Posts Tagged ‘winship cancer institute’

Bringing the Invisible Into Georgia Classrooms

Microscope view of cellsOn many university campuses there is a dark room that has no windows and the walls are painted black. People wearing white lab coats enter and rest their eyes on top of what I think to be one the most magnificent instruments in a science laboratory, the microscope. These microscopes, which are no bigger than a desk but can cost more than a house, rest gently on a cushion of air and serve the purpose of making the invisible world, visible.

I was hooked the first time I peered into one of these microscopes. All of a sudden this entirely new and previously invisible world moved into focus right in front of me. Tiny creatures that I had apparently been living with, were visible for the first time. I eventually turned my obsession with the microscopic world into a career. I am a scientist at a major medical school and my laboratory’s research is to study how cancer cells work, with the goal of creating new cancer treatments. My team and I have killed cancer cells with new medicines, burst them open, blasted them with radiation, and blocked them from spreading. We do this with the hope that our research will lead to new cancer treatments, make older treatments better, or help diagnose cancer.

Now I have been trying to bring this fascination for microscopes and cells into the classrooms of children around the state of Georgia with my program Students for Science. Through this program I have traveled to over 200 K-12 classrooms and seen over 2000 children in about 35 schools. I usually travel with three microscopes, computers, and cameras, and I bring with me other Winship Cancer Institute scientists, scientists in training from our graduate school, and Emory University undergraduates. Our goal is to inspire critical thinking in K-12 schools by providing them with hands-on, thought-provoking science activities that use the microscope. We have worked with the school students to see their own cheek cells, pond water, microorganisms in dirt, moss, bugs, and plants. I also show them real science movies taken on the microscopes at Emory to promote critical thinking and age-appropriate discussion about science and cancer.

I think that all of us participating in the program believe in its potential long-term benefit of growing the next generation of Georgia scientists. One of our major goals is to have the school students see real scientists to make the possibility of becoming a scientist more tangible. In addition, for me personally it is the excitement and thrill that the children show the first time they peer down the microscope and observe cells zipping across the microscope slide. Some children show fascination, others bewilderment, and some just scream out loud. These reactions are priceless and motivate me to continue to grow the program, see more classrooms, and help educate our youngest scientists.

About Dr. Marcus
Dr. Adam MarcusAdam 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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Celebrating Volunteers at Winship

Winship Volunteers

This is National Volunteer Week (April 6 – 12), a great opportunity to thank the many people who volunteer their services here at Winship in order to make life better for cancer patients and their families.

On any given day, there may be 20 or more trained Winship volunteers helping patients and staff in the clinics, waiting rooms, treatment areas and Patient and Family Resource Center.  You can spot them escorting people around the building, offering snacks or companionship to patients in treatment, playing the piano in the lobby or a cello in the hallway.  They also perform many tasks behind the scenes, such as doing clerical work, keeping the resource center stocked, and providing encouragement and support through the Peer Partners program.

These Winship ambassadors can make a world of difference in a cancer patient’s day.  Our goal is to give patients the very best care possible, and volunteers help us do that.  Winship’s volunteer program was birthed a little over ten years ago when this building first opened.  It started with twelve volunteers; today, there are 150 dedicated people who work on-site.  And those original twelve are still here and serve as the Volunteer Board, which directs volunteer activities and resources.   Today’s volunteer staff includes former patients, patient family members, students and many others who want to give back.

DaVida Lee-Williams manages Guest & Volunteer Services on a day-to-day basis, as well for special events like the Winship Win the Fight 5K and the Celebration of Living.  She rallied over 280 for the 2013 Winship 5K and they made a real difference in how people experienced the race.  The fact is, we couldn’t do these activities without the devoted and enthusiastic work of volunteers. Lee-Williams says volunteers also gain from the experience.

“Volunteering is an opportunity to interact, create a sense of family with Winship patients and staff, and gain an understanding that people with cancer are more than just their disease,” Lee-Williams points out.

Volunteer services continue to grow.  Last fall, a new Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) Buddy Program was launched in order to help bone marrow transplant patients get through the preparatory tests and paperwork that have to be done in the two or three days prior to hospital check-in.

During this National Volunteer Week, I want to say thank you to the many individuals who give of their time, their talents and their hearts to Winship.  Volunteers are making a difference here and we’re grateful!

