American Cancer Society Awards $2.6 Million for Immunotherapy Research, and more

George Stamatoyannopoulos

Remembering Past ASH President George Stamatoyannopoulos (1934 – 2018)

George Stamatoyannopoulos, MD, DrSci, a professor of medical genetics at the University of Washington who pioneered the study of specific blood diseases, died June 16, 2018.

Born in Athens, Greece, Dr. Stamatoyannopoulos entered medical school at age 17 and began his research on inherited blood disorders, focusing on anemias, after completing his medical training. His research accomplishments included performing the first large-scale molecular geographic survey of a genetic trait, which ultimately revealed the association between malaria and both thalassemia and sickle-cell traits.

He also discovered that fetal hemoglobin was reawakened in some patients with thalassemia and could ameliorate the disease’s effects; this finding has supported international efforts to cure these disorders. His research brought him to the University of Washington in 1964, where he had served as a full professor since 1973. Dr. Stamatoyannopoulos also founded the university’s Markey Molecular Medicine Center and was chief of medical genetics from 1989 to 2005.

Dr. Stamatoyannopoulos received many honorary degrees and awards, including the American Society of Hematology’s (ASH’s) Henry M. Stratton Medal and the William Dameshek Prize. He also served as president of ASH in 1992 and was elected to numerous honorary organizations and academies.

He is survived by his wife and close collaborator of more than 50 years, Thalia Papayannoupoulou, MD, DrSci, a professor of medicine and internationally recognized hematologist; two sons, one of whom is a professor of genome sciences and medicine and was a scientific collaborator in recent years; and three grandchildren.

Source: UW Medicine press release, June 21, 2018.

Joan Gill

Remembering Joan C. Gill (1943 – 2018)

Joan C. Gill, MD, a pioneering researcher in pediatric hematology, died on May 9, 2018, after a year-long battle with cancer.

After graduating from medical school in 1976, Dr. Gill began her long research career in non-malignant hematology. She led a research team that was the first to identify the immune abnormalities in patients with hemophilia that ultimately became recognized as AIDS. She was the principal investigator for the first National Institutes of Health (NIH)–funded grant focusing on AIDS in patients with hemophilia, and her work also provided important insights into the diagnosis and treatment of von Willebrand disease.

Most recently, Dr. Gill was professor of pediatrics and medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, investigator at the Blood Research Institute at BloodCenter of Wisconsin, and director of the Comprehensive Center for Bleeding Disorders in Milwaukee. She also treated patients at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin for nearly three decades and was a founding member of the Hemostasis and Thrombosis Research Society – which named an annual award for outstanding service in her honor.

Dr. Gill is survived by her daughter Gretchen Gill, PhD, and was remembered as a loving sister to her five siblings.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 14, 2018.

American Cancer Society Awards $2.6 Million to Study Immunotherapy Side Effects 

The American Cancer Society (ACS) selected the first group of scientists to receive newly established research grants to investigate serious adverse events associated with checkpoint inhibitors like ipilimumab and nivolumab. The multi-year grants are jointly funded by ACS and the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) and went into effect on July 1.

Two researchers were granted the first ACSMRA Multidisciplinary Team Awards:

  • Kai Wucherpfennig, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will study the optimal treatment for patients’ ipilimumab-induced colitis.
  • David Gerber, MD, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, will study whether autoimmunity increases the risk of immune-related adverse events to immunotherapy.

Three researchers were granted the first ACSMRA Pilot Awards:

  • Suephy Chen, MD, Emory University, will focus on improving the understanding of cutaneous immunotherapy-related skin side effects in patients with melanoma.
  • Betina Yanez, PhD, Northwestern University, will evaluate the feasibility of an evidencebased, web-delivered oncology program (“OncoLink”) to improve the management of immune checkpoint inhibitor side effects.
  • Bianca Santomasso, MD, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, will focus on neurologic immune-related adverse events or neurotoxicities associated with immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Source: American Cancer Society press release, May 10, 2018.

Laura Hutchins Appointed Interim Director of Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute 

Laura Hutchins, MD, a professor in the College of Medicine Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), has been appointed interim director of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. She succeeds former director Peter Emanuel, MD, who recently resigned after leading the institute since 2007.

Dr. Hutchins served as director of the hematology/ oncology division from 1998 to 2013 and has acted as director of clinical research at the Cancer Institute since 1998. She has a long career with UAMS: In 1977, Dr. Hutchins graduated from the UAMS College of Medicine, where she also completed her internship, residency, and fellowship.

She has published more than 200 journal articles, book chapters, and abstracts, and has been a co-investigator on numerous National Institutes of Health grants.

Source: UAMS press release, June 19, 2018.