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Promise and Progress - Noteworthy

CSI Cancer-Solving Investigators, Building the Best GI Cancer Program - Fall 2008-Winter 2009


By: Valerie Mehl
Date: October 1, 2008

After a national search, Nilofer Azad, M.D., assistant professor of oncology, has
been recruited to develop a translational program in colorectal cancer. She will
be developing a Phase I/II drug program in gastrointestinal oncology.

Janet Briel, R.N., M.B.A., was named senior clinical program manager for the
hematologic malignancies division. She will oversee data management and
research nursing and coordinate the implementation of clinical trials.

Sonia Franco, M.D., Ph.D., has joined the Cancer Center as an assistant professor
of radiation oncology and oncology. She has an impressive resume, including fellowships at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School. Franco’s work is focused on DNA double-strand break repair.

Christopher Gamper, M.D., Ph.D., has been appointed instructor in oncology.
A clinician-scientist, his work focuses on the biology of immunotherapy and transplant. He plans to develop novel protocols for malignant and non-malignant transplants.

Christine Hann, M.D., Ph.D., joins the Upper Aerodigestive Cancer Program as an assistant professor of oncology. Her primary focus is on developing novel therapeutics for lung cancer, particularly small cell lung cancer. She has received several awards, including an ASCO Young Investigator Award and a FAMRI Young Clinical Scientist Award.

Sushant Kachhap, Ph.D. has joined the faculty as an instructor in oncology in the Prostate and Genitourinary Cancer Program. Kachhap, who was a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Michael Carducci’s laboratory, will explore the role of chromatin remodeling agents on several important cell pathways related to cancer metastasis and DNA repair and radiosensitization.

The Breast Cancer Program welcomes Josh Lauring, M.D., Ph.D., as an assistant professor of oncology. He is a graduate of the prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine M.D.-Ph.D. program and is completing his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Ben Park.

Will Parsons, M.D., Ph.D., was appointed instructor in oncology. During the
research portion of his fellowship training, he worked in the Vogelstein-Kinzler laboratory, where he was an integral part of a team studying genomic changes in cancer. He was the first author on several related papers in Science and Nature. He is now collaborating on the sequencing of more than 15,000 genes from glioblastoma multiforme and medulloblastoma.

Katherine Thornton, M.D., has joined the faculty as assistant professor of oncology. She is a clinical investigator who has led multidisciplinary clinical research in connective tissue cancers. Her recruitment is the culmination of a concerted effort by Cancer Center leadership and the departments of Orthopedic Surgery and Radiation Oncology.

Cynthia M. Williams, D.O., M.A., has joined the Harry J. Duffey Family Pain and
Palliative Care Program. Previously, she was the medical director of Casey House, the inpatient hospice for Montgomery Hospice. From 2005 to 2006, she held a pain and palliative medicine fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. She was named a diplomate by the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine in 2006. She joins the team of Sydney Dy, M.D., M.Sc., Suzanne Amato Nesbit, Pharm.D., B.C.P.S., Donald List, L.C.S.W.-C., Lynn Billing, B.S.N., C.H.P.N., Rhonda Cooper, M.Div., Colleen Apostol, R.N., O.C.N., and Andrea Cox, B.S.N.

Pilomyxiod Astrocytoma Registry
What are Pilomyxoid Astrocytomas (PMA)?
A type of brain cancer largely seen in children, PMAs were first identified by pathologist Peter Burger, M.D., and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 199. These cancers often were classified with other brain tumors called pilocytic astrocytomas, but the Johns Hopkins experts noted a difference in some of the patients’ samples, and a new type of brain cancer emerged. Now recognized by the World Health Organization as a distinct type of glioma, PMAs can occur anywhere in the brain but most often in the optic pathway or the hypothalmus. They tend to be more aggressive than pilocytic astrocytomas and are characterized by similar cellular shape and surrounding “myxoid” matrix. The incidence of PMAs is currently unknown, but the number of cases is growing as PMAs are increasingly recognized by pathologists.

Why join the Johns Hopkins PMA Registry?
Despite the growing recognition of PMA, scientists understand little about the natural behavior of this tumor, its response to different treatments and the long-term outlook for patients with PMA.

The Johns Hopkins PMA Registry will gather information over time from patients’ families and their physicians about the tumors’ presentation, treatment and response to those therapies. The registry will provide a growing resource to patients, families and physicians
with the goal of refining current treatments and developing new ones.

How to Join
If you or your child has been diagnosed with a PMA, we welcome your participation in the registry. To learn more about the registry requirements and to consider enrollment, please visit If you have questions regarding the registry, please contact Patricia Goldthwaite at 410-955-8378.
Pilomyxoid Astrocytoma Registry

Articles in this Issue

Directors Letter

CIS Cancer Solving Investigations