Loss of RB in Triple Negative Breast Cancer Associated with Favorable Clinical Outcome

Researchers at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson have shown that loss of the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor gene (RB) in triple negative breast cancer patients is associated with better clinical outcomes. This is a new marker to identify the subset of these patients who may respond positively to chemotherapy.

Today, no such marker is applied in care of triple negative breast cancer, and as a result, patients are all treated the same.

Agnieszka Witkiewicz, M.D., Associate Professor of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology at Thomas Jefferson University, and Erik Knudsen, Ph.D., Professor of Cancer Biology and Deputy Director of Basic Science at Jefferson’s Kimmel Cancer Center, presented the findings at the 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium during a poster discussion on Dec. 9.

“This is a step in trying to better direct treatment for patients with triple negative breast cancer,” Dr. Knudsen said.

In general for cancer, loss of tumor suppressor genes is associated with poor clinical outcome. However, loss of RB in triple negative breast cancer patients appears to be a predictor of favorable clinical outcomes.  This is because it changes the way tumor cells respond to therapy such that they end up becoming more sensitive to chemotherapy.

The researchers retrospectively evaluated the RB status and clinical outcome of a cohort of 220 patients diagnosed and treated at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital with chemotherapy.  RB loss, they found, was associated with a longer overall survival. In contrast, patients with RB had worse survival.

“Triple negative breast cancer is the most deadly of breast cancers, with fast-growing tumors, that affects younger women,” said Dr. Witkiewicz. “This work allowed us to identify a marker that could lead to better treatment for patients. It’s about female personalized medicine.”

Edith Mitchell, M.D., Professor of Medical Oncology at Jefferson, and Adam Ertel, Ph.D., a research instructor in the Department of Cancer Biology, were also involved in the study.

The next step for the researchers is a clinical trial at Jefferson to confirm their findings. Tumors of newly-diagnosed patients with triple negative breast cancer will be tested for the RB gene before they receive chemotherapy. After treatment, the data will be evaluated to determine the efficacy of directing future patient care.

This study represents one important example of personalized medicine being performed at the Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology, Thomas Jefferson University and the Kimmel Cancer Center to improve patient care.



Dr. Bo Lu to Lead the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group’s Lung Cancer Translational Research Program

The Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) announced that Bo Lu, M.D., Ph.D., of Thomas Jefferson University and the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson, has been appointed chair of the group’s Translational Research Program (TRP) Committee’s Lung Cancer Subcommittee. The RTOG TRP Committee supports the integration of new scientific discoveries into the design of multi-center clinical trials.

Bo Lu, M.D., Ph.D., of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson

Dr. Lu is professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Jefferson, where he also serves as director of the department’s Division of Molecular Radiation Biology.  Prior to joining Jefferson in early 2011, Dr. Lu was associate professor in the Departments of Radiation Oncology and Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and director of the Department of Radiation Oncology’s translational research program.  He is also a visiting professor of radiation oncology at Tianjin Medical University Cancer Hospital, in Tianjing, China.

“As a member of RTOG’s Translation Research Program Committee since 2009, it has been exciting to be part of research efforts incorporating novel cancer treatment strategies into the design of early phase, multicenter clinical trials,” says Dr. Lu. Among Dr. Lu’s basic science research interests are the development of drugs that cause tumor cells to be more sensitive to radiation therapy and that target lung cancer stem cells.

“Dr. Lu is internationally renowned for his work in translational radiation oncology, and I am enthusiastic about his leadership role with regard to guiding the RTOG’s translational research agenda in lung cancer,” says Adam Dicker, M.D., Ph.D, Professor and Chairman of Radiation O­ncology at Thomas Jefferson University and RTOG’s Translational Research Program Chair. “He has demonstrated talent for applying findings from the laboratory into clinical research,” remarks Dr. Dicker.

“Dr. Lu’s extensive basic science background and insight about promising new agents will be a tremendous asset to RTOG’s Lung Cancer Committee,” says committee chair and radiation oncologist Jeffrey Bradley, M.D., Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at Washington School of Medicine. Dr. Bradley adds, “I anticipate an exciting and productive collaboration.”

“The opportunity to work with RTOG colleagues to advance new treatment options and improve clinical care for lung cancer patients is very rewarding,” says Dr. Lu, “and I am pleased to assume an expanded role within a research organization that promotes the robust evaluation of new therapeutic approaches in radiation oncology.”

