Remembering Art Nienhuis, Thomas Edgington, and more

Art Neinhuis, MD

Remembering Art Nienhuis (1941 – 2021)

Gene therapy pioneer Art Nienhuis, MD, passed away on February 3, 2021, at the age of 79.

Dr. Nienhuis was director and CEO of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, from 1993 to 2004, where he recruited scientists and built a facility for the manufacture of gene therapy vectors, monoclonal antibodies, and vaccines. Previously, he held roles as chief of clinical hematology and deputy clinical director at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

A longtime leader within the American Society of Hematology (ASH), Dr. Nienhuis was editor-in-chief of Blood from 1988 to 1992 and served as president of ASH in 1994. He also received ASH’s Henry M. Stratton Medal in 1998 for an outstanding body of work in hematology and the ASH Mentor Award in 2009 for his work shaping the next generation of scientific leaders.

“What is remarkable about Art Nienhuis is that I am just one among hundreds who he helped … throughout his career,” said Amit Nathwani, MBChB, PhD, director of the Katharine Dormandy Hemophilia Centre at the Royal Free Hospital in London, who served as a fellow in Dr. Nienhuis’ lab from 1997 to 2000. “His impact, therefore, extends way beyond the NIH and St. Jude in the U.S. to many other parts of the world. I am devastated to hear of his passing, as I feel that I have lost my scientific father.”

“Art is really at the root of a family tree of hematology and hematology research that has grown and sprouted many branches,” said Mitch Weiss, MD, PhD, chair of St. Jude Hematology. “Those branches are the current leaders he trained and their trainees.”

Dr. Nienhuis is survived by his wife, Corinne; his four children and five stepchildren; and 10 grandchildren.

Thomas Edgington, MD

Remembering Thomas Edgington (1932 – 2021)

Thomas Edgington, MD, died from heart disease on January 22, 2021, at the age of 88.

Dr. Edgington spent most of his career at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, working in vascular biology and molecular medicine. For five decades, he contributed scientific advances, innovation, and entrepreneurship. His work on tissue factor shaped the current understanding of coagulation in biology and medicine, and he served as chair of ASH’s Scientific Committee on Thrombosis and Vascular Biology in 1998.

“Tom’s laboratory was an exhilarating forge of science and medicine around the clock. His passion was infectious, his dedication, inspiring and his hunger for knowledge, insatiable,” said Dario C. Altieri, MD, one of Dr. Edgington’s postdoctoral fellows.

Stephanie Halene, MD, PhD

Stephanie Halene Appointed Chief of Hematology at Yale Cancer Center

Yale Cancer Center, Smilow Cancer Hospital, and the Yale School of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine have appointed Stephanie Halene, MD, PhD, as chief of hematology. In this role, she will oversee the DeLuca Center for Innovation in Hematology Research.

After completing her residency in internal medicine and fellowship in Hematology at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale Cancer Center, Dr. Halene joined the Yale faculty in 2006.

“Dr. Halene has served with distinction as interim chief, leading the section through tremendous growth, research development, and clinical challenges with a strong commitment to the success of the section’s faculty, trainees, providers, and staff,” said Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of Yale Cancer Center and physician-in-chief at Smilow Cancer Hospital. “She has also steered the section through the challenging times of uncertainty and change throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and she has consistently prioritized the needs of our patients and our staff.”

Source: Yale Cancer Center press release, December 7, 2020.

Daniel Rotroff, PhD
Joseph Foss, MD

Researchers Receive NIH Grant to Study Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy

The NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has awarded a nearly $5 million grant to Daniel Rotroff, PhD, and Joseph Foss, MD, of Cleveland Clinic, to identify biomarkers that will help physicians determine which patients with cancer are susceptible to developing chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.

“The ultimate utility of our study findings, we hope, will be to help physicians deliver more personalized therapies to patients living with cancer and to improve patients’ quality of life during and after treatment,” said Dr. Rotroff, a data scientist in the Department of Quantitative Health Sciences.

Roughly 40% of patients who are treated with taxane-based regimens experience this condition, which may lead to dose interruptions or reductions, and symptoms can persist for up to two years, even after stopping treatment.

The researchers’ objective is to help providers predict which patients are most likely to develop chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy so that they can adjust treatment strategies accordingly. “Having the ability to predict and measure chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathic pain will also provide a foundation for identifying new treatments for this challenging problem,” explained Dr. Foss, an anesthesiologist.

After collecting data on clinical outcomes and blood samples from patients with breast cancer undergoing taxane-based treatment, the researchers will compare genetic, epigenetic, and metabolic characteristics of patients reporting treatment-associated pain with those who do not. Dr. Rotroff’s team will then use machine learning technology to develop algorithms that can be used to predict patients’ likelihood of developing the condition.

Source: Cleveland Clinic press release, November 16, 2020.