Connections - September 2014

Tue, 09/30/2014


A Message from the President

Direly Needed Legislation Would Begin to Reverse Damaging Effects of Research Cuts


I have often highlighted in this space the innovative research projects developed by physicians and scientists at Roswell Park who have been awarded grants through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or National Cancer Institute (NCI). These federal funds are the lifeblood of an academic medical center, and critical for advancing new approaches for preventing, diagnosing and treating serious diseases like cancer. Nearly every biomedical innovation can trace its beginnings to federally funded research.

Dr. Donald Trump

America has been the leader in biomedical research for decades, but we are in danger of losing our edge due to a lack of investment. China is boosting its research funding by 26%, India is increasing its research budget by double digits, and Russia is planning a 65% increase in research funding. Meanwhile, as a result of budget cuts, in 2013, 640 fewer competitive research grants were awarded by the NIH, and approximately 750 fewer new patients were admitted to the NIH Clinical Center.

Over the last decade, the NIH has lost nearly 25% of its purchasing power after years of stagnant funding and the implementation of the sequester cuts — cuts that trickle down to institutions like Roswell Park and to the patients and communities we serve. At RPCI, we’ve seen a 48% increase in the number of federally funded research projects led by our faculty in the last five years. In this climate of heightened competition, we’re successfully applying for more grants, yet the research dollars coming to RPCI have remained flat — even without an adjustment for inflation.

This spreads our resources dangerously thin. Dwindling budgets discourage talented people from pursuing careers in science, drive early-stage investigators out of the field, and lead some scientists to move to other countries so that they can pursue research interests in a more favorable and supportive environment. The NIH supports research in every state, driving state and local economies. Roswell Park recently participated, along with nearly 300 national organizations representing all areas of the medical research community — researchers, patients, survivors, advocates, providers and representatives from industry, in the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day to advocate for NIH funding with legislators in Washington, D.C.

Last week, Rep. Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut and Buffalo’s own Rep. Brian Higgins introduced the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act. This bill, which has a companion sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin from Iowa, proposes to lift the cap imposed on the NIH in the Budget Control Act of 2011, and incrementally increases NIH funding over the next seven years.

RPCI’s Dr. Kunle Odunsi, joining Congressman Higgins and colleagues from other research institutions for a press conference in Buffalo announcing the legislation, noted that patients suffer and local economies take a hit when medical research is gutted to the extent that it has been in recent years.

“This is impacting patients,” said Dr. Odunsi, Chair of the Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Executive Director of the Center for Immunotherapy. “You can come up with the most innovative approaches, but when you can’t get your projects funded, you can’t get them to patients.”

The Accelerating Biomedical Research Act would help to mitigate the effects of a damaging trend. The predictable, more reasonable funding model that it would establish would be a major step toward restoring confidence and helping the U.S. to maintain worldwide leadership in biomedical research.

— Donald L. Trump, MD, FACP
President and CEO

Institute News

3 of 4 NCCN Awards for Studies of New Anticancer Agent Go to Roswell Park Faculty

Through its Oncology Research Program, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recently solicited grant proposals involving the investigational compound nintedanib. The NCCN announced this week that three of its four grants for this effort, made possible by funding from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc., will go to RPCI researchers. Drs. Alex Adjei, Patrick Boland and Renuka Iyer will collectively receive more than $1.3 million to pursue studies of the agent’s effectiveness in treating non-small-cell lung, colorectal and carcinoid tumors, respectively.

RPCI Expert Panel Answers Audience-Submitted Questions About Ovarian Cancer in Live Web Chat

On Sept. 22, four RPCI experts answered questions about ovarian cancer risk, diagnosis, research, treatment and prevention in a live web chat. More than 330 people around the country watched the Ovarian Cancer Talk live, with more than 200 questions submitted for the expert panel — Drs. Kunle Odunsi, Kirsten Moysich and Christopher Choi and Certified Genetic Counselor Mollie Hutton. The hour-long video can be viewed online, and a follow-up written Q&A addressing additional questions will be posted soon.

Grants Totaling Nearly $5 Million Will Support Diverse Roswell Park Research Projects

Over the last three months, Roswell Park faculty members have been awarded nearly $5 million in grant funding from public and private organizations to further their efforts to find new and better ways to detect and treat cancer and improve patients’ quality of life. Thirteen awards —including two for well over $1 million each — will support projects ranging from an investigation of differences among e-cigarette devices to a study assessing the anti-cancer potential of a drug for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Guest Message

By State Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer

On the first Saturday in August every year, residents from all across Western New York stop by the Amherst Senior Center to take advantage of the health information, services and screenings available at my Family Health Fair.

