John Ulatowski, MD, PhD Director of Anesthesiology & Critical Care Medicine

John Ulatowski, MD, PhD
Director of Anesthesiology & Critical Care Medicine
The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System
table of
greetings from the park
As I pen this note, the snow outside my window rushes by in torrents of white. Hopefully,
by the time you read this letter, the snows will have been replaced by warm spring rains
and the emergence of new life in the garden. So, too, is it at Roswell Park, where new life
emerges in the form of new programs and new trainees. You'll read in this issue of new
programs and our continued efforts to recruit new trainees, of former trainees who have
gone on to greater glory, and of new recruits with unlimited potential.
Dr. John Ulatowski’s story highlights the role that RPCI played in the germination of his
career in translational research. Just as a gardener plants seeds in the spring, the Roswell
Park faculty works to germinate the seeds of curiosity within our trainees. John reminisces
about these events, commencing with his humble beginnings in our master’s degree
program, where the seeds of research curiosity were sown, through his PhD program, where
he became enamored with the idea of pursuing a career in translational research. His story
exemplifies what we do best at Roswell Park: training translational scientists. I look forward
to meeting more inspired and inspiring trainees like John in the years to come.
Don't forget to do your part by recommending Roswell Park as a first choice for clinical and
basic scientific training…and keeping us informed of your professional and personal
Arthur M. Michalek, PhD, FACE
Senior Vice President, Educational Affairs
Dean, Roswell Park Graduate Division, University at Buffalo
Managing Editor
Colleen M. Karuza
faculty interview
alumni spotlight
Senior Copywriter & Editor
Sue Banchich
Creative Services Director
Benjamin Richey
Graphic Production Manager
Hillary Banas
rpci headliners
research & technology
Bill Sheff
Benjamin Richey
President & CEO
Donald L. Trump, MD, FACP
it’s academic
forum and function
Senior Vice President
Educational Affairs
Dean, Roswell Park Graduate
Division, University at Buffalo
Arthur M. Michalek, PhD, FACE
Vice President Emeritus,
Educational Affairs
Edwin A. Mirand, PhD, DSc
class notes
Vice President, Marketing,
Planning & Public Affairs
Laurel A. DiBrog
Vice President, Development
Cindy A. Eller
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What attracted you to Roswell Park?
Roswell Park is on a stellar trajectory across the board in oncology,
and it offers the opportunity to do clinical work and to translate
basic research into clinical trials. I’m really excited about new types
of clinical trials, particularly with small-molecule inhibitors. We’re
uniquely positioned at Roswell Park to be able to take those
abilities into the clinic—and a lot of those new therapies will be
less toxic, because they’re more selective.
I am also developing a natural collaboration with Dr. Andrei
Gudkov [The Garman Family Chair in Cell Stress Biology and
Senior Vice President of Basic Science]. He was kind enough to let
me locate my lab next to his and has kindly shared his resources
with our group. He’s one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met.
facultyinterview :
William Cance, MD
There’s such
pride in, and
such a love of,
Roswell Park in
the community.
It’s a terrific
place to be.
2 | facultyinterview
From the time he was a fourth-grader, William Cance knew he wanted to be a
surgeon. In high school, he found a mentor in surgical oncologist Dr. Warren
Cole, Past President of the American Cancer Society. Dr. Cance’s decision to
specialize in surgical oncology intensified after his roommate at Duke University
died of sarcoma. “I saw firsthand the devastation of cancer,” he reflects.
Recently appointed Chair of Surgical Oncology and Surgeon-in-Chief at Roswell
Park, Dr. Cance directs the Department of Surgical Oncology, oversees operating
room and surgical services, and serves as principal investigator of a surgical
oncology training grant. He served previously as Chair of the Department of
Surgery and Associate Director of Shands Cancer Center at the University of
Florida. Here he answers questions about his hopes for Roswell Park.
How do you foresee the medical community
coping with the ongoing shortage of
physicians, including surgeons?
The shortage of surgeons is already being felt in rural areas, and it
will be felt all over as Baby Boomers retire and the need increases.
Not enough surgeons are being trained; there are nowhere near
enough surgical oncologists to do all the cancer surgery in the
country, so most cancer surgery will continue to be done by
general surgeons who were trained during their residency.
This has increased the importance of Roswell Park’s educational
mission. The leaders in surgical oncology will be fellowship-trained
surgical oncologists, who will lead the other surgeons who will be
doing cancer surgery. We have a tremendous fellowship program
at Roswell Park, led by Dr. Stephen Edge, that provides this
special expertise in surgical oncology. We have great faculty in
surgery; for example, Dr. John Kane is on the training committee
of the Society of Surgical Oncology. So we have the training
infrastructure—and as we train fellows, we will be recruiting some
of them to join us at Roswell Park.
You brought several colleagues to
Roswell Park with you. Please give an
example of their potential contributions
to the Institute’s mission.
Drs. Vita Golubovskaya and Elena Kurenova are Associate
Professors of Oncology and will be the nucleus of our lab efforts.
Both are accomplished scientists with expertise in cell and
molecular biology. They will be leaders of our departmental
translational research efforts.
William G. Cance
✯ MD, Duke University School of Medicine – 1982
✯ Fellow of the American College of Surgeons
✯ President, Society of Surgical Oncology
✯ Clinical Interests: surgical oncology, endocrine surgery
✯ Research Interest: the biology of focal adhesion
kinase (FAK), which plays a key role in protecting
cancer cells from programmed death (apoptosis)
✯ Chief Fellow, Surgical Oncology, Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1989-90
✯ Hector MacLean Distinguished Professor of Cancer
Research, University of North Carolina Lineberger
Comprehensive Cancer Center – 2002
Dr. Sergei Kurenov is an engineer who did simulation for the
MIG-29 aircraft in the former Soviet Union. Now he does surgical
simulations. He’s bringing with him a postdoctoral computer
programmer, and they will collaborate with Dr. James Mohler,
Dr. Khurshid Guru and members of Roswell Park’s robotic surgery
simulation group to make it even stronger. Dr. Kurenov will also
be working with the minimally invasive surgery program, which
Dr. Mohler has done a great job of getting off the ground.
What are your principal goals as you
assume your new role?
I look forward to coordinating and enhancing Roswell Park’s surgical
services and translational research efforts across all the disciplines.
Surgery remains a mainstay of oncologic practice, and we need to
continue to keep abreast of advances in surgery, patient safety and
patient outcomes. I’m also anxious to strengthen our academic
mission through clinical trials while delivering the highest-quality
cancer care.
There’s such pride in, and such a love of, Roswell Park in the
community. It’s a terrific place to be.
John Ulatowski’s
Fantastic Voyage
Roswell Park Cancer Institute was the launching point for
John Ulatowski’s first voyage into the bloodstream.
From those early days of graduate school when he
explored the development of blood cells, he journeyed
on into anesthesiology and neurology. Along the way,
he earned worldwide recognition for advancing our
understanding of the physiological processes that affect
recovery after a stroke or brain injury. Today Dr. Ulatowski
is Director of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine
(ACCM) of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions,
overseeing a department with 115 faculty, 75 residents,
and 24 CRNAs, who serve more than 70 anesthetizing
locations in two major hospitals and surgicenters every day.
When he came to Roswell Park in 1975 to earn a master’s
degree in natural sciences, he planned to apply to medical
school the following year. “But my experience at Roswell
Park was extremely stimulating, and convinced me that a
career in research would be as rewarding as a career in
medicine,” he says, “so I stayed for a PhD in cell
That decision led to two important connections, first with
Michael McGarry, PhD—then Director of the Department
of Laboratory Animal Resources, now Vice President of
Preclinical Studies at Medelis. Dr. McGarry “had an
interest in experimental hematology, particularly in the
Photo courtesy The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
immune response as it pertained to the development of a
blood cell called the eosinophil,” recalls Dr. Ulatowski.
