Connections - June 2014

Tue, 06/24/2014

A Message from the President

Framing Our Future: Update on the Clinical Sciences Center


If I needed convincing that ironworkers are a fearless and uniquely talented group, I sure got it over the last nine months as I’ve watched our Clinical Sciences Center take shape. Seeing the construction team’s progress in transforming a narrow strip of vacant land beside our main hospital into the frame of an 11-story building has been awe-inspiring.

Dr. Donald Trump

Watching the ironworkers stride as surely across inches of steel as most of us do on solid ground — up to 186 feet up in the air, by the way, and during one of the coldest and harshest Buffalo winters on record — was just one more reminder of all the different ways this community has committed itself to our mission to understand, prevent and cure cancer.

So it was especially gratifying to watch those ironworkers and other contractors put their signatures on the building’s final beam of steel one Friday afternoon a few short weeks ago, and then follow the path of that beam from the ground to its final destination at the top of the 142,000-square-foot Clinical Sciences Center, RPCI’s first clinical expansion in more than 15 years. (The last beam’s journey to the top is documented in this amazing footage and in Roswell Park and Buffalo News photo galleries.)

Within this short time, the project team has moved 4,500 yards of soil, poured 1,700 yards of concrete and framed 1,650 tons of steel on the building, which will house an expanded Chemotherapy Center with scenic views of the Buffalo skyline, a larger Breast Center with capacity to provide screening mammography services, and new space for clinical care, research and support programs.

This critical expansion will allow us to provide outstanding, compassionate care for more patients, responding to the increased caseload we’ve seen at RPCI and to the projected rise in cancer diagnoses in the region. It will also allow us to expand the array of supportive services we’re able to offer those patients and to provide a more comfortable environment for the patients and families we care for.

These improvements would not be possible without the dedication of those who are building the Clinical Sciences Center, the commitment of the Roswell Park staff to our mission, the diligence of the many supporters and partners — including Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Brian Higgins and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown — who helped this project clear hurdles or the generosity of our private donors, who together have contributed $32.7 million in philanthropic donations toward this critically necessary facility.

So many of you have a stake in this project and serve an important role in our progress toward its completion. So, as we begin work on the building’s façade this coming month, we hope that you’ll come see for yourself how the Clinical Sciences Center is coming along, and that you too will feel pride and a sense of accomplishment as the site starts to resemble more clearly the artist’s renderings of the finished product.

— Donald L. Trump, MD
President & CEO

Institute News

$3M LAPS Grant to Fast-Track Late-Phase Clinical Research
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has named RPCI a Lead Academic Participating Site (LAPS) within its new National Clinical Trials Network, which was formed to speed the progress of late-phase clinical trials to establish new therapeutic agents. The Institute is one of only 30 centers nationwide to earn the designation. Leading the program at RPCI will be Drs. Ellis Levine, Alex Adjei, Shashikant Lele and Anurag Singh. 

Collaboration with West African Institutions One of $2.5M in Projects Funded
The $2.57 million in recent contract and grant funding awarded to Roswell Park recipients includes a contract for nearly $200,000 from the NCI to initiate partnerships with Noguchi Memorial Institute in Ghana and Lagos State University in Nigeria. Drs. Alex Adjei and Chukwumere Nwogu will head the effort to develop teams to lead research in cervical, prostate and breast cancer. 

Federal Funding Renewed for Summer Program for College, Med Students
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Brian Higgins announced a five-year, $1.4 million allocation from the NCI to renew funding for RPCI’s Summer Research Experience Programs in Cancer Sciences and Oncology. The program provides hands-on clinical and research internships for college students and medical school students.

Donor Dollars at Work

Your Epigenetic Makeup May Determine the Best Treatment Options and Outcome for Breast Cancer

Recently funded in part by a grant from the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation through its Scientific Advisory Committee, a current and first-of-its kind research study co-led by Dr. Song Yao, Assistant Member of Roswell Park’s Cancer Prevention and Control Department, and Dr. Song Liu, Associate Member of the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Department and Director of the Bioinformatics Core, is designed to help determine whether differences in an individual’s epigenetic makeup, a type of chemical modification on the surface of the DNA, can predict best treatment options and outcomes for each specific breast cancer patient.

