Posts Tagged ‘Winship Cancer Insitute’

Plugging Cell Biology Into a Genomic World

(This blog was originally posted on January 15, 2014 on the American Association for Cancer Research website)

Personalized oncology epitomizes the concept of interdisciplinary research where pathologists, bioinformaticians, oncologists, and biologists work together to identify and ultimately target drivers of cancer. We gather at tables to collaborate across disciplines and try to speak the same language with the goals of advancing knowledge and helping patients. As a cancer cell biologist at the Winship Cancer Institute, I have been privileged to be a part of these conversations and to contribute to our efforts to understand tumor biology.

When most researchers talk about personalized (or precision) oncology, genomics is usually an important part of the conversation. Genomic technologies can yield tremendous amounts of information in a relatively unbiased and high-throughput manner. Cell biology, on the other hand, which has interested me for over 15 years, provides a powerful and focused approach to probe the behavior and function of cells, organelles, and proteins. Tremendous leaps have been made over the last two decades that have enhanced our ability to “see” biology due to the advent of technologies such as genetically encoded fluorescent proteins and new imaging modalities. In fact, the Nobel Prize has been awarded twice in the last decade to imaging-based technologies, most recently this past October to the inventors of super-resolution imaging.

Despite these differing approaches, cell biology and genomics are not mutually exclusive; cell (and molecular) biology data are routinely combined with genomic data as a means to validate results. But can cell biology and genomics be more than validation partners? Could a marriage between the focused spatial and temporal power of cell biology with the throughput of genomics create a “best of both worlds” scenario to enhance personalization of cancer treatment?

Watch Dr. Marcus’ TEDx Peachtree talk, “Every Cancer Is Personal.”

As we move into a world of single-cell genomics, we are beginning to unravel the importance of obtaining information from one cell, and consequently yielding tremendous insight into tumor biology, especially tumor heterogeneity and rare cell types. Several strong lines of evidence now suggest that it may be rare cell types, such as cancer stem cells, that are required for initiation and progression of cancer. The ability to develop new methods that can precisely select these rare cell types, perhaps even while the cells are alive using cellular imaging-based approaches, would allow these rare genomes to be extracted. Perhaps, down the road, approaches rooted in cell biology may help provide more temporal -omics where researchers can monitor changes in the transcriptome of single cells or groups of cells over time to understand single tumor cell evolution during initiation, progression, and treatment.

It is not that cell biology is so unique; rather, it is the concept of marrying two research approaches to create a scientific synergy. The advances that are made through interdisciplinary research in the laboratories will not only provide new insight into the biology of cancer but can ultimately impact patients through personalized oncology. The late Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just about connecting things.” We need to continue to connect things in the lab to create new opportunities in the clinic.

About Dr. Marcus


Adam Marcus, PhDAdam Marcus received his PhD in cell biology from Penn State University in 2002 and went on to do a post-doctoral fellowship in cancer pharmacology at Emory University. Dr. Marcus is an Associate Professor at Emory University School of Medicine and has developed his own laboratory at Winship Cancer Institute, which focuses on cell biology and pharmacology in lung and breast cancer. His laboratory studies how cancer cells invade and metastasize using a combination of molecular and imaging-based approaches. Marcus has been a member of the American Association for Cancer Research since 2003. You can follow him on Twitter at  @NotMadScientist.

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Every Cancer Is Personal

Every Cancer is Personal

As a cancer researcher, I’ve delivered plenty of lectures, but nothing compares with a talk I gave in October to an audience of 500 strangers. My TEDx address focused on how the treatment and diagnosis of cancer is becoming more personal. Scientists across the world are going all-in on determining the driving genetic changes for each individual cancer to better personalize treatment for each patient. In my talk, I tried to emphasize where hope lives for cancer treatment in the next 5-10 years based upon this approach and how my laboratory at the Winship Cancer Institute is contributing to this effort.

Although I went into the day looking to impact others, I never expected the event to have such an impact on me. There were a dozen speakers that day with talks ranging from robotics and mathematics to tap dancing and beatboxing. The day of mass-education concluded with an impromptu parade throughout the Buckhead theatre. Hundreds of adults dressed in business attire lined up and were parading, dancing, singing and beatboxing. People that barely knew each other enjoyed interacting and sharing ideas throughout the day with the primary purpose of learning. I was clearly not in the familiar lecture halls and laboratories at the Emory School of Medicine, but I felt right at home and was happy to share my passion and knowledge about a subject that impacts so many of us.