His working relationship with Dr. McGarry, coupled with his experiences as a part-time lab
technician in Buffalo General Hospital’s hematology laboratory, “got me interested in
studying how blood cells develop.”
The second connection, with James Zucali, PhD, his thesis advisor, led him to reconsider a
career in medicine. Dr. Zucali, he says, “saw the value of having an MD in addition to being a
basic science researcher, for ease of translational work—taking science from the bench to the
Heeding Dr. Zucali’s advice, Dr. Ulatowski completed medical school at the University at Buffalo,
setting his sights on a relatively unexplored area of inquiry—the brain. “I found that very
challenging,” he explains, “so I trained as a neurologist at the University of Maryland.
4 | alumnispotlight
“I was then attracted to Johns Hopkins by an opportunity to train as
an intensive-care physician focused on brain injury and spinal cord
injury. Johns Hopkins had a nationally leading program in that area,
and it was administered through the Department of Anesthesiology.”
At the suggestion of Dr. Mark Rogers, then department chair,
Dr. Ulatowski pursued a second fellowship in anesthesiology.
The fusion of neurology and anesthesiology has given him an unusual
perspective in addressing yet-unanswered questions about the brain:
“How do we preserve brain under stressful conditions, such as when
a patient undergoes anesthesia or has a direct trauma to the body?
We are finding that there are many secondary effects of generalized
injury to the body that affect brain function, and that’s an extremely
important area of research.
“Now I’m studying the endpoint of what a red cell produces—
hemoglobin—in a state that is free to float in the bloodstream.
I’m excited about the possibility that those kinds of plasma-based,
oxygen-carrying compounds might be able to deliver oxygen to
ischemic or injured brain better than blood cells themselves, because
many times a fluid-based protein can get through the small channels
of the bloodstream to critical areas of the brain better than blood
cells themselves can.”
It’s interesting, he reflects, that many of the questions he seeks to
answer today, 30 years after graduate school, have led him to
concentrate once again on the development of red blood cells—the
very work that first commanded his attention at Roswell Park.
In the hot seat
Dr. Ulatowski answers questions about the challenges
of modern medicine and the keys to success.
How can the United States cope with the
ongoing critical shortage of
Given the demands of the healthcare system now and in the future,
I think it’s wise to create a healthcare workforce matrix to meet
demand. The anesthesiologist should be at the top of the information
pyramid. However, nowadays we’re working more and more with
mid-level providers, such as nurse-anesthetists and anesthesiologist
assistants. The way to counteract the shortage of anesthesia providers
is to consider, in some way or another, training all three.
Will we see more physicians earning both an
MD and a PhD to narrow the gap between
basic and clinical research?
It’s extremely difficult for someone to study in the basic sciences and
then progress through clinical medicine to obtain an MD while
staying fresh and competitive. Only a few people who do that can
remain at the top of their field.
I think a better model for the future is to have a combination of
dedicated basic scientists and clinician-scientists who work closely
together in the translational, bench-to-bedside component. That
makes much more sense for the future, by allowing individuals to
focus their time and expertise on one element of the healthcare
paradigm that ultimately brings new discovery to the clinical forefront.
The key element is to have professionals who communicate and
work together in a community of scientists rather than having those
individuals represented in one person.
What laid the foundation for your
professional achievement?
The tremendous dedication of those who allowed me the opportunity
to do this, starting with my parents, and then all the individuals who
have been my mentors throughout my career. And being affiliated in
my career with organizations that allowed me to grow. My success is
really the success of institutions that focus on developing people to
their fullest. Roswell Park and Johns Hopkins have been two of those.
y Not
❶ Anubha Bharthuar, MD, Clinical Fellow, Department of Medicine,
discussed “Quality of Life in Patients with Advanced Pancreatic
Cancer Receiving Gemcitabine, Capecitabine, and Bevacizumab:
Results from a Prospective Multicenter Phase II Trial,” at the Fifth
Annual Meeting of the International Society of Gastrointestinal
Oncology, held in Virginia.
❷ Shousong Cao, MD, Cancer Biology, has been appointed a Visiting
Professor at Forth Military Medical University in Xi’an, Shaanxi
Province, China, and has also been named to the editorial board of
The Open Colorectal Cancer Journal, published by Bentham Science
Publishers, Ltd.
❸ K. Michael Cummings, PhD, Chair of the Department of Health
Behavior, was recognized in March 2009 as a leader in global
tobacco control when he received the American Cancer Society’s
Luther L. Terry Award for Outstanding Research at the 14th World
Conference on Tobacco and Health in Mumbai, India. The Award is
named for the late U.S. Surgeon General who led the landmark 1964
Surgeon General’s Report connecting tobacco use to lung cancer
and other illnesses.
❹ Luqman Dad, MD, Radiation Medicine, is one of three people who
were elected recently to two-year terms on the Executive Committee
of the Association of Residents in Radiation Oncology (ARRO). ARRO
is the resident organization within ASTRO, the American Society for
Radiation Oncology, and represents nearly 600 radiation oncology
residents in the U.S.
❺ Michelle Detwiler, MS, Project Coordinator, Cell Stress Biology, has
been elected President of the Association of Biomolecular Resource
Facilities, an organization with a membership of more than 1,000
❻ Kelli Bullard Dunn, MD, FACS, FASCRS, Department of Surgery,
has been awarded the Victor W. Fazio, MD, MS, Award for Editorial
Excellence by the editors of Diseases of the Colon & Rectum.
Editor-in-Chief Robert Madoff, MD, commended Dr. Bullard Dunn
for “her astute clinical acumen, scientific expertise and superb
editorial judgment.”
6 | rpciheadliners
❼ Theresa Hahn, PhD, Assistant Member, Department of Medicine,
presented “Clinical and Genetic Factors Underlying Acute Bone
Mineral Density Loss by 100 Days after Blood and Marrow
Transplantation: A Potential Early Regimen-Related Complication,”
for a session on Clinical Transplantation – Transplantation Regimen,
at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology,
held in December in San Francisco.
❽ Wen Wee Ma, MBBS, Assistant Professor of Oncology, was quoted
recently in HemOnc Today about lack of progress in the treatment
of pancreatic cancer. He pointed out that since the approval of
gemcitabine a decade ago, “the field has been trying to mesh
different combinations [of drugs] with gemcitabine. The most recent
results presented by Kindler and colleagues at 2008 ASCO showed
that gemcitabine and bevacizumab with erlotinib or cetuximab
doesn’t have sufficient activity in advanced diseases.” Dr. Ma added
that he sees a need for greater attention to the potential of
individualized therapies.
❾ Enrico Mihich, MD, Distinguished Member of Roswell Park’s
Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, has been named
a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science.
A member of the Roswell Park faculty since 1957, Dr. Mihich is a
nationally recognized expert in the development of therapeutics,
Past President of the American Association of Cancer Research
and a member of the US National Cancer Advisory Board.
10 Kena Miller, RN, MSN, FNP, Department of Medicine, discussed
“An Update on Myeloma: The Latest in Research and Treatment,”
a Continuing Education program for community practice nurses,
presented in November 2008 by the Leukemia and Lymphoma
Society. She is also a co-author of “Management of Side Effects of
Novel Therapies for Multiple Myeloma: Consensus Statements
Developed by the International Myeloma Foundation’s Nurse
Leadership Board,” published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology
Nursing, Supplement to Vol. 12, No. 3.