Despite remarkable progress already made to reduce breast-cancer-related death, each year in the U.S. about 40,000 women will lose their life to this disease. There is a significant and unmet need motivating researchers and those who support them to ensure continued and increased advancements to ultimately eliminate breast cancer.

This Roswell Park project uses a state-of-the-art approach to measure chemical modifications in the DNA at almost half a million positions across the entire human genome to test each of them in relation to a breast cancer patient’s recurrence rate, survival or other outcomes, and responses to specific forms of treatment. In the future, these findings can be translated to clinical settings to improve patient care and ultimately will be integrated into routine clinical practice for breast cancer. 

These outcomes will be critical for personalizing cancer treatment based on each patient’s unique characteristics. Through this research, we may also gain better understanding of cancer occurrence and progression and find new targets to develop the next generation of cancer therapies.

To learn more about Drs. Liu and Yao, view their biographies here:,

The Cancer Experts

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

Dr. Grace Dy to HemOnc Today: “This study would suggest that indeed, for (non-small-cell lung cancer) patients with asymptomatic brain metastases, you may start with frontline chemotherapy, particularly if they have oligometastases — less than four metastases — in the brain, and then once you finish the frontline chemotherapy … you can refer them for gamma-knife radiosurgery thereafter.”

Dr. Nikhil Khushalani to MedPage Today (on combination immunochemotherapy for advanced melanoma): “The traditional paradigm in chemotherapy has been ‘Continue to treat until best response or until someone actually progresses.’ In this (area), the question is whether we can treat to prime the immune system and then stop these drugs to see how far the response actually lasts. So I think that is going to be the next generation of clinical trials.”

Sponsor Spotlight

Lipsitz & Ponterio, LLC

Lipsitz & Ponterio LLC, is focused on helping individuals with asbestos-related injuries, including mesothelioma and lung cancer, and their dedication to these causes extends beyond the courtroom to longtime support of Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Most recently, Lipsitz & Ponterio presented Grace Dy, MD, an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, with a $5,000 donation to help further mesothelioma research at RPCI. The firm raised the funds through a Facebook campaign — for each new like to their Facebook page they donated $1 to Roswell Park.
In addition to this generous gift, the firm sponsored two lung cancer events in 2013, including the Breath of Life Celebration in October for cancer patients, survivors and their families. The event provided information about new approaches to lung cancer surveillance, treatment, research and survivorship. The Lipsitz Ponterio team most recently sponsored A Taste For Life in May 2014, which raised more than $42,000 to support a promising genetic test for lung cancer developed at Roswell Park. The test is specifically aimed at stage III and stage IV lung cancer patients so they can have enhanced treatment plans based on tumor marker information obtained from a genetic test.
“Our firm’s mesothelioma clients have been treated with great care and compassion by the medical staff at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, especially by Dr. Grace Dy and her research team,” said Michael Ponterio. “That is why we chose to support RPCI in our recent Facebook campaign.”   
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. The firm has achieved thousands of settlements and numerous verdicts on behalf of its clients harmed by toxic substances. To learn more about Lipsitz & Ponterio, visit

Scott HamiltonEvents & Promotions

The Ride For Roswell

Join thousands of members of The Ride, Roswell Park and survivor communities at The Ride Opening Ceremony at the UB Stadium on Friday, June 27, at 5:00 p.m.

There will be an opportunity to watch an inspirational and emotional stage program featuring Olympic gold medalist and cancer survivor Scott Hamilton. Then don’t forget to come back on Saturday to help cheer on riders as they do their part to support cancer cures and save lives! Visit for more information. 

Summer Splash

On Friday, August 8, Carly’s Club at Roswell Park Cancer Institute will host the party of the summer! Come dressed in your splashiest yellow summer attire as a nod to this year’s theme, Hello Yellow, and enjoy open-bar all night, gourmet cuisine from Buffalo’s premier local restaurants, music, dancing and fabulous prizes, including a new car!