About Dr. Curran:
Walter J. Curran Jr., MDWalter J. Curran, Jr., MD, was appointed Executive Director of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in 2009. He joined Emory in January 2008, as the Lawrence W. Davis Professor and Chairman of Emory’s Department of Radiation Oncology. He also serves as Group Chairman and Principal Investigator of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), a National Cancer Institute-funded cooperative group, a position he has held since 1997. Curran has been named a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Chair in Cancer Research as well as a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar.

Dr. Curran has been a principal investigator on over thirty National Cancer Institute-supported grants and is considered an international expert in the management of patients with locally advanced lung cancer and malignant brain tumors. He has led several landmark clinical and translational trials in both areas and is responsible for defining a universally adopted staging system for patients with malignant glioma and for leading the randomized trial which defined the best therapeutic approach to patients with locally advanced lung cancer. He serves as the Founding Secretary/Treasurer of the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups and is a Board Member of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE). Dr. Curran is the only radiation oncologist to have ever served as Director of a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center.

Dr. Curran is a Fellow in the American College of Radiology and has been awarded honorary memberships in the European Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology. According to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, Dr. Curran ranked among the top ten principal investigators in terms of National Cancer Institute grant awards in 2013, and was first among investigators in Georgia, and first among cancer center directors.

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Winship Cancer Institute Launches New Ad

As you’re watching the Winter Olympics this month, keep an eye out for a new television ad spotlighting the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. The 60-second commercial depicts aging fighter jets as a metaphor for outdated cancer treatment. In contrast, Winship offers state-of-the-art care to tens of thousands of cancer patients every year.

As Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center, Winship serves the citizens of the Southeast by working tirelessly to prevent, treat and cure cancer. Patients are offered integrative, multi-disciplinary care that they could not receive anywhere else in the state. The ad notes that over the past seven years, Winship has led or participated in clinical trials for over 75-percent of new FDA-approved cancer treatments.

Last fall, Emory Healthcare began running a series of ads that look at what’s impacting the health care industry today and speaks to the way in which our dedicated teams provide care that includes the whole family. The tag line, “We’re all in this together,” is exemplified daily throughout Winship and the greater Emory Healthcare Network. The compassion and dedication of the doctors, nurses and supportive care teams are unmatched as we strive to meet the unique needs of every patient and family who seek care in one of our facilities. Through the discoveries made possible by a dedicated team of many of the nation’s best physicians and researchers, Winship at Emory is working toward a future when science triumphs over cancer.

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Tackling Cancer on World Cancer Day*

World Cancer DayWe experience the burden of cancer here in Georgia and throughout the U.S., but cancer is not just an American problem. It is the leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, cancer accounted for 7.6 million deaths (about 13% of all deaths) in 2008 and that number is projected to rise to 13.1 million deaths in 2030.

Every day, my Winship colleagues and I seek to identify better ways to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure cancer. Fortunately, we do not work in isolation. Our efforts are part of a global collaborative of cancer researchers and doctors, and one of the most rewarding aspects of this work is joining forces with scientists from all over the world who are committed to a shared goal of ending cancer.

Imagine a global community of scientists in continual conversation about the most up-to-date mindset for treating cancer. We are a vital part of that conversation.

I made two international trips late last year which captured the spirit of collaboration in cancer research. One trip was to Australia, stopping first at the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Sydney, and then on to Brisbane, where a unique partnership called the Queensland Emory Development Alliance (QED) is bringing together outstanding researchers from Emory, The University of Queensland (UQ) and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), to collaborate on new research projects primarily in the realm of cancer and infectious disease.

Several Winship faculty including William Dynan and Dennis Liotta are currently collaborating on cancer research projects with new colleagues at UQ and QIMR. My visit to Brisbane has resulted in early work towards furthering these and other collaborations. The World Conference on Lung Cancer in Sydney highlighted a number of important findings in our struggle against the leading cancer killer resulting from work conducted among my colleagues in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

In December, I flew to Chengdu, China, as a guest of the Chinese Society of Radiation Oncology (CSTRO) to deliver the keynote address at the annual CSTRO Symposium. As evidenced in this conference and in my subsequent visits to large cancer centers in Bejing and Jinan, there have been remarkable advances in cancer research and cancer care in China. There is also a tremendous level of collaboration between investigators at major Chinese universities and faculty at Winship and other major American cancer centers. Currently my colleagues and I are working each week on a clinical trial underway at eight Chinese cancer centers, comparing stereotactic radiation to surgery for patients with early stage lung cancer. I had a chance to meet with all of my colleagues conducting this research in China during my visit there and to celebrate this progress!

