Cancer Currents for May 2012

News and Notes from the Director
Photo: Mark Israel, Director of Norris Cotton Cancer Center

Cancer research is an iterative process. Progress is usually the result of months or years of focused experimentation. Revelatory, apple-falling-from-a-tree moments are mostly the stuff of legend. Our colleague Margaret Foti, PhD, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the American Association of Cancer Research and was our Grand Rounds speaker on April 26, put it well in a 2009 op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer when she wrote, "… [G]reat science doesn't just happen. It begins with a fundamental observation or hypothesis and develops over years into clinical advances that improve our ability to prevent and cure diseases. The gap between the laboratory and the bedside is narrowing, but the process still involves an extraordinary mix of scientific insight, curiosity, hard work, and dedication."

Few people grasp the intellectual commitment, intensive work, and seemingly endless hours contributing to most incremental advances in scientific knowledge. So it is with a special sense of joy that I learned of recent recognition that the Cancer Center investigators have received for their outstanding science and discoveries.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) is continuing its generous support of scientific investigation in the Cancer Center through the Institutional Research Grant program, providing funding for five awards annually to Cancer Center investigators. Many of our scientists, including Ethan Dmitrovsky and Mary Jo Turk, cite well-timed ACS awards as vital to their careers.

Nationally, work from many Cancer Center investigators has been recognized for presentation at important conferences, including the AACR, ASCO, and ASH. These conferences are forums where potentially significant ideas garner interest from others and new directions are charted. Since we believe and participate in team science and collaborate with cancer investigators from around the world, these well-attended cancer research conferences are vital to all of our work.

Here at the Cancer Center, we will recognize exemplary research with the First Annual Norris Cotton Cancer Center Awards for Excellence. The first such awards, which can be to an individual or a team, are the result of nominations from our research program leaders. Another round of awards recognizing those who work in the clinical oncology groups will be presented in the fall. Look for the Award for Excellence plaques on display after May 1.

Whether recognition for excellence comes in the form of a grant, publication, presentation, or plaque for display on the wall of a lab, it marks significant intellectual investment, time on task, personal sacrifice, and great success. You are a truly outstanding group of colleagues, and I am proud to work among you.

Mark Israel, Director

New Nursing Leadership at the Cancer Center
Photo: Susan DiStasio, APN, Administrative Director for Nursing

We are delighted to announce that Susan DiStasio, APN, has accepted the position of Administrative Director for Nursing at Norris Cotton Cancer Center. This position integrates all aspects of nursing in our cancer service line. Susan will be responsible for our Advanced Nurse Practitioners, inpatient operations (1 West & HSCU), outpatient operations (infusion, hem/onc, rad onc, clinical research), and regional nursing operations (St. Johnsbury, Manchester, and Nashua). She comes to us with rich academic credentials—MS, ANP-C, APRN, and AOCNP—and will graduate in December 2012 with a DNP from Northeastern University in Boston. Susan also has a rich oncology background in ambulatory, inpatient, and home care, and as a clinical nurse specialist and clinical research nurse. She has worked previously in several clinical and administrative leadership positions at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Yale University, community hospitals, and in private practice. Susan will be transitioning from her current role as an inpatient APN to her new role over the next several weeks.

This is an opportunity, too, to thank Gay Bailey for acting as the Interim Administrative Director, carrying the nursing organization forward for the past several months. Gay has been extremely helpful to Dartmouth-Hitchcock and the Cancer Center.

Susan's new position, which reports to both Linda von Reyn, Chief Nursing Officer for Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and Michael Ward, Vice President for Cancer Programs, is part of a major restructuring of nursing at the Cancer Center. Reporting to Susan will be Ginny Bayliss, the new Nurse Manager of inpatient and outpatient services, hem/onc, and bone marrow transplant in One West; Sara Simeone, the new Nurse Manager for clinics and research; Martha Brown, the new Nurse Manager of the infusion suite; Cindy Stageman, Acting Nurse Manager for rad onc; Cathy Rodriguez, new Clinical Specialist for inpatient and outpatient services; and Diane Stearns, Lead Nurse Practitioner. Susan notes that "this is the first time all of these positions have been brought together as one team in the hospital. It's a great opportunity for better, more steamlined care." 

