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Promise and Progress - Noteworthy

Leading the Way Fall 2009 Winter 2010


By: Valerie Mehl
Date: December 1, 2009

Through the vision and generosity of Mr. Willard Hackerman and Mr. Sidney Kimmel, the Cancer Center opened the Hackerman-Patz Patient and Family Pavilion, a new home-away-from-home for cancer patients and their families who travel to the Kimmel Cancer Center for treatment. The five-floor building provides affordable lodging for 39 families in specially-designed suites and apartments. Spacious kitchens, family rooms, a garden, library, guest computer center, and integrative medicine suite are just a few of its many amenities.

Michael Carducci, M.D., F.A.C.P., was installed as the inaugural recipient of the AEGON Professorship in Prostate Cancer Research. Carducci is Professor of
Oncology and Urology, Co-Leader of the Prostate Cancer/Genitourinary Oncology Program, and Co-Leader of  the Chemical Therapeutics Program. His laboratory focuses on the reexpression of epigenetically silenced genes in cancer cells, and he manages
a portfolio of clinical trials introducing new drugs into cancer treatment.

AEGON, one of the largest life insurance and pension groups in the world, has been a long-time supporter of the Kimmel Cancer Center, funding fellowships in prostate cancer
and breast cancer research and other cancer initiatives. The professorship was established to honor AEGON CEO Donald J. Shepard, who retired in 2008.

Donald Small, M.D., Ph.D., Kyle Haydock Professor of Oncology and nationally recognized leader in the research and treatment of childhood blood cancers, has
been selected to head the Pediatric Oncology Division of the Kimmel Cancer Center. He
has been the acting director since September 2006 and has been a faculty member for the last 19 years.

“Don has the talent and energy to ensure our pediatric oncology program moves forward as a premier center of excellence and innovation for discovery and treatment,” says
George Dover, M.D., Director of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Kimmel Cancer Center pediatric oncology faculty already lead many of the national studies in childhood cancer, and Small says he will draw upon their expertise to expand pediatric cancer clinical trials and laboratory research.

“Don embodies the philosophy and mission of Johns Hopkins in everything he does,” says Kimmel Cancer Center Director William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D. “He’s a dedicated
physician, teacher and mentor, and among the nation’s best researchers in his field.”

Small and his team were the first to clone the human FLT3 receptor gene, the most frequently mutated gene in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), one of the most common
blood cancers in adults and children. Clinical trials testing FLT3-targeted therapies in both adults and children are now underway.

The Maryland Association of Student Councils (MASC) selected the Kimmel Cancer Center’s sarcoma program as the state charity for the 2009-2010 school year.

Each year, MASC raises money and awareness for a state charity to help students strengthen their personal leadership skills and commitment to their communities and state.

The MASC is a group of student representatives from nearly all the counties in Maryland. Their mission is to foster a statewide environment for all secondary school students to
express and exchange opinions and ideas, develop leadership skills and promote student representation and involvement in all groups and organizations affecting the lives of students.

In the past, the group has raised more than $40,000 for their selected charities.

Stand Up to Cancer
Kimmel Cancer Scientists Park of Cancer Research "Dream Team"

THE STAND UP TO CANCER telethon held just over a year ago raised nearly $100 million for cancer research.

The mission was to quickly channel the funds to research that showed clinical promise and could be brought to patients within three years.

Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center scientists were selected for two of five multi-institutional cancer research “dream teams” earning grants for more than $6 million to be used for pancreatic cancer and epigenetic research.

A 20-member panel of scientists, physicians, and patient advocates sifted through 237 applications to select the five final research awards totaling $73.6 million. The money was raised during the telethon which was organized and hosted by the Entertainment Industry Foundation. An additional $20 million will be distributed to individual scientists at a later date.

“The goal was to get the money to the best people with the best ideas,” says William G. Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center. “All of the grants were superb, so
we are especially honored that the work of Kimmel Cancer Center scientists was recognized.”

Epigenetics is an emerging area of interest in cancer, a disease characterized by genetic mistakes. Many of these mistakes occur through direct mutations to genes, but
Stephen Baylin and team have found that genes also can be altered--without mutation--by the way the DNA is packaged within the cell.

Baylin is a leading expert in the field of cancer epigenetics and will help lead a group that will be looking for signature alterations in the genomes of leukemia, lung, breast, and
colon cancer cells. These signatures can help pinpoint patients whose cancers are likely to respond to a particular therapy and can help clinicians monitor a tumor’s response to anticancer drugs.

In the pancreatic cancer research, investigators will test and develop drugs that target faulty enzymes that process glutamine and glucose and fatty acids in some pancreatic
cancers. They will be evaluating drugs already approved for diabetes management that have evidence of antitumor effects as well as new experimental drugs, alone and in
combination with other therapies. Kimmel Cancer Center genetics experts Victor Velculescu and Kenneth Kinzler will scan patients’ genomes for gene targets that would
indicate their cancers would be susceptible to glutamine and glucose-blocking drugs.

Other members of the Kimmel Cancer Center epigenetics and pancreatic cancer “dream teams” are Nita Ahuja, Nilofer Azad, Malcolm Brock, Robert Casero, Leslie Cope,
Chi Dang, Edward Gabrielson, James Herman, Ralph Hruban, Rosalyn Juergens, Daniel Laheru, Anirban Maitra, William Matsui, Martin Pomper, Charles Rudin, Vered Stearns, Jeff Wang, and Cynthia Zahnow.