Page 1                             June 1998    
U Cancer Center scores major triumph    
Cancer Center's bright future   
Polla on biomed engineering's future 
Media watch
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 U Cancer Center scores major triumph

Cancer Center University of Minnesota’s Cancer Center building on East River Road. — (inset) U Cancer Center director John Kersey  announces Center’s National Cancer Institute designation, a $5.4 million boon to cancer research. Behind him (l to r): Frank Cerra, VP for Health Sciences, Cancer Center leaders Les Robison, Tucker LeBien, David Rothenberger, Norma Ramsay, Stephen Hecht, Philip McGlave, James McCarthy, Mary Sumpmann, and U President Mark Yudof. Not pictured: Jean Forster, Yoji Shimizu, Brian VanNess. (Photos by Jack Hayes)
An effort to achieve NCI designation in the 1970s failed in part because the U could not demonstrate sufficient cooperation between scientific disciplines on cancer research. Approximately 100 faculty members from all seven schools and colleges of the health sciences now contribute to the work of the Cancer Center.

To win the designation this time, Kersey, his administrative team, researchers, and other supporters have worked diligently since 1991 to meet the NCI’s rigid cancer center criteria. They’ve recruited faculty with national reputations for cancer research and treatment, raised $30 million in private contributions to get the center off the ground and build the picturesque, state-of-the-art Masonic Cancer Center Research Building on East River Road, and demonstrated considerable expertise through research and publication of hundreds of articles in scientific journals in the last five years alone.

The effort reached a peak when NCI evaluators paid a visit to the center several months ago.

“I was here for part of that inspection, and it struck me as somewhat like an inquisition,” said U President Mark Yudof at the news conference, referring to the intensity of the evaluation process. The NCI designation is “frosting on the cake” of what will be a $100 million investment by the University on molecular and cellular biology programs, he said. That initiative was helped along considerably by a $35 million appropriation by the state legislature for preliminary work on a new Molecular and Cellular Biology Institute Building.

“This is a time of great celebration,” Yudof added. “I think we’re really clicking now.”

The University has been active in cancer research for decades and is a national leader in the areas of blood and
 marrow transplantation and cancer prevention.

“We performed the first successful bone marrow transplant, and we continue to advance the technique as a cancer therapy,” Kersey said before the conference. “One of our unique areas of expertise is cancer prevention. In the 1960s, scientists here first discovered that certain vegetables can protect against cancer. Others began the fight against tobacco use by contributing to the landmark 1964 surgeon general’s report on the health hazards of smoking. Since then, faculty and their colleagues have shown nicotine to be addictive, have developed ways to reduce teenage smoking and have created strategies to help hard-core smokers quit.”

Faculty receive more than $40 million a year in cancer research funding. The Cancer Center has research programs in cancer prevention, chemoprevention and carcinogenesis, cancer etiology and risk assessment, cancer genetics, immunology, cell biology and metastasis, and transplant biology and therapy.

—Jack Hayes


 And away we go!

New designation catapults
Cancer Center into bright future

With an expression of jubilation made famous by the late comedian Jackie Gleason, U of M Cancer Center director John Kersey announced on May 27 that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has at long last conferred its cancer center designation on the U’s cancer research program.

“How sweet it is!” the normally reserved Kersey exclaimed at the start of a press conference covered widely by local media.

Perhaps sweetest of all is the $5.4 million in federal grant money that NCI will award the center over five years for general support of interdisciplinary cancer research. That award and the designation will lend financial stability to the center and make it easier to secure future grants, said Kersey, a leukemia expert and bone marrow transplant pioneer.

The center’s new status makes it one of 57 other cancer centers around the country, including the Mayo Clinic, which have received the blessing of NCI, one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).



Polla unveils future of biomedical engineering
Future vision - Program from the Biomedical Engineering Institute's May 28 Vision Forum.

Bioartificial arteries, artificial tissues, and miniature devices that monitor and even maintain cardiovascular health are a few of the health care innovations that engineers, scientists, and biomedical companies can realize by working together.

That’s the essence of the message Dennis Polla, new director of the Biomedical Engineering Institute, delivered at a vision forum titled “Imagine what BMEI can do,” held at the Basic Sciences and Biomedical Engineering building on May 28.

To achieve these goals, Polla outlined a five-year plan for expanding interaction with industry, forming multidisciplinary University-industry research teams focused on both health and manufacturing issues, creating B.S. and B.S./M.S. degree programs to meet the growing need for biomedical engineers, and hiring five to seven new faculty members.

Polla also announced completion of BMEI’s $12 million endowment campaign, which was co-chaired by Earl Bakken and C. Walton Lillihei, who developed the pacemaker at the University in the 1950s. Lillihei was in attendance at the forum. Forty Minnesota companies comprised the core group of contributors to the capital campaign.

