July 18, 2003

VUMC’s Matrisian named president-elect of AACR

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Dr. Mark A. Magnuson uses genetically engineered mice to study the enzyme glucokinase. (Dean Dixon)

VUMC’s Matrisian named president-elect of AACR

WASHINGTON, D.C — Lynn M. Matrisian, Ph.D., Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and chair of Cancer Biology at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, became president-elect of the American Association of Cancer Research during the organization’s 94th annual meeting in Washington, D.C. this week.

She will become president in 2004, putting the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in a unique position to shape cancer research, treatment and prevention. The VICC will be the first cancer center to have faculty members leading three of the world’s most influential cancer organizations at the same time — AACR, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI).

Dr. David Johnson, deputy director at Vanderbilt-Ingram and Cornelius Abernathy Craig Professor of Oncology, is president-elect of ASCO and will become president in June 2004. Dr. Harold Moses, Vanderbilt-Ingram’s director and Benjamin F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology, is president-elect of the AACI and will begin a two-year term in October.

The occurrence reflects Vanderbilt-Ingram’s growing influence in the cancer community and provides a special opportunity for the three organizations to collaborate in the fight against cancer, Moses said. Johnson, Matrisian and Moses are beginning to explore ways in which the three organizations can work together on issues of common interest, such as increasing access to clinical trials, speeding drug development or ensuring that resources are available to continue the momentum in cancer research.

Matrisian received her Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Arizona in 1982. She went on to train and do research in Strasbourg, France, in the laboratory of Pierre Chambon.

There she began her work in the field of proteolytic enzymes, which degrade the structural matrix that holds cells together, and their role in the progression and spread of cancer.

Matrisian is a member of the Board of Scientific Advisors for the National Cancer Institute and has served on the AACR Board of Directors and the International Metastasis Society.

She is active in the U.S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program as a member of the panel that sets priorities for DOD research funding and as DOD-funded investigator.

Founded in 1907, the AACR is a professional society of more than 20,000 laboratory and clinical scientists engaged in cancer research in the United States and more than 60 other countries. Its mission is to accelerate the prevention and cure of cancers through research, education, communication and advocacy.

It publishes five major peer-reviewed journals, Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer Research, Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, Molecular Cancer Research (of which Matrisian is a senior editor) and Cancer Epidemiology.

In addition to its annual meeting, AACR hosts specialty meetings throughout the year that focus on important areas of basic, translational and clinical cancer research.

ASCO is the world’s largest professional organization representing physicians who care for cancer patients, with more than 20,000 members worldwide. ASCO leads the fight for more effective cancer treatments, increased funding for clinical and translational research, and, ultimately, cures for cancer.

AACI is a network of the nation’s leading academic and free-standing cancer centers, many of them NCI-designated cancer centers like Vanderbilt-Ingram.

Established in 1959 as a network of cancer institutions, doctors and scientists to integrate diverse research and clinical approaches, AACI centers are characterized by their excellence in science, clinical care and bridging of the two through translational research programs.

94th annual meeting held at nation’s capital

It was the meeting that almost didn’t happen. When the American Association of Cancer Research cancelled its 94th annual meeting in Toronto last April because of the threat of SARS, the question was “what happens next?”

The gathering of thousands of laboratory and clinical scientists to share important research findings was deemed too important to the progress against cancer to skip. So the meeting’s organizers stayed in high gear and rescheduled the meeting for the Washington, D.C., in July.

The gargantuan effort to find meeting space, to make transportation, food and other arrangements, and to secure hotel rooms with only three months’ notice paid off — the meeting drew more than 12,000 participants.

“We had expected 16,000 in Toronto, and we were hoping for at least 8,000 here,” said Lynn Matrisian, Ph.D., Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, chair of Cancer Biology and AACR’s president-elect. “It’s amazing — and a tribute to their dedication and abilities — that the staff was able to pull this off.”

The meeting was highlighted by addresses from Dr. Andrew Von Eschenbach, director of the National Cancer Institute, who detailed his vision for eliminating the suffering and death from cancer by 2015, and U.S. Food and Drug Commissioner Mark McClellan. McClellan told the conference that input from NCI experts has helped speed the recent approval of novel cancer agents such as Velcade for multiple myeloma and Iressa for lung cancer. It is a model, McClellan said, that will be adopted for other diseases as well.

The meeting also featured what was billed as the first “public forum” of the complicated findings of the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. The trial conducted at centers across the country, including Vanderbilt, revealed a 25 percent risk reduction among men who took the drug finasteride but also a greater incidence of high-grade tumors among men who did develop cancer while taking finasteride. Scientists involved in the trial said that, while more questions remain to be answered, the trial was promising because it showed that prostate cancer could be prevented and that it included biologic samples and a cohort of men to be followed for years to come.

Among other Vanderbilt-related highlights of the meeting:

Dr. Raymond N. DuBois, Mina Cobb Wallace Professor of Medicine and Cell Biology, began a three-year term as a member of the AACR’s Board of Directors. DuBois is Vanderbilt-Ingram’s associate director of Cancer Prevention, Control and Population-Based Research.

Dr. Carlos Arteaga, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, presented the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award Lecture. He is the second Vanderbilt faculty member to receive this award, which honors researchers for work that has improved or has great potential to improve patient care. DuBois received the award last year.

Vanderbilt students Stephanie Duell, Permila Harrell, Carmen Perez, and Renier Velez-Cruz received Minority Scholars in Cancer Research Awards.

Invited speakers from Vanderbilt-Ingram included Drs. David Carbone, Philip Browning, Marilyn Thompson, David Carbone, Barbara Fingleton, Alan Sandler, DuBois, Arteaga and Matrisian.

Former Vanderbilt faculty member Dr. Martin Blaser, now chair of Medicine at New York University, was honored with the American Cancer Society Epidemiology and Prevention Award for his contribution in the understanding of the prevention of gastric cancer through control of infection with Helicobacter pylori. Much of this research was conducted during the decade he was at Vanderbilt. n