Dr. Lu received his Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology from Baylor School of Medicine and his doctorate in medicine from Shanghai Medical University in China. He completed his residency in radiation oncology at the University of Southern California. Dr. succeeds Quynh Le, M.D., Ph.D. from Stanford University who recently was named chair of RTOG’s Head and Neck Cancer Committee.

“An important goal at the Kimmel Cancer Center is to foster translational medicine—taking basic science research and moving it closer to clinical practice,” said Richard Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., FACP, Director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson. “With his lab investigations focusing on just that, and now this appointment to RTOG’s lung cancer subcommittee, Dr. Lu will no doubt help us discover safer and more effective treatments for patients suffering from this disease.”

For more information about RTOG and the group’s Translational Research Program: www.rtog.org

# # #

The Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) is administered by the American College of Radiology (ACR), and located in the ACR Center for Clinical Research in Philadelphia, PA. RTOG is a multi-institutional international clinical cooperative group funded primarily by National Cancer Institute grants CA21661, CA32115 and CA37422. RTOG has 40 years of experience in conducting clinical trials and is comprised of over 300 major research institutions in the United States, Canada, and internationally. The group currently is currently accruing to 40 studies that involve radiation therapy alone or in conjunction with surgery and/or chemotherapeutic drugs or which investigate quality of life issues and their effects on the cancer patient.

The American College of Radiology (ACR) is a national professional organization serving more than 32,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists and medical physicists with programs focusing on the practice of radiology and the delivery of comprehensive health care services.



New “Achilles’ Heel” in Breast Cancer: Tumor Cell Mitochondria

Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson have identified cancer cell mitochondria as the unsuspecting powerhouse and “Achilles’ heel” of tumor growth, opening up the door for new therapeutic targets in breast cancer and other tumor types.

Reporting in the online Dec.1 issue of Cell Cycle, Michael P. Lisanti, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University, and colleagues provide the first in vivo evidence that breast cancer cells perform enhanced mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) to produce high amounts of energy.

“We and others have now shown that cancer is a ‘parasitic disease’ that steals energy from the host—your body,” Dr. Lisanti said, “but this is the first time we’ve shown in human breast tissue that cancer cell mitochondria are calling the shots and could ultimately be manipulated in our favor.”

Mitochondria are the energy-producing power-plants in normal cells. However, cancer cells have amplified this energy-producing mechanism, with at least five times as much energy-producing capacity, compared with normal cells.  Simply put, mitochondria are the powerhouse of cancer cells and they fuel tumor growth and metastasis.

The research presented in the study further supports the idea that blocking this activity with a mitochondrial inhibitor—for instance, an off-patent generic drug used to treat diabetes known as Metformin—can reverse tumor growth and chemotherapy resistance. This new concept could radically change how we treat cancer patients, and stimulate new metabolic strategies for cancer prevention and therapy.

Investigating the Powerhouse

Whether cancer cells have functional mitochondria has been a hotly debated topic for the past 85 years. It was argued that cancer cells don’t use mitochondria, but instead use glycolysis exclusively; this is known as the Warburg Effect. But researchers at the Jefferson’s KCC have shown that this inefficient method of producing energy actually takes place in the surrounding host stromal cells, rather then in epithelial cancer cells.  This process then provides abundant mitochondrial fuel for cancer cells. They’ve coined this the “Reverse Warburg Effect,” the opposite or reverse of the existing paradigm.

To study mitochondria’s role directly, the researchers, including co-author and collaborator Federica Sotgia, Assistant Professor in the Department of Cancer Biology, looked at mitochondrial function using COX activity staining in human breast cancer samples. Previously, this simple stain was only applied to muscle tissue, a mitochondrial-rich tissue.

Researchers found that human breast cancer epithelial cells showed amplified levels of mitochondrial activity. In contrast, adjacent stromal tissues showed little or no mitochondrial oxidative capacity, consistent with the new paradigm.  These findings were further validated using a computer-based informatics approach with gene profiles from over 2,000 human breast cancer samples.

It is now clear that cancer cell mitochondria play a key role in “parasitic” energy transfer between normal fibroblasts and cancer cells, fueling tumor growth and metastasis.

