and immunoprecipitation and western blot assay showed DACH1 association with p53.

“DACH1 enhanced the cytotoxcity of cisplatin and doxorubicin, two commonly used drugs for NSCLC,” the authors write in the abstract. “Together, our studies demonstrate that p53 is a DACH1 binding partner that inhibits NSCLC cellular proliferation.”

Authors of the study include Ke Chen, Kongming Wu, Wei Zhang, Jie Zhou, Timothy Stanek, Zhiping Li, Chenguang Wang, L. Andrew Shirley, Hallgeir Rui, Steven McMahon, Richard G. Pestell, of  Thomas Jefferson University, Kimmel Cancer Center and Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China.



AACR: New Biomarker to Identify Hepatitis B-Infected Patients at Risk for Liver Cancer

CHICAGO— Hepatitis B-infected patients with significantly longer telomeres—the caps on the end of chromosomes that protect our genetic data— were found to have an increased risk of getting liver cancer compared to those with shorter ones, according to findings presented by researchers at Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2012.

The relative telomere length in hepatitis B-infected cases with liver cancer was about 50 percent longer than the telomere length of the cancer-free hepatitis B-infected controls.

A strong correlation between telomere length and non-cirrhotic hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a liver cancer commonly caused from hepatitis B and C viral infections, could help physicians better stratify the hepatitis B population in an effort to better prevent and treat the disease.

Previous reports have suggested telomere length plays a role in cancer prediction; however, there have been conflicting results and the majority of the studies measured telomere length in liver cells (hepatocytes) and white blood cells.

Here, Hushan Yang, Ph.D., of the Division of Population Science at the Department of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center, and colleagues used circulating cell-free serum DNA from an existing and ongoing clinical cohort at the Liver Disease Prevention Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Tapping into a cohort of almost 2,600 Korean Americans, a population disproportionately infected with hepatitis B, the team analyzed blood samples from over 400 hepatitis B-infected patients to compare relative telomere length using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR).

This nested case-control study included 140 hepatitis B-HCC cases and 280 cancer-free hepatitis B controls. Demographic and clinical data were obtained for each patient through medical chart review and consulting with treating physicians.

All participants were restricted to Korean hepatitis B patients to control the confounding effects of ethnicity and HCC etiology. The large majority of the patients were infected at birth or childhood, making this population an ideal resource to study the long-term outcome of hepatitis B infection at the population level.

The hepatitis B-HCC cases were found to have a relative telomere length about 50 percent longer than the cancer-free controls (0.31 versus 0.20, P=0.003), a statistically significant difference.

The difference, however, was also only evident in males and in non-cirrhotic patients, and not cirrhotic patients, possibly because that the effect conferred by telomere length was overshadowed by the strong association between cirrhosis and HCC. There were also no statistical differences between cohorts with respect to age and smoking status.

“This is the first study to demonstrate that relative telomere length in circulating cell-free serum DNA could potentially be used as a simple, inexpensive and non- invasive biomarker for HCC risk,” said Dr. Yang. “This sets the stage for further retrospective and prospective investigations, in-depth molecular characterizations, and other assessments to determine the clinical value of serum DNA telomere length in risk prediction and early detection of HCC.”

Co-authors of the study were Shaogui Wan, Xiaoying Fu, Ronald Myers, Ph.D., Division of Population Science, Department of Medical Oncology, Thomas Jefferson University; Hie-Won Hann, M.D., Richard Hann, Jennifer Au, M.D., Division of Hepatology and Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University; and Jinliang Xing, Department of Cell Biology, Fourth Military Medical University in China.

This study was supported by two grants from the National Cancer Institute, a Tobacco Grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, an American Cancer Society grant, and a Research Scholar Award from the V Foundation for Cancer Research.



AACR: Eliminating the ‘Good Cholesterol’ Receptor May Fight Breast Cancer

CHICAGO— Removing a lipoprotein receptor known as SR-BI may help protect against breast cancer, as suggested by new findings presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2012 by Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center researchers.