It's also a great opportunity to note that National Nurse's Week begins May 6 this year and concludes May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Let's all take a moment during the week to thank the extraordinary nurses that provide such valuable clinical care to our Cancer Center patients and their families.

ACS Awards Grants
Logo: American Cancer Society

On April 9, Norris Cotton Cancer Center welcomed a large contingent from the American Cancer Society (ACS) to present this year's awards for the Institutional Research Grants. Six researchers will be supported with $150,000 in funding for 2012, the final year of a three-year award from ACS.

"This public forum is a wonderful opportunity for research supporters to hear about the impact of their contribution and for researchers to express gratitude," said Bob Gerlach, Associate Director for Administration and Scientific Affairs. "It also publicizes the multiplier effect. Doing a pilot or preliminary study can lay the foundation for a larger investigation. "

Congratulations to:

  • Gevorg Grigoryan: "Designing an inhibitor of colon-cancer inducer LPA2"
  • Nancy Kuemmerle: "Dietary fat and tumor biology of liposarcoma"
  • Brock Christensen: "Epigenetic alterations in breast cancer progression"
  • Samir Soneji: "Health-related quality of life in lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancer patients."
  • Anna Adachi-Mejia: "New technology and participator action to support cancer prevention in local communities: a follow-up study"
  • Pradeep Sathyanarayana: "Unique STAT5 microRNA targets in acute myeloid leukemia"

Past award winners presented overviews of their funded projects:

  • Brent Berwin: "Ovarian cancer inhibitions by depletion of myeloid-derived suppressor cells"
  • Scott Gerber: "Quantitative proteomics to study polo-like kinase 1 dysregulation in cancer"
  • Judy Rees: "Subsequent malignancy after nonmelanoma skin cancer"
  • Anna Adachi-Mejia: "New technology and participatory action to support cancer prevention in local communities"
Goodbye to Good Friends

The Cancer Center is losing two of its best friends this month. Ray Dauphinais, the Laboratory and Facilities Coordinator for research activities at the Cancer Center, has been promoted to Finance Center Specialist at the Geisel School of Medicine Finance Center. Ray has been a superb organizer for our research teams, presiding over a veritable United Nations on the sixth and seventh floors of the Rubin Building at DHMC. We will miss his equanimous, soft-spoken way of solving even the most complex problems.

Up in St. Johnsbury, practice manager Lory Grimes, RN, BS, MEd, is moving on at the end of April to a new position at Northern Vermont Regional Hospital. Lory has helped guide our St. J clinic to become a crucially important cancer-care facility in the North Country by paying close attention to the particular needs of the local population.

When you have a chance in the next couple of day, wish Ray and Lory well on their exciting new opportunities.

Logo: Oncolution - redefining quality care together
"Oncolution": Redefining Quality Care

Following an external, comprehensive assessment of the Hematology/Oncology Clinic, the Cancer Center Pharmacy, and Oncology Infusion Suite operations completed in January 2012, many opportunities for improvement in our workflow, patient and staff experience, physical layout/design, and communication processes were identified. We are committed to improving these processes in order to meet our system goals of:

  • Increasing safety (zero errors that reach the patient)
  • Providing reliable, standardized processes
  • Decreasing waits and delays for patients
  • Increasing patient/family and staff satisfaction
  • Increasing productivity while decreasing costs

We will accomplish this system-wide process improvement work over the course of 2012 through the deployment of three project teams, each designed to work on different portions of the system. Team 1 will address the "front-end" and preparation for clinic and/or infusion visits; Team 2 will address the Cancer Center Pharmacy operations; and Team 3 will address the Hem/Onc Clinic and Infusion Suite scheduling processes and daily operations. Team 1 was launched in early April, Team 3 will launch next in early June, and Team 2 is expected to launch by early fall. Each team will be resourced with a project coach (Black Belt/improvement expert) from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Value Institute, a project manager, a team leader (Green Belt trained), financial and measurement consultation, and team members who perform the work on a day-to-day basis and are most knowledgeable about the current processes. Each team will have two to four sponsors who will provide guidance and direction, ensure sufficient resources are available to do the work, and remove barriers for success, if necessary.

