Remembering Aaron J. Marcus and Gerald Robbins, New Howard Hughes Investigators Named for 2015, and more

Aaron J. Marcus, MD (1925-2015)

Aaron J. Marcus, MD, a mentor and pioneering scientist in hemostasis, coagulation, thrombosis, and vascular biology for 52 years, passed away on May 6, 2015.

Even at 89, he remained active in hematology research, directing experiments from his bedside to the very end. As a scientific investigator, Dr. Marcus was notable not only for his sheer longevity – he was the longest continuously funded NIH grantee and garnered a new 10-year National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute MERIT award at age 80 – but also for his unquenchable curiosity. “He lived and breathed hemostasis,” recalled Ralph L. Nachman, MD, a colleague and past chairman and professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. “He was on a constant search for new therapeutic agents designed to combat human thrombotic disease.”

Dr. Marcus obtained his MD from New York Medical College in 1953 and spent his residency and a research fellowship in hematology at Montefiore Hospital.

Since the publication of his first paper in 1958, Dr. Marcus spent his entire professional career pursuing the mysteries of thrombosis. The role of platelet lipids in thrombosis remained the focus of his research for several decades, and he was among the first to demonstrate how platelets were affected by aspirin. He also invented the partial thromboplastin time (PTT) test, which is still used widely for evaluating blood coagulation in patients.

These studies took place in a narrow, instrument-crammed lab at the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, where he became chief of Hematology-Oncology in 1958. In 1973, he was appointed professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and joined its SCOR in Thrombosis.

Dr. Marcus’ immersion in platelet biology led him to study the role of eicosanoids in mediating platelet–endothelial cell interactions – creating a new discipline, which he called “transcellular metabolism.”

Dr. Marcus also took the role of mentor very seriously. “Aaron was one of my most influential mentors and a firm believer that being a mentor and being a mentee were lifetime responsibilities,” said Andrew Schafer, MD, former ASH President and chairman of medicine at Weill Cornell.

Among the many honors Dr. Marcus received throughout his career were the Henry Stratton Lectureship from the American Society of Hematology (ASH), the 1994 Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cardiovascular Research, and Special Service Awards from the Veterans Administration for 55 years of service. In addition, the 2015 Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology will recognize Dr. Marcus for his seminal contributions to the field that spanned more than five decades and exemplified excellence in research, clinical care, and education. He is internationally recognized for his research on acetylsalicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin, and how it interacts with platelets and red blood cells to protect against heart attack and stroke.

Dr. Marcus is survived by his wife, Deana; his children, Lisa, James, and Douglas, and their spouses, Lee and Nina; and his grandchildren, Nathaniel, Chiara, Shanti, Jamila, and Ishai.

Gerald Robbins, MD (1952-2015)

Gerald Robbins, MD, passed away on May 16, 2015 at the age of 63. Dr. Robbins was an involved member of the American Society of Hematology. His friends and collaborators on the ASH Committee on Practice, Task Force on Practitioner Needs, Committee on Communications, and ASH Practice Partnership knew Dr. Robbins as a true advocate for patients with hematologic conditions, and his many years of unwavering service helped to enhance the health and well-being of many. Through his leadership and practice in New Port Richey, Florida, he helped numerous patients gain access to clinical trials. His vast experience as a clinician and active involvement in medical affairs at every level – local, state, national – made his service to ASH highly valued. He had been a driving force in the Florida Society of Clinical Oncology (FLASCO).

Dr. Robbins is survived by his wife of 41 years, Colette; their children, Amy, Laura, and Scott; and their grandchildren, Alexis, Zane, and Niko.

Howard Bailey, MD, has been named director of the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, in Madison, Wisconsin, after serving as the interim director since September 2013. Dr. Bailey is professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and a medical oncologist who specializes in gynecologic and soft-tissue cancers and cancer prevention.

Dr. Bailey, who worked under and alongside Dr. Paul Carbone, for whom the cancer center is named, has been an active cancer clinician and researcher since joining the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1994.

Source: University of Wisconsin press release

Researcher Receives $1.5 Million Grant to Study Gene Therapies for Hemophilia

Qizhen Shi, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatric hematology at the Medical College of Wisconsin and an investigator at the Blood Research Institute at BloodCenter of Wisconsin, has received a four-year, $1.5-million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to continue her study of blood platelet gene therapies for hemophilia A. Dr. Shi’s work focuses on identifying therapies for hemophilia patients with inactivating antibodies. Dr. Shi and her team will be investigating a novel gene therapy approach that will provide therapeutic FVIII protein and induce immune tolerance for hemophilia A.