“We have presented new evidence that cancer cell mitochondria are at the heart of tumor cell growth and metastasis,” Dr. Lisanti said. “Metabolically, the drug Metformin prevents cancer cells from using their mitochondria, induces glycolysis and lactate production, and shifts cancer cells toward the conventional ‘Warburg Effect’.  This effectively starves the cancer cells to death”.

Personalized Treatment

Although COX mitochondrial activity staining had never been applied to cancer tissues, it could now be used routinely to distinguish cancer cells from normal cells, and to establish negative margins during cancer surgery. And this is a very cost-effective test, since it has been used routinely for muscle-tissue for over 50 years, but not for cancer diagnosis.

What’s more, it appears that upregulation of mitochondrial activity is a common feature of human breast cancer cells, and is associated with both estrogen receptor positive (ER+) and negative (ER-) disease. Outcome analysis indicated that this mitochondrial gene signature is also associated with an increased risk of tumor cell metastasis, particularly in ER-negative (ER-) patients.

“Mitochondria are the ‘Achilles’ heel’ of tumor cells,” Dr. Lisanti said. “And we believe that targeting mitochondrial metabolism has broad implications for both cancer diagnostics and therapeutics, and could be exploited in the pursuit of personalized cancer medicine.”



Dr. Iozzo’s Work Chosen as Editor’s Choice in Science

Dr. Renato Iozzo

Dr. Renato Iozzo

A recent Science Signaling article (Science Signaling) (Pubmed Abstract), co-Senior Authored by Dr. Renato Iozzo, entitled “Signaling by the Matrix Proteoglycan Decorin Controls Inflammation and Cancer Through PDCD4 and MicroRNA-21″, was selected in the November 21st issue of Science Magazine as the Editor’s Choice (more info) in the Cell Signalling Category. Dr. Renato Iozzo is a Professor of Pathology & Cell Biology and is a member of the Kimmel Cancer Center’s Cancer Cell Biology and Signaling Research Program.



KCC’s 3rd Annual Men’s Event

Another successful year! The Kimmel Cancer Center hosted its 3rd annual Men’s Event at the Prime Rib in Philadelphia on November 15.

About 150 people joined Richard Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., Director, Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson, Leonard Gomella, M.D., Chair, Department of Urology at Jefferson and 2011 Men’s Event Co-Chairs Edward Glickman, President of Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, and Joseph Weiss, Chairman, Electronic Ink, for an evening of cocktails, dinner, entertainment, auctions and friends.

The dinner and auction raised more than $100,000 to build awareness about prostate cancer and benefit research at Jefferson’s National Cancer Institute Designated Cancer Center.

At this year’s event, John W. Buehler, Jr., a prostate cancer survivor and KCC patient, received the “Symbol of Courage” award, and Kenny Boone was recognized for his support of prostate cancer research and awareness with a “Symbol of Caring” award.

Here’s a glimpse of the night.

Dr. Richard Pestell, director of the KCC

Men's Event auction raised over $100,000

Co-chair Joe Weiss

Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos emceed the event

Prostate cancer survivor John Buehler received the "Symbol of Courage" award

Drs. Adam Dicker and Neal Flomenberg

Jessica Soens, Guy Galcerno, Ellen Doubet, and Don Seitz






Dr. Timothy Showalter receives 2011 Ben Franklin PCF Young Investigator Award

Timothy Showalter, M.D., of the Department of Radiation Oncology, was one of 24 people to be named a new Young Investigator by the Prostate Cancer Foundation in 2011.

Young Investigator awards are designed to encourage the most innovative minds in cancer research to focus their careers on prostate cancer. These grants provide three years of funding for transformational research focused on prostate cancer treatments and patients.

Timothy Showalter, M.D., 2011 Ben Franklin PCF Young Investigator Award Recipient

With the addition of these grants, the Young Investigators represent a $5.32 million investment in the global cancer research community. Since 2007, PCF has invested more than $16.5 million in Young Investigator grants. Each Young Investigator recipient is awarded $225,000 over a three-year period. Funding is also matched dollar-for-dollar by each recipient’s research institution to protect time or to bridge salary support prior to a first government grant, making the total award worth $450,000.

Dr. Showalter, whose mentors include the Chair of Radiation Oncology, Adam Dicker, M.D., and Theresa Hyslop, PhD, of the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, received this prestigious award for his ongoing investigation of the benefits of adjuvant radiation therapy (RT) after a radical prostatectomy and physician perceptions of the treatment option.

