Remembering H. Jean Khoury, NCI Funds Standardization of Cancer Genomic Data, and more

H. Jean Khoury, MD

Remembering H. Jean Khoury (1967-2017)

H. Jean Khoury, MD, an expert in hematologic malignancies at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, died at age of 50 after a year battling esophageal cancer.

He joined the Winship Cancer Institute in 2004 as director of the Leukemia Service and associate professor in the Emory School of Medicine.

In 2009, he became a professor and director of the Division of Hematology in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, and later held the inaugural R. Randall Rollins Chair in Oncology.

“[Dr. Khoury] was a transformative figure for our hematology division, taking the team to a new level in conducting cutting-edge research, while providing compassionate patient care,” said Amelia Langston, MD, medical director and section chief of the Winship Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program and executive vice chair of the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology.

Dr. Khoury was born in Beirut, Lebanon; earned his medical degree at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Brussels, Belgium; and completed a residency in internal medicine at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia.

Dr. Khoury’s work focused on chronic myeloid leukemia, acute leukemia, and myelodysplastic syndromes, and he was a pioneer in the molecular targeting of leukemias.

“While we all knew [Dr. Khoury] as an outstanding clinician who was beloved by his patients and a true innovator in treatment, what he kept more quiet was his impact on colleagues and trainees as a mentor,” said Sagar Lonial, MD, chair of the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology and chief medical officer of the Winship Cancer Institute. “He led and taught by example, and we continued to learn from him even in the face of his illness. His blend of curiosity, determination, caring, and humor will leave a lasting imprint on all of us.”

Dr. Khoury is survived by his wife, Angela Abboud-Khoury, and his three children, Mikhail, Iman, and Alya.

Sources: Emory News Center, May 22, 2017; Cancer Letters, May 26, 2017.

Ruben A. Mesa Joins University of Texas Health Cancer Center

Ruben A. Mesa, MD

Ruben A. Mesa, MD, professor of medicine and chair of the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and deputy director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, was named director of the University of Texas (UT) Health Cancer Center and will assume the role in August.

“I look forward to working with colleagues whose commitment aligns with putting patients first and continually striving to alleviate the burden of cancer through the highest quality patient care, scientific discovery and integrity, and providing a medical education with clear distinction in new, innovative models for clinical education,” said Dr. Mesa.

Dr. Mesa is an appointed member of the American Society of Hematology’s Committee on Promoting Diversity.

Source: University of Texas news release, June 13, 2017.

Charles Mullighan Receives National Cancer Institute Outstanding Investigator Award

Charles Mullighan, MBBS (Hons), MSc, MD

Charles Mullighan, MBBS (Hons), MSc, MD, from the Department of Pathology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, received the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Outstanding Investigator Award, which provides 7 years of funding to cancer researchers. Recipients are nominated by their institutions after serving as a principal investigator on an NCI grant for the previous 5 years and demonstrating outstanding productivity.

Dr. Mullighan and his laboratory have used genomic profiling and experimental modeling to advance the understanding of high-risk and relapsed leukemia.

“The award is an honor and will significantly contribute to research for acute lymphocytic leukemia, which is the most common childhood cancer,” said Dr. Mullighan. “Our goal is to comprehensively understand the genetic basis of leukemia and use that information to advance understanding of leukemia development, [and] to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.”

Source: St. Jude Children’s Hospital news release, May 18, 2017.

NCI Funds Standardization of Cancer Genomic Data

Raja Mazumder, PhD

Raja Mazumder, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, received a $1.2 million NCI grant to standardize cancer genomic data.

Dr. Mazumder and his team are developing two databases – BioMuta and BioXpress – to organize and standardize cancer terms to ensure they are mapped appropriately. These databases will also provide researchers with interfaces and applications to more easily search data within certain restrictions or areas of interest.

“This project will allow for connecting cancer genomics mutation and expression data within an evolutionary context,” said Dr. Mazumder.

Source: The George Washington University press release, May 30, 2017.

Warren Alpert Foundation Honors Five Scientists in Immunology

The Warren Alpert Foundation, in association with Harvard Medical School, issued its 2017 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize to five scientists for their work in the field of cancer immunology. The recipients were recognized for their discoveries in cancer’s ability to thwart immune surveillance that paved the way for immune-based cancer therapies:

  • James P. Allison, PhD, professor of immunology and chair of the Department of Immunology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Lieping Chen, MD, PhD, United Technologies Corporation Professor in Cancer Research and professor of immunobiology, dermatology, and medicine at Yale University
  • Gordon Freeman, PhD, professor of medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School
  • Tasuku Honjo, MD, PhD, professor of immunology and genomic medicine at Kyoto University in Japan
  • Arlene Sharpe, MD, PhD, the George Fabyan Professor of Comparative Pathology at Harvard Medical School

The recipients will share a $500,000 prize and will be recognized during an October 5 symposium at Harvard Medical School. To date, the foundation has awarded nearly $4 million to 59 scientists.

Source: Harvard Medical School press release, June 6, 2017.