Zubrod Memorial Lecture Program Spotlights Faculty and Young Investigators

Six Miller School of Medicine physician-scientists were recognized for their contributions to cancer research and treatment as part of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 16th Annual Zubrod Memorial Lecture and Cancer Research Poster Session on May 15. It was the first time multiple faculty awards have been part of the program.

Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., Sylvester’s Director, hosted the afternoon-long event, whose featured speaker was Arul M. Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D., a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, American Cancer Society Research Professor, and S.P. Hicks Endowed Professor of Pathology and Urology at the University of Michigan.

“The Zubrod lecture has been held since 2000 to honor Dr. C. Gordon Zubrod, founding director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center,” said Nimer. “This lecture has become a signature event for the cancer center, featuring world class investigators. Dr. Zubrod’s name is also connected to a widely used assessment scale for performance of cancer patients, known as the Zubrod scale. Under his leadership, chemotherapy evolved as a standard treatment for cancer. The principles established by his team remain valid.”

Zubrod’s son, Justin, attended the event.

“This is always a proud day for Sylvester,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School, and CEO of UHealth. “Our ability to attract renowned speakers demonstrates that the world’s best scientists consider Sylvester one of the cancer centers that is doing truly cutting-edge research. Our new faculty awards recognize some of the best of that work, and the poster session highlights the significant contributions being made by investigators in the early stages of their careers.”

Chinnaiyan’s lecture was titled “The Application of Integrative Sequencing for Precision Oncology.” His research has focused on functional genomic and bioinformatics approaches to study cancer for the purposes of understanding cancer biology as well as to discover clinical biomarkers. His team has characterized a number of important biomarkers of prostate cancer including AMACR, EZH2, the sarcosine metabolite, and most recently the long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) Schlap1. His landmark study thus far is the discovery of TMPRSS2-ETS gene fusions in prostate cancer — a finding that potentially redefines the molecular basis of prostate cancer, as well as other common epithelial cancers.

The six faculty members who received awards were:

Basic Scientist of the Year
Ronald C. Desrosiers, Ph.D., professor of pathology and Director of Research Faculty Development, led the team at Harvard Medical School that discovered the simian immunodeficiency virus in 1984 and was senior author of its publication in the journal Science in 1985. He also discovered the KSHV-related gamma-2 herpesvirus of rhesus monkeys now used as a model for KSHV infection of humans. He Desrosiers is a strong advocate for basic and discovery research in the world’s AIDS vaccine efforts.

Clinical Researcher of the Year
Alan Pollack M.D., Ph.D., professor and Chair of Radiation Oncology, Service Chief of Radiation Oncology at Jackson Memorial Hospital and Co-leader of the NRG GU Translational Research Program, has research interests that have centered on prostate cancer management with radiotherapy and androgen deprivation, with an emphasis on dose escalation, hypofractionation, imaging and biologic biomarkers, and sensitizing targeted agents (small molecule/gene therapy/ viral vectors). He has been the lead PI on a number of clinical trials, including currently active institutional protocols and a large national cooperative group trial (RTOG/NRG 0534).

Community-Based Researcher of the Year
Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine, public health sciences, and obstetrics and gynecology; Director of the Jay Weiss Institute for Health Equity; Associate Director of Disparities and Community Outreach at Sylvester; and Program Leader for Cancer Prevention Control and Survivorship at Sylvester, is funded by the National Cancer Institute, and serves as a national model for conducting translational science with medically underserved communities.

Mentor of the Year – Junior Faculty
Jonathan C. Trent, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine, and Associate Director for Clinical Research and Co-Director of the Musculoskeletal Center and Director of the Sarcoma Medical Research Program at Sylvester, has interests in the clinical and translational research of sarcomas, direct care of sarcoma patients, and education about sarcoma and patient-oriented research. His work involves the use of novel preoperative/postoperative clinical trials, prospectively acquired tumor tissue, cell lines and archival tissue, as well as collaborations with disciplines such as the genomics facility, surgical oncology, pathology, radiology and interventional radiology.

Mentor of the Year – Trainees
Vinata B. Lokeshwar, Ph.D., professor of urology, is past President of the Society for Basic Urologic Research and has been recognized as a “Female Leader in Urology.” Her NCI-funded research programs for the past 18 years have focused on biomarker-driven targeted treatments and cancer chemoprevention. She has mentored more than 30 graduate and medical students, urology residents, fellows, and young investigators.

Teacher of the Year
Diana Lopez, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology, and Director of the Undergraduate Program in Microbiology and Immunology, has focused her career on teaching and doing research on immunity against breast tumors. She has served as President of the International Association for Breast Cancer Research, and she has participated in multiple study sections and as a member of the National Cancer Advisory Board. Lopez has mentored many predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees, and taught multiple undergraduate and graduate courses.

A total of 83 posters were submitted for the Sylvester Cancer Research Poster Session. Julio C. Barredo, M.D., Director of Children’s Cancer Programs at Sylvester and the Toppel Family Chair in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, announced the winners in the four categories at the end of the program:

Basic Science
Ke Jin, B.S.
Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Assistant – Research
Department of Surgery
“NACK, a Novel Notch Co-Activator is Recruited by P300 to Notch Complex through Acetylation MAML”

Clinical Research
Felix Chinea, M.D.
Post-Doctoral Fellow
Department of Radiation Oncology
“Radiogenomics of MRI-guided Prostate Cancer Biopsy Habitats”

Population-Based Research
Omar Nelson, Ph.D.
Senior Postdoctoral Associate
“Actionable Somatic Mutations in HNSCC Prognosis”

Translational Research
Takashi Asai, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Scientist
Nimer Lab
“A New Multi-State, Progressive, and Transplantable Model of Multiple Myeloma”

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