About Dr. Marcus

Adam Marcus, PhDAdam Marcus received his PhD in cell biology from Penn State University in 2002 and went on to do a post-doctoral fellowship in cancer pharmacology at Emory University. Dr. Marcus is an Associate Professor at Emory University School of Medicine and has developed his own laboratory which focuses on cell biology and pharmacology in lung and breast cancer. Dr. Marcus’ laboratory studies how cancer cells invade and metastasize using a combination of molecular and imaging-based approaches. For more information about Dr. Marcus and his outreach and research efforts, please use the related resources links below. You can also follow Dr. Marcus on Twitter at @NotMadScientist.

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Winship’s Win the Fight 5K Exceeds Fundraising Goal to Help Battle Cancer

Winship Win the Fight 5K RecapThis past weekend,  Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University raised a record amount of money towards cancer research in Georgia. Fundraising support, through the 4th annual Winship Win the Fight 5K, which was held on Saturday, September 27, 2014, surpassed its half-million dollar goal and brought in more than $582,000. Over three thousand runners and walkers gathered Saturday morning to participate in the event that started and ended on the Emory campus and wound its way through the surrounding Druid Hills-area.

“We are so grateful to all the supporters who joined us at this year’s Winship 5K,” says Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD, executive director of Winship. “The money raised will support more than a dozen cancer research projects at Winship and will lead us to more and more success stories in our fight against cancer.”

The Winship Win the Fight 5K is a unique event because it allows participants to select the specific area(s) of cancer research they want their tax-deductible donations to benefit. Donations are still being accepted until November 14, 2014. For more information, visit the Winship Win the Fight 5K website.

And make sure to mark your calendars for the 5th annual Winship Win the Fight 5K, which will be held on Saturday, October 3, 2015.

Winship Win the Fight 5K

Winship Fight 5KThe Winship Win the Fight 5K is this Saturday, September 27, 2014 and already a HALF A MILLION DOLLARS has been raised towards cancer research at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

There’s still time to be a part of this special event! Today is the last day to register online for Saturday’s event. If you cannot be present to run or walk this weekend, register as a “Sleep-In Warrior” to support cancer research from wherever you will be this weekend.

For more information, or to register, visit the Winship Win the Fight 5K website. Also, check out this inspiring video below featuring WSB-TV’s Mark Winne’s wife, Kate, a cancer survivor and Winship patient. Mark and Kate’s story not only shows the crucial role cancer research plays in the continuous fight for a world without cancer, but also the hope it beings to patients and families, here and now.

Related Resources:

Cancer Researchers, Patients Support Winship 5K Side-by-Side
Why I Run: To Raise Awareness & Funding For My Dad’s Cancer
Running to Carry Forth a Father’s Passion to Make a Difference…

What the Inside of an Operating Room is Like During a Life-Saving Procedure

Operating RoomIt’s 7 a.m. and the surgical staff at Emory University Hospital is prepping a patient for a potentially life-saving procedure. As a surgical oncologist at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, I am leading one of the two groups of specialists working together to remove a type of stomach tumor known as a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). This is a rare tumor with approximately 10,000 new cases diagnosed in the Unites States every year. If left untouched, the tumor could enlarge or metastasize, requiring more radical treatment.

Stomach tumors are usually removed using one of two common techniques: endoscopy, in which doctors enter through the patient’s mouth using a flexible tube outfitted with a miniature camera and lasso-like device; or surgery, in which surgeons use minimally-invasive laparoscopic techniques to insert tiny surgical instruments through small incisions in the abdomen.

For this particular case, Dr. Field Willingham, Director of Endoscopy in the Emory Division of Digestive Diseases, and I are performing a groundbreaking hybrid procedure using both laparoscopy and endoscopy simultaneously, which allows us to reach tumors located in difficult areas of the stomach. In many cases, this procedure leads to the complete and safe removal of the tumor with fewer complications and/or long-term problems for the patient.

During the actual procedure, I begin by using laparoscopic tools to push the tumor from the outer side of the stomach so the more easily Dr. Willingham can grab the bulge from inside the stomach using an endoscopic cutting loop. I am able to push the tumor into the lumen of the stomach and Dr. Willingham successfully removes the tumor using a surgical snare technique. Next, Dr. Willingham pushes the area of the stomach where we removed the tumor from towards me. That allows me to hold the wall of the stomach and cut away any remaining tumor cells that may have been left behind.

By 10 a.m., the keyhole-sized incisions in the patient’s abdomen are being stitched closed. This particular operation is a complete success! We have safely removed the malignancy, leaving the patient’s lifestyle and ability to eat intact.

Emory was one of the first medical centers in the country to use this hybrid technique. We work closely with our colleagues in Gastroenterology to remove these complex tumors without requiring the patient to go through invasive surgery or complete organ removal.

