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News from around the Cancer Center

December 8, 2010

Cancer Center’s NCI support grant renewed

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center has been awarded a five-year renewal of its Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) from the National Cancer Institute.
Under the NCI’s Cancer Center Support Grant Program, VICC will receive more than $6.2 million a year for the next five years. The total represents a 12.7 percent increase over the previous award.

The CCSG is an institutional grant designed to provide operational stability for shared resources used by investigators throughout the VICC for innovative cancer research. The grant supports direct costs for cancer research, as well as indirect costs needed for Cancer Center facilities and administration. This is the third renewal of the CCSG grant for VICC, which also renews the center’s designation as one of only 40 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers.Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

“The national review team from the NCI rated VICC outstanding or exceptional in nearly every program category, which is a validation of the superior work being done by the researchers, clinicians and staff members at our nationally recognized cancer center,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “VICC received one of the highest scores in the nation in recognition of Vanderbilt’s strength in basic science research, and the ability of our investigators to build on that strength as they search for new cancer treatments.”

Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology and director of VICC, received the highest score possible for her leadership of the Cancer Center. Pietenpol, who also oversees a laboratory research program focused on breast cancer research, was named VICC director in 2008.

“The successful renewal of our CCSG grant represents true teamwork and is a reflection of the collaborative spirit throughout the institution. I thank all of the senior leadership and administrative staff in the VICC for months of hard work and attention to detail,” said Pietenpol. “The NCI recognized our team’s unwavering dedication to excellence in translational research, which is designed to bring discoveries from our research programs to the patients in the clinic. We have some of the most talented cancer researchers and clinicians in the country working here, and the renewal of this award is a wonderful validation of their efforts to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients.”

Pietenpol noted that the 12.7 percent increase in the size of the grant award is particularly noteworthy during a time when the federal cancer research budget has been flat or decreasing.

The Cancer Center launched in 1993, under the direction of Harold L. (Hal) Moses, M.D., Hortense B. Ingram Professor of Molecular Oncology, who remains Director Emeritus.

The new Cancer Center received its first CCSG award from NCI in 1995, with re-competition in 1999.

The center was renamed following a major donation from the Ingram family of Nashville.

In 2001, the NCI designated the Vanderbilt cancer program a Comprehensive Cancer Center and it remains one of only 40 such centers in the country.
Since the last renewal of the CCSG, VICC has been on a fast growth trajectory. Sixty-six new recruits have joined the center and there has been a 107 percent increase in lab space and a 91 percent increase in clinical space. During the same time period, VICC has received a 46 percent increase in peer-reviewed funding and a 62 percent increase in NCI funding, with significant additional philanthropic support.
– by Dagny Stuart

Malcolm named Radiation Oncology chair

Arnold Malcolm, M.D., has been named chair of Vanderbilt’s Department of Radiation Oncology.

“I am excited by this opportunity to contribute to the wonderful legacy of the Department of Radiation Oncology,” said Malcolm, who had served as interim chair since May 2009. “We have an amazing team of seasoned clinicians and staff, in addition to young scientists-in-training and I am thrilled about working with this group as we continue to enhance our national reputation for excellence in research and patient care.”

Arnold Malcolm, M.D.

Arnold Malcolm, M.D.

Malcolm has already set a new goal of making the department a national leader in patient care safety.

“Radiation is a powerful treatment tool, but it must be used with precision so that our patients are protected,” explained Malcolm. “We are designing radiation treatment protocols that can be used as a blueprint or model for other medical centers’ radiation safety programs.”

Malcolm received his medical degree from Meharry Medical College, completed residency training at Harvard Medical School and earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of California at Irvine. He has held faculty positions at Harvard, the University of Southern California and UCLA.
Malcolm first came to Vanderbilt in 1971 for an externship in Radiation Oncology under the direction of William Campbell, M.D., and was hired in 1981 as chief of the Radiation Oncology Clinical Program. He moved to California in 1987, where he spent 18 years as co-owner of one of the largest radiation oncology groups in the country and served as medical director at four hospitals and as cancer center director at another hospital. Malcolm returned to Vanderbilt in 2005 as medical director of the Vanderbilt Center for Radiation Oncology.

Malcolm has a place in Vanderbilt University Medical Center history as the first African-American clinical department chair, noted Andre Churchwell, M.D., associate dean for Diversity in Graduate Medical Education and Faculty Affairs.

Malcolm’s leadership skills were apparent during the historic flooding earlier this year, which put parts of the department under water, added C. Wright Pinson, M.D., MBA, deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs and senior associate dean for Clinical Affairs.

“Within 48 hours, patients were contacted individually, staff members were reassigned to our satellite locations and repair operations were under way. That response is just one indication of Arnold’s ability to pull together a team, provide outstanding care to our patients and plan for the future needs of the department.”

