Connections - April 2013

Mon, 04/29/2013
Roswellness Connections
A Message from the President
Dr. Donald Trump

Sequestration: Feeling the Effects

The automatic cuts to many federal programs that took effect in March have had consequences that are being felt at Roswell Park, affecting not only recently submitted proposals but projects already approved for federal funding.

Take Dr. Irwin Gelman’s proposal for a study on the role specific genes play in metastasis of prostate cancer. It’s a great accomplishment for any medical researcher to win federal funding, as only about 8 percent of proposals submitted to National Institutes of Health (NIH) agencies are funded. But now Dr. Gelman, The John & Santa Palisano Chair in Cancer Genetics at RPCI, expects to have to cut one of three researchers from this effort — a 33% workforce reduction. “Budget cuts would prevent our completing whole portions of our project,” he told me.

And Dr. Kelvin Lee, Jacobs Family Chair in Immunology, has two grants in limbo: a training grant for doctoral students in immunology and a plasma-cell study that could yield new therapies for multiple myeloma, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as food allergies, or support development of more effective vaccines. “We’d typically have four grad students a year whose stipends were supported by the NIH, but we’ve had to hold off hiring any new postdoctoral fellows or taking on new students,” he said. “Our work has slowed down because we had to limit the scope of this research, and we’ve put a lot of projects on the back burner.”

These are just a couple examples among the dozens of research projects conceived by Roswell Park scientists that have been delayed, stunted and perhaps irreparably harmed by sequestration. Magnify that across the numbers of researchers at institutions around the nation and you get a sense of the short- and long-term damage that sequestration will cause, just within the realm of medical research.

These prospects prompted thousands of researchers, physicians, students and citizens to gather in Washington, D.C., for the Rally for Medical Research, coordinated by the American Association for Cancer Research earlier this month. Roswell Park Cancer Institute was front and center, making sure our voices were heard through our 50 representatives who attended the rally, and through our local rally here on campus with Congressman Brian Higgins. We have to make sure Congress and the president get the message: We can’t let these damaging cuts continue. We need bipartisan action now to make sure medical research doesn’t get shortchanged any longer.

You too can be an advocate for medical research funding. To find out how you can be involved, please visit www.rallyformedicalresearch.org.

-Donald L. Trump, MD, FACP
President & CEO

Institute News

New York Genome Center Affiliation Opens Up Prospects for Statewide Collaboration

RPCI has joined the New York Genome Center, an independent coalition of academic medical centers, research universities and commercial organizations, as an Associate Member. The affiliation will see Roswell Park sharing knowledge and resources with statewide partners, extending existing collaborations to accelerate development of new therapies enabled by gene-sequencing technologies and bioinformatic analysis.

Scientists Share Research on Breast Cancer, Liver Cancer, Promising New Therapy

Several RPCI faculty shared important findings with colleagues in recent weeks. Among them were Dr. Christine Ambrosone, who gave an overview of research on lifestyle factors and risk of breast cancer in African-American women during the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting (AACR); Dr. Fengzhi Li, whose team published findings about a new formulation of an anticancer agent that shows promise for treating a number of solid-tumor cancers; and Dr. Yasmin Thanavala, senior author on a study that proposes new approaches for overcoming the resilience of a common type of liver cancer.

Roswell Park Scientists Rally for Medical Research, in Washington and in Buffalo

Underscoring troubling impacts on cancer research, cancer care and education of future oncologists, dozens of Roswell Park faculty and staff took part in local and national Rally for Medical Research events. A proud RPCI contingent was among the thousands of supporters at the main rally in Washington, D.C., and on the RPCI campus, Rep. Brian Higgins joined Dr. Trump and leaders from the University at Buffalo and Hauptman-Woodward Institute for a press conference and Rally viewing party.

Donor Dollars at Work

Most Expensive Cancer Provides Fewest Treatment Options

At a cost of nearly $2 billion per year in the U.S. alone, bladder cancer is the most expensive malignancy to treat.

Bladder cancer is also among the most common malignancies worldwide and has a high frequency of recurrence. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 72,500 cases of bladder cancer diagnosed in the Unites States in 2013. However, there have been few new therapies or advances in this area of research over the past 20 years.

Thanks to generous donations to Roswell Park, Dr. Anna Woloszynska-Read, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology for the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, is working on research that could change how bladder cancer is treated.

Her research aims to comprehensively define bladder cancer tissues using samples from Roswell Park’s Tissue Procurement Bank and state-of-the-art sequencing methodologies. The study seeks to discover new biomarkers and therapy targets in bladder cancer to improve our ability to diagnose, treat and monitor patients with the disease.

“It is basically a cancer that screams for new findings, for providing patients who suffer from the disease with some options,” she said. “There is a lot of room to really contribute significantly in this area and, thanks to our generous donors, I think Roswell Park is on its way to doing so.”

Dr. Woloszynska-Read joined the faculty of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics in 2012. To learn more about her work, visit here.

In the Community

National Minority Cancer Awareness Week Focuses on Awareness, Prevention

The Office of Cancer Health Disparities Research at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) hit the streets of Buffalo and Niagara Falls with a new educational program coinciding with National Minority Cancer Awareness Week. Throughout the week of April 15–21, RPCI staff and volunteers shared information about cancer prevention and health at a series of Now U Know: Stormin’ the Streets events, including an April 18 stop at the NFTA downtown bus station (pictured here).

