Remembering Michael Friedland, Lasker Award Winners, and more

Michael L. Friedland, MD (1942 – 2015)

Michael L. Friedland, MD, founding dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, passed away on August 13, 2015.

Dr. Friedland’s career included various senior positions in health-care services and administration, serving as dean of the SUNY-Upstate regional campus in Binghamton, New York; both Texas A&M University and the University of Missouri-Kansas City Schools of Medicine; and dean of the West Virginia University regional campus in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

Dr. Friedland received numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including the American Medical Association’s Physician’s Recognition Award on nine separate occasions (most recently in 2001).

In a press release, representatives of the College wrote, “[Dr. Friedland] will be fondly remembered by the University family for his numerous contributions in health care and medical education as well as his instrumental role in establishing FAU’s independent medical school.”

2015 Lasker Award Winners Announced

Marking the 70th year of its awards, the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced the winners of the 2015 Lasker Awards, each of which carries an honorarium of $250,000 for each category. The recipients are:

The 2015 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award: Evelyn M. Witkin and Stephen J. Elledge for Discoveries Concerning the DNA-Damage Response

Evelyn M. Witkin, PhD, professor emerita at Rutgers Waksman Institute of Microbiology, and Stephen J. Elledge, PhD, professor of genetics at the Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, were honored for research that illuminated the fundamentals of the DNA-damage response – a mechanism that protects the genome of all living organisms. Drs. Witkin and Elledge laid the conceptual and experimental foundation that led to an understanding of the systems that ensure genetic fidelity in DNA replication: Dr. Witkin figured out that bacteria respond to DNA damage by triggering multiple protective physiological activities; Dr. Elledge detailed the molecular pathway by which cells in more complex organisms, including humans, detect and respond to deviant DNA structures.

The 2015 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award: James P. Allison

James P. Allison, PhD, professor and chair of immunology at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, was recognized for the discovery and development of a monoclonal antibody therapy that unleashes the immune system to combat cancer. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Allison and other scientists showed that a protein called CTLA-4 subdues T-cell activation; by suppressing CTLA-4 blocks, Dr. Allison was able to unleash the T cells of the immune system to fight tumors. The findings from this research resulted in new treatments that have prolonged the lives of hundreds of patients with metastatic melanoma, which otherwise kills 50 percent of patients in less than a year. Dr. Allison’s work also introduced a new therapeutic world that capitalizes on the body’s inherent capacity to destroy malignant cells.

The 2015 Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award: Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), established in 1971, was recognized for their bold leadership in responding to the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa, and for sustained and effective frontline responses to health emergencies.

Source: Lasker Foundation news release

Iuliana Shapira Named Chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Iuliana Shapira, MD, has joined State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center as the chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology. Prior to joining Downstate as division chief, Dr. Shapira was associate professor of medicine at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, where she served as director of its Center for Cancer Genetics and Cancer Control and site co-investigator for numerous studies under a Cancer Community Oncology Program (CCOP) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Source: SUNY Downstate Medical Center press release

Multiple Myeloma Researchers from Mayo Clinic Awarded NCI’s SPORE Grants

A team of scientists from the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Rochester, Minnesota, has been awarded a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant in multiple myeloma from the National Cancer Institute. “With project leaders from Mayo campuses in Arizona, Rochester, and Florida, our SPORE team will study the genetic basis for myeloma, develop novel viral and immunologic therapies, and optimize the use of existing therapies with a goal of controlling and eventually curing this deadly disease,” said Leif Bergsagel, MD, lead investigator from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, in a press release.

Source: Mayo Clinic press release

UC San Diego Cancer Researchers Receive Outstanding Investigator Awards

Four researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have received the newly established National Cancer Institute (NCI) Outstanding Investigator Award. The multi-million dollar awards fund new projects that have an unusual potential in cancer research over seven years. The recipients are:

  • Kun-Liang Guan, PhD, distinguished professor in the Department of Pharmacology, who will receive $5.9 million for his work with mTORC1 and Hippo pathways in cell growth and cancer
  • Tannishtha Reya, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Medicine, who was awarded $6.3 million for her project on molecular strategies for early detection and targeting of cancer
  • Jin Zhang, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmacology, who will receive $6.5 million to evaluate live-cell activity architecture in cancer.
  • Michael Karin, PhD, distinguished professor of Pharmacology and Pathology, to study the role of immunosuppressive B cells in the development of cancer and its treatment (award amount is pending)

NCI anticipates funding approximately 60 Outstanding Investigator Awards. The grant program was developed to provide researchers with substantial time and resources to break new ground or extend previous discoveries that advance biomedical, behavioral, or clinical cancer research.