In vitro and mouse studies revealed that depletion of the SR-BI resulted in a decrease in breast cancer cell growth.

SR-BI is a receptor for high-density lipoproteins (HDL) that are commonly referred to as “good cholesterol” because they help transport cholesterol out of the arteries and back to the liver for excretion.

The team, including Christiane Danilo, of the Department Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University, and Philippe G. Frank, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Jefferson, had good reason to believe that SR-BI played a role in breast cancer growth: Previous lab research had revealed that mice fed a high cholesterol diet develop more advanced tumors and their tumors produce more SR-BI.

To further investigate SR-BI’s role in breast cancer tumors, the team manipulated levels of the receptor in human breast cancer cell lines and examined its effect on tumor formation in a mouse model.

In vitro, they found that ablation of the receptor protein in breast cancer cells led to a decrease in cancer cell proliferation, migration and invasion. Mouse models also showed that depletion of the receptor could confer protection against tumor growth.

Environmental factors, such as diet and obesity, have long been considered risk factors for the high breast cancer incidence in the Western world, and epidemiologic evidence indicates that cancer patients display abnormal levels of cholesterol carrying lipoproteins. However, the role of cholesterol in breast cancer had not yet been specifically examined.

“The results of this novel study show that depletion of SR-BI reduces cancer cell and tumor growth, suggesting that it could play an important role in breast cancer,” said Dr. Frank. “More studies are warranted to further characterize the role of SR-BI in tumor progression.”

Other researchers include Michael P. Lisanti, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman of the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Jefferson, and Maria Antonietta Mainieri of the University of Calabria, Rende, in Italy.

The study was funded by the Susan G. Komen Foundation.



Radiation Therapy Students use Virtual Reality Training (VERT)

Students in the Radiation Therapy bachelor’s degree program in the Department of Radiologic Sciences at Jefferson School of Health Professions are now encouraged to make something they once dreaded — mistakes.

Before they embark on their clinical rotation, where one wrong move might harm a patient, they’ll slip on 3D goggles and simulate various procedures using cutting-edge virtual reality software called Virtual Environment Radiotherapy Training (VERT).

Jefferson is one of three schools in the U.S. – and the only one on the east coast – to use VERT.

The  new technology allows students to practice controlling all three linear accelerator models they’ll encounter in hospitals. Using replica control panels, they’ll position the virtual patient and deliver a targeted dose of radiation. The software allows them to see the impact of the beam (which is invisible in real life) on the patient’s internal anatomy.

Matthew Marquess, MBA, BS, RT(T), program director for radiation therapy, believes the software package is an investment in patient safety. “I’m a soul believer that making mistakes is the best education for students,” he says. “Because when they come across that situation, a red flag is going to pop up.”

Marquess says VERT increases students’ hands-on training time. “We’re hoping that by using this equipment in the classroom setting, they’ll go into the clinic with more confidence,” he says.

In addition to radiation therapists, VERT will be used to train medical dosimetrists.

Marquess also hopes to collaborate closely with the Bodine Center for Radiation Oncology and Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center in the future.



Dr. Leonard Gomella, Program Director for IPCC in New York

Dr. Leonard Gomella, Program Director of 2012's IPCC

Leonard G. Gomella, M.D., FACS, Chair of Urology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Director of Clinical Affairs at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson, will serve as the Program Director for the Fifth Annual Interdisciplinary Prostate Cancer Congress (IPCC) at the New York Marriott East Side in New York City on March 31.

This full-day continuing medical education (CME) activity entitled Novel Perspectives – Evolving Therapies and Advances In Standard of Care will address the differences that currently exist between urologists’, medical oncologists’, and radiation oncologists’ approaches to treating prostate cancer.