The three-hour event is co-sponsored by Kaleida Health and the Amherst Senior Center, in conjunction with state Assembly members Ray Walter and Jane Corwin.

There isn’t a charge for admission. In fact, all of the screenings and services are offered for free. The 2014 Family Health Fair reached a record level of attendance, with more than 1,000 residents participating.

Health information was available on many topics, including stroke prevention, chiropractic care, dental education, venous disease, diabetes, celiac disease and much more! More than 85 health vendors generously provided their screenings free of charge, including:

  • Balance and fall risk assessment
  • Blood pressure check
  • Cholesterol screening
  • Foot screening
  • Screenings for oral cancer, prostate cancer and skin cancer
  • Medicine and prescription review
  • Hearing screening
  • Bone density heel scan
  • Glucose test
  • Mini-reflexology sessions

Whether visiting my fair in Amherst or another one in Western New York, these free health events are an opportunity for residents to receive a screening that may not be available to them otherwise. Over the years, many of these screenings have helped save lives.

As a state senator, it is so important to connect residents with information about their health and promote healthy living. While the health information available at the event should make us all think about how we can live well, the Family Health Fair is not a substitute for regular doctor visits.

Stay tuned for more information about next year’s Family Health Fair — because it’s never too late to get healthy!

Senator Ranzenhofer represents the 61st District in the New York State Senate, encompassing the Towns of Amherst, Clarence and Newstead and the Villages of Akron and Williamsville in Erie County, as well as all of Genesee County, the Towns of Chili and Riga, the Village of Churchville and part of the City of Rochester in Monroe County.

Donor Dollars at Work

Breast Resource Center Provides Emotional Support

Funded in part by your donations and this month’s Bosom Buddies Walk, the Western New York Breast Resource Center provides a wealth of emotional support and information to cancer patients and their families.

When patients are diagnosed, they — and loved ones — need information and, more than anything, a shoulder to lean on. At the Center, patients, families and community members have access to reliable, current information related to every component of the disease — screening, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship and end-of-life issues.

There’s also a lending library that offers both print and visual materials ranging from medical textbooks to survivor stories and coloring books for patients’ youngest family members. 

Joanne Janicki, the Center’s director, refers patients to support groups and connects them with other individuals who are dealing with the same struggles. Patients can also be referred to makeover programs, breast prosthesis services, financial-assistance programs and transportation resources. And since 2012, the Center has provided more than $40,000 worth of wigs, scarves and hats for patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.

Thanks to the more than 500 participants in the Walk, as well as other donations to Roswell Park, the Breast Resource Center is free and open to the public.

To learn more about the Breast Resource Center, please click here.

The Cancer Experts

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

Dr. Maciej Goniewicz to Environmental Health Perspectives:We see e-cigarettes as a single group of products, but there are hundreds of brands and many different generations and models. There are also huge variations in how people use these products.”

Dr. Steven Hochwald to Cancer Therapy Advisor: “The study was well done due to its randomized nature, and the study size was reasonable. However, the results do require confirmation with other well done studies using pasireotide (in patients undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer) before this treatment is widely adopted.”

Dr. Mateusz Opyrchal to Cancer Therapy Advisor: “Currently, we distinguish hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-positive, and triple-negative types of breast cancer, distinctions that influence our therapy recommendations. Further molecular classification will help us to refine individualized treatment recommendations for our patients.”

M&T Bank

M&T Bank has been a loyal supporter of Roswell Park Cancer Institute for more than 25 years, and has donated more than $1 million to our cutting-edge research and patient-care programs. Recently, M&T has focused on two signature events — The Ride For Roswell and All Star Night. 

For the past three years, M&T has been a Big Wheel sponsor of The Ride, and M&T’s employees have been very involved as volunteers and riders. This year, the M&T team raised an amazing $41,855 as part of The Ride! M&T has also been a sponsor of the All Star Night gala since its inception and is the presenting sponsor again this year for the event, to be held Nov. 1.

“As M&T’s Ride For Roswell team captain, I am so proud of all the positive energy and commitment our employees and our organization put into this event to advance the mission of Roswell Park, and I can truly say that The Ride For Roswell has quickly become one of M&T’s premier volunteer and sponsorship events in Western New York,” Tim McMorrow, M&T Group Vice President, said.

Thank you, M&T Bank, for all that you do — you are a true community partner!


Star 102.5 Pink Party 

On Thursday, Oct. 9, join Star 102.5 at Statler City for the 4th annual Pink Party, featuring performances by Mary Lambert & Switchfoot. The Pink Party is a fun, frilly, girly, totally “pink” event!

