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Cancer Currents for July 2011

News and Notes from the Director

Though it is a long time coming and short in duration, summer in New Hampshire and Vermont is just glorious. In many ways, The Prouty defines my summer; there is Before The Prouty and After The Prouty. If you would like to get involved, there is room for everyone, whether as a participant or volunteer. This year, we'll have special stickers that say Norris Cotton Cancer Center STAFF for our shirts. I am consistently awed and proud of the massive staff commitment to The Prouty, and the stickers will demonstrate that pride. See you there!

After The Prouty, the slower pace of summer provides respite and time for reflection. Whether bobbing around in a little boat with a line in the water, riding a bike, or reading in the shade, gentle summer weather and longer days allow us to pause, refresh, regroup, and reflect on the science that drives the innovation characterizing our research programs and the patient focus that defines our clinical services. During the summer new ideas tend to emerge more clearly, and we develop research plans and novel strategies to advance cancer care. Autumn, in turn, brings a renewed focus and intensity for operationalizing the plans we have developed and drives new experimentation to fruition.

—Mark Israel, Director



New to the Leadership

Photo: Yolanda Sanchez, PhDJoining the Cancer Center's senior leadership as Associate Director for Basic Science is our superb researcher Yolanda Sanchez, PhD. Yoli's work with the model organisms yeast and mice has made significant contributions to our knowledge of the pathways that protect the integrity of our genome and pathways that could be targeted as the Achilles heel of cancer. Yoli's vision for the Basic Sciences includes the need to build and maintain excellence in basic science, as this provides the foundation for biomedical discoveries that can be translated into the clinic. She uses as an example the fact that many of the targets of drugs developed or under development to treat diseases such as cancer were first identified in model organisms such as yeast and flies, including one of the targets studied by the Sanchez laboratory.

Yoli also sees the need to foster communication between basic scientists and clinicians and to build on the strengths of the institutions in our region to create an infrastructure that facilitates the translation of basic science discoveries. This infrastructure would ensure that bench discoveries that could reduce the impact of cancer move to pre-clinical studies and to the clinic in a timely fashion.

"Appointing Yoli as the Associate Director for Basic Science affirms the Cancer Center's commitment to excellence in research," said Director Mark Israel. "Her strengths as a scientist have been demonstrated through her work studying DNA instability, and now we look forward to her leading our laboratory-based research programs and the translation of their scientific advances to assure evermore distinctive impacts on cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment." 

AACR: Great Days for NCCC in Southern California

The Cancer Center benefited from a remarkably large participation by our members at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) meeting held recently in southern California. Listing all of the poster session participants from NCCC would take all the rest of this web page—and still more space would be needed! Hearty and sincere congratulations to everyone from our Center who had a poster accepted at this prestigious and important meeting. Special note needs to be made of the poster titled "Combining bexarotene with erlotinib in window of opportunity and phase II trials causes lung cancer responses independent of KRAS mutations," prepared by Konstatin Dragnev, MD, Ethan Dmitrovsky, MD, James Rigas, MD, Greg Tsongalis, PhD, Vincent Memoli, MD, and their research assistants from DMS. This poster was accepted for a "late-breaking" (read: headline news) poster session, and describes some very significant research on a promising combination drug therapy for lung cancer. I hope you were able to attend the Grand Rounds lecture that Konstantin Dragnev and Karen Liby, PhD, shared in June on their AACR poster presentations. Back on April 28 and fresh from the meeting, Chery Whipple, PhD, and Alexey Danilov, MD, PhD, also shared a Grand Rounds lecture to present their AACR posters.

Photo: Marc Ernstoff, MDMedia for Marc

Congratulations to Marc Ernstoff, MD, our Associate Director for Clinical Research, for the recognition he received in connection with a comment he provided for a research article, newly published in the New England Journal of Medicine, on a novel melanoma therapy developed by a team led by Memorial Sloan-Kettering. As quoted in the Los Angeles Times, "The development of the drug 'is a major defining moment that will have an important effect on survival and quality of life,' wrote Dr. Marc E. Ernstoff of Dartmouth Medical School, in an editorial accompanying the report." The Times story was picked up nationwide, including in our local Valley News. Of course, an editorial accompanying a major research article in the prestigious NEJM is a significant publishing event in its own right. Read Marc's editorial at nejm.org.

Photo: Marie Bakitas, APRN, DNSc, AOCN, FAANMedia for Marie, Too

Marie Bakitas, APRN, DNSc, AOCN, FAAN, has also received some nice media recognition. The Institute of Medicine issued a report on improving the quality of oncology care through patient-centered treatment planning, and Marie was a member of a panel that discussed the new report at the National Cancer Policy Forum held earlier this year. As quoted in a story at nurse.com, "Nurses who specialize in oncology 'have several assets that can aid the communication process, including being trusted by and accessible to patients,' said panelist Marie Bakitas, APRN, DNSc, AOCN, FAAN, associate professor of anesthesiology at Dartmouth Medical School. Bakitas noted that a systematic review of 46 studies found that 'the nurses' role as information providers for patients with cancer is prominent, especially after the initiation of treatment, and that nurses are effective in providing information." Read the online version of the IOM report.

