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V i r g i n i a

C o m m o n w e a l t h SPR I N G

U n i v e r s i t y

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Expanding Massey’s Reach: Clinical Trials Open in South Hill INSIDE:

IMMUNOTHERAPY Unlocking New Ways to Fight Cancer Page 2 Massey’s New Look 1

Life and Love After Cancer 8

Minority Participation in Clinical Trials 11

Campaign Update 12

Contents S P R I N G

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Advance is published by VCU Massey Cancer Center, Office of Development and External Relations.


E ditor

Julie Dillon A S S I S T A N T E ditor

Matthew Lovisa DESIGN


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Alaina Farrish Jenny Owen John Wallace PHOTOGRAPHY

David Hunter Hale Fran Householder VCU Creative Services John Wallace CONTACTS

To contact the editor, subscribe to Momentum, our monthly e-newsletter, or for general questions about Massey, e-mail To make contributions or inquire about ways to give, call (804) 828-1450 or visit For cancer-related inquiries and free literature searches, contact our Patient Resource Libraries at (804) 828-8709. To make an appointment, call (804) 828-5116 or (877) 4-MASSEY.

1 Meet David Mainella Executive Director of Development and External Relations

2 Immunotherapy COVER STORY unlocking new ways to fight cancer

5 Sparks of Discovery funding and other research achievements

8 Centerpieces 1 0 Cancer Prevention and Control the latest Massey news

12 Investments in Progress 1 Commonwealth 4 Around the 16 Special Events notable gifts

Richmond Christmas Gala; Capitol Square Basketball Classic; Teaming Up With the YMCA to Support HDL, Inc. Massey Challenge; Women & Wellness; VCU Women’s Basketball Pink Out; Black & Blue Classic Supports Massey; Live Local, Give Local

O N T H E C O V E R : The Community Memorial Healthcenter (CMH) oncology team,

led by Tzann Fang, MD; photo by Allen Jones See page 14


dvance is a publication for patients, friends, staff and supporters of VCU Massey Cancer Center, an internationally recognized center of research excellence. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, Massey is dedicated to saving and improving lives of those affected by cancer through innovative research and compassionate care.

Faculty Spotlight Meet David Mainella Executive Director of Development and External Relations


CU Massey Cancer Center gained a new member of its leadership team on February 11, when David Mainella Executive Director of Development and External Relations joined Massey. Mainella came to Massey from Duke Cancer Institute where he served as Deputy ­Director of D ­ evelopment, overseeing a robust development program and providing leadership in streamlining giving strategies, developing innovative stewardship mechanisms and planning for a large scale campaign, all while maintaining a proven track record of fundraising success. Previously, David held development leadership positions at North Carolina State Engineering Foundation, Duke University Law School and the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. “David’s background has armed him with a valuable range of perspectives and experience that I am confident will be of enormous benefit to our development team, our advancement colleagues across the university, our Advisory Board and their collective effort in fulfilling the ambitious goals identified in the Research for Life Campaign,” says Gordon D. Ginder, MD, director.

support that is really quite unique. With the dedicated and engaged Advisory Board, Massey Alliance and the growing momentum of the Research for Life Campaign, I saw the opportunity to take the fundraising program to a different level. Massey is a special place and I knew I wanted to be a part of it during my first visit.

One-on-One with David Mainella

I believe this is one of the reasons that developing our donors and advocates in all areas of the state is crucial. The Greater Richmond region has been incredibly supportive and we need to showcase the reach that Massey has

What drew you to VCU Massey Cancer Center?

I was drawn to Massey because it has such a strong tradition of philanthropic

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities in reaching our $100 million Research for Life Campaign goal?

We have a great opportunity to continue building support for Massey in all areas of the state. It’s the natural progression that will follow the increased research activity and clinical care that is happening throughout the ­Commonwealth. We also have a lot of potential to develop our relationships with grateful patients and their families. Our challenge will be to show how the priorities in the Research for Life Campaign are impacting patients now. Research is a long term investment, but our patients benefit from that investment every day. What are the key factors in continuing the growth of Massey’s fundraising efforts during such challenging economic times?

David Mainella attained through our Statewide Clinical Research Affiliation Network and the unique clinical partnerships we are creating. What inspires you?

I’m inspired by the passion and dedication of Team Massey. I’ve never seen such a dedicated and supportive group of advocates and supporters. I know that by working together we can continue to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families.