This is a ladies’ night out with a portion of the proceeds to benefit breast cancer research at Roswell Park. Your ticket includes light hors d’oeuvres, a Pink Party gift bag, women’s boutique shopping, desserts and confections, a basket raffle and so much more!

Tickets are $30 in advance at or $35 at the door.

Sephora Freaky Friday Party

Join staff members of Sephora’s Walden Galleria store for the Freaky Friday party at Pearl Street Grill & Brewery on Oct. 17. This Halloween-themed party benefits the Teens Living with Cancer program at Roswell Park!

This spook-tacular event will include cocktail-style hors d’oeuvres, one drink ticket, 10 tickets for the basket raffle, a beauty bar where guests can receive mini makeovers and a costume contest! The event will also include live music by Den of Lions, DJ Brotherbear and Keith Shuskie, who appeared on NBC’s “The Voice.”

Presale tickets are $40 each or $70 for a pair and are available at the Sephora Walden Galleria store located on the lower level of the mall. The first 200 people who buy presale tickets will also get a free gift bag worth $35. Tickets will also be available at the door for $50 each or two for $90.

All Star Night 2014

All Star Night, Roswell Park’s premier event, will take place on Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

This year’s Gilda Radner Courage Award will be presented to Vince Papale. Vince's lifelong journey to become a Philadelphia Eagle is magically portrayed in Disney's "Invincible." Today, Vince is a colorectal cancer survivor and shares his story with the world.

Learn more about Vince and purchase tickets at

RPCI In the News

Joan Lunden's Cancer Stance – Dr. Tracey O’Connor – WBEN News Radio 930
Roswell Ovarian Cancer Web Chat – WKBW-TV Channel 7
People Are Smoking Less. So Why Have Tobacco Shops Doubled? — Bloomberg Business Week
Bosom Buddies Walk to Benefit Breast Resource Center — WGRZ-TV Channel 2
Letter: More People Should Donate Platelets at Roswell ParkBuffalo News
Roswell Park’s New Diagnostic Test Promises Cutting-Edge Cancer CareBuffalo News

See more RPCI headlines at

You Should Know

Breastfeeding May Protect Moms Against Aggressive Breast Cancer Type

African-American women face increased risk for developing certain subtypes of breast cancer called estrogen-receptor-negative and triple-negative breast cancer. These subtypes are known to be aggressive, challenging to treat and more likely to recur.

Because these cancers lack one or more of the receptors known to encourage breast cancer growth — estrogen, progesterone and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) — existing treatments that target these receptors do not work. However, new findings by researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and partners from Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center and University of North Carolina Lineberger Cancer Center found that differences in childbearing and breastfeeding patterns may explain the risk disparity — and that breastfeeding can modify the risk.

Using data from four large breast cancer studies, researchers observed that women who had borne children faced a 33% higher risk for developing estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer than women who had never given birth. And women who had four or more births, but never breastfed, faced a 68% higher risk for this cancer than women who had only one birth and breastfed.

“These findings showing that breastfeeding can reduce the risk for African-American women of getting aggressive breast cancers are exciting because this is something that can be acted upon, where we can actually prevent some cases of these often-deadly cancers,” Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Chair of the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at RPCI and one of three co-principal investigators on the study, said. “We already know that breastfeeding has so many benefits to babies and their mothers. This is one more reason to encourage and support breastfeeding, particularly for African-American women.”

Legislative Update

Possible Health Threats from Vaping

New York was one of the first states to adopt a Clean Indoor Air Act and has one of the most comprehensive laws in the country. The impetus for the statewide law began in New York City. It is often the case that local laws set the precedent and lead the way for public-policy changes. 

Currently, the Erie County Legislature is considering a ban on the use of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, in public places where traditional tobacco products are already barred. This would be accomplished by amending the county’s Clean Indoor Air Act.

Just this week, the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing to gather facts on the issue. Dr. Mark Travers, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Health Behavior at RPCI, spoke at the hearing about the potential harms from secondhand exposure to e-cigarette vapors.

Research conducted in Roswell Park labs has shown that e-cigarettes are not emission-free. E-cigarettes emit chemicals including nicotine, acrolein (which is commonly used as a weed killer) and formaldehyde. While the amounts generated are less than we see with traditional cigarettes, these chemicals are still present. In other words, just because e-cigarettes produce less poison than cigarettes do, it doesn’t mean secondhand vapor is safe.

These devices have already been banned in public places in New York City and Chicago, including at restaurants and bars.

Committee members will take the information from the hearing and develop legislation for consideration by the full Legislature.