World-renowned thought leaders have been brought together to foster consensus about the best management of prostate cancer from the vantage point of interdisciplinary care teams. Topics of vital interest that will be include: hormonal therapies; imaging and staging; surgical advances; radiation therapies; and emerging multimodal therapies.

The IPCC will include interactive cases designed to highlight multidisciplinary approaches for the management of prostate cancer with the overall goal of improving patient outcomes.

Topics include  prostate-specific antigen testing in diagnosing patients with prostate cancer, and emerging bone-related therapies for treating prostate cancer.

Dr. Gomella told OncLive that the value of the conference for attendees is its focus on practical applications of these new developments. “When they go back to the patient setting, they can actually use [this information] in their daily patient care,” he said.

For more information, please visit, http://cancerlearning.onclive.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/conference.showOverview/id/5/conference_id/702/index.php

http://www.onclive.com/publications/Oncology-live/2012/january-2012/IPCC-Conference-to-Focus-on-Issues-Facing-Clinicians



Jefferson Physicians Host Bilingual Health Education Session for the Annual Latinas United for the Cure

On Saturday, March 24, physicians from Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center hosted a health education session entitled “The Basics and Beyond: Empowering all Latinas to Fight Breast Cancer” in both English and Spanish, as part of a free Komen Philadelphia event for the Latina community in Philadelphia and surrounding areas.

Edith Mitchell, M.D., FACP, of Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center Multi-Disciplinary Breast Cancer Team, led the health session, and was also awarded the “Partner in Health Equality” award from the Komen Foundation. 

Philadelphia Councilwoman Maria-Quiñones Sánchez was among the motivational and educational speakers. The Mistress of Ceremonies was Rev. Bonnie Camarda, Director of Partnerships, Salvation Army

Opportunities at Latinas United for the Cure, held at Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, included breast health education and support through expert panels, survivor testimonials, peer interaction and take-home materials; mammogram signups for eligible women; entertainment; continental breakfast and lunch.

Dr. Edith Mitchell received the Partner in Health Equality Award

More than 1,000 Latina women celebrated victory over disease with dancing and singing, accompanied by Grupo Fuego.

The health education session from Jefferson given in English included:

  • Introduction & Overview by Pramila Rani Anne, MD; Associate Professor, Department of Radiology
  • Update on Breast Cancer Screening by Annina Wilkes, MD; Associate Professor, Breast Imaging/Ultrasound Department of Radiology
  • The Latest on Surgical Management of Breast Cancer by Adam Berger, MD; Associate Professor, Department of Surgery
  • Symptom Management During Breast Cancer Treatment by Rebecca Jaslow, MD; Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Oncology
  • Personalized Medicine – the New Paradigm by Tiffany Avery, MD; Assistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology

The health education session given in Spanish included:

  • Introduction & Overview by Maria Rodriguez, RN, BSN, MSN; Clinical Nurse Specialist, Department of Medical Oncology
  • Update on Breast Cancer Screening by Angelica Manzur; Medical Student IV; Research Assistant, Department of Medical Oncology
  • The Latest on Surgical Management of Breast Cancer by Jose Munoz, MD; Research Post Doctoral Fellow, Department of Surgery
  • Symptom Management During Breast Cancer Treatment by Alex Mejia, MD; Post Doctoral Fellow, Department of Oncology
  • Personalized Medicine - the New Paradigm by Ubaldo Martinez-Outschorn, MD; Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Oncology

Dr. Mitchell, who is also the Director of the Center to Eliminate Cancer Disparities at Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center, was awarded the “Partner in Health Equality” award for her work in the community, including breast cancer care and health education.

With breast cancer being the leading cause of cancer death among Latina women, the event empowers multiple generations of Latinas to take the steps that can save their lives today, and establish healthy lifestyle practices that support growing power over the disease for their children.

Latinas United for the Cure is designed specifically to empower the Latina community in improving this statistics, fighting back and surviving breast cancer.