Source: University of California San Diego press release

NCI Awards $2-Million Grant to Children’s Cancer Institute Australia

Under the National Cancer Institute’s Pediatric Preclinical Testing Consortium, the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia in Sydney has been awarded nearly $2 million over five years to support programs that fast-track new drugs into clinical trials for childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). Professor Richard Lock, principal investigator at the Institute, will lead the program as researchers test drugs in preclinical models of ALL. Previously, Prof. Lock received funding from the NCI for 10 years as part of the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program (PPTP), and was the only PPTP Principal Investigator located outside of the United States.

Source: Children’s Cancer Institute Australia press release

Northwestern University Receives $11.7-Million Grant to Improve Cancer Treatments through Nanotechnology

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded a five-year, $11.7-million grant to Northwestern University to use nanotechnology to develop next-generation cancer treatments. With the NCI support, the new Northwestern University Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (Northwestern CCNE) will use nucleic-acid-based nanoconstructs called spherical nucleic acids to gain access to intracellular environments, investigate new aspects of cancer biology, and develop new cancer treatment options. Northwestern CCNE will operate under the direction of principal investigators, Chad A. Mirkin, PhD, and Leonidas C. Platanias, MD, PhD, and will feature three projects (one discovery-based and two translational) and one core facility. “The support from the National Cancer Institute will enable researchers to continue to make significant cancer-relevant discoveries that ultimately can be transferred to the clinic and profoundly impact the way cancers are studied and treated,” Dr. Platanias said in a news release.

Source: Northwestern University press release

American Cancer Society Awards More Than $2 Million to University of Wisconsin Researchers

Three researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health have received four-year, $792,000 grants from the American Cancer Society:

  • Fotis Asimakopoulos, MD, assistant professor of medicine, to study the role of macrophages in helping multiple myeloma cells escape chemotherapy
  • Beth Weaver, PhD, assistant professor of cell and regenerative biology to study the Mad1 gene and its role in breast cancer
  • Naghma Khan, PhD, assistant scientist in the Department of Dermatology, to study the management of colorectal cancers with PIK3CA mutations

Source: University of Wisconsin press release

Six Oncology Practices Receive Conquer Cancer Foundation Awards

The Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology has recognized six oncology practices from across the United States with its 2015 Clinical Trials Participation Awards. These awards recognize practices and research sites that have demonstrated the ability to overcome barriers in clinical trials accrual, as well as provide care and outreach to underserved populations in their communities. Recipients of the awards are:

  • Blue Ridge Cancer Care in Roanoke, Virginia
  • Cancer Care Specialists of Central Illinois in Decatur, Illinois
  • Cone Health Cancer Center in Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Oncology Hematology Care, Inc., in Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Scottsdale Healthcare in Scottsdale, Arizona
  • The Division of Gynecologic Oncology at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona

Source: Conquer Cancer Foundation press release

Karen Knudsen Appointed Director of Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center

Karen E. Knudsen, PhD, has been named director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Knudsen currently serves as the Hilary Koprowski Professor of Cancer Biology and chair of Cancer Biology at Thomas Jefferson, with joint appointments in the Departments of Urology, Radiation Oncology, and Medical Oncology, where she has been since 2008.

Source: Thomas Jefferson University press release

Six New York Scientists Awarded Pershing Square Sohn Prizes for Young Investigators in Cancer Research

The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance has presented its Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research to six New York City–based scientists. Each recipient will receive $200,000 in funding per year for up to three years to allow them to continue pursuing explorative and high-risk/high-reward research. The winners are:

  • Timothy Chan, MD, PhD; Mortiz Kircher, MD, PhD; and Christine Mayr, MD, PhD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Arvin Dar, PhD, of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Evripidis Gavathiotis, PhD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University
  • Sohail Tavazoie, MD, PhD, of The Rockefeller University

These prizes were developed to help bridge the gap between academia and the business community and support young scientists at a formative stage in their careers. ●

Source: Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance news release

ASH is Accepting Nominations

Know someone who should be recognized with one of the Society’s most prestigious awards, recognizing significant contributions to the field of hematology made by individual hematologists? Each year, ASH honors outstanding hematologists with the following awards: Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology, Henry M. Stratton Medal, William Dameshek Prize, E. Donnall Thomas Lecture and Prize, the Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize, and the ASH Mentor Award.

Here’s what you need to know about the nomination process:

  • You can submit a nomination package online or by email.
  • Nominations are accepted throughout the year.
  • For the Dameshek Prize, Stratton Medal, and E. Donnall Thomas Lecture and Prize, both the nominee and nominators must be ASH members.

For more detailed information about the nomination process, deadlines, and to submit your nominee, visit