For prostate cancer patients at higher risk of recurrence after radical prostatectomy (RP), early RT has been shown in randomized trials to improve PSA-relapse free survival, metastasis-free survival and overall survival. Despite evidence to support adjuvant RT, less than 20% of qualifying patients in the U.S. actually receive this treatment. A national survey conducted by Dr. Showalter and colleagues has previously shown that urologist recommendations for adjuvant RT are influenced by perceptions of RT-related toxicity. The evidence to inform these toxicity estimates is lacking. Therefore, it is essential to bridge this difference by elucidating the real-world complication rates of post-prostatectomy RT, and to critically evaluate the significance of RT timing on the risk of complications.

Dr. Showalter’s findings will improve management of high-risk prostate cancer, including the influence of timing after surgery, improve cure rates for these patients, and limit complications for lower risk patients.

“Young Investigators provide the most innovative and ground-breaking ideas in prostate cancer research,” said Howard Soule, PhD, chief science officer and executive vice president of PCF. “With their fresh ideas, the field of prostate cancer research will be heavily impacted and improved, and lives will be saved. We are extremely grateful to our generous donors who support these Young Investigators and have allowed our foundation to award 24 new recipients.”



ACS-IRG Pilot Projects Awarded for 2011

The Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson hosted the Annual ACS-IRG Luncheon on October 20. The 2011 Pilot Project recipients are Takemi Tanaka, PhD. of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Benjamin Leiby, PhD from the department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, Timothy Showalter, MD, department of Radiation Oncology, Ayush Dagvadorj, MD, PhD, and A. Kathleen McClendon, PhD, both of the department of Cancer Biology. They briefly explained their research projects to RuthAnn Dailey, Regional Vice-President, and Larry Slagle, Distinguished Giving Director, Southeast Region, East Central Division of the American Cancer Society. Ms. Dailey and Mr. Slagle explained the ACS mission and offered ways in which the Pilot Project recipients would be able to assist them in that mission.

Dr. Ayush Dagvadorg, Dr. Tim Showalter, Dr. Marja Nevalainen, Dr. Katie McClendon, Mr. Larry Slagle, Dr. Takemi Tanaka, MS. RuthAnn Dailey, and Dr. Ben Leiby



Kimmel Cancer Center Hosts Interurban Clinical Club

On Friday, October 28, the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson hosted the 204th meeting of the Interurban Clinical Club at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University.

Drs. Michael Lisanti, Richard Pestell, Carrie Sims and Michael Root at the 204th meeting of the Interurban Clinical Club at the Union League of Philadelphia.

The Interurban Clinical Club is a prestigious club 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.

Several prominent physicians and researchers from institutions in the Philadelphia region presented the latest in their cancer research and other disciplines.

Many KCC researchers spoke at the all-day event, including opening remarks by Richard Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., director of the KCC, Steven McMahon, Ph.D., Erik Knudsen, Ph.D., Michael Lisanti, M.D., Ph.D, and Michael Root, M.D., Ph.D.

That night, a black tie cocktail reception and dinner were held at the Union League of Philadelphia, with a special performance by “The Arrhythmia, a capella group made up of a dozen students in such fields as medicine, pharmacy, and doctoral studies at Jefferson Medical College.

This year, the Sir William Osler Young Investigator Award was given to Jordan Orange, M.D., Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Dr. Mark Zeidel, the ICC President, also presented Dr. Alfred Knudson, of Fox Chase Cancer Center, with a gift as a “thank you” and in recognition of his extensive accomplishments in cancer research.

There are five to nine active members of the ICC  from each city, including Baltimore, Boston, New Haven, New York and Philadelphia. Existing members of the ICC from the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson include Richard Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., Barry J. Goldstein, M.D., Scott Waldman, M.D., Ph.D, and Michael Lisanti, M.D., Ph.D.