Renal function may be compromised in some patients as a result of radiation treatment to the abdomen—but
the effects may not be noticed until a year or more after the end of radiotherapy (RT), according to a study led
by 11 Gary Yang, MD, Associate Professor of Radiation Medicine. Dr. Yang and his team tracked 129 patients
who underwent 3D conformal radiation therapy for GI cancers, finding that some experienced renal decline a
year or more after the end of RT. The results of their study, presented at the annual meeting of the American
Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, represent the first quantification of the effects of RT on kidney
function, and underscore the need for longer patient monitoring after RT has ended. Investigators who
contributed to the study include Kilian Salerno May, MD, Radiation Medicine; Rameela Chandrasekhar,
Biostatistics; Leayn Flaherty, RPA-C, Radiation Medicine; Richard Russo, CMD, RTT, Radiation Medicine; and
Gregory Wilding, PhD, Assistant Chair, Biostatistics.
Pili heads GU Section
Nationally recognized medical oncologist Roberto Pili, MD, has been
appointed Professor of Oncology, Chief of the Genitourinary Section and
Co-Leader of the Genitourinary Program. He comes to RPCI from The Sidney
Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University, where he
served as Associate Professor of Oncology and Urology.
Nobel Laureate Roger Tsien to
present Dave Lecture at RPCI
Roger Tsien, PhD, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize
in Chemistry, will present the annual Dave Memorial
Lecture at RPCI, Thursday, April 23, 2009, at 9 am
in the Hohn Lecture Hall of the Research Studies
Center. He will discuss “Optical and MR Imaging of
Tumors In Vivo with Activatable Cell-Penetrating
Peptides.” Dr. Tsien is an investigator with the
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Professor of
Pharmacology at the University of California at San
Diego School of Medicine, and Professor of
Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of
California at San Diego.
Established to honor the late Chandrakant V. Dave,
PhD, who served on the Pharmacology faculty
at RPCI, the Dave Lecture Series is organized by
graduate students of the Molecular Pharmacology
and Cancer Therapeutics Department.
RPCI: Industry Leader
in Buffalo Niagara
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership (BNP) has recognized RPCI as an innovative leader in
the region’s life sciences industry. Donald Trump, MD, RPCI’s President & CEO, accepted
the INNOVATE Buffalo Niagara Award for Life Sciences on behalf of the Institute at a
luncheon held Jan. 28, 2009. Among other achievements, the BNP cited RPCI’s role as
“a source of important new products and processes for use in the fight against cancer.”
The awards singled out Buffalo Niagara’s “most groundbreaking and inventive
companies” in five industry sectors: advanced manufacturing, agribusiness/food
processing, professional services, life sciences and logistics. Twenty-one finalists were
chosen from among 60 companies nominated.
There’s No Stopping Buffalo
Christine Sable is a powerful spokesman for RPCI’s new fundraising campaign,
NEVER STOP BUFFALO™. After receiving a diagnosis of advanced-stage ovarian
cancer, the Lancaster, PA, resident enrolled in a clinical trial of a new ovarian cancer
vaccine developed by Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, Surgeon in Gynecologic Oncology
and Co-Leader of the Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy Program at RPCI.
Community donations to RPCI were critical for initial research on the vaccine.
In Ms. Sable’s case, the vaccine was administered after conventional chemotherapy,
and it quickly improved her immune system’s ability to fight off recurrence of the
disease. Five years later, she’s still cancer-free and has experienced no side effects.
“Roswell Park is such an incredible place,” she says. “It has given so many people
hope, and given them their lives back.”
Funding from NEVER STOP BUFFALO and similar campaigns will help fast-track the
development of other new treatments at RPCI. Dollars raised by the campaign will be
awarded competitively in the form of grants to fund research proposals submitted by
RPCI physicians and scientists to the Institute’s Research Advisory Committee. Grants
will be awarded to projects showing the greatest potential to improve cancer
prevention, diagnosis and care.
“Christine Sable is just one of thousands of patients who arrive at Roswell Park each
year looking for lifesaving treatments for the hundreds of cancers we treat,” says
Donald Trump, MD, FACP, President & CEO. “Now, more than ever, we need our
community’s continued support. We will never stop searching, never stop healing,
and never stop fighting until cancer is defeated.”
To learn more, or to donate to NEVER STOP BUFFALO, call 716-845-4444, or make
a secure online gift at
8 | rpciheadliners
Powerful Medicine
Music is powerful medicine for Marc Murray, a 25-year-old patient who
came to RPCI for a bone marrow transplant after a diagnosis of acute
myeloid leukemia. During his long recovery, he connected with Stuart
Fuchs, a multi-talented musician, member of the gypsy jazz band
Babik, and an artist-in-residence at RPCI, and the two began playing
guitar together during informal jam sessions in the hospital.
It was a time of rediscovery for Mr. Murray, who had once played
guitar regularly before “letting it lapse” several years ago. Mr. Fuchs
inspired him to pick it up again, and it has been both physically and
spiritually therapeutic. “Some of the medicines I’m on cause shaking
in my hands, and playing the guitar helps with that,” Mr. Murray says.
“As a result of the chemotherapy, my hands peeled, and I lost all the
calluses I’d built up on my fingertips, so Stuart helped me with some
exercises to build them up.
“The guitar is soothing,” he adds, “and there’s music for every kind
of emotion. You can play whatever you feel.”
That’s the underlying principle of the new Arts in Healthcare initiative
of the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts. Launched in the fall of
2008, the program places artists at RPCI and Women’s and Children’s
Hospital of Buffalo so they can share their talents with patients and
visitors. In addition to Mr. Fuchs, RPCI’s team includes visual artists
Ann Frank, Barbara Murak and Pragna Hathi Wood; actor/storyteller
Joy Scime; and dancer Sheila Dollas. Their work is funded by The
John R. Oishei Foundation and gifts to the Roswell Park Alliance
Margarita Coyne, RN, BSN, Director of Patient Services, helped get
the program off the ground. She says interacting with artists provides
patients with a welcome distraction, facilitating communication and
reminding patients and families that “there are other things going on
in life.” And studies show that cancer patients who participate in art
activities in a hospital setting report feeling less bored, sad and
Debra Miga, Assistant Coordinator of Volunteer Services, notes that
patients who have heard about the artists-in-residence program are
starting to request that the artists visit them in their rooms or specific
clinics. That’s no surprise to Mr. Fuchs, who helps them explore their
emotions through many styles of music, from the tunes he plays on a
10-stringed Andean churango to the deep tones he creates with an
Australian didgeridoo.
Creating art or music gives patients “control over their immediate
environment, even if just for a little while,” says Mr. Fuchs. “There is a
real magic that happens when patients engage in the creative
process. They enter the present moment, which allows them to put
their troubles aside while they express themselves creatively. The
activity becomes a reflective healing process, a mirror into their soul.”
Marc Murray (left) with Artist-in-Residence Stuart Fuchs
The Arts Council in Buffalo & Erie County has honored RPCI
President & CEO Donald Trump, MD, FACP, as a Trailblazer
for his contributions as “a
pioneer, legacy maker
and innovator in the Western New York
arts and cultural community.” He shared the
award in the Artist and Healthcare Initiative category with
Cheryl Klass, President of Women & Children’s Hospital of
Buffalo. Both institutions are partners in the Arts in Healthcare
Initiative of the University at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts,
which takes local artists into the healthcare setting to engage
patients in music, drama, and the visual arts.
The awards were presented at the 23rd Annual Arts Award
Program, held March 20, 2009. Other Trailblazer honorees
included Angelo Fatta, PhD (Philanthropist/Patron of the
Arts), Michael Morgulis (Artist/Entrepreneur), and Artpark &
George Osborne (Programming and Leadership).
feature | 9
Adjei leads NSCLC trial
Let There Be Light!
