Connections - December 2013
Looking Back, Moving Forward
As I take stock of the accomplishments of the Roswell Park community over the last year, two things strike me: the breadth and diversity of the projects that kept us busy over the course of 2013, and the participation of an ever-greater number of collaborators in these efforts. We truly have been firing on all cylinders, with help from a long list of partners.
The year started out with the formal launch of our Center for Personalized Medicine in January. Since the Center’s establishment with $5.1 million in New York State Regional Economic Development Council funding, RPCI has invested some $16 million more to staff the center up — we’ve created 30 new-economy jobs there so far, with more on the way — and outfit it with additional sequencing equipment. The expertise and resources housed in the CPM allow us to truly tailor therapies to individual patients — a remarkable shift in the way we approach the treatment, diagnosis and prognosis of cancer.
By February we’d announced two clinical expansions — one in Niagara County, where we opened our Niagara satellite location for surgical and dermatologic patients, plus an expanded affiliation with a Southern Tier practice, Jamestown Medical Oncology Hematology LLC.
In March, RPCI’s Dr. Khurshid Guru and colleagues from four other institutions, including the University at Buffalo, published research about a new curriculum they developed jointly to train surgeons in the basic steps and processes required to perform robot-assisted surgeries — all within a virtual or simulated environment, representing a dramatic advance in patient safety.
Our 18th annual Ride For Roswell in June involved a record number of participants and volunteers, generating another record in funds raised: more than $4 million toward patient care and research benefitting RPCI and those we serve. The extent of community support for our patients that happens through the Ride every year is nothing short of remarkable.
That same month, we announced a new partnership with the University of Rochester for the training of oncologic surgeons, as well as the start of the sixth study to be launched through our Center for Immunotherapy — a clinical trial led by Dr. John Kane, involving a new approach to treating advanced melanoma.
In August we shared word about a new training program for minority researchers, developed by Dr. Alex Adjei and the Center for Drug Development at RPCI, in collaboration with Eli Lilly and Co.
In September, RPCI marked a milestone with the awarding of its first National Cancer Institute Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant — an $11 million award to Dr. Kunle Odunsi and a team of researchers from both RPCI and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, for a project designed to speed innovative immune-based therapies to women with ovarian cancer.
And in November we shared the happy news that our Clinical Sciences Center, now under construction, will benefit from more than $6 million in funds generated through the federal New Markets Tax Credit program, thanks to the efforts of Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Brian Higgins and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.
All in all, these varied activities add up to a busy and successful year. We’re proud of our team for the years of work that went into these projects, and grateful to the participants, partners and donors who enabled them.
What can you expect from us in 2014?
The year ahead promises more collaboration. Watch for more big news to come from our efforts in personalized medicine, in both the clinical and research arenas.
We’ll cheer on our colleagues at the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, who have partnered with us for more than 40 years in offering pediatric oncology care across the region, as they break ground on a new hospital on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. You’ll see physical changes on our grounds, too, as the Clinical Sciences Center, set to open in 2016, continues to take shape.
We know you’ll be right alongside us for all of it. Thank you for inspiring our work, for challenging us to find new and better ways to fulfill our mission and for supporting us with your donations, your volunteerism and your advocacy. In all these ways, you make a difference for Roswell Park patients, and for that we say: thank you!
– Donald L. Trump, MD, FACP
President & CEO
As we wind down another year and greet the new one with hope and anticipation, view this timely message, a compilation of moments from this year’s Tree of Hope event. As you watch it, please remember our patients and their families. We wish you and your family a joyous holiday season and a happy, healthy new year.
Directors Appointed in Two Key Leadership Positions
Kara Eaton-Weaver, most recently Manager of Patient Relations, has been appointed to the new post of Executive Director of RPCI’s Patient/Family Experience Department. In addition, the Institute’s new Director of Technology Transfer and Commercial Development, Harl Tolbert, has served in leadership roles in the technology-transfer offices at both the University of Rochester and Tulane University.
Three New Immunotherapy Studies Launched
Dr. Thomas Schwaab from RPCI’s Departments of Urology and Immunology is heading three new immunotherapy studies: one that will assess a combination radiation/immunotherapy approach to treating metastatic kidney cancer, one that will test radiotherapy and immunotherapy in metastatic prostate cancer, and one that involves a new adjuvant immunotherapy for bladder cancer.
RPCI-Led Research Studies Secondhand Impact of E-Cigarettes
In one of the first studies to compare the emissions from electronic and conventional cigarettes, a team led by Roswell Park’s Dr. Maciej Goniewicz found that secondhand exposure to nicotine from e-cigarettes was, on average, 10 times less than the exposures that occur with tobacco smoke.
What Makes Some Tumor Cells Grow?
Only a fraction of cancer cells have the ability to generate more cancer cells. Cells that have the ability to multiply are called cancer stem cells. Found in a number of tumor types, cancer stem cells can account for up to one third of a tumor and may play important roles in tumor initiation, progression, and resistance to chemotherapy and radiation. However, it remains unclear how cancer stem cells are genetically different from other cancer cells.
Thanks to generous donations to RPCI, Lei Wei, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology, Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, and his team recently launched a study using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) to explore the genetics of cancer stem cells. The team will first analyze melanoma, an aggressive tumor type known for having a relatively high proportion of cancer stem cells and complex differences within the tumor.
Using cutting-edge cell isolation and single cell preparation systems, Dr. Wei and his team will dissect the entire tumor into small regions and access the abundance of cancer stem cells in each region. Next, using NGS technology they will generate data about each region and develop and utilize state-of-the-art computational programs to precisely identify and compare the genetic alterations in each to find their differences on a DNA level.