Massey Has a New Look!


s part of VCU’s new university-wide branding initiative, VCU Massey Cancer Center is pleased to introduce a new logo. The new identity mark incorporates the updated Virginia Commonwealth University seal, as well as Massey’s iconic “sunburst.” “This new logo for Massey strengthens our cohesion with the university brand while maintaining the unique identity we have cultivated,” says Jenny Owen, director of communications and public relations for Massey. “We are excited to embrace VCU’s updated look and launch this new logo for Massey.”

Spring 2013 • 1

Immunotherapy: Unlocking New Ways to Fight Cancer


earning of a cancer diagnosis has commonly brought with it not only fears for one’s health and one’s life, but the knowledge that the path to successful treatment was by no means easy or risk free. Most chemotherapy and radiation treatments come at a high expense to the patient’s body—harming healthy cells right along with malicious cancer cells and putting patients at risk for other cancers or even other disease or health problems. While in the best circumstances the end result is permanent elimination of cancer, in too many instances a few cancer cells survive and lead to relapse. ­Immunotherapy offers the potential to allow the body to kill the remaining resistant tumor cells. “The concept of using the body’s immune system to attack cancer has been around for many years, but attempts to show its effectiveness in treatment were hampered by a lack

of sufficient understanding of the complexities of the immune system,” says Gordon D. Ginder, MD, director of VCU Massey Cancer Center. “Recent advances in the basic understanding of how immune cells recognize cancer cells and how to overcome mechanisms that block their ability to kill cancer cells have opened a whole new chapter in immunotherapy.” New findings regarding the immune system have brought optimism about potentially less toxic, less invasive and more successful treatments—the essence of which already exists within the patient’s own body. This line of research is called biological therapy or immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is defined by the National Cancer ­Institute as “treatment to boost or restore the ability of the immune system to fight cancer, infections and other diseases.” It can also be used to improve outcomes while lessening side effects of other treatments.

The Body’s Immune System


our immune system includes your spleen, lymph nodes, tonsils, bone marrow, and white blood cells. These all help protect you from getting infections and diseases. When your immune system works the way it should, it can tell the difference between “good” cells that keep you healthy and “bad” cells that make you sick. But sometimes this doesn’t happen. Doctors are doing research to learn why some immune systems don’t fight off diseases like cancer. White blood cells are an important part of your immune system. When doctors or nurses talk about white blood cells, he or she may use words like: • Monocytes (MON-o-cites) are types of white blood cells.

Researchers studying immunotherapy as it relates to cancer are exploring how the body’s immune system works to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells, destroy cancer cells and/or keep cancer cells from spreading. The better they understand how the immune system is supposed to work, the better they can improve or treat malfunctions in the system that allow cancer to grow. “Basically, immunotherapy uses the capabilities that already exist in the human body’s and makes them more effective at fighting cancer cells,” says Ginder. “This line of research offers great potential to improve cancer treatments while decreasing unwanted side effects. As such, it fits squarely with the goal of modern cancer therapy, which is find to find new ways to eliminate cancer more effectively and simultaneously offer better quality of life.” At VCU Massey Cancer Center, immunotherapy has gained attention and funding across several research programs, including the Developmental Therapeutics, Cancer Molecular Genetics and Cancer Cell Signaling programs.

Developing a New “Vaccine” for Metastatic Cancers

• Lymphocytes (LYM-fo-cites) are types of white blood cells. • B cells are kinds of lymphocytes. • T cells are kinds of lymphocytes. • Natural killer cells are kinds of lymphocytes. Photo and information courtesy of NCI 2 • Advance

Xiang-Yang Wang, PhD

Massey researcher Xiang-Yang Wang, PhD, Harrison Scholar and member of the Cancer Molecular Genetics research program, has recently published

Figure 1

Using New Immunotherapy to Treat Blood Cancer

Immune system T cells without azacitidine and lenalidomid

Azacitidine activates antigens

Antigens unlock T cells

With lenalidomid, T cells boosted and released to act as killer arsenal

Killer arsenal attacks cancer cells

results of a pre-clinical cutting-edge study in which an engineered immune modulator called Flagrp-170 was used to achieve localized vaccination on melanoma, prostate and colon tumors. Flagrp-170 consists of two distinct proteins. One of these proteins, known as Grp170, is currently being explored for use in the development of a “cancer vaccine,” because it has been shown to help the immune system recognize cancer cells that normally have the ability to suppress the body’s natural defense system. When combined with a fragment of another protein, flagellin, the immune system is activated in a unique

way that promotes apoptosis, or cell suicide, in cancer cells. Wang conducted a study that showed a positive response in animal models of melanoma, prostate and colon cancers. The study was recently published in Cancer Research, and Wang and his team continue to gain more understanding of the molecular mechanisms responsible for Flagrp-170’s therapeutic effects. Additional studies are underway that hope to efficiently target and deliver the molecule to tumor sites for an even stronger response. “This immunotherapy has the potential to be used alone or in combination

with conventional cancer treatments to develop and establish immune protection against cancer and its metastases,” says Wang.