“Cancer patients and faculty at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center have benefited tremendously from Arnold Malcolm’s deep knowledge of Radiation Oncology and his commitment to excellence,” said Vanderbilt-Ingram Director Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D. “We are delighted to have someone with his skill and his caring attitude in a leadership position at VICC.”
– by Dagny Stuart

Moses honored by Martell Foundation

Harold L. (Hal) Moses, M.D.

Harold L. (Hal) Moses, M.D.

Harold L. (Hal) Moses, M.D., director emeritus of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center has received the Lifetime Scientific Achievement Award from the T.J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS Research.

The award was presented to Moses at the foundation’s 35th Annual Awards Gala in New York City on Oct. 27.

Moses, who is the Hortense B. Ingram Professor of Molecular Oncology, is the founding director of Vanderbilt-Ingram and is well known for his work on the transforming growth factor-beta family of growth regulatory peptides. He also leads the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at Vanderbilt-Ingram, which are supported by funding from the Foundation.

The T.J. Martell Foundation was founded by Tony Martell and music industry officials after the death of Martell’s son, T.J., who died from leukemia. The foundation funds innovative medical research focused on finding cures for leukemia, cancer and AIDS.

VICC leaders named to Komen panel

Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D.

Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D.

Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, and Carlos Arteaga, M.D., professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology and leader of Vanderbilt-Ingram’s Breast Cancer Program, have been selected to serve on a new scientific panel to guide the research program of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, one of the world’s largest breast cancer foundations.

The panel of 60 experts from a wide range of disciplines and seven countries will serve as inaugural members of Komen for the Cure’s new Scientific Advisory Council (SAC). SAC members will provide scientific peer review for the breast cancer grants and programs that Komen funds and will provide Komen leadership with guidance on breast cancer education and public policy. Members will serve renewable two-year terms.

Carlos Arteaga, M.D.

Carlos Arteaga, M.D.

“Komen for the Cure has been a wonderful partner with VICC in our search for new diagnostic and treatment options for breast cancer, and I am delighted to have been selected to serve with so many distinguished cancer investigators,” said Pietenpol, B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology.

Pietenpol’s research focuses on the role of the p53 family signaling axis in normal growth and tumor development, with a special emphasis on a hard-to-treat form of breast cancer known as triple negative breast cancer.

Arteaga’s research team is examining oncogene signaling in breast tumor cells and is using this information for the development of molecular therapies in human breast cancer.

“In recent years, Komen has provided generous financial support for our research efforts at VICC,” said Arteaga, the Donna S. Hall Chair in Breast Cancer and leader of the VICC Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in breast cancer. “I am pleased to join this prestigious group of scientific colleagues.”
– by Dagny Stuart

Drug discovery leader Fesik honored

Stephen Fesik, Ph.D., leader of cancer drug discovery initiatives at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, recently received two major honors.

In May, Fesik was named the inaugural recipient of the Orrin H. Ingram II Chair in Cancer Research, which supports the research efforts of an outstanding cancer investigator in the VICC cancer drug discovery program.

“I came to Vanderbilt because it has assembled an amazing team of investigators with expertise in cancer biology, personalized medicine, drug discovery and medicinal chemistry,” said Fesik, a professor of Biochemistry, Pharmacology and Chemistry.

Stephen Fesik, Ph.D., and Orrin Ingram II

Orrin Ingram II, right, has endowed a chair in Cancer Research to be held by Stephen Fesik, Ph.D.

“Support like this from Orrin will make it possible to develop the next generation of high-impact life-saving cancer drugs that few other centers are in a position to create.”

Fesik is working to discover cancer drugs using structure-based drug design and other methods he pioneered while at Abbott Laboratories.

“I am happy to provide support for this crucial work to discover exciting new drugs and to match the right drugs to individual cancer patients,” said Ingram, whose father, E. Bronson Ingram, died from cancer in 1995. “This is the kind of work that can make a difference to patients like my father, whose cancer could not be treated successfully.

The chair is funded through a gift from Ingram, chairman of the Board of Overseers of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, a member of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust and chair of its Medical Center Affairs Committee.

In August, Fesik became the first investigator from Vanderbilt to receive a National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award.

The award provides $2.5 million in direct costs over five years, which he will use to develop new approaches for discovering drugs to target proteins currently considered “undruggable.”

Targeting these challenging proteins will require a new set of tools beyond those traditionally used in drug discovery. Fesik plans to develop the needed tools by employing fragment-based methods, which involves screening small chemical fragments for their ability to bind to small pockets on a protein target and linking the chemical fragments together guided by structural information on how they bind.

Fesik is applying these methods first to highly validated cancer targets. If successful, the strategy could have a major impact on therapies for cancer, as well as other diseases.

“Expanding the ‘druggable genome’ could allow more drugs to be obtained against new targets and improve our ability to treat disease in all therapeutic areas,” said Fesik, who is also a member of the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology, and the Center for Structural Biology.