*Photos provided by LuzSelenia Loeb



Jefferson Graduate Student Receives Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation ‘Research Scholar Award’

From left to right: Dr. Andrew Aplin of Jefferson's Department of Cancer Biology, JMNMF's Denise Safko, Awardee Kevin Basile, JMNMF President Greg Safko, and Dr. Richard Pestell, Director of the KCC

Kevin Basile, a Thomas Jefferson University graduate student in the Genetics Ph.D. Program, was one of nine students from leading cancer centers across the U.S. to receive a $10,000 “Research Scholar Award” from the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation (JMNMF) for his exceptional research work.

Two members of the board of directors for JMNMF, including Secretary Denise Safko and President Greg Safko, presented the award to Mr. Basile at the Kimmel Cancer Center’s Bluemle Life Sciences Building on March 26.

Mr. Basile was also accompanied by Dr. Richard Pestell, Director of the Kimmel Cancer Center, and Andrew Aplin, Ph.D., an Associate Professor in the Department of Cancer Biology.

The stop was part of a “road-show” of sorts for JMNMF committee and board members, who are traveling up the Northeast from Baltimore to Boston for RSA ceremonies.

Mr. Basile’s research focuses on resistance to RAF inhibitors in melanoma and methods to enhance the efficacy of those inhibitors.

The JMNMF is a nonprofit public charity founded in January 2004 to foster melanoma education, advocacy and research. In just eight years, the Foundation has grown dramatically to become an influential voice in the melanoma community and is now established as a national, and international, “voice for melanoma prevention, detection, care and cure.”

The nationally competitive grants increased dramatically by nearly 30 percent in 2012 (following a 40 percent funding increase in 2011) to significantly enhance the potential for advancements in the melanoma cancer field and encourage a larger number of students to choose melanoma research as their professional career path.

The 2012 RSA applicant pool and cancer research centers represented grew to include 42 of the country’s most promising young melanoma researchers, and 28 prominent National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Cancer Centers or members of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI).

This represents a dramatic 60 percent increase in students and 75 percent growth in research institutions participating, respectively. As first in the U.S. to fund graduate student melanoma researchers, the JMNMF program is celebrating the program’s sixth anniversary.

“Our Foundation’s ‘Research Scholar Awards’ are invaluable at the grassroots level, to specifically grow interest in melanoma research, at qualified cancer centers across the country,” said Robert E. Nicolay, JMNMF Chairman. “If we can attract the brightest minds that are considering, or are already within, the nation’s cancer research pipelines, to pursue a career in melanoma research – we’re that much closer to better understanding the disease, identifying the means for effective treatments and, most importantly, finding a cure for this deadly and very prevalent disease.”

For more information about JMNMF, please visit: http://www.melanomaresource.org/



Biomarker Links Clinical Outcome with New Model of Lethal Tumor Metabolism

Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson have demonstrated for the first time that the metabolic biomarker MCT4 directly links clinical outcomes with a new model of tumor metabolism that has patients “feeding” their cancer cells.  Their findings were published online March 15 in Cell Cycle.

To validate the prognostic value of the biomarker, a research team led by Agnieszka K. Witkiewicz, M.D., Associate Professor of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology at Thomas Jefferson University, and Michael P. Lisanti, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Jefferson, analyzed samples of patients with triple negative breast cancer, one of the most deadly of breast cancers, with fast-growing tumors that often affect younger women.

A retrospective analysis of over 180 women revealed that high levels of the biomarker MCT4, or monocarboxylate transporter 4, were strictly correlated with a loss of caveolin-1 (Cav-1), a known marker of early tumor recurrence and metastasis in several cancers, including prostate and breast.

“The whole idea is that MCT4 is a metabolic marker for a new model of tumor metabolism and that patients with this type of metabolism are feeding their cancer cells. It is lethal and resistant to current therapy,” Dr. Lisanti said. “The importance of this discovery is that MCT4, for the first time, directly links clinical outcome with tumor metabolism, allowing us to develop new more effective anti-cancer drugs.”