See below for photographs from the event:

The Arrhythmias performing at the Union League of Philadelphia before the dinner and lecture

Dr. Wafik El-Deiry (ICC Secretary/Treasurer), Dr. Michael Levine, Dr. Jordan Orange, Dr. Steven Douglas, Dr. Richard Pestell. Dr. Orange is being presented with the 2011 Sir William Osler Young Investigator Award

Dr. Rochelle Hirschhorn and Dr. Kurt Hirschhorn at the Union League of Philadelphia

Dr. Pestell, Dr. Mark Zeidel (ICC President), and special guest speaker Dr. Alfred Knudson. Dr. Zeidel was presenting Dr. Knudson with a gift as a thank you and in recognition of his extensive accomplishments in cancer research




Gordon Schwartz, M.D., Nominated to National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers Board

Gordon F. Schwartz, MD, MBA, FACS, director of the Jefferson Breast Care Center

Gordon F. Schwartz, MD, MBA, FACS, director of the Jefferson Breast Care Center, will represent the American Society of Breast Disease on the board of the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC).

The NAPBC is a consortium of national, professional organizations dedicated to the improvement of the quality of care and the monitoring of outcomes for patients with diseases of the breast.

Dr. Schwartz attended his first meeting as a member of the board in San Francisco the week of October 24 during the 2011 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons.

Dr. Schwartz is an internationally renowned expert in breast diseases and a professor of surgery and medical oncology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.  His practice has been dedicated to treating breast diseases, both benign and malignant, for more than 30 years.

In 2009, Dr. Schwartz became director of the Jefferson Breast Care Center—one of the first Academic Medical Institutions receiving full accreditation by NAPBC.



Surgeons Cut Whipple Procedure Wound Infections in Half with New Measures

Harish Lavu, M.D., Department of Surgery

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital surgeons found that a carefully-selected surgical care check list of 12 measures reduced Whipple procedure wound infections by nearly 50 percent.

Smoking cessation at least two weeks prior to surgery, gown and glove change prior to skin closure, and using clippers over razors to shave the surgical area are some of the measures that helped reduced infection rates, according to the study published in the October 26 online issue of the Journal of Surgical Research.

In a retrospective study, Harish Lavu, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University, and colleagues analyzed clinical data from 233 consecutive Whipple procedures—also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy, an operation to treat benign and malignant diseases of the pancreas—from October 2005 to May 2008 on patients who underwent routine preoperative preparation (RPP). That preparation is less comprehensive than the 12 measure surgical care bundle. For instance, it uses a razor for hair removal and iodine skin preparation and does not include smoking cessation.

They compared those rates to 233 consecutive Whipple procedures performed from May 2008 to May 2010 following the implementation of the surgical care bundle.

The researchers found a 49 percent reduction in wound infections in the surgical care bundle group (7.7 percent) compared to the RPP group (15 percent). The difference was statistically significant.

“It is typically quite difficult to achieve a 50 percent reduction in an adverse outcome,” Dr. Lavu says. “We can make a significant impact on lowering wound infection in patients undergoing this surgery by using this set of guidelines.”

Wound infection rates for Whipple procedures are historically higher and more common than in other procedures. Infections can be painful and require reopening the incision, which can ultimately leave scarring. Also, if an infection is not identified quickly, it can spread and patients can become very ill.

Two standout measures, Dr. Lavu says, are the gown and glove change prior to skin closure and intraoperative wound edge protection, which separates edges of the incision from contact with visceral contents, instruments and gloves during the procedure. And, like past studies have shown, using chlorhexidine-alcohol for skin preparation, instead of iodine, helps lower the risk of wound infections.

“The preoperative and post operative briefings alone, which are now being instituted in many American hospitals, reduce complications simply by improving  communication among members of the health care team,” Dr. Lavu says.

“While some procedures at certain hospitals include a similar surgical bundle care, Jefferson’s is the first one, to the author’s knowledge, that has been implemented for pancreatic surgery.”

“Now it is the standard of care here, and we are trying to move the surgical care bundle as it applies to other kinds of surgery, even in other departments at Jefferson,” Dr. Lavu says.

The 12 measures that were implemented at Jefferson in 2008 include:

  • Absence of remote infection
  • Preoperative smoking cessation
  • Pre-admission chlorhexidine-alcohol skin preparation
  • Preoperative clipper hair removal
  • Preoperative chlorhexidine-alcohol skin preparation
  • Preoperative antibiotic administration
  • Intraoperative would edge protection
  • Intraoperative glycemic control
  • Intraoperative temperature control
  • Gown and glove change prior to skin closure
  • Deep venous thrombosis prophylaxis and beta-blocker administration
  • Pre and post-operative briefings



2011 Ladies of Port Richmond Breakfast Fundraiser

On Saturday, October 22nd, the Ladies of Port Richmond held a Breakfast Fundraiser to support breast canceer research at AppleBee’s located at Caster and Aramingo Avenue.  Thank you to all who participated and made donations to the Ladies of Port Richmond supporting their efforts to aid in the fight against breast cancer.