Tapping Into T Cells to Combat Breast Cancer Masoud Manjili, DVM, PhD, member of the Cancer Cell Signaling program at Massey, is also at the forefront of groundbreaking research on cancer immunotherapy by targeting and manipulating specific parts of cancer cells. continued on page 4 Spring 2013 • 3

Immunotherapy continued

Amir Toor, MD; Masoud Manjili, DVM, PhD; and Catherine Roberts, PhD with Massey clinical trial participant Glenda Mincey. Manjili and his team focused on overcoming two major barriers of cancer immunotherapy: tumor-induced T cell suppression and T cell-induced tumor editing and relapse. The T cells are a family of immune system cells that keep people healthy by identifying and launching attacks against threats such as bacteria, viruses or cancer. Anti-tumor T cells can both stop or slow down tumor growth on the one hand, but also cause changes in the tumor cells that could lead to tumor relapse on the other hand. “The ultimate goal of immunotherapy is to overcome tumor-induced immune suppression and at the same time induce tumor rejection without facilitating tumor escape and relapse,” says Manjili. Through lab studies led by Manjili, Massey researchers effectively reprogrammed cells of the innate and adaptive immune systems to overcome a key cancer defense mechanism and develop long-lasting memory to reject breast cancer cells, guarding against tumor relapse. In a study published in the Journal of Immunology, the researchers discovered a way to improve Adoptive Cellular Therapy (ACT), a treatment for breast cancer that taps into the immune system, by activating certain cells which enhance T cells capability to fight blood-forming cells. These findings could lead to clinical trials that test whether using immuno-

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therapy in a neoadjuvant (prior to surgery) or adjuvant (after surgery) setting in breast cancer patients with a high risk of relapse could prime the patient’s immune system, much like a vaccine, to prevent the likelihood of relapse.

Unlocking New Treatments for Blood Cancers Translating Manjili’s research into clinical application is Amir Toor, MD, hematologist-oncologist in the Bone Marrow Transplant Program and research member of the Developmental Therapeutics program at Massey. Toor’s research concentrates on training the immune system to prevent cancer cells from evading detection and destruction. Focusing on T cells and the important role they play in warding off cancer cells, Toor and his team of investigators launched a two-pronged approach. The first step was directed at devel­ oping safe and non-toxic treatments to perform allogeneic (donor) stem cell transplantation. The second step involved understanding the donor immune system’s response to cancer in donor stem cell transplantation to develop a way to train the patient’s immune system to attack the cancer cells, ultimately allowing the patient to benefit from the immunotherapeutic

effect without the accompanying risk. The clinical trials developing these ideas have focused on utilizing either the donor’s or the patient’s own T cells to kill cancer cells. Toor says that the process works much like locks and keys. “The small antigens on the surface of foreign cells are keys and each T cell has a receptor or a lock,” he says. “If the antigen on the threatening cell fits in the T cell receptor, then the lock is released and the T cell’s deadly arsenal is unleashed on the threat. For the recipients, the keys are proteins unique to the patient and are absent in the donor, thus becoming targets for the donor T cells.” Another Phase II clinical trial led by Toor is showing promise in providing lasting protection against the progression of multiple myeloma following an autologous (self ) stem cell transplant. Exemplifying the lock and key analogy, a combination of two drugs is trying to make cancer cells easier targets. The first drug, azacitidine, forces the cancer cells to express proteins – the keys – which the patient’s T cells – the locks – recognize as foreign. The second drug, lenalidomid, boosts the production of the T cells to recognize and attack the foreign cancer cells (see Fig. 1, pg. 3). In short, Toor is harnessing the immune system to improve stem cell transplant outcomes while gaining mechanistic insights into the process. The approach, which has led to a number of publications and is gaining national attention, is now being used to treat a number of cancers, including leukemia and multiple myeloma. To date, this therapy has benefitted more than 50 cancer patients treated at Massey. Toor is also collaborating with Manjili and Gregory Buck, PhD, VCU Center for Genome Complexity, in an effort to catalogue the entire library of antigens that differ between stem cell donors and transplant recipients enrolled in a Phase II clinical trial. Through this project, the researchers hope to expand the selection of stem cell donors for those needing transplants.

