Connections - January 2013

Tue, 01/08/2013
Roswellness Connections
A Message from the President
Dr. Donald Trump

Cancer’s Cost to Society: The Case for Cancer Research

Roswell Park Cancer Institute is the number-one cancer care provider in Western New York and we know all too well the emotional toll that cancer exacts on patients, their families and their caregivers.

But the cost of cancer isn’t limited to its emotional impact on individual families. There is a financial side of cancer; its cost to society as a whole is enormous.

The facts: Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimated the overall annual costs of cancer total $226.8 billion. Nearly half of those costs are derived from cancer treatment, the other half is associated with early mortality and lost productivity.

To do this, first-class cancer research -- laboratory, clinical and population studies -- is critical. Cutting-edge cancer research, like that conducted at Roswell Park, pays large dividends in terms of both improving America’s health and strengthening the nation’s biomedical research potential.

In 2012, Roswell Park researchers received more than $61 million in competitive grant awards from the NIH, the nation’s premier medical research agency, and RPCI was the second-highest recipient of NCI funding in New York State. Every dollar of NIH funding promptly generates an additional $2.11; in addition, a typical NIH grant supports salaries for seven jobs.

The impact of a research grant goes far beyond the dollars used to purchase supplies and conduct research. There is a very positive economic benefit from these competitive awards; investment in cancer research spurs further development of patents, spinoff companies and job creation.

As one example producing long-term benefits, the $471,000 that RPCI faculty members Robert Fenstermaker, MD, and Michael Ciesielski, PhD, were awarded by the NCI in 2004 and 2005 laid the groundwork for a phase I clinical trial you can read more about in this issue of Connections. To speed the process of bringing new treatments to patients, Drs. Fenstermaker and Ciesielski are now developing a small company that will be the first spinoff to arise from science developed entirely at Roswell Park.

Their new “vaccine” approach to treating brain tumors and other cancers offers the potential for important improvement in patient care AND could well return the NCI, RPCI and private donor investment many-fold. This is yet another example of RPCI’s bench-to-bedside research.

Given the financial stakes in the war against cancer, we take very seriously our role as an economic engine for the region. We know that being at the forefront of compassionate cancer care and treatment and innovative research translates into jobs in our community. Roswell Park is one of the largest employers in the region, having created more than 1,000 jobs over the last 10 years as we have pursued our mission to understand, prevent and cure cancer.

Support of funding sources, like the NIH, is critical for our future work and those sources could be severely impacted in 2013 given the outcomes of both federal and state budgetary discussions and ultimate resolutions.

Please be aware of the challenges surrounding future research funding dollars and the benefit they provide, and continue to be an advocate so that we can together tackle both the societal and personal impacts of cancer.

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

Institute News

Roswell Park to Expand with First New Building since 2007

Plans are underway to begin construction on an 11-story addition to the RPCI campus in spring 2013, pending state approval. The Clinical Sciences Center is expected to be completed in spring 2015 and will offer enhanced services to help more patients. The new building took a big step toward becoming a reality with a gift from New Era.

RPCI is Only Facility in State Named a Leapfrog Top Hospital

In December, Roswell Park was named to the prestigious Leapfrog Top Hospitals list for a third consecutive year — the only New York state facility to be named to this year’s list, which represents fewer than 8% of U.S. hospitals.  As part of the selection process, the Leapfrog Group evaluates areas such as error prevention, Intensive Care Unit staffing and complex, high-risk procedures.  Our news release provides details.

Study Testing New Brain Cancer Vaccine is RPCI’s 4th Immunotherapy Trial of 2012

RPCI faculty members Robert Fenstermaker, MD, Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery and Director of the Neuro-Oncology Program, and Michael Ciesielski, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, recently launched a phase I clinical study of a first-of-its-kind cancer vaccine in patients with specific types of brain tumors — the fourth trial launched through RPCI’s Center for Immunotherapy in 2012. The agent, SurVaxM, has shown promise for treating several solid-tumor cancers. Take a look at our news release and video to learn more about this innovative research.

Donor Dollars at Work

Exploring Lung Cancer Treatment Options

Donations to RPCI are helping researchers explore new ways to overcome drug resistance in a subtype of lung cancer that occurs mainly in women and non-smokers. The subtype is referred to as EGFR-mutant lung cancer, after the mutated protein that is often linked to its development—Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor. Drugs that block the action of EGFR (such as erlotinib) have been shown to initially be effective in patients with EGFR-mutant lung cancer.  Unfortunately, however, most patients with EGFR-mutant lung cancer who receive erlotinib show disease progression after approximately one year of treatment because the tumor cells become resistant to the drug. 

But a team led by Pamela Hershberger, PhD, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, recently made the novel discovery that vitamin D3 specifically blocks the growth of EGFR-mutant lung cancer cells.  Based on other published scientific studies, the members of Dr. Hershberger’s lab hypothesize that vitamin D3 may also make these particular lung cancer cells more sensitive to erlotinib and can delay or prevent erlotinib resistance.

“Effective and safe strategies to achieve longer-lasting disease control are urgently needed in order to improve the long-term outcome for these individuals,” said Dr. Hershberger. “Because erlotinib is already approved for the treatment of lung cancer, and safe strategies to deliver vitamin D3 also exist, our hope is that positive results from the study can be rapidly developed into lung cancer clinical trials.”

The Cancer Experts

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

Dr. Stephen Edge to The Huffington Post: "It's not wholly unreasonable to have a bilateral mastectomy even if you don't have a [BRCA] mutation, but … most likely, you're not providing yourself any protection against premature death from breast cancer.”

