ASH Presents Honorific Awards, Immunotherapy Researchers Receive Nobel Prize in Medicine, and more

American Society of Hematology Honors Distinguished Leaders at Annual Meeting

At its 60th annual meeting, the American Society of Hematology (ASH) will present several distinguished leaders in hematology with its Honorific Awards. Congratulations to the 2018 winners!

Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology

Victor Hoffbrand, DM, DSc

Victor Hoffbrand, DM, DSc, of University College London, is being recognized with the Society’s highest honor for his seminal contributions to the fields of anemia, iron metabolism, and nonmalignant hematology; his commitment to the mentoring of trainees; and his significant contributions to hematology education. He also has contributed to the education and mentorship of generations of hematologists, many of whom have gone on to become leading physician scientists.

William Dameshek Prize

Ross L. Levine, MD, of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, will be honored for his significant contributions to the field of leukemogenesis.

Dr. Levine is one of several investigators who have driven the paradigm shift of leukemia research from simple identification of genetic mutations to elucidation of mechanisms that explain how epigenetic modifiers and other variants mediate malignant transformation. He has chaired several ASH scientific committees and is currently the vice chair of the Committee on Scientific Affairs, the group that oversees ASH’s scientific agenda.

E. Donnall Thomas Lecture

Connie J. Eaves, PhD, FRSC

Connie J. Eaves, PhD, FRSC, of the University of British Columbia and BC Cancer in Vancouver, will be honored with the 2018 E. Donnall Thomas Lecture and Prize for her outstanding contributions to the field of hematopoiesis and stem cell research. Dr. Eaves will present her lecture, “Blood Stem Cells: A Simple Concept, but a Complex Reality,” at the ASH annual meeting, highlighting key advances, future challenges, and exciting opportunities in hematopoietic stem cell research. In 2009, she received the Henry M. Stratton medal from ASH.

Mentor Awards

John E. Dick, PhD, of the University of Toronto, Princess Margaret Cancer Center, and Ontario Institute for Cancer Research in Toronto, is the recipient of the ASH Mentor Award for Basic Science.

John E. Dick, PhD

Since 1988, Dr. Dick has mentored more than 130 individuals, fostering a climate of honesty, transparency, and intellectual curiosity. A universal theme among his nominators has been his personal involvement in their careers, including the time devoted to mentees both before and after their time in his laboratory. Dr. Dick’s trainees widely agree that he has served as an inspirational role model. His scientific accomplishments have earned him ASH Honorific Awards in the past: the William Dameshek Prize in 2005 and the E. Donnall Thomas Prize in 2009.

Reed E. Drews, MD

Reed E. Drews, MD, of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston, is the recipient of the ASH Mentor Award for a Clinical Investigator. He has spent 20 years of dedicated service mentoring nearly 120 fellows and 600 students at BIDMC, where he also started his own career. His mentees have achieved success in a variety of settings, including becoming successful clinicians and leaders at major academic institutions across the country, as well as pursuing alternative paths in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical spheres. Dr. Drews is appreciated for recognizing the unique needs and career goals of each trainee and for the individualized guidance and mentorship he provides.

Dr. Dick and Dr. Drews spoke with ASH Clinical News about their experience as mentors.

ASH Award for Leadership in Promoting Diversity

Cage S. Johnson, MD, of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, has served in several leadership positions at ASH, and in doing so, he recruited many individuals from underrepresented minority groups to serve in ASH leadership roles.

Cage S. Johnson, MD

He is a founding member and former president of the EE Just Society, an organization for minority hematologists based in Los Angeles. Since the group’s inception in 1985, Dr. Johnson has taken many young, underrepresented minorities under his wing and supported them as they successfully pursued careers in hematology.

José A. López, MD, of the University of Washington in Seattle, has advanced diversity at his own institution by training many minority students in his laboratory before he became active in ASH’s programming.

José A. López, MD

For several years, he collaborated with medical schools in Mexico to host students for summer research electives. Dr. López spearheaded ASH’s partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation based on his own experience benefitting from the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program. The effort has funded 18 junior hematology faculty members since the program started in 2006.

Exemplary Service Award

Evan Sadler, MD, PhD, is the recipient of the ASH Exemplary Service Award, thanks to his years of exceptional service and dedication to ASH and to hematology. Dr. Sadler, who has served on the faculty of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis for 34 years, is director of the hematology division at Washington University, where he is also a professor of medicine and of biochemistry and molecular biophysics.

