Remembering David Grimwade, David Williams Named First Chief Scientific Officer of Boston Children’s Hospital, and more

Remembering David Grimwade, MD, PhD (1962–2016)

David Grimwade, MD, PhD, passed away on October 16. Dr. Grimwade served as a professor of molecular hematology at King’s College London, and he was a member of the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at Guy’s King’s and St. Thomas’ School of Medicine. His research focused on the molecular characterization of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), and he contributed a wealth of knowledge to the identification of prognostic factors in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and approaches for the detection of minimal-
residual disease (MRD).

In early October, ASH announced that the Exemplary Service Award would be presented to Dr. Grimwade. This award was established in 1998 in recognition of ASH members whose years of service have significantly advanced the Society’s interests. Dr. Grimwade, thanks to his deep commitment and contributions to ASH training programs, specifically the International Consortium on Acute Leukemia (ICAL) and the Translational Research Training in Hematology (TRTH), was selected for this honor just prior to his passing. His family will be presented with the award at the 2016 ASH Annual Meeting in San Diego.

In his years of involvement with ASH, Dr. Grimwade earned the trust and respect of colleagues around the world. A few of his colleagues shared their memories.

David Grimwade exemplified the modern hematologist. He was a brilliant, independent researcher capable of formulating important hypotheses and carrying out exceedingly difficult experimentation to prove them, as was shown in the seminal paper in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) from 2005 on therapy-related APL, where his group identified a surprisingly tight, new breakpoint region involved in leukemogenesis. David was dedicated to optimizing MRD assays for clinical integration, a task for which his organizational talents have paid rich dividends for the European hematology community. I remember countless, lengthy European Union-sponsored meetings that would have ended in utter chaos, had it not been for David’s gentle persistence and humor.

As head of the UK-AML MRD trials, it was a pleasure to interact with David on patient sampling and reporting. (I always wondered at his meticulousness in reporting or in asking for additional material given that his office was just as cluttered as Janet Rowley’s office!) In our last communication at the end of September, he alluded to data he was drafting for NEJM. I hope that he was able to finish that task. Irrespective, his work will benefit our patients for years to come.

—Peter Hokland, MD, DMedSci
Aarhus University in Denmark

I was happy to have known David for nearly 20 years through the APL field, as he was among the first to characterize the PML-RAR fusion gene of APL and follow the fusion gene during therapy, detecting MRD and presaging a trend in molecular clinical oncology.

At the ASH/EHA Translational Research Training Institute, which he helped lead, we were mentors to a small group of trainees, and we served on the oversight committee. He was a pleasure to work with: sharp, insightful, patient, and loved by the trainees and faculty.

David was dedicated to patient care. I remember when he helped us at Northwestern de-convolute a complicated molecular diagnosis of APL and analyzed specimens we sent to him. He made a difference in the care of that patient and for society; his clinical studies demonstrated the impact of targeted therapies in APL.

I remember his dedication to science and translation of findings. I enjoyed visiting his lab, meeting his enthusiastic students, and being introduced to his mentor Ellen Solomon. He continued his work through his illness, even attending a scientific meeting just before he passed away.

I remember David’s sense of humor and the enjoyment of being at a bar with him at TRTH at “apertivo” after a long day of classes as David Bodine and Ruud Dewel poured and poured the prosecco and beer.

David was cheerful and brave, even uplifting during his illness. Last year at TRTH, he spoke about his battle with cancer, traveling back and forth for therapy in the midst of the meeting and even showing a picture of his tumor to the trainees and faculty in an after-dinner talk. The talk highlighted his delight in discovery, love for his family and colleagues, love of sport, and his dedication to mentorship.

I will miss him. Hematology will miss him.

—Jonathan D. Licht, MD
The University of Florida Health
Cancer Center

Dr. Grimwade’s colleagues are compiling a book of remembrances for his family. Those interested in contributing may send them to [email protected].