Dr. Myron Czuczman to Medscape Today: “No single agent is going to be the cure-all…. we need to work out the optimal way of using these agents in the future. We are going to be seeing tons of combinations over the next couple of years.”

Dr. Chi-Chen Hong to HemOnc Today: “At the moment, the evidence for taking aspirin to prevent breast cancer is still pretty weak. The strongest scientific evidence to date points to maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and limiting alcohol intake as the best lifestyle strategies to reduce breast cancer risk.”


Ethan Allen:  Enter to Win Big and Help Pediatric Patients

During the month of January, Ethan Allen is selling raffle tickets for the chance to win a $3,000 gift certificate to be used at their location at 3875 Sheridan Drive, Amherst! Raffle tickets are available for purchase at this location only and store hours and driving directions can be found on their website at  Tickets cost $25 each or you can purchase 3 for $50.  All proceeds benefit Carly's Club for Kids & Cancer Research in WNY, which offers programs to make life more manageable for children diagnosed with cancer and their families, and supports pediatric cancer research at RPCI.   Only 500 tickets will be sold.  The lucky winner will be drawn at the store on the evening of Friday, February 1, 2013.

See a Show, Do Some Good!

This winter, Roswell Park and the Theatre Alliance of Buffalo are joining forces for a special promotion called Applause for Hope. Every Saturday in February, local theaters will donate a percentage of ticket sales from one performance to the Theatre Alliance and Roswell Park. In addition, every performance of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at Shea’s Performing Arts Center will include a chance for audience members to make a donation. So use your night out to support our wonderful local theater and Roswell Park at the same time!  More information and a full list of participating performances are available at

Trading Hair for Hope

Schools, organizations and individuals can go Bald for Bucks to raise funds for cancer research and patient programs at Roswell Park. Participants shave or cut ten inches of their hair and collect pledges to donate. So get going and start an event today!  Sign up at or, for more information, contact us at 716-845-8788 or

Sponsor Spotlight

JPMorgan steps up to again support RPCI Summer Program

Program designed to inspire careers involving scientific research

A generous contribution of $12,500 from JPMorgan Chase will help fund the 61st year of Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s Summer Research Program. The program provides junior high school students with a unique hands-on science education that prepares them for future science courses and helps them decide whether a science-related career or career in cancer research is right for them. 

The seven-week program encourages students to open up their “inner researcher” through a combination of three student experiences – a mentored research experience, a course in cancer biology and professional development activities.  Each student works full time on an independent research project under the supervision of a RPCI scientific staff member and alongside graduate students and post-doctoral trainees. The program concludes with a conference at which participants present a scientific poster on their research projects.  In the last few years, the program has been growing in popularity with even more teens deciding on a career in medical research.

In the summer of 2012, West Seneca West High School junior Danielle Franklin worked
in the laboratory of Chief Infectious Diseases Professor Brahm Segal, MD, alongside graduate student Kelly Singel.

“Our desks were set up right next to each other so whenever I was doing an experiment, Danielle was right there,” said Singel. 

Taking on the role of researcher helped Franklin recognize how rewarding a career in medical research can be.

“This program has made me realize how much I love this field,” said Franklin. “I knew I liked science and medicine, and I kind of knew I wanted to work in a laboratory, but this experience has solidified that, and now I know what I am going to do with my future.”

The RPCI Summer Research Program accepts applications from high school students who are currently in their junior year of high school. The program is competitive.  During a typical year Roswell Park faculty members select 25 students from a much-larger pool of applicants.

JPMorgan Chase, one of the world's largest and most influential global financial institutions, is committed to making a positive difference in the communities where they operate.  One of their key areas of philanthropic focus is education, which makes supporting this program a perfect fit.

“We recognize that education plays a critical role in the advancement and well-being of our society,” said JPMorgan’s Division Manager, Northeast Municipal Banking, Fred Vosburgh.  “What’s great about Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s Summer Research Program is that it really engages young people in science and allows them to stretch and grow in a real-world setting.  We are thrilled that we are playing a part in supporting the next generation of scientists and cancer researchers.”

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) has operations in more than 60 countries.  In Western New York, JPMorgan Chase Bank serves more than 320,000 consumers and 8,700 small businesses, corporations, nonprofits and municipal entities.  More information about Chase is available at

RPCI in the News

Personalized medicine offers glimpse into the future – The Buffalo News, 12/16/12

RPCI scores high but not all WNY hospitals grade well – Buffalo Business First, 12/5/12

Donors to Roswell Park deserve community’s thanks – The Buffalo News, 11/10/12

Roswell/Children’s collaborate for kids – WIVB-TV, 11/1/12

Glutamate in Prostate Cancer: New Therapeutic Target, Biomarker? –, 10/31/12

You Should Know

New Law About Breast Density Notification

New York State is the fifth state to pass a mandatory breast-density notification law that requires breast mammography facilities to notify women when their normal mammograms also show that they have dense breasts. 

While dense breast tissue is common, it can make it harder to discover cancer on a mammogram.  The National Cancer Institute calls dense breasts “a strong risk factor for developing breast cancer.”  The legislation, strongly supported by patient advocates, raises awareness about breast density and should be considered - among other risk factors, such as family history - when women are talking with their doctors about breast health and whether or not additional screening tests are needed.

There are nearly a dozen additional states where breast-density notification legislation is pending, and a federal bill is under consideration in the US House of Representatives.