This award recognizes his many years of service to ASH in various capacities, including serving as a councillor from 1998 to 2002, treasurer of the Society from 2003 to 2006, and president in 2011. Dr. Sadler also served as an associate editor of Bloodfrom 1993 to 2002 as well as on the editorial board and has published more than 60 papers in the journal. He was a scientific program co-chair for the 50th ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition in 2008 and also served on the Committee on Investment and Audit, the Nominating Committee, the Society’s Task Force on Recruitment and Retention, and scientific committees on biochemistry, bleeding disorders, and platelet disorders. Dr. Sadler has previously been recognized by the Society for his contributions to hematology and pioneering work in the study of several blood coagulation factors: In 2016, he received ASH’s Henry M. Stratton Medal for Basic Science, and in 1998, he received the William Dameshek Prize. In addition to his numerous research and leadership accolades, Dr. Sadler is known as an extraordinary mentor, having trained a number of the key world leaders in academic hematology, particularly in hemostasis.

ASH Executive Director Marty Liggett presents Dr. Sadler with his award.

WHO and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Collaborate on Childhood Cancer Effort

The World Health Organization (WHO) and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced a new global partnership aimed at curing at least 60 percent of children with six of the most common types of cancer worldwide by 2030.

The five-year collaboration brings together international experts and stakeholders in childhood cancer from both organizations to develop strategies for increasing pediatric patients’ access to care, enhancing quality of care, and integrating childhood cancer into national policies.

Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, MD, executive vice president and chair of the St. Jude Department of Global Pediatric Medicine will head the effort. “Articulating a global stakeholder response around WHO is a major step forward and the start of a new era in the fight for the lives of children with cancer,” he said.

The WHO-St. Jude partnership is a result of the World Health Assembly Resolution 70.12 on cancer prevention and control, which solidifies WHO’s commitment to improving services for childhood cancer as part of national cancer control programs. St. Jude will provide technical support and a designated programmatic investment of $15 million, while WHO authorities will work with governments and leaders across health systems regionally and globally.

Source: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital press release, September 27, 2018.

Fred Hutch Names Marie Bleakley Endowed Chair for Leukemia Research

Marie Bleakley, MD, PhD, MMSc, a pediatric leukemia specialist, has been chosen as the first Gerdin Family Endowed Chair for Leukemia Research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Marie Bleakley, MD, PhD, MMSc

The chair was established by the Gerdin family, whose son was diagnosed with an aggressive leukemia and treated with a bone marrow transplantation at Fred Hutch, where Dr. Bleakley is director of the Transplantation Pediatric Leukemia program. She also is developing genetically engineered cell therapies to redirect the immune system to attack leukemia cells, including the unique forms of leukemia found only in children and young adults.

Source: Fred Hutch News Service, August 30, 2018

Robert Eisenman Receives NCI Outstanding Investigator Award

Robert Eisenman, PhD, a molecular biologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, has received a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Outstanding Investigator Award to support his research about a specific family of molecules that “turn on” cellular growth genes.

Robert Eisenman, PhD

The award, which provides $7 million over seven years, will provide Dr. Eisenman with more opportunities to seek out tumor cells’ hidden weaknesses and halt cancer growth. He plans to focus his attention on understanding changes in the DNA sequence of the Myc gene, interactions between the Mga protein and Myc gene, and the relationship between Myc and the MondoA protein.

Source: Fred Hutch News Service, August 31, 2018.

2018 NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards Recognize High-Risk, High-Reward Research

As part of its High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced the 2018 recipients of its NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. The award supports early-career investigators who propose innovative, high-impact projects with $1.5 million in funding over a five-year period. Several investigators were recognized for work with direct implications to the treatment of hematologic disorders, including:

Charles Gawad, MD, PhD

Charles Gawad, MD, PhD, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Project title: “Creating a Catalog of Cancer Clonotype Drug Sensitivities With Single-Cell Genome Sequencing”

Dr. Gawad’s research focuses on combining sequencing with novel biochemical and computational methods to more deeply understand the development and treatment resistance of cancer.

Dan A. Landau, MD, PhD

Dan A. Landau, MD, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Genome Center
Project title: “Shapeshifters in Cancer: Defining the Fundamental Forces of Leukemia Evolution”

Dr. Landau and his team are working to define the evolutionary dynamics of cancers that enable them to progress and become resistant to therapy.

Sergei Doulatov, PhD

Sergei Doulatov, PhD, University of Washington
Project title: “Uncovering Epigenetic Barriers to Hematopoietic Stem Cell Formation”

Dr. Doulatov’s work involves studying human hematopoiesis in health and disease by leveraging primary human and pluripotent stem cell models.