PDT Center Receives Federal Funding in Excess of $10 Million
Alex A. Adjei, MD, PhD, Senior Vice President of
Clinical Research and the Katherine Anne Gioia Chair in
Cancer Medicine, is chairing a newly launched national
clinical trial that is the first ever to focus on whether
biomarkers can help guide therapies for lung cancer.
The large National Cancer Institute (NCI) trial for nonsmall cell lung cancer, called MARVEL (Marker
Validation for Erlotinib in Lung Cancer), seeks to
validate whether a biomarker can predict clinical
benefit in the disease. It will establish whether a
biomarker can identify a target, epidermal growth
factor receptor (EGFR), and the effectiveness of drugs
in blocking the target, thus re-defining treatment
options for lung cancer patients.
NCI Director John Niederhuber, MD, says MARVEL is
“of major importance, because it could define, based
on a single test, the best therapy for this disease.”
Approximately 1,200 lung cancer patients will be tested
for a high copy number of the EGFR gene by
Fluorescent in Situ Hybridization (FISH) status of the
marker and will be randomized based on the outcome
of the test. After receiving initial standard
chemotherapy, patients who are both EGFR-positive
and EGFR-negative will receive either erlotinib or
pemetrexed, two approved treatments for advanced
lung cancer. The study will help understand the
mechanisms of the drugs and identify patients who will
benefit most from these targeted therapies.
Alex Adjei, MD, PhD with Sarah Burke, RN, MSN, Clinical Research Nurse
Marker Validation for Erlotinib in Lung Cancer
“The MARVEL trial is the result of collaboration among several national
healthcare organizations, including the U.S. Food & Drug Administration,
NCI cooperative groups, the biomarker industry and the pharmaceutical
industry,” notes Dr. Adjei. “All are focused on the goal of providing new,
more effective treatments for lung cancer patients.”
It’s estimated that 215,020 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer this
year, and 161,850 will die of the disease, making lung cancer the numberone cancer killer. Non-small cell lung cancer comprises about 85-90% of
all lung cancers diagnosed.
Read more about the trial on the NCI website, at
10 | researchandtechnology
A five-year, $10.2 million grant from the
National Cancer Institute (NCI) will help
RPCI continue its pioneering studies in
photodynamic therapy (PDT). The Institute
is known worldwide for the development of
PDT, which uses red laser light to trigger a
photosensitizing drug that collects in tumor
cells. When activated by the laser, the drug
kills the cancer cells. RPCI has received
uninterrupted NCI funding for its PDT
program since 1992—a remarkable
Ravindra Pandey, PhD, Distinguished
Member, PDT Center, will continue his work
in developing novel agents for optimization
of PDT and tumor imaging.
Led by principal investigator Barbara
Henderson, PhD, Professor of Oncology
and Director of the PDT Center, Department
of Cell Stress Biology, the program project
grant explores mechanisms and strategies
for making PDT more effective in treating
cancer. The program consists of five
projects, supported by four technical,
statistical and administrative core units:
Sandra Gollnick, PhD, Professor of
Oncology, PDT Center, will examine
how PDT can affect mechanisms of
tumor immunology
Heinz Baumann, PhD,
Professor of Oncology,
Department of
Molecular and Cellular
Biology, will explore
molecular pathways
for optimizing PDT.
Nathalie Zeitouni, MD, Interim Chair,
Department of Dermatology, will
investigate mechanisms of PDT in
patients being treated for skin cancer.
“Roswell Park has a long-standing benchto-bedside approach to PDT that facilitates
an understanding of the underlying
mechanisms of the process while translating
that knowledge into novel treatments,”
says Dr. Henderson.
Adds Donald Trump, MD, FACP,
President & CEO of RPCI, “The very
positive review and awarding of funding
for this program are a testament to the
outstanding science conducted at Roswell
Park. NCI program project grants are highly
sought by cancer centers. Receipt of this
NCI grant demonstrates the cutting-edge
science in this pioneering Roswell Park
research program. The grant continues
support of a broad-based, multidisciplinary
team approach to PDT cancer research
and discovery at RPCI.”
Nestor Rigual, MD, Associate Professor
of Oncology and Attending Surgeon,
Department of Head & Neck Surgery,
and Merrill Biel, MD, Clinical Associate
Professor, University of Minnesota, will
conduct clinical trials using PDT for the
treatment of early-stage cancers of the
head and neck.
“Patients have indicated that the overall
quality of their life after cancer surgery is
as important as how long they survive.”
Khurshid Guru, MD
Mounting a First-Line
Defense Against Infections
Brahm Segal, MD, right, with graduate students David Lewandowski and Nicole Rall
he National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded a five-year,
$2,176,043 research grant to RPCI to examine mechanisms of acute inflammation. Brahm
Segal, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases, is the principal investigator.
“Inflammation helps the body defend against infections, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi,”
explains Dr. Segal. “Just as it is important to stimulate inflammation to control infections,
it is also necessary to turn off the inflammatory response to avoid tissue injury and allergy.
Excessive inflammation is associated with a broad range of
diseases, including cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases.”
“Inflammation helps the body
defend against infections, such
as bacteria, viruses and fungi.”
Dr. Segal and colleagues from Vanderbilt University Medical
Center will analyze NADPH oxidase (nicotinamide adenine
dinucleotide phosphate-oxidase), an enzyme complex that
helps defend against infections. The study is expected to offer
new insights into chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), a rare inherited disorder of the
NADPH oxidase that is characterized by recurrent infections and inflammatory complications.
“Future studies supported by this grant will help us understand how NADPH oxidase controls
inflammation,” says Dr. Segal. “Knowledge gained about how the body regulates inflammation
may help us understand disorders of inflammation and develop better treatments.”
12 | researchandtechnology
Adds Life
to Years
Bladder cancer patients treated with state-of-the-art robot-assisted surgery at RPCI
report that their quality of life returned to normal within six months, according to a
study conducted by Khurshid Guru, MD, Director of Robotic Surgery. The study was
published in the British Journal of Urology International.
Pioneered at RPCI, robot-assisted cystectomy provides patients with a less-invasive
treatment option that has several potential advantages over traditional open surgery,
including less postoperative pain and fewer days in the hospital. The prospective study
is the first to examine the quality-of-life benefits of the surgical technique.
“Patients have indicated that the overall quality of their life after cancer surgery is as
important as how long they survive,” says Dr. Guru. “This study helps us understand the
patient’s physical, social, emotional and functional well-being after surgery.”
Quality of life was examined using the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy
questionnaire with 34 patients who underwent robot-assisted surgery between January
2006 and December 2007. Patients were monitored according to National Comprehensive
Cancer Center guidelines. The average age of the patients was 65 years; 88% were men.
Of all patients, 13% received chemotherapy after surgery. Quality-of-life issues were
assessed at 1-, 3- and 6-month intervals.
The study found that physical well-being had decreased significantly by the first follow-up
visit, due to the immediate impact of surgery. However, six months later, patients reported
that their physical activities were comparable with their pre-surgery activities. Emotional
scores were statistically higher after surgery, indicating that feelings of sadness and
anxiety appeared to be alleviated by the minimally invasive surgery and rapid recovery.
Scores for social and family support remained uniformly high.
Says Dr. Guru, “Robot-assisted surgery continues to demonstrate its efficacy as a
treatment for bladder cancer patients and has now shown its value to patients as they
return to life after cancer.”
Reinventing the
postdoc experience
A FAQ page will provide community information
for out-of-towners. Dr. Kisailus notes that many
postdocs are married and have children, “so
they have to think about housing, daycare and
school systems.” The website will serve double
duty as a bulletin board to identify and connect
with peers who share interests, and to showcase
achievements for prospective employers.