I’m extremely proud of the work performed here at Winship that contributes to advancing cancer research throughout the world. International conferences, as well as the many times we host scientists from other countries here on the Emory campus, enable us to share information and resources and benchmark our own contributions. But it’s when I return to Winship and see patients who are benefiting from discoveries made by my colleagues here and elsewhere, the value of collaboration truly hits home.

Seeing even one patient improve from the advances we make in cancer research and treatment is a reward worth sharing with the world.

*February 4th is World Cancer Day, when international health organizations support the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) in promoting ways to ease the global burden of cancer. This year’s theme, “Debunk the myths,” focuses on improving general knowledge about cancer in order to reduce stigma and dispel misconceptions about the disease. More information: http://www.worldcancerday.org

Author: Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD, executive director, Winship Cancer Institute

About Dr. Walter Curran
Walter J. Curran Jr., MDWalter J. Curran, M.D. was appointed Executive Director of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in 2009. He joined Emory in January 2008, as the Lawrence W. Davis Professor and Chairman of Emory’s Department of Radiation Oncology. He also serves as Group Chairman and Principal Investigator of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), a National Cancer Institute-funded cooperative group, a position he has held since 1997. Curran has been named a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Chair in Cancer Research as well as a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar.

Dr. Curran has been a principal investigator on over thirty National Cancer Institute-supported grants and is considered an international expert in the management of patients with locally advanced lung cancer and malignant brain tumors. He has led several landmark clinical and translational trials in both areas and is responsible for defining a universally adopted staging system for patients with malignant glioma and for leading the randomized trial which defined the best therapeutic approach to patients with locally advanced lung cancer. He serves as the Founding Secretary/Treasurer of the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups and is a Board Member of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE). Dr. Curran is the only radiation oncologist to have ever served as Director of a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center.

Dr. Curran is a Fellow in the American College of Radiology and has been awarded honorary memberships in the European Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology and the Canadian Association of Radiation Oncology. According to the Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, Dr. Curran ranked among the top ten principal investigators in terms of National Cancer Institute grant awards in 2013, and was first among investigators in Georgia, and first among cancer center directors.

Winship: Year in Review

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory UniversityAs we near the end of 2013, it’s common to reflect on events from the past year, both the challenging and the inspiring. For the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, it was an exciting year as strides were made in many areas, including enrolling over 800 patients in clinical trials, breaking ground on the Emory Proton Therapy Center, performing our 4,000th bone marrow and stem cell transplant and continuing to pioneer exciting research discoveries, such as the development of drug therapies aimed to cure brain cancer.

Winship opened its doors in 1937 and was the first center to provide advanced care for cancer patients in the Southeast. Today, as Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute – designated cancer center, Winship is among the nation’s leading institutions as it continues to pursue a future where cancer ceases to exist.

Through the generosity of donations of any size, as well as fundraising events like the Winship Win the Fight 5K, the physicians, staff and researchers at Winship are working harder than ever to achieve that goal for the residents of Georgia and beyond. The video below recaps some of the 2013 achievements as we prepare to welcome 2014 with eagerness and hopefulness!

Winship Cancer Institute Recognized for “Exceptional Contributions” to Advancing Research and Treatment of Multiple Myeloma

A team of researchers from Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University has been awarded the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) Accelerator Award. The award recognizes Sagar Lonial, MD, Jonathan Kaufman, MD, Ajay Nooka, MD, MPH, Lawrence Boise, PhD and Leon Bernal-Mizrachi, MD, for their “outstanding efforts and exceptional contributions to starting new clinical trials supported through the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC) and rapidly enrolling patients in those trials.”

Emory researchers receive MMRF award

From left to right: Beverly Harrison, Vice President of Clinical Development at the MMRC, Dr. Leon Bernal-Mizrachi and Dr. Jonathan Kaufman of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, and Walter M. Capone, Chief Operating Officer of the MMRF.

The MMRC is a non-profit organization that brings together 16 leading academic institutions with a focus on accelerating drug development in multiple myeloma. Out of the 16 institutions, Winship earned best overall performance for 2013. In addition to these honors, Lonial was recognized for his exceptional leadership of the MMRC Steering Committee, PRC and the MMRF CoMMpass℠ Study Steering Committee.