The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Commits $40.3 Million to New Cancer Research

More than 75 scientific researchers at leading academic and medical institutions around the world received new research funding from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to address critical unmet medical needs for blood cancer patients. The following is a selection of award recipients.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia

LLS awarded a series of grants focused on acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

  • Katharine Hsu, MD, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, was awarded a Career Development Program (CDP) grant to study how to eradicate AML in human leukocyte antigen-matched allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation by harnessing donor natural killer cell activity.
  • Ann Leen, PhD, Baylor College of Medicine, was awarded a Rising Tide Foundation for Clinical Cancer Research (RTFCCR)/LLS grant to test multi-tumor antigen-targeted T-cell therapy for AML.
  • Iannis Aifantis, PhD, New York University School of Medicine, was awarded a Translational Research Program (TRP) grant to test targeting the tumor-suppressive functions of the cohesin complex in AML.

Specialized Center of Research

The innovative Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) program funds multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary teams of researchers designed to synergistically engage in collaborative efforts to discover new approaches to treat patients with blood cancers. The three researchers awarded this year are:

  • Ari Melnick, MD, Weill Cornell Medical College, will focus on targeting unmet clinical needs for B-cell lymphomas.
  • Tak Mak, PhD, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, will study therapeutic implications of altered epigenetics and DNA damage responses in hematologic disorders.
  • Anas Younes, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, will study novel immune therapy of lymphoma.

Translational Research Program

The Translational Research Program (TRP) grants fund new and innovative research that shows promise of moving from laboratory discoveries to clinical application. This year, 29 researchers received a TRP grant, including:

  • Charles Mullighan, MBBS, MSc, MD, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, will study therapeutic targeting of acute erythroid leukemia.
  • Ulrich Steidl, MD, PhD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, will study mechanisms of initiation and therapeutic targeting of PU.1 low-induced AML.
  • Madhav Dhodapkar, MB, BS, Yale University, will study targeting antigenic substrates in monoclonal gammopathy and potentially progression to multiple myeloma.
  • Jianhua Yu, PhD, The Ohio State University, will study CS1 chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells for the treatment of high-risk multiple myeloma.

Career-Development Program

The Career-Development Program (CDP) grants support researchers at different stages of their careers, from those with less than two years of postdoctoral research to those who hold independent faculty-level positions. The grants are designed to encourage these promising young investigators to embark on academic careers involving clinical or fundamental research in the blood cancers. This year, 26 researchers received a CDP grant, including:

  • Constantine Mitsiades, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will focus on overcoming resistance to targeted therapies in multiple myeloma.
  • Saro Armenian, DO, MPH, Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, Duarte, California, will study cardiovascular reserve capacity in survivors of hematopoietic cell transplantation.
  • Shruti Bhatt, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will study personalizing leukemia therapy by determining drug-induced early death signaling.

Source: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.


Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital Receives $2.8 Million NIH Grant for Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded a $2.8 million research grant to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital to expand its research on blood clots in the pediatric population.

The funding will go toward the multicenter, randomized Kids-DOTT trial, which researchers at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital launched in 2007 to determine the length of time infants, children, and teens should be treated with anti-clotting medication after a first-time acute venous thromboembolism.

The study is conducted in collaboration with more than 40 children’s hospitals worldwide. More than 800 patients are projected to be enrolled, while approximately 280 have been enrolled to date.

“This NIH grant will expand ongoing research to improve the safety and reduce the costs of anti-clotting therapy that is needed after children leave the hospital,” said Jonathan Ellen, MD, president, CEO, and physician-in-chief of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and vice dean and professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Source: Johns Hopkins University press release, October 4, 2016.


Nancy E. Davidson Appointed Executive Director of the Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium

Nancy E. Davidson, MD, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, accepted the position of executive director of the Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium, effective December 1. Members of this consortium include the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA).

Dr. Davidson will assume the role previously held by Frederick Appelbaum, MD, who will remain executive vice president and deputy director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and will continue to treat patients at SCCA.

Source: Fred Hutchinson news release, October 10, 2016.


New Appointments in Malignant Hematology and Molecular Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center

Jeffrey E. Lancet, MD, was named the chair and program leader for the Department of Malignant Hematology at Moffitt Cancer Center after serving as the interim chair for the department since September 2015. Dr. Lancet has written, authored, and published several early-phase clinical trials investigating novel therapies for malignant hematologic diseases, and serves as the principal investigator for many ongoing trials. Dr. Lancet also was recently appointed as a member to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee.