• A handbook outlining the responsibilities of
postdoctoral scholars and their RPCI mentors,
and apprising them of workshops and other
training-enhancement opportunities.
Adam Kisailus, PhD (center), with postdocs Kjerstin Owens (left) and Gaia Bistulfi
PCI’s postdoctoral scholars “have their fingers on the pulse of
what’s going on in science,” observes Adam Kisailus, PhD.
“They’re on top of the literature, they have fresh ideas and a
fresh outlook, and they bring enthusiasm and energy into the
classroom. We rely on them for our scientific research, but at many
universities, they’re almost invisible.”
Today RPCI’s Division of Educational Affairs is focusing more sharply
on their needs and interests with a plan informed largely by Dr.
Kisailus’ own postdoctoral experience. After earning a PhD in
molecular biology from Georgetown University, he came to RPCI to
investigate focal adhesion kinase activity in the lab of Irwin Gelman,
PhD, now Interim Chair of Cancer Genetics. Dr. Kisailus says he and
his fellow postdocs “found there were things we wanted to do as a
community.” The timing was good, too! Arthur Michalek, PhD,
Dean and Senior Vice President of Educational Affairs, and Craig
Johnson, Director of Graduate Admissions and Summer Research
Programs, had just determined that there was a need for greater
postdoc support. Dr. Kisailus’ interest led to his appointment last
summer as Assistant Dean.
The new initiative will provide RPCI’s postdocs with more training in
such areas as grant writing, ethics, teaching, and career paths, to
supplement the strong research training they receive from mentors.
Dr. Kisailus will oversee programs and services designed to provide
them with one-stop shopping:
• A Web portal (
where candidates can learn about, and apply for, postdoctoral
opportunities at RPCI.
14 | it’s academic
• The Science Teaching Experience for
Postdoctoral Scholars (STEPS), a program
aimed at developing teaching skills, from
creating a syllabus to adapting course
content for high school or college students.
Dr. Kisailus says the program might evolve into
a local certificate program that postdocs could
list among other credentials on their CVs.
• APoDS—the Association of PostDoctoral Scholars—an existing
organization that sponsors social events, presents guest speakers,
and organizes poster sessions and other professional activities.
• Networking opportunities within the biotech corridor of the
Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Postdoctoral candidates and scholars can reach Dr. Kisailus at
1-716-845-5944 or via email at [email protected]
Front and center:
the postdoc as lecturer
“Most postdoctoral scholars are expert in one
field, but they may lack experience in teaching
or in presenting material at a seminar,” says Dr.
Kisailus. To fill that gap, soon they’ll be able to
strengthen their teaching proficiency by presenting a lecture
for Oncology for Scientists. Required of all RPCI graduate
students, the two-semester course typically enrolls 40-50
students and is coordinated by AnneMarie W. Block, PhD,
Director of the Clinical Cytogenetics Laboratory and Associate
Professor of Oncology. Dr. Block says RPCI faculty present most
of the lectures, but Dr. Kisailus “thought we could include the
postdocs, because they’re not that far removed from the
graduate experience. They appreciate a good lecture, and
they know how to put one together.”
Medical Dosimetry Program:
“very competitive”
– and it’s accredited
RPCI’s Chief Physicist, Matthew Podgorsak (center), with medical dosimetrist trainees (l. to r.) Mohamed Smith, Mobeen Tamimi, Barry Melancon, and Ashkan Parniani
here’s growing demand in the U.S. for medical dosimetrists,
who calculate the radiation dosage for cancer patients and use
3D graphics and patient imaging to determine the best way to
deliver radiation to the tumor site. RPCI’s Medical Dosimetry Training
Program stands out as one of only 12 in the nation accredited by
the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology
(JRCERT). That seal of approval is important for trainees, because
completion of a JRCERT-accredited program is now a prerequisite
for taking the Certified Medical Dosimetrist Exam.
Here Matthew Podgorsak, PhD, Chief Physicist at RPCI, discusses
what it takes to achieve accreditation—and why it’s important.
What’s the rationale behind the
new CMD Exam prerequisite?
The Medical Dosimetrist Certification Board is trying to ensure that
educational programs are meeting the challenges of the more
advanced technology that’s being used in cancer therapy today.
Professional dosimetrists need to have proper practical training, but
they also need a basic understanding of the theory and principles
behind the technology—something they can get only by attending
an accredited medical dosimetry training program.
What elements of the training program came
under review during the accreditation process?
JRCERT reviewed a number of standards, from ethics issues to the
number of didactic courses that must be offered. We also had to
show that our students are mentored by practicing medical
dosimetrists in both on-the-job and laboratory training. Our students
interact with not only the seven medical dosimetrists on staff, but also
physicists, radiation oncologists, and business professionals. This
gives students a well-rounded educational experience—and that’s
important, because when they are practicing professionally, they will
have to interact with many other people within the discipline.
How many students apply
to the program each year?
There were 30-40 applicants for next year’s class [fall of 2009], and
we can enroll only six per year, so it’s a very competitive program.
The number we can take is based in part on student access to
mentors and equipment, especially the planning workstations.
We have several workstations dedicated for student use, and are
in the process of acquiring others, with the implied hope that we
can increase our enrollment.
What’s the attraction to this field?
Medical dosimetrists are scientists, but they also have to have a
certain artistic flair in order to visualize the best way of using the
available technology to deliver the radiation dose to our patients so
they get the best care. There are many degrees of freedom involved,
so you need dosimetrists who are experienced, but who also
understand the basics of what they’re doing. That’s key, and that’s
what we have at Roswell Park.
For more information about RPCI’s Medical Dosimetry Training
Program, visit
The Head of the Class
Two of the three top research projects recognized at the Jan. 22, 2009 Medical
Student Research Forum at the University at Buffalo were based at RPCI, reports
Arthur Michalek, PhD, FACE, RPCI’s Senior Vice President for Educational Affairs.
The U.B. School of Medicine sponsors the annual forum as one way of “encouraging
and supporting research training for medical students,” notes Dr. Michalek, who
served as a judge for the event.
Stephan Munich (2011) took second place for “Administration of Chemotherapeutic
Agents Enhances the Therapeutic Effect Induced by a Survivin Molecular Mimic
Vaccine Against Human Glioma,” which he completed under the guidance of Robert
Fenstermaker, MD, Clinical Chair of Neurosurgery, and Michael Ciesielski, PhD,
Assistant Member in Neurosurgery.
Matthew Sheldon tied with two other presenters for third place. He completed his
project, “Apical Margins after Robot-Assisted Radical Prostatectomy: Does Technique
Matter?” under the direction of Khurshid Guru, MD, Director of Robotic Surgery;
James Mohler, MD, Chair, Urologic Oncology, and Leader of the Prostate Program;
Hyung Kim, MD, Urologic Oncology; and Gregory Wilding, PhD, Assistant Chair,
Low Cancer
Incidence Among
Seneca Nation
First place was awarded to Andrew Baschnagel (2009), an applicant to RPCI’s
Radiation Medicine Residency Program. His project, completed at the National
Institutes of Health, addressed “Urinary c-MET and HGF Levels as an Indicator of
Disease Progression in Glioblastoma Multiforme Patients.”
Check out these titles written or edited by RPCI faculty:
Mitochondria & Cancer
Interferons: Current Status
by Keshav Singh, PhD
Member, Cancer Genetics
(New York: Springer Publishing, 2008)
by Kailash Chadha, PhD
Associate Member, Molecular and Cellular
Biology (Kerala, India: Research Signpost, 2007)
16 | it’s academic
Martin Mahoney, MD, PhD and Arthur Michalek, PhD, FACE
In the most extensive review ever of cancer
patterns within an American Indian tribal
group, RPCI researchers analyzed cancer
patterns in the Seneca Nation of Indians
for the period from 1955-2004. Led by
Arthur Michalek, PhD, FACE, Senior
Vice President for Educational Affairs, and
Martin Mahoney, MD, PhD, Associate
Professor of Oncology, Departments of
Medicine and Health Behavior, the study
was published in a recent issue of the
journal Cancer.
