Remembering Peter R. Galbraith and Sir David Weatherall, FDA names Amy Abernethy new Deputy Commissioner, and more

Remembering Peter R. Galbraith (1931 – 2018)

Peter R. Galbraith, MD, FRCPC, an emeritus professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, passed away on October 20, 2018.

Peter R. Galbraith, MD, FRCPC

Dr. Galbraith graduated from Queen’s University School of Medicine in 1956; after completing his post-graduate and subspecialty training in hematology/oncology in the U.S., he returned to Queen’s as a clinical assistant. He remained there for his career, rising to the rank of full professor, with cross appointments in the departments of pediatrics and oncology. He was the founding head of the division of hematology/oncology and directed the hematology training program at Queen’s for more than 25 years. Dr. Galbraith also played an instrumental role in establishing the chemotherapy unit and the palliative care services at Kingston General Hospital.

He was one of the founding members of the Canadian Hematology Society, eventually becoming the president in 1984. He also was an active member of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and served as a councillor on the Executive Committee.

To honor his legacy, Queen’s University established the Peter R. Galbraith MD Award for Palliative Education, which promotes and supports advanced training in palliative care medicine within hematology and oncology.

Source: Queen’s University.

Remembering David Weatherall (1933 – 2018)

Sir David Weatherall, GBE, FRS, a clinician-scientist whose researched focused on the genetics of hemoglobin disorders, passed away on December 8, 2018.

Sir David Weatherall, GBE, FRS

Prof. Weatherall’s career spanned nearly 70 years, and he is recognized for his contributions to the understanding of thalassemia. His work made early detection of the disorder possible and his characterization of thalassemia-causing mutations enabled genetic counselling and, eventually, the eradication of thalassemia in some parts of the world. With Nancy Olivieri, MD, FRCPC, he co-founded Hemoglobal, a nonprofit organization assisting children born with inherited blood diseases in Asia.

He received numerous international honors and awards through his decades-long career, including the Lasker Award in 2010. He was named an Honorary member of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and was honored with ASH’s Ham-Wasserman Lecture in 1986 and the Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology in 2013.

Prof. Weatherall was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1977 and was knighted in 1987. From 1974 to 1992, Prof. Weatherall served as Oxford University’s Nuffield Professor of Medicine, where he “inspired several generations of clinicians and scientists to investigate the molecular basis of human diseases and apply this knowledge to improve human health,” according to a press release from the university. He was a professor of medicine at Oxford from 1992 until his retirement in 2000. During that time, he founded Oxford University’s Institute of Molecular Medicine, which was renamed the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM) in 2000.

Professor Doug Higgs, FRS, director of the WIMM, remembered the institute as “just one part of [Prof. Weatherall’s] enormous legacy encompassing [his] unique approach to medicine, science, and mentoring. For those of us who knew David well, he was the perfect friend and colleague. He was not only a great physician scientist, but also erudite and humorous. He will be very fondly remembered by us all.”

He is survived by his wife, their son, and five grandchildren.

Source: The Guardian; University of Oxford.

Abramson Cancer Center Named NCCN Member Institution

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network announced that the Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) of the University of Pennsylvania will join 27 other U.S. academic cancer centers as an NCCN Member Institution. The ACC’s membership extends to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Pennsylvania Hospital, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

As a Member Institution, ACC physicians and researchers will work with more than 1,300 experts from other institutes to review and update the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology.

In the announcement, the NCCN cited the ACC’s experience in developing immunotherapies, including chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies.

“[Our] research that has led to four new Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–approved cancer drugs this year alone,” said ACC Director Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil. “We’re energized to share our expertise with NCCN, as well as the chance to collaborate with other Member Institutions to ensure patients across the country are receiving the best possible care.”

Source: NCCN press release, November 20, 2018.

UC San Diego Researcher Receives $4 Million NCI Award to Study Cancer Drug Resistance

David Cheresh, PhD, distinguished professor and vice chair of pathology at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, was granted a $4.2-million National Cancer Institute (NCI) Outstanding Investigator Award to support his research of cancer’s ability to overcome stress, gain drug resistance, and metastasize.

David Cheresh, PhD

Dr. Cheresh, who also is associate director of innovation and industry alliances at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, will continue his study of biomarkers of angiogenesis and the molecule ανβ3, a receptor on the surface of tumor-associated blood vessels. With the NCI funding, he plans to investigate ανβ3 and the role it plays in tumors becoming resistant to cancer therapies.

Source: UC San Diego press release, December 7, 2018.

FDA Names Amy Abernethy New Deputy Commissioner

The U.S. FDA has named Amy Abernethy, MD, PhD, as its Principal Deputy Commissioner for Food and Drugs, which is the highest position at the agency that is not a political appointment. Her appointment will begin in early 2019.

Amy Abernethy, MD

Dr. Abernethy is chief medical officer, chief scientific officer, and senior vice president of oncology at Flatiron Health, a health-care services and technology company. Prior to this appointment, she was a professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine and led the Center for Learning Health Care in the Duke Clinical Research Institute and the Duke Cancer Care Research Program in the Duke Cancer Institute.

In her role as Principal Deputy Commissioner, Dr. Abernethy will oversee offices that handle the regulation of drugs, medical devices, tobacco, and food.

In an interview with Forbes, she said that she plans to focus on accelerating the collection of data to be used in clinical trials. “Historically, patient-defined concerns were always secondary, and the question is: How do you make the needs of the patient the obvious thing that we’re working on?” she said. “This is not my chance to solve the set of problems I think are important. It’s a chance to spend 100 percent of my time solving problems that are important for human health.”

In the announcement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, wrote, “She’s a highly regarded thought leader who has held numerous positions of leadership in her fields of interest and distinguished herself for her intellect, her passion for patient care and science, and her collegiality.”

Source: Forbes, December 17, 2018.