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2016 Lasker Award Winners, Nobel Prize in Medicine Winner, and more

December 30, 2021

2016 Lasker Award Winners Announced

The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced the winners of its three 2016 awards.

The 2016 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award: William G. Kaelin Jr., MD; Peter J. Ratcliffe, MD; and Gregg L. Semenza, MD, PhD

This year's award honors three physician–scientists (William G. Kaelin Jr., MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School; Peter J. Ratcliffe, MD, of the University of Oxford and Francis Crick Institute; and Gregg L. Semenza, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) for their discovery of the pathway by which cells from humans and most animals sense and adapt to changes in oxygen availability. The researchers illuminated the core molecular events that explain how almost all multicellular animals tune their physiology to cope with varying quantities of the life-sustaining element.

The 2016 Lasker–DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award: Prof. Ralf F. W. Bartenschlager; Charles M. Rice, PhD; Michael J. Sofia, PhD

This year's award honors three scientists (Prof. Ralf F. W. Bartenschlager, of University of Heidelberg; Charles M. Rice, PhD, of Rockefeller University; and Michael J. Sofia, PhD, of Arbutus Biopharma) who developed a system to study the replication of the virus that causes hepatitis C and used it to revolutionize the treatment of this chronic disease. Prof. Bartenschlager and Dr. Rice attempted to multiply the hepatitis C virus inside lab-grown host cells. Dr. Sofia then exploited this system to test and invent candidate drugs, whose novel design allowed targeting of the liver and creation of sofosbuvir.

The 2016 Lasker–Koshland Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science: Bruce M. Alberts, PhD

Bruce M. Alberts, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, was recognized for his discoveries in DNA replication and protein biochemistry, leadership in directing national and international scientific organizations to better people's lives, and dedication to improving education in science and mathematics.

Source: Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation news release, September 12, 2016.

City of Hope Appoints New Faculty Members

City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, California, announced a number of new faculty members who have joined their hematology/oncology department:

Flavia Pichiorri, PhD, was appointed associate professor in the Judy and Bernard Briskin Center for Multiple Myeloma Research in the Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute.



Weili Sun, MD, PhD, was appointed associate clinical professor in the Department of Pediatrics, in addition to serving as director of pediatric leukemia.



Angelo Cardoso, MD, PhD, was named research professor in the Center for Gene Therapy in the Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute, in addition to serving as director of the Laboratory for Cellular Medicine.



Benjamin Cahan, MD, was named assistant clinical professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology.




Source: Healio, September 10, 2016.

CPRIT Announces More Than $10 Million in Grants for Prevention and Facility Support Services at Baylor College of Medicine

Researchers at the Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, were awarded more than $10 million from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) in the form of four new grants focused on evidence-based cancer prevention services and core facility support.

"The CPRIT grants are supporting two critical efforts here at Baylor: outreach and health disparities and childhood cancer," said Adam Kuspa, PhD, senior vice president and dean of research at Baylor College of Medicine.

The following Baylor researchers received the grants:

  • Michael Scheurer, PhD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics in hematology and oncology, was awarded $6 million for his work with the Adolescent and Childhood Cancer Epidemiology and Susceptibility Service for Texas.
  • Maria Jibaja-Weiss, Ed.D, director of the Office of Outreach and Health Disparities in the Duncan Cancer Center, received more than $1 million to leverage a community network for cancer prevention to increase human papillomavirus virus vaccinations.
  • Sahil Mittal, MD, MS, assistant professor of medicine in gastroenterology and hepatology, was awarded more than $1 million for his efforts to prevent hepatocellular carcinoma through screening, vaccination, and treatment of viral hepatitis.
  • Luis Rustveld, PhD, RD, LD, assistant professor of family and community medicine research programs, received more than $1 million to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in colorectal cancer screening by introducing a comprehensive electronic medical record-based patient navigation program.

Source: Baylor College of Medicine, August 22, 2016.

Nobel Prize in Medicine Presented to Yoshinori Ohsumi

This year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was presented to biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi, PhD, of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, for his discoveries of the mechanisms of autophagy, a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components.

Dr. Ohsumi was born in 1945 in Fukuoka, Japan, and he received a PhD from University of Tokyo in 1974. After spending three years at Rockefeller University in New York, he returned to the University of Tokyo where he established his research group in 1988. Since 2009, he has been a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The concept of autophagy emerged in the 1960s but was not well understood until Dr. Ohsumi's pioneering experiments in the 1990s, where he used baker's yeast to identify genes and metabolic pathways that are essential for autophagy. He went on to detail the underlying mechanism for autophagy in yeast, showing that similar sophisticated machinery is used in the body's cells.