Each week the teams will be sending regular updates about their improvement work via emails and bulletin boards; there will also be a new blog. We encourage you to keep informed, ask questions, and offer your assistance by brainstorming improvement ideas, collecting data, piloting new processes, etc. We call this initiative "Oncolution" because only through all of our collective efforts will we redefine quality care for Cancer Center patients and staff.

Photo: Varian linear accelerator
New Linear Accelerator

Good news: Funding for a new linear accelerator for DHMC in Lebanon has been approved. The $4 million-plus capital expenditure will secure the accelerator from True Beam Varian, which is custom-building the accelerator to Dartmouth-Hitchcock's specifications. The new unit will provide more precise treatment with less tissue and organ damage—it will be especially good for left-breast cancer treatment, avoiding the heart. The unit is scheduled to be installed in about six months.

New Chemotherapy Video for Patients

An excellent new chemotherapy patient education video is the result of an 18-month quality initiative led by Cindy Cameron. In plain language and with excellent production values, the new video will prove to be highly informative and useful for our patients.

Credit also goes to volunteers Mary and Michael Turner and Sandy Lang, RN, for acting. It was produced by D-H Media Services—Andy Hamel, John Gormley, and Tom Kidder. Evelyn Schlosser from the Cancer Center's quality program was also involved.

Melanoma Research Grant Awarded to Eleanor Clancy-Thompson
Photo: David Mullins, PhD (left); Eleanor Clancy-Thompson, PhD candidate (center); and Mark Israel, MD, Director of the Cancer Center

David Mullins, PhD (left); Eleanor Clancy-Thompson, PhD candidate (center); and Director Mark Israel, MD

The Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation has presented Eleanor Clancy-Thompson, a PhD candidate at Geisel School of Medicine and an assistant in the Cancer Center lab of David Mullins, PhD, with one of nine nationally competitive Research Scholar Awards that support exceptional graduate students and provide recognition to their lab directors/PIs, schools, and cancer research institutions. The $10,000 melanoma research scholarships significantly enhance the potential for advancements in the melanoma cancer field to benefit the broad academic, scientific, clinical, and patient communities. Eleanor's research focuses on improving the targeting of immune cells to tumors, which may have a positive impact on patient outcomes in immune therapy for metastatic melanoma.

"Eleanor is an incredibly talented student who is making important contributions to the field of melanoma immunotherapy," said Dr. Mullins, who added that the award "provides external validation of Eleanor's skills and talents, which will increase the likelihood that Eleanor will pursue an independent career in melanoma research.  Eleanor is a deserving student, and we are grateful for the Foundation's support."

OpticsPlanet Donates Compact Refrigerated Centrifuge
Logo: OpticsPlanet

Ryan Collins, a research assistant and lab manager at the Cancer Center, has been focusing on the molecular pathways involving p62 in chronic lymphomic leukemia. "We work with a lot of patient samples from patients with this disease. However, recently we have adjusted our main focus onto a different project involving a potentially new type of chemotherapy treatment using a drug called dinaciclib, a cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) and a key positive regulator of cell cycle," he says. Key to the work is an effective centrifuge. Working with Tammy Watkins of OpticsPlanet, Ryan was able to arrange for a donation of an Eppendorf compact refrigerated centrifuge valued at $6,000. "The addition of this instrument gives us the opportunity to perform our work with a much more accurate piece of equipment, allowing us to work with much greater precision and efficiency," he says. Big thanks to Tammy and OpticsPlanet for this generous donation.

Button: Dartmouth-Hitchcock Employee Giving Campaign 2012
2012 Employee Giving Campaign Launches May 1

"Anything I can do to make Dartmouth-Hitchcock more successful is a good thing—for me, for my family, and for those within our region," says Jona Roberts, engineering manager at DHMC and co-chair of the 2012 Employee Giving Campaign for Dartmouth-Hitchcock and the Geisel School of Medicine. The campaign launches May 1 and runs until June 30. Employees can give to what matters most to them, whether that be cancer research, patient and family services, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Annual Fund, or any other existing fund or program. Gifts to The Prouty, the CHaD Half, and other fundraising events also count toward the Employee Giving Campaign.

To make a gift by payroll deduction, check, or credit card, visit the D-H Employee Giving Campaign website.