Ulrich Rodeck receives Ben Franklin-PCF Creativity Award

Ulrich Rodeck, M.D., Ph.D.

Ulrich Rodeck, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology, at Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University, received the Ben Franklin-Prostate Cancer Foundation Creativity award for his work in improving the therapeutic window of radiation therapy for prostate cancer.

Radiation therapy of locally advanced prostate cancer is associated with severe toxicity limits. Dr. Rodeck will test the hypothesis that modulators of inflammation will preferentially protect normal tissues, but not tumor tissues against radiation-associated toxicity. A series of novel radioprotective compounds have been selected to test this hypothesis in models of prostate cancer and in patients.

This radiobiology proposal will allow higher doses of external beam radiation to be administered, resulting in improved cancer control with reduced side effects to normal adjacent tissue.

Dr. Rodeck received the award on October 4 during the Prostate Cancer Foundation award ceremony and auction at the Union League.

Philadelphia Magazine also featured photos from the Prostate Cancer Foundation event on October 11.



Jefferson-Eagles Breast Health Floor Dedication Event

Ribbon Cutting at Jefferson Breast Care Center for Eagles floor and donor wall: Dr. Richard Pestell, director of KCC, Caity Buck, breast cancer survivor, Eagles owner Christina Lurie, Eagles safety Kurt Coleman, and Tom Lewis, president & CEO of TJUH

On October 11, the Jefferson Breast Care Center unveiled the Jefferson-Philadelphia Eagles Breast Health floor with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The speakers were Jefferson President and CEO Tom Lewis, Director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Dr. Richard Pestell, Eagles owner Christina Lurie, Eagles safety Kurt Coleman and breast cancer survivor Caity Buck.

Earlier this year, renovations were completed on the 3rd floor of the Jefferson Breast Care Center, thanks to the $1.04 million raised through the Philadelphia Eagles’ “Tackling Breast Cancer” campaign. Because of the team, its fans and partners, Jefferson patients can now benefit from a true multidisciplinary clinical team in this newly renovated space.

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.

Fox 29 and Comcast SportsNet covered the dedication event.



Eagles-Jefferson Prostate Cancer Awareness Campaign

From Left to Right: Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, Eagles safety Kurt Coleman, Dr. Leonard Gomella, Dr. Costas Lallas, Eagles alumni Bill Bergey and Eagles alumni Gary Cobb

The Philadelphia Eagles and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital are excited to announce they are teaming up in the 2011 season to promote Prostate Cancer Awareness.

The two organizations have worked together since 2006 on the Tackling Breast Cancer initiative, and are launching the new prostate cancer campaign at the Eagles home-opener this Sunday against the Giants, designed to raise awareness of the disease and urge men to get screened.

To kick off their partnership,  the Eagles and Jefferson held a VIP event at the Lincoln Financial Field’s West Club on September 22.

Eagles president Joe Banner and Dr. Leonard Gomella, the Bernard W. Godwin, Jr. Professor of Prostate Cancer and Chairman of the Department of Urology at Jefferson Medical College and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, addressed the a group of invited Premium and Corporate Clients.

On display was Jefferson’s surgical robot, the daVinci Si Surgical System. Physicians use the technology to perform a minimally invasive prostatectomy (removal of part or all of the prostate gland). With the robot-assisted surgery, patients get smaller incisions, shorter hospital stays, and faster recoveries.

Dr. Gomella explains Jefferson’s new surgical robot, the daVinci Si Surgical System




Dr. Robert Den Featured in PCF Video

Radiation oncologist Robert B. Den, M.D., who recently joined Thomas Jefferson University Hospital as an attending physician, was featured in a Prostate Cancer Foundation video highlighting his prostate cancer research and clinical work, as well as the importance of providing support for young investigators.

Dr. Den is a clinical scientist who specializes in the treatment of prostate cancer, combining his laboratory research that investigates novel anticancer agents in combination with radiation and hormonal therapy for locally advanced and high risk prostate cancer.Dr.

