Remembering James Cook, Oncology Researchers Receive 2020 NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards, and more

James D. Cook, MD

Remembering James Cook (1936 – 2020)

James D. Cook, MD, an esteemed teacher and mentor, passed away in November 2020. His research focused on iron disorders, including the laboratory assessment of iron status, causes of nutritional iron deficiency, and design of international strategies for eliminating nutritional anemia worldwide.

Born in Ontario, Canada, Dr. Cook graduated from medical school at Queen’s University in Kingston and researched iron metabolism and the use of radioisotopes during his fellowship. In 1964, he moved to the U.S. for residency at Boston City Hospital, then joined the faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle. He became the Phillips Distinguished Professor of Medical Research and Director of the Division of Hematology in the Department of Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center in 1975, where he would spend the rest of his career. He recounted his life in medicine in his memoir Tales of an Ironman.

“Dr. Cook was a giant in hematology, especially as it relates to iron disorders, the laboratory measurements currently routinely used on a daily basis in evaluating iron deficiency anemias, and methods to improve iron nutrition from a global perspective,” said Barry Skikne, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. “He was globally recognized for his outstanding contributions in hematology.”


John P. Chute, MD

Cedars-Sinai Selects John Chute to Direct Hematology and Cellular Therapy Division

Cedars-Sinai Cancer, in Los Angeles, California, has appointed physician-scientist John P. Chute, MD, to direct the Division of Hematology and Cellular Therapy in the Department of Medicine.

In addition, he will serve as Director of the Center for Myelodysplastic Diseases Research and Associate Director of the Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute in the Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Prior to joining Cedars-Sinai, Dr. Chute was Professor of Medicine and Radiation Oncology in the Division of Hematology/Oncology and an investigator in the Broad Stem Cell Research Center at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. Over the past decade, his lab has discovered several growth factors produced by endothelial cells that play a critical role in hematopoietic stem cell regeneration.

Source: Cedars-Sinai press release, December 1, 2020.


Julie R. Gralow, MD

Julie Gralow Named Chief Medical Officer of ASCO

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has named Julie R. Gralow, MD, as Chief Medical Officer (CMO), succeeding current CMO and Vice President Richard L. Schilsky, MD, who will retire next month.

Dr. Gralow is Professor of Medical Oncology and Director of Breast Medical Oncology at the University of Washington Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. She also is an adjunct professor in the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health and serves as an advisory council member for the Uganda Cancer Institute’s adult Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Training Program. Having held the position of executive officer of breast and lung cancer for SWOG Cancer Research Network, Dr. Gralow also has considerable experience in developing and conducting large, national cancer clinical trials.

Dr. Gralow will assume the role on February 15.

Source: ASCO press release, November 20, 2020.


Welela Tereffe, MD

Welela Tereffe Is New Chief Medical Executive of MD Anderson

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has appointed Welela Tereffe, MD, as Chief Medical Executive, effective January 1, 2021.

In this role, Dr. Tereffe works with the institution’s leadership to recruit faculty, further research, and support physicians’ and advanced practice providers’ wellness and development. Dr. Tereffe joined MD Anderson in 2005 and, prior to this appointment, held the position of Chief Medical Officer for two years. Since joining MD Anderson, she has earned a Master of Public Health in 2009 and is currently working toward a Master of Health Care Management at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“Welela is a servant leader with strong emotional intelligence and drive. She has intimate knowledge of medical practice, extensive understanding of academic health care, and is known for partnering and engaging others,” said MD Anderson President Peter W. T. Pisters, MD. “She is passionate about improving equity in access to safe, quality care, and to reducing disparities in cancer care and outcomes.”

Source: MD Anderson news release, December 3, 2020.


Oncology Researchers Receive 2020 NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards

Through its High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued 53 NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards to early-career investigators within 10 years of completing their final degree or clinical residency who have not yet received a research grant or equivalent NIH grant.

Established in 2007, these $1.5 million awards support highly innovative research projects that might struggle to navigate the traditional peer review process because of their riskiness.

Honorees who proposed research projects related to cancer include:

  • Michael E. Birnbaum, PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research
    Repertoire-scale T-cell antigen identification via peptide-MHC lentivirus display
  • Subhamoy Dasgupta, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell Stress Biology, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
    Decoding the nuclear metabolic processes regulating gene transcription
  • Siddhartha Jaiswal, MD, PhD, Investigator in the Department of Pathology, Stanford University
    Clonal hematopoiesis in human aging and disease
  • Benjamin M. Larimer, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiology and Associate Scientist, O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, The University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Site-specific immune cell activation detection for improving individualized cancer immunotherapy
  • Miles A. Miller, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiology, Harvard Medical School and Principal Investigator, the Center for Systems Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital
    Dissection of in situ myeloid signaling using image-guided synthetic control
  • Katharine A. White, PhD, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Notre Dame and member of Harper Cancer Research Institute
    Roles for increased intracellular pH and heterogeneity in cancer

“The breadth of innovative science put forth by the 2020 cohort of early career and seasoned investigators is impressive and inspiring,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “I am confident that their work will propel biomedical and behavioral research and lead to improvements in human health.”

Source: NIH news release, October 6, 2020.