Remembering Philip W. Majerus, MD, ASH and APEX awards, and more

Philip W. Majerus, MD (1936-2016)

After a long illness, Philip W. Majerus, MD, died at home on June 8, 2016. He was 79. For hematologists, Phil’s passing truly represents the end of an era that was marked indelibly by his outsize personality, towering intellect, scientific accomplishments, and mentorship.

Phil attended Washington University Medical School and graduated first in his class, then completed an internship and one year of residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. At this point, he acquired his first experience in laboratory research with P. Roy Vagelos at the National Institutes of Health, characterizing all the reactions of fatty acid biosynthesis in E. coli.

In 1966, Phil was recruited to the Division of Hematology-Oncology at Washington University and within seven years was promoted to professor and, with Stuart Kornfeld, co-director of the Division. This inspired partnership would continue for 36 years. Phil discovered that low-dose aspirin irreversibly inhibits platelet cyclooxygenase and, with Herschel Harter, conducted the first randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial to show that low-dose aspirin reduces the incidence of shunt thrombosis. This proof-of-principle study paved the way for others to demonstrate that low-dose aspirin can prevent myocardial infarction and stroke. Over the next 30 years, he characterized most of the enzymes involved in phosphatidylinositol synthesis and catabolism. In addition to their role in hemostasis, these proteins participate in neural development, cell cycle control, bacterial virulence, intracellular protein transport, and autophagy.

For his scientific discoveries, Phil received many honors, including election to the National Academy of Science and the Institute of Medicine. He was elected president of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. He was awarded the William Dameshek Prize by ASH, the Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Foundation Award for Cardiovascular Research, and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cardiovascular/Metabolic Research. Phil was proud of the accomplishments of his trainees and was especially pleased to receive the Nature Medicine/UCSD Mentorship Award in 2002, conferred jointly with Stuart Kornfeld.

In addition to his spectacular science, Phil’s legacy includes a uniquely inspiring approach to his career. As he said in his presidential address to the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 1982, “I have not ‘worked’; rather I have enjoyed the great fortune of doing what I please – medical research.” That sense of fun, spiced with a challenge to excel, will be remembered gratefully by his many scientific descendants.

–Written by J. Evan Sadler, MD, PhD

Steven D. Stadum Appointed Vice President and COO of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Steven D. Stadum was appointed vice president and chief operating officer of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, assuming the role in July. In this position, Mr. Stadum is responsible for all operational activities of the research center, overseeing relations between Fred Hutchinson and its Seattle Cancer Care Alliance partners, the University of Washington School of Medicine, and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Prior to joining Fred Hutchinson, Mr. Stadum served in a variety of leadership roles during his 17 years at Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute, including chief operating officer since 2010.

Mr. Stadum succeeds Myra Tanita, who retired in December after a 26-year career at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Source: Fred Hutchinson press release, May 8, 2016.

Newly Formed Consortium of Hospitals Create Oncology Precision Network to Share Data and Access to Clinical Trials

Three hospital systems – Intermountain Healthcare, Stanford Cancer Institute, and Providence Health and Services – have formed the Oncology Precision Network (OPeN) in response to Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative. The hospitals are partnering with the technology company Syapse to use its precision medicine data platform to share aggregated clinical, molecular, and treatment data.

The goal of the partnership is to advance cancer care through data sharing and better access to clinical trials, leveraging the 100,000 data sets anticipated to populate the networks database to bring treatment insights to physicians and patients as rapidly as possible.

OPeN includes data and physicians from 11 states, 79 hospitals, and 800 clinics, and, when fully implemented, OPeN is projected to reach 50,000 new cancer patients per year and have more than 1.5 million historical cancer cases.

Source: Intermountain Healthcare press release, June 2, 2016.

Richard Pazdur Named Acting Director of the FDA Oncology Center of Excellence

Richard Pazdur, MD, head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Oncology Drug Products within the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, has been chosen to head the FDA’s new Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE). The OCE will be established as part of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, which charged the FDA with creating the office to leverage the combined skills of regulatory scientists and reviewers with expertise in drugs, biologics, and devices.

“Dr. Pazdur is the person the FDA needs to get the OCE up and running, because of his in-depth understanding of the inner workings of the FDA, his deep expertise in treating this complex disease, and his ability to move the agency forward in this complicated task,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, said in a statement. He added that center directors from the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and the Center for Devices and Radiological Health will work alongside Dr. Pazdur in his role as OCE acting director.

In this role, Dr. Pazdur will also facilitate and streamline engagement between different stakeholders in the Cancer Moonshot Initiative, including patient advocacy groups, professional associations, and members of industry and academia.

Source: FDA news release, June 29, 2016.

David O. Barbe Voted President-Elect of American Medical Association

David O. Barbe, MD, MHA, a family physician in Mountain Grove, Missouri, was elected president of the American Medical Association (AMA) during the organization’s annual meeting. After a year-long term as president-elect, he will assume the office of AMA president in June 2017.

Dr. Barbe was first elected to the AMA Board of Trustees in 2009 and has served on numerous AMA committees and task forces. He served as chair of the board from 2013 to 2014 and was a member of its executive committee from 2011 to 2015. Prior to his election to the AMA Board, Dr. Barbe was a member of the Council on Medical Service, serving as its chair from 2008 to 2009. As a member of the council, Dr. Barbe participated in the development of AMA policy related to coverage of the uninsured, health-care system reform, Medicare reform, and health insurance market reform.