Den was awarded the Ben Frankin – PCF Young Investigator Award in 2010. That work is examining the importance of the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor gene, RB, in the response of prostate cancer cells to radiation and hormonal therapy. The research begins to address the ability to personalize therapy based on RB status.

Watch the video by clicking on this link: Robert Den – YI Interview from PCF on Vimeo.




Article By Dr. Nitin Ohri in Uro Today

Nitin Ohri, M.D.

Radiation Oncology’s Nitin Ohri, M.D., wrote a piece in Uro Today for its “Beyond the Abstract” section for a paper published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology and Physics titled “Physician beliefs and practices for adjuvant and salvage radiation therapy after prostatectomy.”

In the study, researchers surveyed United States prostate cancer specialists to assess post-prostatectomy radiotherapy practice patterns and the opinions on which they are based.

Significant discordance was identified. An online survey found that urologists were less likely to recommend radiation therapy immediately after a radical prostatectomy than radiation oncologists. Instead, those clinicians most likely opt to perform frequent PSA tests to monitor cancer, recommending salvage therapy if levels become elevated.

Read the entire article in Uro Today by Dr. Ohri here:

Post-prostatectomy Management of Patients with Adverse Pathologic Features: Why is there no Consensus?



Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Celebrates 20 Years of Patient Care and Cancer Discovery

October 2011 marks 20 years of exceptional cancer care and research at KCC

From October forward, the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson (KCC), a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, is celebrating 20 years of service to the community and the groundbreaking cancer research from the scientists and physicians who’ve provided an invaluable contribution to medical science and healthcare.

“This is truly a milestone for the Kimmel Cancer Center—it’s two decades of caring and collaborating to beat cancer,” says Richard Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., director of the KCC and Chair of the Department of Cancer Biology at Thomas Jefferson University.

“With our multidisciplinary approach, KCC’s team of clinicians and researchers has continued to put their best feet forward to provide excellent, stand-out personalized care for cancer patients in the Philadelphia region and beyond and uncover new pathways to better prevent, diagnose and treat the disease,” he added.

Today, the KCC offers up an experienced team of medical and radiation oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, urologists, neurosurgeons, nurses and other specialists for patients as they fight against cancer. With the Jefferson Breast Care Center, the Bodine Center for Radiation Therapy, the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine, and Jefferson Pancreatic, Biliary Tract and Related Cancer Center, to name a few, patients have access to the best facilities, providers and technologies for cancer screening and treatment.

It was October 1991 when the Jefferson Cancer Institute opened, with the dedication of the Bluemle Life Science Building on the Thomas Jefferson University campus. Four years later, with the awarding of a Cancer Center Support Grant, the National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute (NCI) officially recognized it as one of only 54 NCI-designated cancer centers in the U.S. at the time. The institute took its current name in 1996 when businessman and philanthropist Sidney Kimmel made a generous donation to the institute to expand its research activities.

The donation to Jefferson is not a “gift,” but “an investment for humanity,” Mr. Kimmel told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1996. “I really believe we’re going to have a breakthrough” in cancer research.

Living up to his expectations, KCC cancer researchers have made significant contributions over the last two decades, including better care in prostate cancer (Leonard Gomella, M.D.); new targets and diagnostics for prostate and breast cancer (Hallgeir Rui, M.D., Ph.D., Dr. Pestell); discoveries in colon cancer (Scott Waldman, M.D., Ph.D); pioneering discoveries in cancer metabolism and stem cells (Michael Lisanti, M.D. Ph.D., Dr. Pestell); better bone marrow transplants (Neal Flomenberg, M.D.); more selective radiation treatment (Adam Dicker, M.D.); and new areas of the human genome to treat (Isidore Rigoutsos, Ph.D., and  Paolo M. Fortina, M.D., Ph.D.).

Dr. Pestell, who became director in 2005, has made significant contributions to understanding cell cycle regulation and the aberrations that can lead to cells turning cancerous. His work identified new molecular markers, and new targets for cancer treatment. An internationally renowned expert in oncology and endocrinology, Dr. Pestell’s record of research funding is outstanding, securing substantial National Institutes of Health grants for the KCC.