The retrospective study examined patterns of
cancer incidence in 3,953 males and 4,193
females who were registered tribal members
of the Seneca Nation. Cancer incidence rates
were based on data collected through a
computer match with the New York State
Cancer Registry.
The study found that, overall, no specific
type of cancer was significantly elevated. In
fact, both male and female tribal members
demonstrated significantly reduced
incidences for all cancers combined. In
addition, no specific age group showed
significantly elevated incidence. A total of
233 primary cancers were diagnosed among
Seneca males, with colorectal (20%) and
prostate cancers (17%) the most common.
Among female members, 256 cancers were
diagnosed, with lung (20%) and breast cancer
(16%) reported as the most common
“Among the unique strengths of this study
was the reliance on tribal roll books to
identify enrolled tribal members and the
ability to conduct a comprehensive study
over 50 years, leading to the accrual of more
than 120,000 person-years of observation,”
says Dr. Michalek. “These parameters helped
overcome the issues of limited-size
populations, which has challenged studies
among American Indian tribal groups in the
past. Additionally, the leaders of the Seneca
Nation demonstrated their trust in Roswell
Park researchers and a commitment to
the health of their members by allowing
researchers access to information required
for this comprehensive analysis.”
Dr. Mahoney said cancer “remains a relatively
rare diagnosis among tribal members, which
places some limitation on the interpretation
of these results. However, awareness of these
unique cancer patterns is of extraordinary
value to the Seneca Nation leaders as they
determine healthy policy and cancerprevention strategies.”
To tap the potential of the “Y Generation” in the fight against cancer,
more than a year ago RPCI unveiled its yRoswell campaign, an
initiative targeting people born between 1980-1996. The goal:
encouraging young people’s interest in science and healthcare
careers and galvanizing their volunteer efforts on behalf of cancer
research and patient care. Along the way, says Michael Wong, MD,
PhD, FRCPC, Department of Medicine, “it became obvious that
one of the audiences we were tapping into was the teachers of the
Y Generation. Students can always point to a teacher who inspired
them to take the next step.”
That “aha!” moment, coupled with a request from local teachers for
healthcare career information they could share with their students, led
to the creation of the Touch Science program at RPCI. Geared toward
science teachers in the City of Buffalo’s public schools, Touch Science
took off Dec. 6, 2008, with a day-long program at RPCI, where
participants explored some of the latest, most exciting technology at
RPCI—and tried it out for themselves. Led by RPCI faculty, the event
provided an overview of RPCI’s educational programs as well as
strategies for giving science-oriented students a head start toward
their dreams. Kelly Baudo, Supervisor of Science Education for the
Buffalo Public Schools, was among the presenters.
Thomas Dougherty, PhD, Chief Emeritus of the Photodynamic
Therapy (PDT) Center at RPCI, discussed his role in the development
of the laser-based cancer therapy, now in use worldwide. As a chemist
who came to RPCI from industry, he’s the personification of the strong
link between chemistry and medicine. “The chemistry and physics
teachers had a blast with him,” says Catherine Donnelly, RPCI’s
Integrated Marketing Communications Manager and coordinator of
Touch Science. “They didn’t want to leave.”
Dominic Smiraglia, PhD, Cancer Genetics, welcomed teachers to his
laboratory and engaged them in a description of “one type of change
Geneticist Dominic Smiraglia, PhD, demonstrates
a new technique for DNA analysis.
18 | yroswell
A Story!
that occurs in tumor-suppressor genes, called DNA methylation,
which generally leads to the silencing of tumor-suppressor genes.
Then we studied one common tumor-suppressor gene in breast
cancer samples to determine which samples had this methylation
event, and we found it in a few samples. Some teachers have lab
space and could fairly easily be trained to do these types of
Ms. Donnelly says RPCI is “still inventing” Touch Science, which
currently focuses on three goals:
• Enriching science education in the local schools
• Promoting health education and a healthy lifestyle
to help students reduce their cancer risk
• Recruiting students into careers in healthcare
and the sciences, especially in the field of oncology
“My vision would be to eventually have a Touch Science program in
a box,” she says. “We could include videos, a game or quiz show
they could use in the classroom, a Prevention quiz and Cancers of the
Month quiz.” Right now she offers teachers a “Jeopardy”-style game
featuring questions on topics ranging from the history of RPCI to
current vaccine research.
Steve Indalecio, a science teacher from Harriet Ross Tubman
School #31, gave Touch Science two thumbs up:
“We do a lot of these workshops throughout
the year,” he notes. “This is my eighth year
as a teacher, and I can honestly say this is
the best workshop I’ve ever attended.”
Says Dr. Wong, “We need to engage people, capture their
imagination and energy and capture their enthusiasm for teaching
children. Great scientists and great physicians will be the end result.”
Zap! Thomas Dougherty, PhD, and Adam Sumlin
demonstrate what happens to tumor cells with the
right mix of laser light and chemicals.
Robotics Director Khurshid Guru, MD, lets
teachers experience firsthand the on-target
precision of robot-assisted surgery.
A transcript of a narrative recorded by RPCI Artist-in-Residence Ann Frank
during a recent visit on 5W with patient Prudence “Prudy” Georgia
RPCI patient Prudy Georgia, seated, with nurse Susan Onetto
rudy watched as I pawed through my cart of art supplies in
search of something we could try. Her hands were no longer
the swollen claws they were at my last visit, the joints of her
fingers no longer purple and hurting from the effects of
chemotherapy. She waved her hands at me to show them in their
true form. They looked better now, just reddened. But when she
turned them over, I could see the peeling flesh on her palms and
almost feel for myself the rawness of her tender fingers. Nothing I
could offer was soft enough for her to touch comfortably, and even
though she seemed curious to try something, we decided to forgo
an art project that day to let her healing hands rest. But she invited
me to stay anyway, and we chatted about her week and her hopes to
go home, maybe after the weekend.
As Prudy talked, she watched through the open door the activity at
the nurses’ station. She craned to see more: “There goes my nurse.”
I wondered if she needed something, but before I could ask, Prudy
went on: “Her name is Susan Onetto. The day I decided I was ready
to buzz my head, she helped me. I’d had enough; the hair was
everywhere, even in my eggs at breakfast. When I told her what I
wanted to do, she said, ‘Oh, I can help you with that,’ and she came
back with a buzzer and buzzed my head in the shower. Just think of
all the things she must have had to do, and she took the time to help
me with my hair! I felt so much better, and she did a good job, don’t
you think?” She patted her downy head with her sore hands. I agreed.
She did look elegant with her new short hair.
Prudy continued, “Susan has such an air of competence in everything
she does, even the small things—and everything with a smile! When
someone takes such care in all they do, big things and small things,
it’s a window into their spirit. It says something about who they are.
“They’re all like that here. I feel very confident in their care. One day I
was coughing, and I gagged a little. I could see them all at the
nurses’ station, and six heads turned at once to check on me. ‘I’m
okay!’ I told them, quick, before they all ran in.
“All the nursing staff, and the aides, too—they don’t shirk anything.
Two of them are even pregnant—Cassie and Roxanne. They don’t let
that slow them down.” She was impressed with how late into the
pregnancy one of the nurses was working—her baby was due very
soon—and though the other nurse was not as far along, she was now
looking pregnant. It was obviously a welcome distraction for Prudy to
be able to share in their joy and anticipation.