Roswell Park representatives shared information about early cancer detection, screenings, risk assessment, healthy eating and exercise habits, and asked passersbys to complete a short survey on cancer health awareness and cancer risk.

Roughly 50 percent of cancer deaths can be prevented through regular screenings, healthy eating, regular physical activity and quitting tobacco use. Studies have shown that minorities are less likely to have cancer screening tests and consume fewer fruits, vegetables and whole grains, compared to the general U.S. population, and report physical activity levels below the recommended minimum.

Stormin’ the Streets is part of Now U Know, a Roswell Park communications initiative targeting underserved communities in Western New York.

Pictured are (from left to right) Debra Headly (RPCI employee), Mr. Andy Parker of Buffalo, and Diane Trueheart (RPCI employee). Mr. Parker was in process of boarding a bus when he stopped over to get some information about cancer for a friend.

The Cancer Experts

Roswell Park faculty members regularly share their expertise with major national media outlets and oncology publications. Some recent examples:

Dr. Candace Johnson to MedPage Today: “Most people know that obesity is a high-risk factor for malignancy, for bad health in general. But [the idea] that you could change markers that may predispose you to a premalignant condition in endometrial cancer is very interesting.”

Dr. Shicha Kumar to Reuters Health/Medscape: “While some may recommend cessation of [mammography] screening with increasing age, if a woman is otherwise in good health, and can tolerate the treatment should a cancer be found, early diagnosis is important…. Clinicians should advise elderly women in otherwise good health to continue mammographic screening for breast cancer.”

Dr. Willie Underwood III to MedPage Today: “We need to move all trains forward in trying to create better markers [for prostate cancer] and better ability to diagnose high-risk men early. Until that time, we continue with the PSA test, and men who are at high risk definitely should be evaluated.”

Events and Promotions

West Herr Supports RPCI, Offers Chance to Win a Year of FREE Gas

West Herr Automotive Group, presenting sponsor of The Ride For Roswell 2013, is offering the chance to win a year’s worth of free gas to each person who completes a form through its new Facebook application. There is no cost to enter, and participants are encouraged to share the promotion through their own Facebook and Twitter accounts.

In total, Team West Herr hopes to raise $200,000 through all of their fundraising efforts, including this application, to support the cutting-edge research and patient-care programs at Roswell Park through the campaign, fittingly titled “200k for The Ride.”

The winner of the year of free gas will be announced on Ride day, June 22, 2013. One entry per person is allowed, and West Herr and Roswell Park employees are not eligible to win.

Give Mom a Gift that Gives Back

Looking for the perfect gift for mom this Mother’s Day? From bricks to jewelry, give a gift that has impact!

  • Embrace the Difference Jewelry Collection

    This beautiful line of jewelry created by a local mother reminds us that we are all connected, no matter our differences. The line is available for sale at Reeds Jenss locations and online here.Select Roswell Park as your charity recipient and $30 to $100 of your purchase will support the cutting-edge research and patient-care programs at RPCI. You’ll also receive a free T-shirt or bag with purchase while supplies last!

  • New Era “beLIeVE” hats

    Keep mom cool this summer with the New Era “beLIeVE” cap. The cap was created especially for Roswell Park by New Era as part of its commitment to help raise awareness and funds to find a cancer cure. The caps can be purchased at the Roswell Park gift shop, the New Era flagship store and online here.

  • Pink Wall of Hope

    Looking for a unique way to honor your mother? Purchase a brick on our Pink Wall of Hope at Chef’s Restaurant for just $25. All proceeds are donated to breast cancer research at Roswell Park. Purchase your brick here.

RPCI in the News
 

New Era, Roswell Park Team Up Again  – The Buffalo News, 4/16/13
Human Genome, Then and NowThe New York Times, 4/15/13
Editorial: Sequestration Cuts will Devastate Cancer Research The Buffalo News, 4/8/13
More Doctors are Treating Patients' Emotional, Spiritual Pain The Buffalo News, 3/31/13 

See more RPCI headlines at roswellpark.org/media/in-the-news

You Should Know

When it Comes to Weight Loss, Money Talks

For many of us who are overweight, getting healthier or into our skinny jeans simply isn’t incentive enough for action. The real game-changer is cash, according to findings presented at a recent meeting of the American College of Cardiology.

In their study, researchers evaluated the effect of financial incentives among 100 obese volunteers enrolled in weight-loss plans. About half the volunteers were offered a financial incentive — receiving $20 per month for reaching the 4-pound weight-loss goal and paying a penalty of $20 if the goal was not reached. The penalty money was collected into a bonus pool, for which the incentive volunteers would be eligible if they completed the study.

In the end, the volunteers with the financial incentive lost more weight (9-pound average) and more of them stayed the course (62 percent) compared to those without the incentive, who lost less weight (2.3 pounds, on average) and fewer (26 percent) completed the program.

“The challenge is maintenance,” says James Marshall, PhD, Chair of the Department of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences. “Too many programs motivate people to lose modest amounts of weight in the short term, only to see those participants gain it back. A lifestyle change with a shift in dietary composition and eating practices is needed for long-term weight loss.”