Today, KCC’s well-funded basic science programs include cell biology, immunology and structural biology, developmental therapeutics, melanoma, leukemia/lymphoma, prostate and breast cancers, and gastrointestinal and genitourinary cancers. KCC also conducts numerous cancer clinical trials each year aimed at prevention and treatment of cancer.

Two recent clinical trials have resulted in the addition of new procedures at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.  For example, in the Department of Urology, under chairman Leonard Gomella, M.D, a bladder cancer diagnostic tool using an imaging agent and blue light technology is now helping physicians better detect tumors along the bladder lining. Also, a new, two-step approach to half-match bone marrow transplants (where a patient can use a sibling or parent as a donor) developed by Chair of Medical Oncology Neal Flomenberg, M.D., is proving to be a success for blood cancer patients whose options were otherwise limited.  Jefferson is the only hospital in the region performing half-match procedures.

Since being appointed as chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology in 2010, Adam Dicker, M.D., Ph.D., has led extensive clinic renovations and the ongoing addition of new technologies. That includes Bodine’s recently acquired radiation therapy equipment for head and neck and prostate cancer patients and an upcoming radiosurgey instrument designed to deliver higher doses of radiation to smaller areas. Bodine’s state-of-the-art brachytherapy suite is also set to open in early 2012.

Last year, Charles J. Yeo, M.D., Chair of Surgery, performed his 1,000th Whipple procedure.  The Whipple procedure is a major surgical operation involving removal of portions of the pancreas, bile duct and duodenum, and is typically performed to treat malignant tumors involving the pancreas, common bile duct or duodenum.  Jefferson’s surgery department treats more pancreatic cases than anywhere in the region.

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is consistently ranked in the top 50 best hospitals for treating cancer in America (#31 in 2011) in U.S. News and World Report. What’s more, the hospital has moved up more than 20 places in the past five years for cancer.



The Royal Australasian College of Physicians President, Professor John Kolbe Visits The KCC


Professor John Kolbe, MBBS, FRACP visited the Kimmel Cancer Center and Thomas Jefferson University on September 26, 2011.

John Kolbe is a graduate of the University of Queensland.  After working in Adelaide, he completed his clinical
training in Auckland and then undertook a research fellowship at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.  He is
currently a respiratory physician at Auckland City Hospital and Professor of Medicine and Head of the
Department of Medcine, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland.

He is a past‐President of the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand.  Previous positions in the College
include Chair of Specialities Board, President of Adult Medicine Division and Chair of College Policy &
Advocacy Committee. He is currently President of The Royal Australasian College of Physicians.



Kimmel Cancer Center “All Hands Meeting”

The Kimmel Cancer Center held it’s quarterly “All Hands” meeting on September 15, 2011. Dr. Richard Pestell, Director of the Kimmel Cancer Center, delivered his quarterly “State of the Cancer Center” address.  Awards were presented in three categories. The Administration Award was presented to Andrea M. Kahn-Kothmann, ESQ. The Nursing Award was presented to Mary Ann McGinley, PhD, RN. The Clinical Award was presented to Takami Sato, MD.

Ms. Andrea M. Kahn-Kothmann receives Administration Award from Mr. Richard Haldeman

Dr. Mary Ann McGinley receives Nursing Award from Dr. Richard Pestell


Dr. Takami Sato recieves Clinical Award from Dr. Wm. Kevin Kelly with an assist from Dr. Michael Mastrangelo





Dr. Michael Lisanti’s Cancer Research Featured in New Scientist

Michael Lisanti, M.D., Ph.D.

New cancer research suggests that we have misunderstood the feeding habits of cancer for decades, wrongly believing that cancer cells produce the bulk of their energy by breaking down glucose in the absence of oxygen, known as the Warburg effect.

Dr. Michael Lisanti of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson proposes that when a cell turns cancerous it begins to release hydrogen peroxide. The resulting free radicals cause oxidative damage that prompt support cells in the surrounding connective tissues, known as fibroblasts, to digest themselves.

In a New Scientist article, Dr. Lisanti explains, “It’s the Warburg effect, but in the wrong place. Cancer cells can feed off normal cells as a parasite.”

Dr. Lisanti and his team found that treating cancer cells with catalase, an enzyme that destroys hydrogen peroxide, triggered a five-fold increase in cancer cell death. The article also goes on to say that Dr. Lisanti is now gathering evidence to find out whether his ideas can be applied to many cancers or just a few.