Sparks of Discovery New Therapy Discovered for Several Forms of Blood Cancer


aboratory experiments conducted by scientists at VCU Massey Cancer Center suggest that a novel combination of the drugs ibrutinib and bortezomib could potentially be an effective new therapy for several forms of blood cancer. The study, published in the British Journal of Hematology, showed that the drug combination killed cancer cells through a form of cell suicide known as apoptosis, but was relatively non-toxic to normal, healthy cells. Ibrutinib is a new agent that inhibits the B-cell receptor signaling complex, which plays an important role in the survival of malignant B-cells. The interaction of the two drugs proved lethal even to lymphoma cells that had become resistant to bortezomib, currently used to treat mantle cell lymphoma and multiple myeloma, when used alone. “We are hopeful that this combination therapy may circumvent such resistance and eventually help fill an urgent need for more effective therapies for patients with these uncommon blood disorders,” says the study’s principle investigator Steven Grant, MD, Shirley Carter Olsson and Sture Gordon Olsson Chair in Oncology Research, associate director for translational research, program co-leader of Developmental Therapeutics and Cancer Cell Signaling research member at Massey.

Steven Grant, MD

Viagra Drug Trio Improves Effectiveness of Cancer Treatment While Protecting the Heart

Rakesh Kukreja, MS, PhD


ith nearly half of all cancer survivors dying from other conditions than cancer, most notably cardiovascular disease, researchers at VCU Massey Cancer Center have found a drug combination to improve the effectiveness of cancer treatment while protecting the heart from harm caused by a popular form of chemotherapy. Recently presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Los Angeles, the study was co-authored by Rakesh Kukreja, MS, PhD, researcher in the Developmental Therapeutics program at VCU Massey Cancer Center and scientific director at VCU Pauley Heart Center.

The research team used breast cancer cells and cardiomyocytes, or heart cells, to study the effects of combining three drugs. The three drugs included cancer-fighting chemotherapy doxorubicin, erectile dysfunction medication Viagra and immunosuppressant antibiotic rapamycin. One of the drugs, doxorubicin, has been a powerful and effective drug for patients with various types of cancer for decades. Unfortunately, the drug can cause harmful and irreversible side effects to the heart. In earlier studies, Kukreja and his colleagues found that administering Viagra before doxorubicin prevented heart damage in mice while triggering cell death in prostate cancer cells. They also found that rapamycin protects the heart against tissue damage following acute heart attack. “Because Viagra and rapamycin are clinically approved drugs that both protect heart muscle, we thought that combining these with doxorubicin would be a promising strategy to eliminate the cardiac side effects of the drug while further improving its cancer-killing ability. Such a unique combination has never been used before,” said Kukreja. Researchers discovered that the new ‘drug trifecta’ not only improved the anti-cancer effects of doxorubicin, but to also reduced damage to the heart caused by doxorubicin. Researchers say the next step in the study will be to demonstrate how the drug trio improves cancer treatment in animal models with human cancers. Also, more research is needed to understand how Viagra and rapamycin work together to improve doxorubicin treatment. SPARKS continued on page 6

Spring 2013 • 5

Sparks of Discovery


Scientists Discover How Deadly Skin Cancer Spreads


n important factor in understanding how a specific gene contributes to the spread of skin cancer and possibly a variety of other cancers has been discovered by scientists at VCU Massey Cancer Center. Published in the journal Cancer Research, the study demonstrated that mda-9/syntenin regulates the expression of several proteins responsible for promoting angiogenesis, the process that causes the formation of new blood vessels in tumors. The study’s lead author was Paul B. Fisher, MPh, PhD, Thelma Newmeyer Corman Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and program co-leader of Cancer Molecular Genetics at Massey and chairman of VCU’s Department of Human and Molecular Genetics. “Our research brings us one step closer to understanding precisely how metastatic melanoma, a highly aggressive and therapy-resistant cancer, spreads throughout the body,” says Fisher. “Additionally, analysis of the human genome has indicated that mda-9/syntenin is elevated in the majority of cancers, which means novel drugs that target this gene could potentially be applicable to a broad spectrum of other deadly cancers.” The researchers are now focusing on developing novel small molecules that specifically target mda-9/syntenin and IGFBP-2, which could be used as drugs to treat melanoma and potentially many other cancers.