Frowning a little, Prudy tried to think of more names, muttering
about her ‘chemo brain.’ “Do you know Theresa? She can’t help but
be a fabulous caregiver.”
And she spoke of the nurses’ good humor: “Have you met Roberto?
He’s a riot!
“The nurses and aides are so joyful here. They work all day, with us
all so sick, and they still have fun and make us smile.”
feature | 19
In Magnet hospitals,
patient outcomes are better, and
their length of stay is shorter.”
isa Boris, RN, BSN, likes to think of it as “the Nobel Prize for nursing” – and
indeed, designation as a Magnet Hospital for Nursing Excellence is an honor earned
by fewer than 5% of all hospitals in the U.S. For the first time, RPCI is on a quest for
that distinction, given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the nation’s
largest nursing accrediting and credentialing organization.
“It’s a rigorous process,” explains Ms. Boris, Nurse Manager of RPCI’s Upper and Lower GI
Centers. That’s an understatement! For starters, members of the nursing staff are hard at
work on a 3,500-page document that demonstrates how RPCI measures up in 20 different
areas of nursing quality that the ANCC calls “forces of magnetism.” Among other points,
ANCC reviewers want to see evidence that RPCI nurses understand their roles in the
Institute’s mission and vision; that the administration listens to their ideas and fosters a
collegial, collaborative atmosphere; that the Institute provides a safe and pleasant work
environment for its nurses; and that the care they deliver contributes directly to the
highest-quality care for patients.
are drawn to RPCI by the emphasis on
patient care. “Our nurse-to-patient ratios
are excellent,” she explains, “which gives
nurses the opportunity to spend time not
only on quality care but also to educate
patients and families about continued care
outside the hospital. We build a partnership
with the patient and have better outcomes
as a result.”
The Institute also encourages its more than
600 nurses to further their education, with
pay incentives for earning a master’s degree
or PhD, and strong support for nurse-led
research. “Some of the best ideas come
from our frontline, bedside nurses,” says
Ms. Boris. “They see firsthand the needs of
our patients, and they’re making a
difference in research. The administration is
telling them, ‘Your ideas matter.’” Ms. Kelly
adds that the ANCC will also examine
nurses’ credentials, from the degrees they
hold to the numbers of Continuing
Education units they have earned.
After the application package is delivered
February 1, 2010, the ANCC will begin
evaluating how well RPCI fulfills the 20
“forces of magnetism.” If the document
passes muster, an ANCC accreditation team
will conduct a three-day site visit to ask
candid questions of the nurses and other
RPCI staff about the Institute’s nursing
model. “We have to show strong
collaboration between the Department of
Nursing and the entire institution in
achieving positive patient outcomes,” says
Mary Ann Long. “Ultimately, that’s what
Magnet is about.”
Ms. Kelly notes that data gathered for the
Magnet self-evaluation document will serve
as benchmarks for continued improvement
in nursing at RPCI, and will form “a plan of
action for the coming years.” While
accreditation is granted for a four-year
period, she adds, retaining Magnet status
will require continual evaluation, both
internally and by the ANCC.
Lisa Boris is confident of the outcome.
“There’s nowhere better to go for cancer
care than Roswell Park, and our nursing
care reflects that,” she says proudly. “We
already know that. We want everyone else
to know it, too.”
Patients are the primary beneficiaries of the Magnet label, because it helps them identify
hospitals where they’ll receive the best care. “In Magnet hospitals, patient outcomes are
better, and their length of stay is shorter,” notes Maureen Kelly, RN, MS, RPCI’s Vice
President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer. “U.S. News & World Report
has added Magnet status as one of the indicators for measurement of the top 100 cancer
centers and top 100 hospitals in the U.S.”
The Magnet seal of approval is also a beacon for talented nurses who are looking for the
best places to work, and Ms. Boris notes that RPCI already has solid proof that it belongs
in that category. “We have a waiting list of people who want to come here,” she says.
One major attraction: the option of working three 12-hour days followed by four days
off—an arrangement that grew from the nurses’ request for “a work-life balance.”
Mary Ann Long, RN, MS, RPCI’s Director of Patient Care Services and Magnet Director,
says the waiting list includes both recent grads and nurses with extensive experience, who
20 | feature
Visiting Professor in
Oncology Program
Ian Thompson, MD, Professor and Endowed Chair of the Department
of Urology at the University of Texas Medical Center, Vice Chair of
the National Cancer Institute’s Early Detection Research Institute,
and newly named Chair of the Genitourinary Committee of the
Southwest Oncology Group, visited RPCI recently as Visiting
Professor in Oncology under the auspices of Pfizer’s highly
competitive Medical and Academic Partnerships grants program.
RPCI was one of only eight institutions nationwide to win grant
support for a three-day visit by a distinguished expert in oncology.
L. to r.: Kay Seekamp, RN, Pfizer, Inc.; James
Marshall, PhD; Peter Steffan, Pfizer; Ian Thompson,
MD; and Brad Salmon Pfizer, Associate Director,
Clinical Protocol Manager, Pfizer Oncology
Dr. Thompson is also Clinical Associate Professor in the Department
of Surgery/Uniformed Services of Health Sciences, Department of
Surgery, Bethesda, MD. His RPCI visit focused on the prevention,
detection and management of prostate cancer; cancer screening;
and chemoprevention strategies. James R. Marshall, PhD, Senior
Vice President, Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, and James Mohler, MD, Chair of
Genitourinary Surgery at Roswell Park, were local hosts to Dr. Thompson.
The Visiting Professor in Oncology program is designed to advance oncology by creating
opportunities for educational visits by prominent cancer experts to U.S. medical schools/
teaching hospitals and cancer centers. Grant recipients are chosen by an independent academic
advisory board of experts in the oncology field. Dr. Thompson lectured and met with Urology
residents and fellows and with Urology and Prevention faculty at both the University at Buffalo
and Roswell Park.
Oh, the Places You’ve Gone!
(FAC) Clara M. Ambrus, MD, PhD, FACP, and Julian L. Ambrus,
MD, PhD, FACP, have been awarded the American College of
Physicians (ACP) Laureate Award, given for “abiding commitment to
excellence in medical care, education, research, or service to their
community, chapter, and ACP. Awardees are physicians with a long
history of excellence and peer approval in their specialty of internal
medicine.” Julian Ambrus is also President-Elect of the Catholic
Academy of the Sciences, Washington, DC.
(FAC) John Cowell, PhD, Associate Director for Basic Science and
Professor of Pathology in Medical College of Georgia Cancer Center,
has been named a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer
Scholar. He served previously as Chair of Cancer Genetics at RPCI.
(PhD) Andrew Freedman, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute’s
Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, was
co-leader of a team that developed one of the first colorectal
cancer absolute risk assessment models. Available online at, the tool was the
subject of a recent article in the NCI Cancer Bulletin
(FAC) Douglas E. Williams, PhD, has been promoted from
President to CEO of ZymoGenetics, Inc., Seattle, Washington.
ZymoGenetics discovers and develops novel protein therapeutics
based on the company’s research and biological insights into key
disease pathways.
Nicholas Petrelli, MD, FACS, former Chair of Surgery at RPCI,
congratulates Roswell Park Alliance founders Anne and Donna Gioia,
who received the Society of Surgical Oncology’s James Ewing
Layman’s Award at the 62nd Annual Cancer Symposium. Anne and
Donna, who were honored for their passionate leadership and
advocacy, join a stellar roster of awardees, including General H.
Norman Schwarzkopf and the late Ann Landers.
(FAC) Michael McGarry, PhD, is Vice President of Preclinical Studies
at Medelis, Inc., an oncology contract research organization based in
Phoenix, AZ.