Charitable Dollars are at Work Each and Every Day at Winship

Giving to WinshipPrivate philanthropy drives discovery at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. Thanks in large part to the generosity of donors, we offer patients in Georgia and beyond with advanced cancer care and treatments. As the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center in Georgia, our patients have access to the latest in cancer care and clinical trials. In fact, last year alone we saw 12,500 new patients and enrolled 800 people in clinical studies.

Support from donors enables Winship physicians and researchers to remain on the frontline of cancer research and treatment. We have seen unprecedented progress in all areas of our operation, and such development means we need the support of our donors now more than ever before. Charitable dollars are at work each and every day at Winship. For example:

  • Nabil Saba, MD, FACP, leads a grant-supported team seeking to identify genetic mutations linked to head and neck cancer caused by HPV infection.
  • Renee Read, MD, received a grant to study the role of a particular gene in brain tumor invasion and proliferation.
  • Carla Berg, PhD, is working with cancer survivors to implement healthy lifestyle interventions, focusing on smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity and mood regulation.

As the competition for government grants continues to increase and funding continues to decrease, ongoing philanthropic support for translational research, which results in further funding is crucial. Gifts of any size enable us to pursue our ambitious goals and aid significantly in the fight against cancer. The generosity of our supporters and friends has allowed us to grow into what we are today, and, with your support, our progress will continue as we hold steadfast to our mission of eliminating cancer altogether.

Walter J. Curran Jr., MD

 

Yours,

Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD
Executive Director, Winship Cancer Institute

 

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Lung Cancer: Not Just a Disease of Smokers

Cigarette smoking is the main risk factor for most patients who develop lung cancer; however, some patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked a cigarette. Physicians today are seeing more non-smokers and light smokers with lung cancer. Why do these people get lung cancer?

We now understand that exposure to secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer, in fact, even passive exposure to tobacco smoke increases your risk for developing lung cancer. Secondhand smoke is responsible for 3,000 lung cancer related deaths a year in the United States, and there’s a 20 to 30% increased risk of developing lung cancer for nonsmokers living with a smoker. This is why so many cities have passed laws to limit smoking in restaurants, bars and clubs. Many workplaces are also becoming tobacco-free to protect the health of their employees.

Other environmental exposures besides tobacco smoke have been associated with lung cancer including chemicals used in some workplaces, such as asbestos, tar and soot and heavy metals like chromium, nickel and arsenic. There has also been an association with radon gas and lung cancer, especially in people exposed to high levels of radon, such as uranium miners. People who have been exposed to large doses of radiation, like atomic bomb survivors in Japan, also have a higher risk of lung cancer. It is still unclear how much of a factor air pollution plays in developing lung cancer.

Family history can also impact chances of being diagnosed with lung cancer. There is almost a two fold increased risk of lung cancer in a person with a family history and this risk is even higher if more than two relatives in a family have lung cancer. We still have not identified a particular gene that is passed on in these families that makes them more prone to lung cancer; however, at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, genetic testing is now given to every patient diagnosed with lung cancer to identify specific mutations in tumor tissue that may inform treatment decisions.

Research has identified genetic mutations in lung cancers from people who have never smoked or are/were light smokers. These mutations are not inherited, rather they originate in the lung tissue and create lung cancer. Interestingly enough, mutations in the epidermal growth factor (EGFR) and ALK genes have been found more frequently in lung cancer patients who never smoked. These patients can be treated with drugs that target these specific mutations.

Researchers at the Winship Cancer Institute are also involved in more extensive genetic testing of tumors to find other mutations that could explain why non-smokers develop lung cancer. Understanding more about these genetic changes and other factors will help us be able to treat all lung cancer, particularly those in non-smokers, with better, more personalized treatments.

About Dr. Pillai:

Dr. Rathi PillaiRathi Pillai, MD, is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology. She joined the faculty after graduating from Emory University’s Hematology/Oncology fellowship program in 2013, where she served as chief fellow from 2012-2013. Dr. Pillai earned her medical degree from the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical School and completed her residency in internal medicine at Emory University. She is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Association for Cancer Research, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, and the American College of Physicians. Dr. Pillai’s research interests are in novel therapies in lung cancer, including PD-1 targeted agents, and phase I drug development.