Stem cell researcher Elsa R. Flores, PhD, joined the Moffitt Cancer Center as co-leader of the Cancer Biology and Evolution Program and chair of the Molecular Oncology Department. This is a first-of-its-kind program that combines the resources of the Molecular Oncology Department (which investigates the biology of cancer and tumors at the cellular level to identify genes and non-coding RNAs involved in tumor initiation, progression, maintenance, and metastasis) with those of the Cancer Biology and Evolution Program to potentially develop novel treatments.

Source: Moffitt Cancer Center press releases, August 23, 2016, and August 30, 2016.


University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Receives More Than $1 Million in Funding From PCORI

A research team at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, led by Ethan Basch, MD, MS, received more than $1 million in funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to develop and evaluate national patient-reported outcomes-based performance measures.

Researchers will launch a three-year project to develop and evaluate a patient-centered approach to assessing the quality of health care patients with cancer experience. This will be conducted in partnership with the American Society of Medical Oncology, the American Cancer Society, and national patient organizations, including the Research Advocacy Network, Patients and Partners, and the Cancer Information and Support Network.

Source: UNC School of Medicine newsletter, October 2016.


Timothy Kuzel Appointed Division Chief of Hematology, Oncology, and Cell Therapy at Rush University Medical Center

Timothy M. Kuzel, MD, was appointed division chief of hematology, oncology, and cell therapy at Rush University Medical Center, effective in June. He succeeded Philip D. Bonomi, MD, the Alice Pirie Wirtz Professor of Medical Oncology, who stepped down from the position but continues to treat patients at the center. The division oversees the diagnosis and treatment of patients with solid tumors and blood cancers.

Dr. Kuzel was previously director of Northwestern University’s Driskill Immunotherapy Research Program, was a professor of medicine and dermatology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and oversaw the Genitourinary and Cutaneous Oncology Programs at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Source: Rush University Medical Center press release, September 28, 2016.


Leukemia Research Foundation Names Allison Parise and Mary Phelan Lappe 2016 Nurses of the Year

Allison Parise, RN, BSN, from the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Mary Phelan Lappe, BSN, RN, OCN, from the University of Chicago Medical Center, were named the 2016 Nurses of the Year by the Leukemia Research Foundation (LRF).

The award has been presented annually since 1996 to recognize hematology−oncology nurses who give their time, compassion, and heart to their jobs. Nurses are nominated by patients, families, or colleagues, and LRF selects its winners.

Terry Park, Ms. Parise’s colleague, nominated her and said, “Compassionate, knowledgeable, selfless, enthusiastic, empathetic, holistic, and committed are the words [that] quickly come to mind when I think of what [Ms. Parise] represents each day at work.”

Sonali M. Smith, MD, director of the lymphoma program at the University of Chicago Medical Center, nominated Ms. Lappe and said, “She takes her role as a nurse as a deeply personal commitment to educating, comforting, [and] caring for patients, and in general improving every aspect of their experience as cancer patients. She helps our patients develop trust in the care team and in the university at large.”

Sources: The Chicago Tribune, October 24, 2016; Leukemia Research Foundation, 2016.


David A. Williams Named First Chief Scientific Officer of Boston Children’s Hospital

David A. Williams, MD, director of clinical and translational research and president of the Dana-Farber Cancer Center and Boston Children’s Hospital, was named the first chief scientific officer of Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Williams is tasked with enhancing the hospital’s precision medicine capabilities, while advocating for the interests of the hospital’s research community.

Dr. Williams founded the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Boston Children’s Hospital’s gene therapy program, which has seven open clinical trials and is one of the nation’s most robust pediatric gene therapy programs.

“Research is a critical part of our hospital’s mission,” said Sandra Fenwick, president and chief executive officer of Boston Children’s Hospital. “[Dr. Williams’] passion, and one goal in his new position, is to help drive innovation through translation of Boston Children’s outstanding biomedical discovery research to benefit patients and, in turn, to use our unique patient populations to drive additional discoveries.”

“I have spent my career traversing the bridge between basic discovery research and the clinic,” said Dr. Williams. “The creation of this position underscores Boston Children’s commitment to research as the driving force of medical progress, and I am honored to serve as its first chief scientific officer.”

Source: Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s press release, November 4, 2016.

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