While developing and performing innovative procedures like this is made easier by advanced technology and surgical techniques, a key to overall success is the multi-disciplinary team approach. While it helps that Dr. Willingham and I are friends outside of the operating room, it is very important as colleagues that we communicate and collaborate with one another, especially during complex cases such as this GIST surgery. Leaning on each other’s area of expertise, while sharing the same goal of doing what is best for our patient, leads to successful outcomes only achieved by working together.

See Dr. Maithel and Dr. Willingham performing this innovative procedure in the video below!

About Dr. Maithel

Shishir Maithel, MDShishir K. Maithel, MD, FACS, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology, Department of Surgery, Emory University School of Medicine, is a surgical oncologist at Winship Cancer Institute. Dr. Maithel specializes in treating gastrointestinal cancers, cancer of the liver, bile duct and pancreas, and retroperitoneal sarcoma. Dr. Maithel joined Emory in 2009 from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York where he completed his fellowship in both surgical oncology and hepatopancreatobiliary surgery. He completed his residency and internship at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Maithel earned his Medical Degree at the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine, graduating Alpha Omega Alpha.

Clinical Trials Responsible for Advances in Medical Treatment

Tamara Mobley, 38 and married with 8 and 12 year old sons, has been battling multiple myeloma for five years now under the care of Dr. Sagar Lonial at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. She went on a clinical trial at Winship in order to get the most advanced drug for treating this blood cancer. Because of that trial, the drug is now FDA-approved and is helping Tamara maintain her active life.

Clinical trials are responsible for most advances in medical treatment, but they can’t take place without volunteer participants like Tamara. Unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions about clinical trials that keep people from participating.

For instance, some believe joining a clinical trial is a last resort in the treatment process, which was not the case for Tamara and many other Winship patients. For Tamara, enrolling in a clinical trial was a good option once her standard cancer drugs stopped working.

In the video below, Fox 5 Atlanta talked to Tamara and Dr. Lonial about the decision to participate in a clinical trial.

Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

It is important to speak with your physician about participating in a clinical trial. For more information about a specific trial, please contact the lead research coordinator.

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Bringing Survivorship Tools Closer to Home – Winship at the Y(MCA)

Most people are aware of the important role proper diet and exercise plays in disease prevention and management. At the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, we strongly recommend our patients maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and sustain a healthy diet both during and after cancer diagnosis. We encourage this not only so our patients can feel stronger and healthier during cancer treatment and return to a healthier life after treatment, but also because scientific evidence shows that proper diet and regular physical activity can help lower the chances of cancer coming back.

In fact, the American Cancer Society just released new guidelines on Nutrition and Exercise for cancer survivors. As most survivors know, life after cancer is not always easy, and returning to what was once considered “normal” prior to their cancer diagnosis does not always happen. At Winship, we consider all of our patients survivors from day one. To help them navigate their survivorship journey, our physicians and care team members are committed to making sure all survivors have easy access to the wide variety of support and programs available to them.

Recently, our team at Winship has teamed up with the YMCA of Metro Atlanta to make another lifestyle and support resource available to our patients. Winship at the Y was established to provide cancer survivors with better access to specialized exercise programs. YMCA wellness coaches and staff will be trained by the team at Winship— including Winship’s nurse practitioners, physician assistants, social workers and dieticians—on the specific fitness and exercises needs of cancer survivors.

The program, which is unlike any other in the country, is open to any cancer survivor, not just patients at the Winship Cancer Institute. Joan Giblin, a family nurse practitioner and Director of Winship’s Survivorship Program, developed this program from her desire to provide easily accessible cancer support to survivors in their own communities.

To learn more about ‘Winship at the Y’, watch Joan talk with CBS Atlanta reporter Jennifer Mayerle in the video below:

“Winship at the Y” locations:

Cowart Family/Ashford Dunwoody YMCA
3692 Ashford Dunwoody Road
Atlanta, GA 30319
770-451-9622

Decatur Family YMCA
1100 Clairemont Avenue
Decatur, GA 30030
404-377-9622

Ed Isakson/Alpharetta Family YMCA
3655 Preston Ridge Road
Alpharetta, GA 30005
770-664-1220

Carl E. Sanders Family YMCA at Buckhead
1160 Moores Mill Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30327
404-350-9292

Summit Family YMCA
1765 East Highway 34
Newnan, GA 30265
770-254-9622

J.M. Tull-Gwinnett Family YMCA
2985 Sugarloaf Parkway
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
770-963-1313

Andrew and Walter Young Family YMCA
2220 Campbellton Road
Atlanta, GA 30311
404-523-9622