“These findings will help us answer basic questions about why cancer stem cells grow, and how their abundance can be determined in different tumors,” said Dr. Wei. "Accurate characterization of individual tumor profiles will help in developing more effective, personalized treatments.”
Dr. Wei joined Roswell Park in 2013. To learn more about him, view his biography here.
Roswell Park faculty members regularly share their expertise with major national media outlets and oncology publications. Some recent examples:
Dr. Philip McCarthy to OncLive: “(Ibrutinib) is one of several compounds that are targeting specific pathways in the CLL cell that will likely lead to long-term control and possibly cure of this disease… It will be important to see how long these responses are maintained.”
Dr. Elizabeth Repasky to The New York Times: “It is not helpful to hyperthermia to have yet another uncontrolled study…. The one thing cancer patients want to know is whether a treatment might help someone else in their family some day.”
Dr. Meir Wetzler to Healio/HemOnc Today (on detection of minimal residual disease in hematologic malignancies): “Standards must be developed disease by disease. This presents difficulties.”
Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC
For more than 25 years, the attorneys at Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC have been helping individuals recover damages from asbestos-related injuries, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC has also been a longtime supporter of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in support of its clients affected by cancer.
Most recently, the firm stepped up as the sole sponsor of RPCI’s Breath of Life Celebration for cancer patients, survivors and their families. The event provided information about new approaches to lung cancer surveillance, treatment, research and survivorship. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and is most curable when detected early.
Lipsitz & Ponterio has also supported RPCI’s All Star Night Gala and currently has a Facebook campaign donating cash to Roswell Park for each new “like” their Facebook page receives through April for a total donation up to $5,000. (Check out the promotion here). Lipsitz & Ponterio is the first organization to launch a philanthropic Facebook campaign donating to RPCI.
“For nearly thirty years, my partner Michael Ponterio and I have been representing individuals in the Buffalo Niagara region and throughout Upstate New York coping with work place-related cancers, including mesothelioma and lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos,” said John N. Lipsitz, a founding partner at Lipsitz & Ponterio.
“We recently partnered with Roswell Park and sponsored the Breath of Life event because we believe it is critical to reach out to worker populations at high risk of lung cancer for the purpose of screening, education, early detection and treatment.”
Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC, established in 1995, concentrates its practice in the areas of asbestos disease and lead poisoning litigation, medical malpractice, insurance liability, personal injury and workers’ compensation matters. The Firm has achieved thousands of settlements and numerous verdicts on behalf of its clients harmed by toxic substances.
Complete your holiday shopping on Amazon Smile and Amazon will donate a percentage of the price of your eligible purchases to the cutting-edge research and patient care programs at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
When you shop at Amazon Smile, you’ll find the same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to Roswell Park.
Aflac Holiday Ducks
Now through January, be on the lookout for the Aflac Holiday Duck, found at the Macy’s store in the McKinley Mall. Proceeds from the duck will support RPCI’s new pediatric unit.
Cups for Roswell
Dunkin’ Donuts “Cups for Roswell” 12-pack coupon books make the perfect holiday gift. Give a whole year of coffee to one person, or split the coupons up to make multiple gifts!
A 12-pack of coupon books contains 372 coupons for a free medium coffee, iced coffee or tea. Coupons are sharable with family and friends and make great holiday gifts for the coffee lovers in your life!
Only the first five coupons in each booklet are valid at the Dunkin’ Donuts located in the hospital lobby. You must purchase the full 12 pack for $175 as packs are not being sold individually, and the coupons are valid from now until 12/31/14.
Thanks to the generosity of Dunkin’ Donuts, 100% of your purchase will benefit cancer research and patient support programs at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
The coupon books can be purchased in the Roswell Park Gift Shop in the hospital lobby or online by clicking here.
Paint Box Holiday Cards
This year, send a holiday card that gives back! The Paint Box holiday collection is created by pediatric patients and their families, and is now available for purchase.
Cards and gifts can be purchased online and portions of the proceeds of sales fund patient support programs at RPCI. Most cards and gifts in the collection can be personalized. Get a head start on the holidays here.
Anonymous Stranger Gives Amazing Gift to Sick Siblings — WGRZ-TV Channel 2, 12/12/13
Roswell Park taps new patient experience, research leaders — The Buffalo News, 12/7/13
Six-year-old girl lights Tree of Hope — WIVB-TV Channel 4, 12/6/13
On the road: Supplemental Health Care professionals follow job opportunities across the country — Buffalo Business First, 11/29/13
See more RPCI headlines at roswellpark.org/media/in-the-news
Exercise May Lower Risk of Esophageal Cancer
If you need another motivator to get you off the couch, try this: people who are physically active had a 32 percent lower risk for esophageal adenocarcinoma, according to findings presented at a meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology. Esophageal cancer affects more men than women and known risk factors include older age, heavy alcohol use, tobacco use and the condition Barrett’s esophagus. Although it remains unclear whether exercise directly decreases esophageal cancer risk, improving physical activity and getting to a healthy weight as part of an overall lifestyle is simply a win-win.
“We’ve learned that physical activity lowers risk for colon and breast cancer,” said RPCI’s Chief of Gastrointestinal Surgery, Steven Hochwald, MD, FACS, “and is linked with reduced risk for several more such as prostate, lung, lining of the uterus and now esophageal. Despite this, studies show more than 50 percent of Americans do not engage in enough regular physical activity. With the rapid rise of obesity, we must resist the urge to eat more and exercise less.”