SWCRF Scientists Updates Highlight Progress & Promise at the 2018 Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation Scientific Review & Breakthroughs Symposium
The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation annual Scientific Review took place at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center on April 29–30, revealing great progress and promise in the funded research projects of the collaborating scientists of the SWCRF Institute Without Walls. The two-day scientific session, led by SWCRF Founder and CEO Samuel Waxman, M.D., SWCRF Chief Scientific Officer Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., and SWCRF Chief Mission Officer Alan Rosmarin, M.D., included fascinating presentations from leading cancer investigators working in a wide range of cancer research areas, including solid tumors, blood malignancies, targeted therapy, tumor dormancy and metastasis, among others.
For the second consecutive year, the SWCRF Scientific Review, sponsored by Syros Pharmaceuticals, included a session examining several areas of study that factor in the Partnership for Aging and Cancer Research grants program recently announced by the National Institutes of Health. The program is funded in collaboration between the SWCRF, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Aging. Featured during the Aging and Cancer session were experts from the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR), including past President Harvey Jay Cohen, M.D., and President-elect James L. Kirkland, Ph.D., among others.
“The SWCRF Institute Without Walls scientists continue to put forth dynamic work that is at the forefront of cancer investigation,” said Dr. Waxman. “From using precision therapy against disruptive cellular mutations to applying epigenetic drugs to enhance the impact of immunotherapy against cancer cells, SWCRF grantees are making great strides in projects supported by generous donors.”
The SWCRF Breakthroughs Symposium took place at the Hess Center for Science and Medicine at Mount Sinai on April 30. Following welcoming remarks from SWCRF Chairman of the Board Michael Nierenberg, Dr. Ramon Parsons, representing the SAB, described the SWCRF Scientific Review as outstanding collaborative research with high impact. Dr. Licht, who along with Dr. Rosmarin oversees the SAB’s deliberations over the grants review, then provided a summary of highlights from the proceedings.
Prof. Robert Weinberg, Founding Member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT and a longtime SWCRF grantee, offered testimonial on how the Scientific Review provides him valuable insight that enhances his research through the scientific exchange facilitated among the leading scientists collaborating within the SWCRF Institute Without Walls.
Dr. Licht returned to the podium to present the 2018 David T. Workman Memorial Award to Craig B. Thompson, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The David T. Workman Memorial Award honors the memory of David T. Workman, one of the most influential leaders of the SWCRF, and recognizes scientists who develop novel therapies for poorly treatable cancer types.
Dr. Thompson was honored for his leadership role in the development of the AG-221 therapy for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) that blocked the IDH1–2 enzyme’s disruption of normal cell maturation. In his keynote address, Dr. Thompson drew parallels between the AML treatment and Dr. Waxman’s breakthrough differentiation of acute promyelocytic leukemia with Professors Zhu Chen and Zhen-Yi Wang from the Shanghai Institute of Hematology in the 1990s.
Dr. Waxman then provided SWCRF supporters a wide-ranging update on the status of the Foundation’s research programs, including the addition of two grantees who will collaborate on pancreatic research funded by a memorial grant created in honor of the late William S. Morin, former CEO of MFA Financial, Inc., who died of the disease in 2017. The William S. Morin Memorial Grant scientists are Nabeel Bardeesy, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital, and George Miller, M.D., of NYU Langone Medical Center.
SWCRF Executive Director William T. Sullivan reported on the state of the SWCRF, outlining key accomplishments made during his first year at the organization and sharing top initiatives relating to budget management, advocacy programs and community outreach, along with further expansion of the SWCRF’s $32 million capital campaign.
Guest then mingled with SWCRF scientists and Board members at a reception with premium wines donated by longtime SWCRF supporter Palm Bay International.
The annual SWCRF Scientific Review is made possible by an education grant provided by the Tsai-Fan Yu Foundation and brings together the Foundation’s international network of collaborating scientists to present project updates evaluated by the SWCRF Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) as part of the Foundation’s grants review process. Grantees hail from leading cancer research institutions, including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Sheba Medical Center, the Shanghai Institute of Hematology and Weill Cornell Medical Center, among many others.
The SWCRF SAB includes Adolfo Ferrando, M.D., Ph.D., Columbia University, Steven Gore, M.D., Yale University, Lorraine Gudas, Ph.D., Weill Cornell Medical Center; Robert Hromas, M.D., FACP, University of Texas Health; Ramon Parsons, M.D., Ph.D., Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center; Nancy Speck, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania; Martin S. Tallman, M.D., Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Hua Yu, Ph.D., City of Hope.