Analyzing the human breast cancer samples, the team found that women with high levels of stromal MCT4 and a loss of stromal Cav-1 had poorer overall survival, consistent with a higher risk for recurrence and metastasis, and treatment failure.

Applying to a Triple Threat

Today, no such markers are applied in care of triple negative breast cancer, and as a result, patients are all treated the same. Identifying patients who are at high risk of failing standard chemotherapy and poorer outcomes could help direct them sooner to clinical trials exploring new treatments, which could ultimately improve survival.

“The idea is to combine these two biomarkers, and stratify this patient population to provide better personalized cancer care,” said Dr. Witkiewicz

The findings suggest that when used in conjunction with the stromal Cav-1 biomarker, which the authors point out has been independently validated by six other groups worldwide, MCT4 can further stratify the intermediate-risk group into high and low risk.

Since MCT4 is a new druggable target, researchers also suggest that MCT4 inhibitors should be developed for treatment of aggressive breast cancers, and possibly other types.  Targeting patients with an MCT4 inhibitor, or even simple antioxidants, may help treat high-risk patients, who otherwise may not respond positively to conventional treatment, the researchers suggest.

Paradigm Shift

But the work stems beyond triple negative breast cancer, challenging an 85-year-old theory about cancer growth and progression.

This paper is the missing clinical proof for the paradigm shift from the “old cancer theory” to the “new cancer theory,” known as the “Reverse Warburg Effect,” said Dr. Lisanti. The new theory being that aerobic glycolysis actually takes place in tumor associated fibroblasts, and not in cancer cells, as the old theory posits.

“The results by Witkiewicz et al. have prominent conceptual and therapeutic implications,” wrote Lorenzo Galluzzi, Ph.D., Oliver Kepp, Ph.D., and Guido Kroemer, M.D., Ph.D. of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and Institut Gustave Roussy, in an accompanying editorial. “First, they strengthen the notion that cancer is not a cell-autonomous disease, as they unravel that alterations of the tumor stroma may constitute clinically useful biomarkers”.

“Second, they provide deep insights into a metabolic crosstalk between tumor cells and their stroma that may be targeted by a new class of anticancer agents.”

Dr. Kroemer entitled his commentary “Reverse Warburg: Straight to Cancer” to emphasize that the connective tissue cells (fibroblasts) are directly “feeding” cancer cells, giving them a clear growth  and survival advantage.  New personalized therapies would cut off the “fuel supply” to cancer cells, halting tumor growth and metastasis.



Kimmel Cancer Center “All Hands Meeting”

The Kimmel Cancer Center held it’s quarterly “All Hands” meeting on March 14, 2012. Dr. Richard Pestell, Director of the Kimmel Cancer Center, delivered his quarterly “State of the Cancer Center” address. Awards were presented in 4 categories. The Administration/Wings Award was presented to Steven McKenzie, MD, PhD. The Basic Science Award was presented to John Pascal, PhD. The Nursing Award was presented to Deborah Turner, RN. The Clinical Award was presented to Edith Mitchell, MD.

Dr. Steven MCKenzie recieves Administrative/Wings Award from Dr. Richard Pestell

Dr. Steven MCKenzie recieves Administrative/Wings Award from Dr. Richard Pestell

Dr. John Pascal receives the Basic Science Award from Dr. Jeffrey Benovic

Dr. John Pascal receives the Basic Science Award from Dr. Jeffrey Benovic

Ms. Deborah Turner receives Nursing Award from Dr. Neal Flomenberg

Ms. Deborah Turner receives Nursing Award from Dr. Neal Flomenberg

Dr. Edith Mitchell receives Clinician Award from Dr. Neal Flomenberg

Dr. Edith Mitchell receives Clinician Award from Dr. Neal Flomenberg





Kimmel Cancer Center “All Hands Meeting”