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Honoring the Life of a Winship Team Member in the Vaughn-Jordan Healing Garden

Julie Leff

Julie Leff

When beloved Winship nurse Julie Leff passed away in May, director of nursing, Kevin Schreffler, and his colleagues wanted to honor her legacy. Described by her peers as “calm, wise and the kind of person who always did more than asked of her,” Julie’s selfless heart not only touched her patients on a daily basis, but also her fellow team members, whom she continuously supported and inspired, even when she was undergoing her own cancer treatment.

“It is not often at Winship that we are faced with the loss of one of our own team members – who we often think of as our own family,” Schreffler says.  “In those times, we all come together to support one another, offer comfort, and think of ways to honor the memory of the individual.”

Paver in honor of Julie Leff

To demonstrate the impact Julie had on those she worked with, Kevin and Julie’s closest peers got together and purchased a commemorative brick to go in Winship’s Vaughn-Jordan Healing Garden. “The Vaughn-Jordan Healing Garden is often where we reflect on those memories,” says Schreffler referring to memories with Julie. “The garden is truly a means of healing for patients, families and the whole Winship Team.”

Julie’s husband and daughters are also honoring her memory with a commemorative stone, and on Monday, October 28, the two new pavers were installed in the Garden.

Many people visiting Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University benefit from the beautiful and serene environment of the Vaughn-Jordan Healing Garden. What makes the space even more special are the personalized pavers that line the garden featuring names of donors, loved ones and friends of Winship. Each paver is tied to an incredible story. Some pavers honor the lost lives of people like Julie, while others recognize the special individuals within Winship who “pave the way” for our patients and their families each day.

Healing Gardens at the Winship Cancer Institute

There is still space left in the Vaughn-Jordan Healing Garden for more commemorative stone pavers. If you would like to honor a loved one with a personalized paver, or simply want more information, please visit our Healing Garden website, or call 404-712-9233.

Why We Run: A New Type of Togetherness

Bari Ellen & Charles RossBari Ellen and Charles Roberts always had a strong marriage. Togetherness was a major goal for the couple, who married in late midlife. Their shared experience of running a restaurant together, traveling together and moving across country to Arizona for a new life adventure strengthened their bond.

Their togetherness took a wayward turn in 2009, however, when the husband and wife were each diagnosed with cancer within two days of one another. Charles had been sick for months, but doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong. Bari Ellen, who was feeling great physically, had gone to yet another doctor’s appointment with her husband. Charles suggested to the doctor that perhaps he just had an infection, as his wife seemed to have an infection, too.

“She’s got a lump on her neck. Maybe we both just have an infection,” Charles said.

The doctor took one look at the lump on Bari Ellen’s neck and said, “Make an appointment with the receptionist tomorrow.” It was a good thing that she did.

“They did a biopsy, and the doctor told me I had head and neck cancer and that it was pretty far gone. He said he didn’t know what he could do for me,” Bari Ellen remembered.

Her cancer was staged at 4B and the prognosis was poor. Two days after Bari Ellen received her bad news, lab results for Charlie came back announcing that he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL.

“We were in a swirl,” Bari Ellen said. “It just came out of nowhere.”

Within a week, Bari Ellen went to Atlanta at the suggestion of her daughter, who works at Emory, to get a second opinion. Her daughter had told her that maybe the couple could find hope and better news at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

“Once we got to Winship and saw their compassion and dedication and their sense of purpose, we got a sense of purpose and hope, too,” Bari Ellen said. “They gave us an action plan; they didn’t just write me off. We knew we had a fight before us, but we knew we could win it.”

Today, as survivors for four years, the Rosses are retired, enjoying grandchildren, exercising, volunteering and taking care to eat healthfully. They are also running races and this year, both of them are registered for the Winship Win the Fight 5K on October 5th. The couple have formed a team called the Ross Re-Missionaries, and are recruiting as many friends and family members as they can.

“After everything we’ve been through, and after everything they’ve done, I said ‘We’re going to start giving back,’” Bari Ellen said.

The randomness of their diagnoses helps the Rosses to understand the importance of cancer research, which is another reason they strongly support the Winship Win the Fight 5K. All money goes to cancer research at Winship and donors can choose a specific cancer type to which they would like to contribute.

“Our doctors were so phenomenal and did so much for us that we want to do whatever we can,” Bari Ellen said. “They saved our lives.”

The Winship Win the Fight 5K is fast upon us! If you want to run or simply help support other runners like the Roberts, visit the Winship 5K website for more information.

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