Discount for New Shared Resource Users

If you haven't used a Shared Resource because of cost, take advantage of a Cancer Center discount for new users. This program is already underway and will run through the end of this year. At News & Notes press time, Steve Bobin was still working out the final details, but it looks like the discount will be 20%.

Google It

Graphic: Google logo with "cancer nh" typed in search boxDid you know that the top 10 results in a Google search receive about 90% of all the clicks? Moreover, research has shown that Google users tend to believe that organizations on the first page of results are more important and trustworthy than those appearing lower. This is why the NCCC web team recently worked on a search engine optimization (SEO) project for the Cancer Center's web site. Although the algorithms search engines use to rank results are both complicated and ever-changing (not to mention top secret), there are a few tactics that tend to help get better rankings--and in the case of this SEO project, where some careful changes were made in key words, tags, and page titles, among other things, the results were fantastic! Take the search phrase "cancer vermont." We went from #21 to #5. Currently we're #1 for the phrase "cancer nh." Our ranking for the phrase "lung cancer new hampshire" went from #114 to #5. With more prominent results in Google, it will be much simpler for patients and others to find our Cancer Center. Nice job!

eLearning Modules Now Available, Oct. 31 Deadline

New eLearning modules for DHMC employees and DMS employees who work within a DHMC building have been announced, with an October 31 deadline for completion. For more information about the new modules and how to access eLearning, see the eLearning site on the DHMC intranet.

Cancer Center Jobs Open

The Cancer Center continues to grow in a number of ways, most especially in terms of people. We now have 152 members, each and every one doing terrific research and/or clinical work to fulfill our mission. We still have some posts open, including spots for a Biostatistician, Molecular Epidemiologist, Cancer Mechanisms Scientist, Women's Health Specialist, and positions in Cancer Control and Molecular Therapeutics. Email Brenda Berube at Brenda.K.T.Berube@dartmouth.edu for details. While we're on the subject of jobs, performance reviews for College employees are underway, and our completion rate is exemplary. Thank you to everyone who has helped in this effort.

Photo: Ira Byock, MDThank You, Ira!

Our Cancer Center's success is wholly attributable to people. This summer we are thanking, though not actually saying farewell, to one of the giants on our team.

Patient- and Family-Centered Care at the Cancer Center encompasses a continuum of programs and services that includes a range of support services, as well as survivor and palliative care. The contributions of Ira Byock, MD, to the science and practice of patient- and family-centered care have made significant improvements in patients' lives nationally and internationally. Ira has provided not just the information but the sustained passion to make patient- and family-centered care the standard for forward-thinking health providers. Though Ira is stepping down as Director of Patient- and Family-Centered Care at the Cancer Center, he will remain Director of Palliative Care and continue to see patients. In his stead, David Nalepinski will serve an interim appointment for Patient- and Family-Centered Care.

Service Milestones

Several Cancer Center staff have reached important milestones in the length of their Cancer Center careers. Laura Sims-Larabee hit the 25-year mark, a great testament to her dedication and loyalty to the Center. Amy Bernhardt and Steve Bobin both reached 15 years with us, and Aline Coffey, Susan Morgan, Rebecca Carson Rogers, and Andrea Tillotson all are at 10 years now. Congratulations to all of you, and thank you for your continued hard work and commitment.

Lots of Friends!

There is much to report on Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center activities, as our supporting organization gears up for The Prouty on July 8-9. The May 22 edition of the Valley News carried a wonderful 24-page supplement, written by our 8th floor Friends staff (Jean, Susan, Bruce, and Rebecca), highlighting the history and accomplishments of The Prouty on the occasion of its 30th year. Anything you want to know about The Prouty past and present is in there, a great read. Copies were distributed to all of our Cancer Center clinics in New Hampshire and Vermont. Second, the Friends branch in Manchester now has its own fully constituted board of directors. John Souther is the chairman, working with Christine Pariseau-Telge, program coordinator for Friends in Manchester. Third, the New Hampshire Union-Leader recently ran a large photo with caption featuring Brian Lavoie and Megan Delaney, who represented the Friends at a Young Professionals Network fair in Manchester, spreading the word about how young professionals can get involved with Friends and the Cancer Center. Finally, four new people have joined the Friends board of directors. We're extremely grateful for their commitment to the organization and to the Cancer Center—thank you!

Photo: Tulips of many colors in the sunA Survivors Day to Remember

Cancer Survivors Day on May 22 was a big success. Former Dartmouth First Lady Susan DeBevoise Wright gave the keynote address, and several useful educational presentations were made by Cancer Center staff and clinicians. Tom Rush, one of the most celebrated folksingers in America, gave a wonderful performance, too—but he wasn't outdone by our very own Michael Ward and Tom Davis! Email Steve Bjerklie at Steven.P.Bjerklie@Hitchcock.org if you'd like to borrow a DVD of the event. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this event, which is really enjoyed by our growing number of cancer survivors, come off so beautifully.

Upcoming Events

Grand Rounds is on hiatus for the summer, but July will feature several events of note for cancer professionals.

Of course, the Big Days are July 8-9, when The Friends of NCCC hosts The Prouty. This event has grown to become the largest fundraising event in northern New England, with well in excess of $2 million now raised each year. You can find everything you need to know at theprouty.org. See you there!