The Kimmel Cancer Center held it’s quarterly “All Hands” meeting on December 23, 2011. Dr. Richard Pestell, Director of the Kimmel Cancer Center, delivered his quarterly “State of the Cancer Center” address. Awards were presented in six categories. The Administration Award was presented to Jeanine Voll. The Basic Science Award was presented to Agnieszka Witkiewicz, MD. The Nursing Award was presented to Maura Milligan, RN. The Clinical Award was presented to Nancy Lewis, MD. The “Discovery of the Year” Award was presented to Neal Flomnberg, MD and Dolores Grosso, RN, CRNP, DNP for their work in using haploindentical donors successfully in bone marrow transplants. The “Lifetime Achievement” Award was presented to Renato Baserga, MD.

Dr. Renato Baserga receives the "Lifetime Achievement" Award From Dr. Richard Pestell

Dr. Renato Baserga receives the "Lifetime Achievement" Award From Dr. Richard Pestell

Ms. Jeanine Voll receives Administration Award from Dr. Richard Davidson

Ms. Jeanine Voll receives Administration Award from Dr. Richard Davidson

Dr. Agnieszka Witkiewicz receives Basic Science Award from Dr. Richard Pestell



Dr. Nancy Lewis receives Clinical Award from Dr. Neal Flomenberg

Dr. Nancy Lewis receives Clinical Award from Dr. Neal Flomenberg

Dr. Neal Folmenberg and Dr. Dolores Grosso receive the "Discovery of the Year" Award from Dr. Richard Pestell

Dr. Neal Folmenberg and Dr. Dolores Grosso receive the "Discovery of the Year" Award from Dr. Richard Pestell




Rawls Palmer Progress in Medicine Award Presented to Dr. Scott A. Waldman

Scott A. Waldman, M.D., Ph.D., will receive the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (ASCPT) Rawls–Palmer Progress in Medicine Award at the 2012 Annual Meeting on March 16.

Established in 1978 by Dr. W. B. Rawls, the award recognizes scientists who have implemented progressive research techniques and tools to improve patient care.

Scott Waldman, M.D., Ph.D.

ASCPT will present the award to Dr. Waldman prior to his lecture at the 113th Annual Meeting.

Dr. Waldman is the Samuel MV Hamilton Endowed Professor of Medicine, Vice President of Clinical and Translational Research, and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Thomas Jefferson University. He is also Director of the Gastrointestinal Malignancies Program at the university’s Kimmel Cancer Center and Associate Dean of Clinical and Translational Sciences at Jefferson Medical College.

As a longtime volunteer leader of ASCPT, Dr. Waldman has participated on various committees and task forces, serving on the Board of Directors, as Society president, and as Editor in Chief of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics since 2006.

Dr. Waldman has chaired numerous scientific review panels for the NIH and is on the editorial boards of Personalized Medicine, Expert Reviews in Clinical Pharmacology, and Regenerative Medicine, among others. He is the inaugural Deputy Editor of Clinical and Translational Science and the inaugural Senior Editor of Biomarkers in Medicine.

Dr. Waldman is a recognized clinician–investigator whose research ranges from molecular biology to cancer diagnostics and therapeutics. He received the 2010 ASCPT Henry Elliott Award and the 2011 Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Foundation Award in Excellence for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

About ASCPT

ASCPT is the leading forum for the discussion, development, and integration of clinical pharmacology in the drug development continuum—from discovery to safe and effective use. Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, ASCPT was established in 1900. Today, more than 2,100 ASCPT members are committed to advancing the science of human pharmacology and therapeutics worldwide.

*This release was reprinted with permission from ASCPT.



A New Battlefront: Symposium at Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center to Tackle Geriatric Oncology

Approaches to treating elderly cancer patients are evolving as more of the population ages and the need for specialized care becomes more evident.