Source: NIH press release, October 2, 2018.

Steven Artandi Selected to Lead Stanford Cancer Institute

Steven Artandi, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and of biochemistry at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, has been named the new director of the Stanford Cancer Institute. He replaces outgoing director Beverly Mitchell, MD, who served as director for 10 years. Dr. Mitchell, a professor of medicine, will continue her involvement with the institute as senior adviser, researcher, and mentor.

Steven Artandi, MD, PhD

Dr. Artandi is a cancer biologist whose research focuses on the role played by the enzyme telomerase in cancer, aging, and stem cell biology. He came to Stanford in 2000 after completing a fellowship in medical oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2016, he was appointed the Jerome and Daisy Low Gilbert Professor at Stanford.

In his role as director, Dr. Artandi will focus on translating laboratory discoveries to transform the approach to treating patients.

Source: Stanford Medicine press release, October 1, 2018.

Immunotherapy Researchers Awarded Nobel Prize in Medicine

This year’s Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded to two scientists for their research into immune checkpoint blockade therapy:

Jim Allison, PhD

Jim Allison, PhD, chair of Immunology and executive director of the immunotherapy platform at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Tasuku Honjo, MD, PhD

Tasuku Honjo, MD, PhD, distinguished Professor of Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study and professor of the Department of Immunology and Genomic Medicine at Kyoto University

“For more than 100 years, scientists attempted to engage the immune system in the fight against cancer,” representatives from the prize-selection committee noted in a press release. “Until the seminal discoveries by the two laureates, progress into clinical development was modest. Checkpoint therapy has now revolutionized cancer treatment and has fundamentally changed the way we view how cancer can be managed.”

Working separately in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Drs. Allison and Honjo discovered proteins that act as ‘brakes’ on the immune system by preventing T cells from attacking tumors. By developing therapies to block these proteins, physicians have been able to “unleash the immune system to attack cancer cells,” Dr. Allison said during a news conference.

Therapies targeting the two proteins – CTLA-4, discovered by Dr. Allison, and PD-1, discovered by Dr. Honjo – received regulatory approval within the past decade and changed treatment paradigms for certain cancers. Sales of these medicines are expected to reach $15 billion in 2018.

Sources: Reuters, October 1, 2018; The National Assembly of Karolinska Institute press release, October 1, 2018.

National Academy of Medicine Elects 85 New Members

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) announced the election of 75 regular members and 10 international members during its annual meeting, increasing the Academy’s total active membership to 2,178 and the number of international members to 159. The Academy recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service in the fields of health and medicine.

“This distinguished and diverse class of new members is a truly remarkable set of scholars and leaders whose impressive work has advanced science, improved health, and made the world a better place for everyone,” said NAM President Victor J. Dzau, MD.

The following hematology/oncology clinicians are among the newly inducted NAM members:

  • Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, president and Deana and Steve Campbell Physician-in-Chief Distinguished Chair at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California
  • Elias Campo, MD, PhD, research director and professor of anatomic pathology at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona at the University of Barcelona and director of the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute
  • Susan M. Domchek, MD, Basser Professor in Oncology at Abramson Cancer Center and division of Hematology and Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Benjamin Levine Ebert, MD, PhD, chair of medical oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and George P. Canellos MD and Jean Y. Canellos Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston
  • John Kuriyan, PhD, professor in the departments of molecular and cell biology and chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Sean J. Morrison, PhD, professor and Kathryne and Gene Bishop Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Research at the Children’s Research Institute at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research

Source: National Academy of Medicine press release, October 15, 2018.

FDA Awards Amy DeZern Funding for T-Cell Research

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) awarded Amy DeZern, MD, MHS, associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a grant to support her phase I/II study of CD8-reduced T cells for the treatment of myelodysplastic syndrome or acute myeloid leukemia. The award provides her with $750,000 in funding over three years.

Amy DeZern, MD, MHS

Dr. DeZern’s project received one of 12 clinical trial research grants awarded through the FDA’s Orphan Products Clinical Trials Grants Program. The grants are intended for clinical studies evaluating the safety and effectiveness of products that could either result in or substantially contribute to the FDA approval of products targeted to the treatment of rare diseases. The total funding includes more than $18 million over the next four years.

“Developing a treatment for a rare disease can be especially challenging. Given the often small number of patients affected by certain very rare diseases, there can be limited markets for new treatments, and as a result fewer resources devoted to researching these opportunities,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD. “By providing seed capital, these FDA-administered grants enable researchers to prove out important concepts.”

Source: FDA news release, September 24, 2018.