Questions? Please contact Amy Schrom at 653-0745 or

Upcoming Events of Note
Logo: Relay for Life - American Cancer Society
Relay for Life - Dartmouth/Hanover/Lebanon, April 28

Relay for Life celebrates cancer survivors, remembers those we have lost, and gives everyone a chance to fight back against cancer. Relay is a community event where teams of friends, families, schools, businesses, and organizations take turns walking overnight at a local track. Special activities, ceremonies, and entertainment make it a fun and moving experience. All teams raise money to help the American Cancer Society fight every cancer, in every community, every day.

For more information, call (800) 227-2345 or visit or

Dartmouth College
Leverone Fieldhouse
10 N. Main Street, Hanover, NH

Saturday, April 28, 2012
3:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.

Photo banner: Bald Is Beautiful
Bald is Beautiful Fundraising Event, May 5

Bald is Beautiful raises funds for Norris Cotton Cancer Center Keene. Participants gather donations from sponsors and, in turn for that support, have their head shaved by MJD & Co. Hair Design on May 5, 2012, in Walier Chevrolet's show room. You do not have to shave your head to raise money for this great event.

Walier Chevrolet
195 Winchester St.
Keene, NH

Saturday May 5, 2012
9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Logo: Total Image 5K/10K Road Race
Total Image 5K/10K Road Race, May 5

The Total Image 5K/10K Road Race benefits, in part, Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Make sure to stick around for the post-race celebration, sponsored by Jillian's Billiards Club, including live entertainment, food for the runners, and raffles.

Registration cost is $20 for the 5K and $30 for the 10K. Register online before May 4 at

The Start/Finish line is at Jillian's Billiards Club
50 Phillippe Cote Street
Manchester, NH

Saturday May 5, 2012
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

A Legacy of Leadership and Discovery, May 10

On May 10, the Cancer Center will celebrate the establishment of the O. Ross McIntyre, MD, Endowed Professorship at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth with a special symposium, "A Legacy of Leadership and Discovery." Following welcoming remarks by Cancer Center director Mark Israel, MD, presentations will include Steven Gillis, PhD, speaking on "McIntyre as Mentor"; Marc Ernstoff, MD, discussing "This is Not Your Grandfather's BRM"; and Konstantin Dragnev, MD, talking about "Lung Cancer: From Bench to Bedside." The event, which begins at 4:00 p.m. and will be held in Auditorium E at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, concludes with O. Ross McIntyre, MD, who in addition to being the emeritus director of the Cancer Center is an avowed canoeist, addressing "Motion's Reward: Why We Paddle."

O. Ross McIntyre is internationally known for his contributions to hematology and oncology and for his leadership of the Cancer Center from 1974 to 1992. His vision to create a collaborative, multi-disciplinary cancer center was ahead of his time and led Norris Cotton Cancer Center to become the twenty-second Comprehensive Cancer Center in the nation. He is an expert in cellular immunology and large clinical trials focusing on the treatment of leukemia and multiple myeloma. As the chair of the national Cancer and Leukemia Group B, he helped pioneer studies linking the molecular and genetic characteristics of tumors with patient outcomes. Dr. McIntyre has held several prominent positions including chair of the NCCC Review Committee of the National Cancer Institute and president of the American Association of Cancer Institutes. He is the recipient of numerous awards and an author on more than 200 publications. Dr. McIntyre graduated from Dartmouth College in 1953 and the Medical School in 1955. He earned his MD at Harvard in 1957 and trained at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and at Mary-Hitchcock Memorial Hospital.

Receptions will precede and follow the symposium. For more information, please contact Vicky Jensen at (603) 653-0726 or

Logo: Relay for Life - American Cancer Society
Relay for Life - Greater Nashua/Hudson, May 18

Alvirne High School
200 Derry Road
Hudson, NH

Friday, May 18, 2012
6:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m.

For more information, call (800) 227-2345 or visit or

SYNERGY Certificate Program for Translational Research Methods, June 11-15
Logo: Synergy Dartmouth Center for Clinical and Translational Science

This year's SYNERGY Certificate Program for Translational Research Methods includes two components: (1) A morning session devoted to general resources for and approaches to clinical and translational research at Dartmouth; and (2) Midday and afternoon sessions designed to help early-career clinical investigators develop the skills and strategies to secure independent research funding. These students will attend both morning and afternoon sessions.

For more information contact Christopher Bolka, SYNERGY Administration, at (603) 650-5820 or