Join us for the following Faculty Forum lectures, each presented from 8-9 a.m. in the Zebro Family Conference Room of RPCI’s
Center for Genetics and Pharmacology. Physician participants will be awarded AMA Category 1 credit.
May 20
June 3
July 22
Mihich Lecture, “Mechanisms and
Therapeutic Targeting of the Tumor
Microenvironment,” with Douglas Hanahan,
PhD, Professor of Biochemistry, University of
California at San Francisco
Director’s Conference, “Monoclonal Antibody
Therapy of Cancer: Making Better Antibodies,
and Making Antibodies Better,” with George
Weiner, MD, Director of the Holden
Comprehensive Cancer Center at The
University of Iowa
Cori Lecture, “Translational Control of
Cancer,” with Nahum Sonenberg, PhD, the
James McGill Professor of the Rosalind and
Morris Goodwin Cancer Centre, McGill
University, Montreal, and Recipient of the
2008 Canada Gairdner International Award,
given for his pioneering discoveries in cellular
translation of genetic information.
May 27
“Dissecting Human Genomes to Understand
‘Stemness’ and Cancer,” with Gennadi V.
Glinsky, MD, PhD, Head of the Translational
and Functional Genomics Laboratory,
Ordway Cancer Center, Albany, NY
22 | forum&function
June 10
Weiss Memorial Lecture, “Targeting the
Intrinsic Therapeutic Resistance of Breast
Cancer Tumor-Initiating Cells,” with
Jeffrey Rosen, PhD, the C.C. Bell Professor,
Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology,
Baylor College of Medicine
(MS) Herbert Newton, MD, FAAN, is Professor of Neurology
and Oncology, and Director of the Division of Neuro-Oncology,
Department of Neurology, of The Ohio State University Medical
Center and the James Cancer Hospital. He holds the Esther
Dardinger Chair in Neuro-Oncology and serves as Co-Director of the
Dardinger Neuro-Oncology Center at the James Cancer Hospital.
In photo (above, l-r) are Anne Gioia; Candace Johnson, PhD, Deputy Director, RPCI;
Dr. Petrelli, Medical Director, Helen F. Graham Cancer Center, Christiana Care Health
Services; Donna Gioia; and Cindy Eller, Vice President, Development, RPCI.
KEY: SMR (Summer Reserach Program); PhD (Doctoral Program);
PDoc (Postdoctoral); MS (Master’s Degree Program);
STF (Staff); FAC (Faculty); FLW (Fellow); RES (Resident)
I just received the RPCI alumni magazine [which featured an article
about West Point cadets who participated in a summer study
program at RPCI]. Thanks so much for the positive press and
continuing support. In late October, each cadet presented to our
faculty about their RPCI research and experience over the summer.
It inspired a few cadets to consider the option for next summer,
and feedback from the faculty was great. Thanks and best wishes.
Melissa R. Eslinger, MAJ, LG
You can connect to your RPCI colleagues on a number
of Social Networking sites—including LinkedIn®, Twitter,
Facebook and myspace.
Assistant Professor, Course Director, Genetics
U.S. Military Academy, West Point
classnotes | 23
Photo courtesy of Lockport Union Sun & Journal
The Road Less Traveled
Dr. Natalie Zeitouni in St. Lucia
Every year, more than 300,000 vacationers flock to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia to
hike through the exotic rainforest and lounge on the sunny beaches. But Dr. Nathalie
Zeitouni, Interim Chair of Dermatology at RPCI, set her sights on a different destination
when she traveled to St. Lucia recently with the nonprofit group Health Volunteers
Overseas (HVO).
“I want to help these
people as much as
I can, and I’m at a
point in my career
where I’ve done
a lot, so now I can
volunteer in an
area that I know
24 | extracurriculars
At St. Jude Hospital, near Vieux-Fort, on the island’s southern coast, she cared for
patients ranging from the very young to the very old, and shared her expertise in
dermatology with physicians, residents and nurses. She also delivered gifts of
medications and certain medical supplies provided by Howard Stoll, Jr., MD, who
retired recently from RPCI’s Dermatology Department. Clothing and small gifts were
presented to children living in an orphanage near Vieux-Fort.
At Roswell Park, Dr. Zeitouni specializes in Mohs surgery and leads research on unusual
skin tumors, the use of photodynamic therapy for treating cutaneous carcinomas, and
the identification of risk factors and development of treatment guidelines for rare skin
cancers. Because her time in St. Lucia was limited, she focused partly on teaching the
medical staff, “so they can take care of their own patients.”
Dr. Zeitouni hopes to volunteer with HVO again in the future, perhaps in Peru or another
area where the program places an even greater emphasis on teaching. “I’ve always
wanted to give back,” she says. “I want to help these people as much as I can, and I’m
at a point in my career where I’ve done a lot, so now I can volunteer in an area that I
know well—dermatology.”
Three-year-old Rory “saddles up for Roswell” with a hand from
his mom, Tracey O’Connor, MD (right), and Jeffrey Durbin.
An MD With
Horse Sense
“When you’re
riding, you can’t
think about anything
else. When I’m
taking a challenging
lesson, I can’t think
about my kids or
what I have to do
at home or even
my patients—and
that’s good.”
rowing up in Indiana, Tracey O’Connor was among a group of “extremely
enthusiastic little girls” who took riding lessons at a local livery stable. “I would do
that once a week, and then every Christmas nag my parents to buy me a pony,
and every Christmas night, I would cry because it didn’t happen,” recalls Dr. O’Connor,
Attending Physician in RPCI’s Department of Medicine. But persistence paid off: “When
I was 11, my mother finally nagged my father into getting me a pony of my own.”
Today Dr. O’Connor rides a horse instead of a pony, and her love of riding is stronger than
ever. “It’s so engrossing,” she says. “When you’re riding, you can’t think about anything
else. When I’m taking a challenging lesson, I can’t think about my kids or what I have to
do at home or even my patients—and that’s good.”
Dr. O’Connor’s equestrian interests led to her friendship with Sue and Terry Williams,
owners of the Chestnut Ridge Equestrian Center in Gasport, New York, where her horse,
Providence, is stabled. Terry died of colon cancer not long after he and Sue founded
Saddle Up for Roswell, a riding event that has raised more than $25,000 to date for the
Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. Dr. O’Connor, a sponsor, has competed in the event
every year, along with scores of other participants who understand the dynamic between
horse and rider.
“Horses are unpredictable animals,” says Dr. O’Connor. “They have minds and feelings
and personalities of their own. You develop relationships with them over time, and when
they give you what you’re asking them to do, even though it may be difficult for them,
that’s a great feeling.”
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Doctors Rank
Roswell Park
Among Nation’s Top
Cancer Hospitals
World’s Largest Circulation Magazine
Roswell Park Cancer Institute ranks among the nation’s top
specialty hospitals for general cancer care on a list to be
published in the May/June 2009 issue of AARP The Magazine.
The publication has the largest circulation of any magazine in
the world, with more than 34 million readers.
The list also includes:
• University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center,
Houston, TX
• Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City
• Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA
• Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
• City of Hope, Duarte, CA
• The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD
• Duke University Hospital, Durham, NC
The list was compiled by Consumers’ Checkbook, an
independent, nonprofit consumer service organization that rates
everything from cars and appliances to veterinarians, credit
cards, and pest-control firms. Recognizing that growing numbers
of patients are traveling outside their communities in order to
receive the best health care, Consumers’ Checkbook polled
doctors across the nation to find out where they would be most
likely to send patients who needed specialized care.
The resulting list, called “Doctors’ Faves” on the AARP website,
includes doctors’ picks for the best hospitals for general cardiac
care, general cancer care, mystery diagnoses, neurosurgery,
and eye care. The list can be found online at