"Dr. Ohsumi's discoveries led to a new paradigm in our understanding of how the cell recycles its content," the Nobel Prize Committee wrote in the award announcement. "His discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection. Mutations in autophagy genes can cause disease, and the autophagic process is involved in several conditions, including cancer and neurological disease."

Source: Nobel Prize press release, October 3, 2016.

Jeffrey Gordon Appointed President of Connecticut State Medical Society

Jeffrey A. Gordon, MD, was sworn in as the 178th president of the Connecticut State Medical Society (CSMS) during its 224th Annual Meeting in September. He is an actively practicing hematologist/oncologist at the New London Cancer Center in Connecticut.

Dr. Gordon previously served in a number of leadership roles at CSMS, including Bylaws Committee chair, a former councilor from Windham County, and a past president of the Windham County Medical Association. Dr. Gordon has also held academic appointments at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Gordon held a number of leadership positions at Day Kimball Hospital, where he was the medical director of Hematology−Oncology Services from 2003 to 2011.

Source: Connecticut State Medical Society press release, September 28, 2016.

Former Nurses Establish Funds at the University of New Mexico Hospital to Help Care for Cancer Patients

Retired Air Force Major Timothy S. Sikora, BSN, and his wife, Roseann M. Sikora, BSN – both former nurses – established two funds at the University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) to assist both patients with cancer and the nurses who care for them.

The Sikora Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disease Outreach Fund will provide specialized continuing education for nursing staff and education for patients and families, as well as resources for nurses and nurse practitioners from UNM's Department of Pediatrics Division of Hematology & Oncology to travel and provide outreach to families and medical care professionals.

The Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurses Professional Development Fund will support professional development for nurses caring for UNMH pediatric oncology, hematologic, and hemophilia patients under the care of the Division of Hematology and Oncology within the Department of Pediatrics.

Source: University of New Mexico Hospital news release, October 3, 2016.

E. John Wherry Receives Cancer Research Institute Award for New Discoveries on Exhausted T Cells

E. John Wherry, PhD, a professor of microbiology, director of the Institute for Immunology, and co-director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has been awarded the 2016 Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Immunology from the Cancer Research Institute (CRI).

Dr. Wherry's discoveries include insights into how changes in gene expression affect T-cell exhaustion, or a loss of immune function that occurs as a result of chronic viral infection and cancer. His work has contributed to the development of immunotherapies for human cancer that work in part by reversing T-cell exhaustion.

Source: Cancer Research Institute press release, July 28, 2016.

ASH Presents at Guidelines International Network Conference 2016

The American Society of Hematology (ASH) presented research at the Guidelines International Network Conference 2016 that focuses on individualized guidelines and clinical performance measurements in the era of personalized medicine. Starr Webb, MPH, clinical quality projects manager at ASH, presented a poster on "Implementation of Sickle Cell Disease Guidelines: A Multistakeholder Meeting." Ms. Webb collaborated with Alexis Thompson, MD, MPH, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and John J. Strouse, MD, PhD, Duke University School of Medicine Division of Hematology.

Robert R. Kunkle, MA, senior manager of practice guidelines at ASH, presented two oral talks on aspects of ASH's process for managing conflicts of interest during development of clinical practice guidelines. The first presentation was about making judgments about which financial interests should count as conflicts for a guideline development project, giving consideration to magnitude, timing, relevance, and directness. The second presentation was about ensuring transparency of disclosures of interests by guideline panelists and judgments by ASH about which interests are conflicts. ASH members who collaborated on these presentations included Adam Cuker, MD, MS, University of Pennsylvania; Julie A. Panepinto, MD, MSPH, Medical College of Wisconsin; Anita Rajasekhar, MD, University of Florida Health; and Holger Schünemann, MD, MSc, PhD, McMaster University.

Kendall Alexander, MPH, clinical quality projects specialist at ASH, presented a poster that addressed the process ASH used to recruit 22 patient representatives to serve on 11 ASH guideline panels. Ms. Alexander collaborated with Dr. Cuker, Mr. Kunkle, Dr. Panepinto, Dr. Rajasekhar, Dr. Schünemann, Ms. Webb, and Robert M. Plovnick, MD, MS, director, quality improvement programs at ASH.

Lastly, Patrick C. Irelan, MA, MPM, quality improvement manager at ASH, gave a talk on "Assessing First-Time User Experiences of the ASH Pocket Guides App to Enhance User Adoption and Retention." His presentation focused on how ASH leveraged the volume and diversity of attendees at the annual meeting to gather data on first-time user experience of the (then) newly introduced ASH Pocket Guides app. Mr. Irelan collaborated with Dr. Plovnick and Mr. Kunkle.

Source: G-I-N conference homepage.


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