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Promise and Progress - Faculty News

The Time is Now - Supplement
Issue No. I

Faculty News

By: Valerie Matthews-Mehl
Date: March 1, 2011

Elizabeth Platz, Sc.D., M.P.H.
Elizabeth Platz, Sc.D., M.P.H.

Breast Cancer Leader
After an international search, Vered Stearns, M.D., was named Co-Director of the Breast Cancer Program.  Stearns will serve as Co-Director with Saraswati Sukumar, Ph.D., the Barbara B. Rubenstein Professor in Oncology.  Stearns joined the Kimmel Cancer Center faculty in 2002 and is best known for her ground-breaking work on genetic responses to the drug tamoxifen and the use of biomarkers in breast cancer prevention and treatment.

Abeloff Scholars
The Abeloff Scholars Program in Cancer Prevention and Control was established in 2007 to combine the study of basic, clinical, and population science.  It supports faculty scholars as they study the causes and risk factors of cancer in healthy populations and develop new approaches to cancer risk reduction and prevention. Elizabeth Platz, Sc.D., M.P.H., was selected as the first Martin D. Abeloff, M.D., Scholar. Platz is nationally recognized for her work in cancer prevention and specifically for her research of the role of statins in preventing prostate cancer. She is the co-director of the Cancer Center’s Cancer Prevention and Control Program and directs the Training Program in Cancer Epidemiology, Prevention, and Control. Corinne E. Joshu, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.A., was named the first Martin D. Abeloff, M.D., Scholar-in-Training.  She is researching modifiable risk factors for colon cancer, evaluating the association between weight gain and cigarette smoking and prostate cancer recurrence, and working to determine how chronic conditions, such as diabetes, affect cancer incidence, mortality, and death, and if they influence cancer screening behavior.

Imagine the Possibilities
Our Researchers Turn Blood Cells into Beating Heart Cells
In the next issue of Promise & Progress…

Kimmel Cancer Center researcher Elias Zambidis and postdoctoral scientist Paul Burridge, of the Institute for Cell Engineering and collaborated with the Department of Biomedical Engineering, to successfully turn a blood stem cell into a functional, beating heart cell.  They used clinically-safe engineering methods.

For Zambidis, whose research interests are in pediatric oncology and cancers of the blood, the special “plasticity” of the blood stem cell that allows them to be transformed to a heart cell, holds important clues about how leukemia and other blood diseases develop and how they can be controlled.  Burridge, who plans to specialize in cardiology, will focus his continued research on refining the technique in hope that, one day, a patient’s blood cells can be directly turned into heart cells to therapeutically repair hearts damaged by heart attack and other diseases.   

The methodical two-year Johns Hopkins study, resulted in a simple, straight-forward recipe for changing blood stem cells into heart cells, and called upon the expertise of basic scientists, stem cell engineers, and biomedical engineers.  What they accomplished was previously considered impossible by international leaders in the field of regenerative medicine.  It provides more evidence of the ingenuity, collaboration, and the relentless pursuit of answers that allow Johns Hopkins scientists to do what others cannot.

Read more about this discovery in the next issue of Promise & Progress:  Engineering Cures.