Source: Medical College of Wisconsin news release

Silvia Formenti Named Chair of Radiation Oncology at Weill Cornell

Silvia C. Formenti, MD, has been appointed chair of the newly established Department of Radiation Oncology at Weill Cornell Medical College, radiation oncologist-in-chief at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, as well as associate director of Radiation Oncology at the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell. Dr. Formenti was previously the chair of radiation oncology at New York University Langone Medical Center. Dr. Formenti’s work has focused on demonstrating the efficacy of combining radiotherapy with immunotherapy to control cancer cell growth in solid tumors.

Source: Weill Cornell Medical College press release

Andrew Lee Named Medical Director of New Proton Therapy Center

Andrew K. Lee, MD, MPH, has been named medical director of the Texas Center for Proton Therapy. The new center is a collaboration of Texas Oncology and the US Oncology Network and is expected to begin treating patients by the end of 2015.

Dr. Lee joins the Texas Center for Proton Therapy following almost 14 years at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he served as the medical director of the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center. During his time there, Dr. Lee was the first physician in North America to treat patients with spot-scanning proton therapy; and he developed the use of fiducial markers and image-guidance at MD Anderson to improve tumor localization to optimize the accuracy of proton therapy.

Source: Texas Center for Proton Therapy press release

Larry Kwak Joins City of Hope Lymphoma Center

Larry W. Kwak, MD, PhD, has joined City of Hope in Duarte, California, as director of the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center within the institution’s new Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute. Most recently, Dr. Kwak was chairman of the Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma and co-director of the Center for Cancer Immunology Research at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. His laboratory was credited with the bench-to-clinic development of a therapeutic cancer vaccine for B-cell malignancies.

Dr. Kwak will also serve in the dual leadership role of inaugural associate director for developmental therapeutics and translational research for City of Hope’s National Cancer Institute–designated comprehensive cancer center and hold the title of the Dr. Michael Friedman Professor for Translational Medicine.

Source: City of Hope press release

Roswell Park Cancer Institute and University of Buffalo Funded for New Stem Cell Program

With a $1.85 million grant from the New York State Stem Cell Science agency, the University at Buffalo and Roswell Park Cancer Institute will launch a stem cell research training program through a joint collaboration. New York State Stem Cell Science is a publicly funded agency tasked with making advancements in stem cell biology.

The newly created program, called Stem Cells in Regenerative Medicine (SCiRM), will bring together 18 faculty members in University of Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences with eight graduate students from Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Co-directors of the program are Sriram Neelamegham, PhD, a professor in University of Buffalo’s department of chemical and biological engineering, and Richard Gronostajski, PhD, a professor in University of Buffalo’s department of biochemistry and Roswell Park’s department of molecular and cellular biology.

Source: Roswell Park Cancer Institute news release

Katherine Tarlock Earns Grant to Pursue Childhood Leukemia Treatments

Katherine Tarlock, MD, a clinical researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, has been awarded a $100,000 grant by Northwestern Mutual Foundation, through its nonprofit partner Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. The grant will support Dr. Tarlock’s research in developing therapeutic strategies for children with leukemia. Dr. Tarlock is one of eight researchers selected for the grant.

“This grant will allow for critical research needed to examine chemotherapeutic agents and the investigation of novel therapeutic strategies,” Dr. Tarlock said.

Source: Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center news release

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Selects 26 New Investigators for 2015

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) announced that 26 of the nation’s top biomedical researchers will become HHMI investigators. The scientists represent 19 institutions from across the United States – including three current HHMI early-career scientists – were selected for their individual scientific excellence from a group of 894 eligible applicants.

The new HHMI investigators are expected to begin their appointments in September 2015. The new investigators represent a variety of disciplines, including biochemistry, biophysics, cell biology, computational biology, genetics, immunology, neuroscience, and virology.

  • Sue Biggins, PhD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
  • Squire J. Booker, PhD, Pennsylvania State University, University Park
  • Olga Boudker, PhD, Cornell University
  • Yifan Cheng, PhD, University of California, San Francisco
  • Job Dekker, PhD, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Xinzhong Dong, PhD, Johns Hopkins University
  • Loren M. Frank, PhD, University of California, San Francisco
  • Levi A. Garraway, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • Britt A. Glaunsinger, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
  • Reuben S. Harris, PhD, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
  • Michael T. Laub, PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Hening Lin, PhD, Cornell University
  • John D. MacMicking, PhD, Yale University
  • Andreas Martin, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
  • Joshua T. Mendell, MD, PhD, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
  • Joseph D. Mougous, PhD, University of Washington
  • Kim Orth, PhD, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
  • Jared Rutter, PhD, University of Utah
  • Pardis C. Sabeti, DPhil, MD, Harvard University
  • Jay Shendure, MD, PhD, University of Washington
  • Krishna V. Shenoy, PhD, Stanford University
  • Paul Taylor, MD, PhD, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
  • Doris Y. Tsao, California Institute of Technology
  • Tobias C. Walther, PhD, Harvard University
  • Joanna K. Wysocka, PhD, Stanford University
  • Jennifer A. Zallen, PhD, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Source: Howard Hughes Medical Institute news release