Source: AMA press release, June 14, 2016.

Charles Mullighan Receives Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award from St. Baldrick’s Foundation

Charles Mullighan, MBBS, MSc, MD, co-leader of the Hematological Malignancies Program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, was awarded the first-ever Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award from St. Baldrick’s Foundation during the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology (ASPHO) conference.

The award was created in memory of Robert J. Arceci, MD, PhD, who served as director of the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Hematology and Oncology and was co-director of the Ronald A. Matricaria Institute of Molecular Medicine at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona. He was a member of the St. Baldrick’s board and chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee.

Each year, two award recipients will be chosen – one from the United States or Canada and the other internationally – and will receive $250,000 annually for three years, with no research restrictions other than to provide a reporting of results every six months.

Dr. Mullighan plans to use this award to research the genetic changes that cause cells to form tumors and why certain patients’ cancer does not respond to targeted treatment.

Source: St. Baldrick’s Foundation press release, May 13, 2016.

ASH Selects 14 Medical Students for Minority Medical Student Award Program

The American Society of Hematology (ASH) announced the recipients of the 2016 Minority Medical Student Award Program (MMSAP), an eight- to 12-week research experience for first- and second-year medical students from the United States and Canada.

The program encourages minority medical students who are interested in hematology by providing an opportunity to create and implement a hematology-related research project over the course of the summer. Participants are paired with two ASH mentors: an MMSAP research mentor who will oversee the participant’s work and progress during the summer project and a career-development mentor who will guide the participant throughout training.

Participants will receive $7,000, which will go toward covering research projects and travel expenses to the 58th ASH Annual Meeting in December, where they will present their research projects during a special session.

The 14 students and their project titles are:

  • Tokunbo Adeniyi, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine in Chicago, IL
    Life beyond sickle cell disease post-transplant: adults with SCD who had an AlloHSCT and their health-related quality of life
  • Moriyike Akinosun, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine in Chicago, IL
    The exercise genomics study
  • Kelsey Chatman, The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, OH
    Evaluation of combination epigenetic therapeutics in mantle cell lymphoma
  • Austin Ikechi, The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, OH
    Post pain symptoms in transplant patients with sickle cell disease
  • Ramanjot Kang, Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, OH
    The development of autoimmune diseases following HPA-1a alloimmunization in fetal-neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia (FNAIT)
  • Serina Lewis, Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC
    Utilizing pathology informatics for subtyping diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
  • Heardley Murdock, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA
    Investigating DNA methylation to predict outcome in secondary acute myeloid leukemia
  • Arinze Nwokeji, The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, OH
    Identifying NuRD subunit protein domains Necessary for γ-globin Silencing
  • Israel Orta, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY
    The role of red blood cell (RBC) endogenous nitric oxide production as a link between sickle cell RBC and vascular disease
  • Violeta Osegueda, University of California, Irvine in Irvine, CA
    Effectiveness of tier platelet protocol implementation for critical intracranial hemorrhage
  • Yasmin Rawlins, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, NY
    Racial and ethnic differences in toxicities of childhood ALL therapy
  • Gabriel Washington, Stanford University in Stanford, CA
    Analysis of red blood cells after in vitro differentiation of HBB edited hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells
  • Monica Williams, The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, OH
    Elucidation of immune evasion by acute myeloid leukemia
  • Carolyn Wright, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA
    Defining the optimal approach for discontinuing plasma exchange in patients with acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura

Source: ASH press release, June 23, 2016.

ASH Selects Seven Fellows for Research Training Award

ASH announced the seven fellows selected for the 2016 ASH Research Training Award for Fellows (RTAF), a year-long program that aims to encourage careers in academic hematology by providing protected research time during training. Each awardee will receive $55,000 to support a hematology research project throughout the program’s duration – from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017.

The majority of the award money will support the recipient’s salary, with a percentage to be used for research supplies and ASH annual meeting attendance. Awards are targeted to two groups of researchers based on experience: a Junior Investigator award for second- and third-year fellows, and a Senior Investigator award for fourth- and fifth-year fellows.

The seven fellows and their research topics are:

  • Waitmann Aumann, MD, Duke University Hospital in Durham, NC
    CRM1 dimerization: A novel mechanism in CALM-AF10 leukemia
  • Shruti Chaturvedi, MBBS, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN
    Alternate pathway of complement in adults with sickle cell disease and acute chest syndrome
  • Gordon Cohen, MD, MPH, The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD
    Overcoming imatinib resistance in pediatric Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphocytic leukemia
  • Anna Halpern, MD, University of Washington in Seattle, WA
    Developing and testing models to predict intensive care unit (ICU) admission and mortality for adults with acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • Sakiko Suzuki, MD, University of Massachusetts in Worcester, MA
    Novel therapy of leukemia through alternative splicing of MPL
  • Justin Taylor, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, NY
    Biological and mechanistic effects of XPO1 alterations in hematopoietic malignancies
  • Amy Tang, MD, New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York, NY
    Transfusion-related iron overload and post-transplantation outcomes in a chemotherapy-based mouse model of allogeneic stem cell transplant

Source: ASH press release, June 30, 2016.

And the Winner is …

For the second year, ASH Clinical News has won the APEX Award of General Excellence! Congratulations to our editorial and production team!