All proceeds from the event will benefit pediatric cancer research and patient care programs through Carly’s Club at Roswell Park. Visit Summer Splash online to get tickets and learn more.

Tops 5K

On Saturday, August 23, TOPS will be hosting the 7th Annual TOPS 5K/10K Run and Family Walk to support RPCI. Registration for the event is now open, so sign up today!

All proceeds from the race will directly support the cutting edge-research and patient care programs at Roswell Park. Click here to register.

Carly’s Crossing

Registration for Carly’s Crossing is now open, so reserve your spot today! This unique open-water swim event on August 10 will bring hundreds of swimmers and spectators together in support of pediatric cancer research and patient support programs at RPCI.

Swimmers raise pledges to participate in one of the three course options: a 600-yard non-competitive swim, 1-mile non-competitive swim, or 1-mile timed competitive swim. Click here to register for Carly’s Crossing.

RPCI in the News

Man a Patient at Cancer Institute that Bears His Name — WIVB-TV Channel 4
E-cigarette Market is on Fire, Survey ShowsUSA Today
What You Need to Know about Ovarian Cancer Risk, Detection, and PreventionWomen
Roswell Park Doctor Retires After 40 Years WGRZ-TV Channel 2
Former Patient Oversees Roswell Park Expansion Project The Buffalo News
Potential Bone Marrow Donors Join RegistryWGRZ-TV Channel 2
Cancer By ZIP Code: What Does it Tell Us?WIVB-TV Channel 4

See more RPCI headlines at

You Should Know

Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Well, not quite, but it’s not good either. Being sedentary for much of your day is associated with higher risk for colorectal and uterine cancers, according to new findings published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers looked at the data from 43 studies that specifically examined the link between hours spent sitting (such as driving a car, watching TV or working at a computer) and 70,000 cancer cases. People who spent the most time sitting had a 24 percent increased risk for colon cancer, and 32 percent increased risk for uterine cancer, compared to those who sat the least.

TV-watchers fared even worse. When researchers looked at just the hours spent in front of the TV, those who watched the most hours had a 54 percent higher risk for colon cancer and 66 percent higher risk for uterine cancer, compared to those with the least TV time. One connection may be the tendency to consume unhealthy foods and drinks while watching TV.

Unfortunately, getting regular exercise does not appear to be enough to offset the impact of spending much of the day sitting. Although the findings cannot say that sitting actually caused these cancers, hopefully it’s incentive to move more. Inactivity leads to weight gain and obesity, high blood sugar and high insulin, factors we know are associated with these cancers.

What to do? Increase physical activity and cut down the amount of time spent sitting. Curtail TV time and try to break up the time spent at your desk with short bouts of light activity. Use your lunch break to walk around the block, climb the stairs or attend errands on foot. Information from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition offers more ways to reduce sedentary time.

Legislative Update

Transformative Healthcare

A transformation of healthcare delivery is underway in New York State. Following in the footsteps of California and Texas, New York has successfully negotiated a waiver agreement with the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), with a goal of reducing hospital utilization by 25 percent over five years.

The Delivery System Reform Incentive Program (DSRIP) is a program within the waiver that will promote community-level collaborations and focus on system reforms to achieve these goals. Funding will be provided based on success in meeting those metrics. The program will award over $6 billion statewide over five years.

Each region of the state will create Preferred Provider Systems (PPS) with providers from long-term care, primary care, acute care, behavioral and mental health and other organizations that may impact the lives of Medicaid patients. As these systems come together, work will be focused on specific projects with measurable outcomes. The DSRIP program principles are to create a system that is patient-centered, transparent, collaborative, accountable and value-driven. Each PPS will choose from the projects provided by the state. The projects are categorized in three domains: System Transformation, Clinical Improvement and Population-Based. The PPS must meet specific requirements in terms of the number of projects they must complete within particular domains or categories.   

This is a complicated program with much at stake, and it is on the fast track. The planning-grant application is due June 26, with the full applications expected to be submitted by mid-December. Performance by the state as a whole will determine whether funds are awarded from the federal government. The risk is high but the potential reward is also high and, if successful, this program will have a greater impact beyond the Medicaid population.