Media Watch
All this in the month of May: Bob Blum, pediatrics, made news all over North America this month. He was on WCCO-TV (Ch. 4), KSTP-TV (Ch. 5) and KMSP-TV (Ch. 9) talking about youth violence in connection with the Oregon school shootings and appeared nationwide regarding a study that found kids are using steroids as early as age 10. His comments ran in an Associated Press story and on MSNBC, CNN Interactive, Fox Newswire, and in the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Star Tribune, Lexington Herald Leader, Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star, Wheeling (WV) News-Register, The Newark Star Ledger, Calgary Herald (Alberta), and many others. George Adams, otolaryngology, was on HBO’s “Real Sports” discussing former Minnesota Twin Bill Tuttle’s crusade to keep people from using smokeless tobacco. — In a Wall Street Journal story, Jack Mandel, environmental and occupational health, discussed a Canadian study that suggests all older men could be effectively screened for prostate cancer with a PSA blood test. Roby Thompson, AHC vice president for clinical affairs, was quoted in the Star Tribune about the new president and chief executive officer for Fairview Health System. He also appeared with John Perentesis in a Pioneer Press story about a young woman fighting bone cancer. Tanya Repka, medicine, appeared on KARE-11 TV in a story on Herceptin, a new breast cancer drug. Richard King, medicine and human genetics, also discussed Herceptin on KSTP-5. Repka also appeared with David Kiang, medicine, in a Star Tribune story about designer estrogen. That story also ran on CNN Interactive. Alex Wagenaar, epidemiology, appeared on WCCO-TV in a story on how easily intoxicated persons can buy alcohol in bars and liquor stores. Jeff Kahn, Center for Bioethics, was on KTCA-TV (Ch. 2) and KTCI-17 “NewsNight Minnesota” to discuss the advances in cancer research. Larry Kushi, epidemiology, and his Internet diet study were mentioned in the San Francisco Examiner, The Record of Northern New Jersey, and Bergen (NJ) Record. Lee Wattenberg, laboratory medicine and pathology, discussed tamoxifen, a drug believed to head off cancer before it develops in the Dallas Morning News and Bergen (NJ) Record. The story also appeared on CNN Interactive. A story about the research and legal entanglements of Deborah Swackhamer, environmental chemistry, hit the front page of the Star Tribune. Mark Herzberg, preventive sciences, appeared in a Chicago Sun-Times story that mentioned his February report that the bacteria in dental plaque can cause heart-attack-inducing blood clots. His finding was also mentioned in the May issue of The Science Teacher and Vegetarian Times. S. Ramakrishnan, pharmacology, was on WCCO radio discussing the discovery of two cancer drugs reputed to reduce the size of tumors in mice. He was also on Minnesota Public Radio and KARE-11, WCCO-4 and KMSP-9. The Raptor Center made news in a Pioneer Press story about an eagle named Lindbergh whose travels are monitored on the Internet.  In stories in the New York Times, Star Tribune, The Oregonian, and other papers, John Lake, gastroenterology, discussed a procedure in which liver cells are infused into a patient to keep him or her alive while awaiting a liver transplant. Russell Luepker, epidemiology, was quoted in the Dallas Morning News in a story on the number of prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering drugs that go unfilled. John Kersey, Cancer Center, and Jean Forster, epidemiology, were quoted in the Pioneer Press endorsing the notion that the money won in the tobacco trial should be spent on tobacco control programs.  Forster also discussed the trial in the Pioneer Press and on Minnesota Public Radio.  Kersey, B.J. Kennedy, Regents Professor Emeritus of Medicine, and a number of other Cancer Center researchers, appeared in the Star Tribune and on CNN Interactive relative to a story about the state of cancer research. David Hamlar otolaryngology, was on KARE-11 in a story on a new flu vaccine administered by nasal spray. Paul Dassonville, neurology, and Apostolos Georgopoulos, physiology, appeared in a Star Tribune story on a high school student they advised as she completed a graduate-level neuroscience project. June LaValleur, obstetrics and gynecology, was on WCCO-4 to discuss menopause. She also commented on a testosterone cream for women on KSTP-5 in the Star Tribune regarding the heavy marketing aimed at menopausal women. Jim Cloyd, pharmacy, and Robert Kriel, neurology and pediatrics, appeared in the Pioneer Press in a story on Diastat, an epilepsy drug delivery system they developed that is now on the market. Linda Burns, medicine, and Jeff Miller, medicine, appeared on KSTP-5 in a story on breast cancer research. Jill Stoltenberg, preventive sciences, and William Douglas, oral sciences, appeared in a Star Tribune story about at-home dental care. News of findings by Margaret Hostetter, pediatrics, that children adopted from some eastern European countries were not properly immunized hit the Pioneer Press, Twin Cities Business Daily, and WCCO-TV (Ch. 4). She also appeared on KSTP-TV (Ch. 5) to discuss an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A story in the Star Tribune about treating the rare genetic disease globoid-cell leukodystrophy with a bone marrow transplant cited researchers William Krivit, pediatrics, Elso Shapiro, neurology, Lawrence Lockman, neurology, and Chester Whitley, pediatrics and human genetics. It also ran on CNN Interactive. Minnesota Attorney General Skip Humphrey’s speech to the School of Public Health was mentioned on KSTP-TV, WMNN radio and the Fox News Channel, and in the Pioneer Press, Star Tribune, and St. Louis Post Dispatch. Jon Pryor, urologic surgery, was on Minnesota Public Radio and KSTP-TV to discuss the hot new drug Viagra. Charles Peters, pediatrics, was quoted in the Pioneer Press in a story about a new treatment for adrenoleukodystrophy, a rare genetic brain disease. Whitney Tope, dermatology, discussed skin cancer and the U’s free screenings on “Melanoma Monday” on KARE-11, WCCO radio, and KSTP radio. 

--Teri Charest

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