To address these issues and others, national thought leaders in geriatric oncology will gather at a unique symposium at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson (KCC) in Philadelphia on Friday, March 9, 2012, where they will present an overview of the latest advances in the understanding and treatment of cancer in older adults in an effort to impact patient care.

Outside of the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting, this is the first regional symposium of its kind that would be addressing the needs of senior adults.

The all-day symposium, “The New Battlefront: Geriatric Oncology,” part of an annual series at the KCC, will be held at the Bluemle Life Sciences Building on Jefferson’s campus. Co-hosted by the KCC Cancer Network and Rothman Institute at Jefferson, it will provide comprehensive updates on basic science research and the latest updates on chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation in the care of senior adult patients.

Personalized Treatment

Geriatric patients make up 60 percent of new cancer diagnoses and 70 percent of all cancer deaths. And those numbers are expected to increase as the geriatric population doubles in size by 2030.

These patients also often must battle cancer in the context of multiple chronic conditions, decreased organ reserve, and all too often cognitive impairments.  What’s more, there’s currently a shortage of geriatric oncology physicians to treat them.

“Recognizing and addressing the particular co-morbidities, functional, and cognitive concerns, and identifying collaborations with other disciplines will help us better serve the population,” said Andrew E. Chapman, DO, FACP, who directs the KCC’s Senior Adult Oncology Center along with Christine A. Arenson, M.D, of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

A joint effort between the Departments of Medical Oncology and Family and Community Medicine, Division of Geriatrics, KCC’s Senior Adult Oncology Center provides a comprehensive assessment, usually during a single visit, to identify problems related to aging and cancer.   The program has medical oncologists, a geriatrician, a nurse navigator, a pharmacist specially trained in oncology and geriatrics, a registered dietician, and a social worker.

Facing this New Battlefront Together

During the symposium, the full spectrum of geriatric oncology care and research will be discussed by clinicians and researchers from top institutions, including Jan van Duersen, Ph.D., of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Arati V. Rao, M.D. of Duke University’s Division of Geriatrics.

The conference will provide an overview of the biology of cancer in aging, describe the state-of-the-art model of Shared Care for older cancer patients, and review critical issues of chemotherapy toxicity and optimal chemotherapy management.

Specific concerns for radiation therapy and surgery in the geriatric oncology patient will be also addressed. Finally, the latest advances in the management of hematologic and solid malignancies in the elderly will be shared.

Several of the talks also directly address patient and medication safety and improving communication among physicians, patients and other health care personnel.

Discussions will also focus on safe and effective use of chemotherapy and pharmacology safety issues, with talks by Arti Hurria M.D., director of the Cancer and Aging Research Program at the City of Hope National Medical Center and Stuart M. Lichtman, M.D., Professor of Medicine, 65+ Geriatric Clinical Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

John A. Abraham, M.D., Chairman of the Division of Orthopedic Oncology at the Rothman Institute at Jefferson, will also speak about managing orthopedic issues in geriatric oncology patients.

“This symposium is an opportunity for players in the geriatric medicine and oncology, surgery and radiation fields to come together and highlight the innovative discoveries and best practices we believe will be important for the next generation of treatment and therapeutics in patients,” said Richard Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., director of the KCC and Professor and Chair of the Department of Cancer Biology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University.

Other speakers include Rani P. Anné, M.D., Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology, Clinical Program Director at Jefferson Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University; William Dale, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of Section of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at University of Chicago Medical Center; Elizabeth M. Gore, M.D., Associate Director, Radiation Oncology at Medical College of Wisconsin; Supriya Gupta Mohile, M.D., M.S., Associate Professor of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology, University of Rochester Medical Center; Richard C. Wender; Alumni Professor and Chair, Family and Community Medicine, Jefferson Medical College; and Michael Zenilman, M.D., Professor of Surgery, Vice Chair and Director, National Capital Region, Johns Hopkins Medicine.

To register for the event, please visit http://www.kimmelcancercenter.org/symposium/