The research could “revolutionize our approach to drug discovery and have a dramatic impact on human health.”
– by Dagny Stuart/Melissa Marino

New grant boosts prostate cancer research

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center has received a $7.6 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) stimulus grant to coordinate a study comparing the effectiveness of various treatments for prostate cancer.

David Penson, M.D., M.P.H.

David Penson, M.D., M.P.H.

Funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the three-year grant is part of the CHOICE award program that uses federal ARRA stimulus money to support studies comparing the effectiveness of treatments for high-priority conditions identified by the Institute of Medicine.

David Penson, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Urologic Surgery, will serve as principal investigator for the Comparative Effectiveness Analysis of Surgery and Radiation (CEASAR) study on prostate cancer. Daniel Barocas, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of Urologic Surgery, and Tatsuki Koyama, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biostatistics, are co-investigators.

“Screening tests usually allow us to catch the cancer early before it has spread outside the prostate, but we don’t really know the best way to treat the disease when it is localized,” said Penson, director of the Center for Surgical Quality and Outcomes Research in the Vanderbilt Institute for Medicine and Public Health.

“The study will help us determine a scientific basis for what works best, in which patients, and in whose hands.”

Standard treatments for localized prostate cancer – which include surgery, radiation and cryotherapy – run the risk of side effects, including urinary incontinence, bowel problems and erectile dysfunction.

“Given these side effects and the fact that some of the cancers we detect are so slow-growing they would never cause any problems, it is sometimes reasonable to provide active surveillance instead of aggressive treatment,” said Penson. “We just don’t know which approach is best and this study is designed to help us answer these questions.”
– by Dagny Stuart

More breast services at One Hundred Oaks

On Sept. 20, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) began consolidating additional breast cancer services, including chemotherapy, at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks.

In addition to undergoing surveillance and diagnostic testing at the Vanderbilt Breast Center, breast cancer patients will be able to see their physicians and receive chemotherapy in one convenient location, without moving back and forth from the main campus.

Breast MRI

Patients are now able to get all breast cancer services, including MRI, pictured here, at the Vanderbilt Breast Center at One Hundred Oaks. (Photo by Joe Howell)

Ingrid Meszoely, M.D., assistant professor of Surgery, said the changes are designed to make breast cancer services more convenient for patients.

“Now we will be able to see our patients in one facility and patients can minimize their visits to see their surgeons and their medical oncologists,” said Meszoely, clinical director of the Vanderbilt Breast Center.

Chemotherapy for breast cancer patients will be delivered down the hall from the Vanderbilt Breast Center in the Medical Infusion Clinic at One Hundred Oaks, which has increased staffing for chemotherapy infusions and has expanded its hours.

VICC medical oncologists who specialize in breast cancer are moving their practices to the Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks campus.

“It’s a one-stop shop, and patients will be able to see the surgical oncologist and the medical oncologist on the same day,” said Ingrid Mayer, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine. “They will have an opportunity to be more educated about the disease and will leave the clinic with a complete understanding of their whole treatment plan and a better sense of what is ahead of them.”

Sheryl Redlin-Frazier was named manager of patient care services, and nurse coordinator Norma Campbell now manages the patient access team, which coordinates information and services for all new patient visits. A nurse practitioner, additional registered nurses, appointment schedulers and front desk staff were also added to handle the increased patient load.

“I think it’s an opportunity to deliver much better care in a more integrated fashion,” said Mayer.

Breast cancer services that will remain on the main VICC campus include radiation oncology, blood transfusions, nuclear imaging, surgery, and treatments associated with Phase 1 clinical trials.
– by Dagny Stuart

Cancer center debuts new space

In August, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center unveiled its newly expanded waiting area and additional clinic examination rooms for cancer patients and their families.

waiting area

Patients and donors helped design the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center’s newly expanded clinic lobby, waiting areas and additional examination rooms. (Photo by Mary Donaldson)

The new, 10,000-square-foot space is located on the first floor of The Vanderbilt Clinic, across from the existing Cancer Center reception area. Patients and donors provided input on the space design, which has the look and feel of a hotel lobby, with soft carpet, warm wood accents and skylights for natural light.

The expansion added eight exams rooms, a consultation room, support offices, and a family resource center, which provides educational materials and a small area with a computer.

Perhaps best of all, patients now have direct access to the clinic and will no longer have to walk a long distance to receive care.

“Our goal is to increase patient satisfaction, and we have strived to do that in every aspect of the upgraded space,” said Carol Eck, administrative director of the Cancer Patient Care Center.

The new waiting area was recently dedicated in memory of Benjamin Franklin Byrd Jr., M.D., founding chairman of the Cancer Center and a member of the VICC Board of Overseers from 1993 to 1998. The expansion was made possible through donations from private donors along with financial support from the University.

This is the latest element in a multi-year expansion of the cancer clinic. As a result of the expansion, the number of patients served has increased, wait times have decreased, and visits to the Family Resource Room have tripled.
– by Dagny Stuart