Remembering Ronald L. Nagel and Runqing Lu, NCCN Elects New Board of Directors, and more

Dr.RonNagelRonald L. Nagel, MD (1936–2016)

Ronald (Ron) L. Nagel, MD, was born in Santiago and graduated from the University of Chile Medical School in 1960. After three years of post-graduate training in medicine, physics, and mathematics, he moved to the United States as a postdoctoral fellow at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Helen Ranney.
Ron’s first major findings, in collaboration with Robert M. Bookchin, involved understanding the molecular basis of polymerization of hemoglobin S, the mutant hemoglobin that causes sickle cell disease (SCD), through the study of naturally occurring mutants.

As techniques evolved, Ron, then chief of hematology at Einstein, studied SCD at the DNA haplotype level. It is through his work with Dominique Labie that our understanding of regional variations in SCD severity evolved. For example, SCD patients from parts of India, Saudi Arabia, and Senegal exhibit a milder form of the disease than patients from the Bantu ethnic group. These studies were also the precursor of larger, international projects to map the haplotype structure of the entire human genome, which has revealed the influence of genetic variation on human health and disease.

As it became possible to engineer mouse models of human diseases, Ron worked with Mary Fabry, Eric Bouhassira, Dan K. Kaul, and others to create transgenic sickle mice with a variety of phenotypes and elucidated important pathophysiologic issues in SCD, which continue to be used in many laboratories.

Excited by the development of viral vectors able to infect hematopoietic stem cells, Ron organized a multidisciplinary team that included Eric Bouhassira and Mary Fabry from Einstein, Irving London and Phillipe Leboulch from Harvard/MIT, and Connie Eaves and Keith Humphries from the University of British Columbia to bring gene therapy to the bedside. These studies included the first proof of principle of gene therapy for SCD in the mouse. Phillipe Leboulch and later BlueBird Bio subsequently conducted the first successful and ongoing human trials for gene therapy for the hemoglobinopathies.

Ron recruited to Einstein over 20 faculty members and fostered research in many additional aspects of SCD, Hb C disease and malaria.

He was a true Renaissance man and additional interests included history, poetry, arts, and gastronomy. He is fondly remembered for his intelligence, encyclopedic memory, his wit, and for the many dinners that he either cooked and hosted, or organized at highly sought-after restaurants.

–Submitted by Eric E. Bouhassira, PhD; Henny H. Billett, MD; Mary E. Fabry, PhD; Rhoda E. Hirsch, PhD; and Rajagopal Krishnamoorthy, MSc, PhD, DSc

Dr. Nagel was an active member of ASH, serving on several committees. He was a part of the Ad Hoc Committee on International Outreach (AHCIO), the Scientific Committee on Red Cell Biology, chairperson of the AHCIO Subcommittee on Africa, and was a Grassroots Network volunteer.


Runqing LuRunqing Lu, PhD (1968–2016)

Runqing Lu, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Anatomy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), passed away in late March. Dr. Lu was a native of Zibo, China, and joined UNMC in 2004. In 2008, he received a New Investigator Award at the Distinguished Scientist Award ceremony at UNMC. His research focused on understanding how B cells are generated in disorders such as autoimmunity, leukemia, and lymphoma. Dr. Lu was a member of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center and of ASH.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Lu,” said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD. “He was a trusted peer, a valued mentor, and a caring friend to many.” Vimla Band, PhD, chair of the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Anatomy at UNMC, said that Dr. Lu was a kind-hearted person and brilliant researcher and mentor. “He cared deeply for his students and fellows, as well as for his colleagues in the department and UNMC as a whole,” Dr. Band said.


Timothy EberleinNCCN Elects New Board of Directors Chairman, Officers

Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, director of the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, has been elected chairman of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s (NCCN) Board of Directors. Dr. Eberlein previously served as vice chair of the board and succeeds Samuel M. Silver, MD, PhD, as chairman. Throughout his tenure with NCCN, Dr. Eberlein has held leadership roles on a number of committees, including the Executive Committee, Governance Committee, and NCCN Guidelines Steering Committee.

The following members of the NCCN Board were also elected to new offices:

  • Vice Chair: Jan C. Buckner, MD, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Rochester, MN
  • Secretary: Lori C. Pickens, MHA, Duke Cancer Institute, Cary, NC
  • Treasurer: Dorothy E. Puhy, MBA, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Boston, MA

Source: NCCN press release, April 4, 2016.


Jennifer PietenpolJennifer Pietenpol Named Vanderbilt University’s Executive Vice President of Research

Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, has been appointed executive vice president for research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Pietenpol will continue to serve as director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, a position she has held since 2007. In her new position, Dr. Pietenpol will take on some of the responsibilities held by Lawrence “Larry” Marnett, PhD, associate vice chancellor for research and senior associate dean for biomedical sciences, as Dr. Marnett will transition to the newly created position of dean of basic sciences in the school of medicine.

Source: Vanderbilt University press release, April 14, 2016.


Steven RosenCity of Hope’s Steven Rosen Awarded $2.3 Million Grant from NCI for AML Research

Steven T. Rosen, MD, provost and chief scientific officer at City of Hope, has been awarded a $2.3 million Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to fund studies associated with a phase I/II clinical trial of a new therapy in relapsed/refractory adult acute myeloid leukemia. The Rising Tide Foundation is funding the clinical trial, which will evaluate the safety and efficacy of 8-chloro-adenosine (a therapeutic small molecule that has shown anti-cancer activity against patient-derived leukemia cells), while the NCI grant will fund correlative studies in genomic profiling, the drug’s mechanism of action, and any potential cytotoxic effects.

Source: City of Hope press release, April 7, 2016.

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