Paul B. Fisher, MPh, PhD

Multiple Sclerosis Drug May One Day Treat Colorectal Cancer


Sarah Spiegel, PhD

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cientists from VCU Massey Cancer Center have found that fingolimod, a drug currently approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, could potentially eliminate or reduce the progression of colitis-associated cancer (CAC). The study, published online in the journal Cancer Cell, was led by Sarah Spiegel, PhD, Mann T. and Sara D. Lowry Chair in Oncology, co-leader of the Cancer Cell Signaling program at Massey and chair of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department at the VCU School of Medicine. The team discovered that increased production of an enzyme, sphingosine kinase 1, causes cells lining the intestine to produce more of a signaling molecule known as sphingosine-1-phosphate, activating a variety of biological mechanisms that lead to chronic intestinal inflammation and the development and progression of CAC. The researchers then used animal models to demonstrate that the drug fingolimod decreased expression of the enzyme and the signaling molecules receptor, which also interfered with the development and progression of CAC, even after tumors were established. “Perhaps the most significant aspect of this study is the therapeutic potential of fingolimod in the treatment of colitis-associated cancer,” says Spiegel. “Since this drug is already approved for clinical use, we’re hoping to initiate a clinical trial to study its efficacy in patients with CAC, in combination with approved therapies.” The next step in the team’s research is to examine blood samples from patients with irritable bowel syndrome and colitis-associated cancer to measure levels of the signaling molecule, sphingosine-1-phosphate.

Researchers Apply Insights Gained From Nature to Understand Immune System


ecently published in the journal Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, a study of 10 unrelated stem cell transplant donors and recipients Amir Toor, MD, hematologistoncologist in the Bone Marrow Transplant Program and research member of the Developmental Therapeutics program at Massey, found a fractal pattern in their T cell repertoire. The fractals — or selfsimilar, repeating patterns in nature — can help scientists better understand how the immune system is organized and may one day be used to improve stem cell transplant outcomes in leukemia patients by predicting the probability of transplant complications. T cells are a family of immune system cells that keep individuals healthy by identifying and launching attacks against threats such as bacteria, viruses or cancer. T cells have receptors that recognize small antigens on the surface of foreign cells. They work much like a lock and key, where the antigen on the threatening cell fits in the T cell receptor

like a key and then the T cell’s deadly arsenal is unleashed on the threat. The research team led by Toor, looked at the T cell repertoire in stem cell transplant donors and recipients following stem cell transplantation. In healthy donors, Toor observed the self-similar repeating pattern among their T cell receptor families within and across different individuals. In patients who received a stem cell transplant, Toor found that this pattern was disrupted and the patients displayed a lower level of complexity in their T cell receptor repertoire three months after transplant, followed by a modest improvement when a full year elapsed after transplantation. “Our findings lend an insight into nature, such that, even in complex biological systems bereft of physical form, mathematically determined organization is observed,” says Toor. “We’re hopeful that this information will give us clues that will help us better understand the recovery of the immune function following stem cell trans­plantation and possibly

Amir Toor, MD predict complications such as graft-versus-host disease in transplant recipients.” The team plans to continue to study patients’ T cell receptors to learn more about how the immune system recovers following stem cell transplantation, in hopes of discovering valuable information about the effectiveness of future stem cell transplant and immunotherapy clinical trials.

For additional details and more research news from VCU Massey Cancer Center, visit

Gifts with a Lasting Impact

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day Tribute Cards VCU Massey Cancer Center invites you to celebrate your mother, father, grandparent or other loved one with a donation supporting life-saving cancer research. For each $25 donation, we will send a customized card notifying the honoree of your gift. If you wish to honor multiple people, you may make a $100 donation and we will send five cards to the loved ones of your choice. To view full selection and order, please visit

Happy Mother’s Day A gift has been made to VCU Massey Cancer Center In honor of Mom You are our inspiration! Love, Susan and John This gift will allow VCU Massey Cancer Center to continue its mission: To improve the quality of human life through the prevention, control and cure of cancer.

Spring 2013 • 7

Centerpieces Life and Love After Cancer


ow are you loving life after cancer? That is the question VCU Massey Cancer Center is asking through a new Life and Love After Cancer marketing campaign. Launched in February, the campaign aims to provide hope in the face of cancer by asking survivors to share how they recaptured the things they love in life after cancer. The campaign’s centerpiece is a unique website (http:// where cancer survivors can not only share their personal story through text and images, but also view other stories and interact through social media. The website features a wide variety of stories that vary in cancer types, age and passion, all while sharing the common bond of reviving a love after cancer. The survivors who have shared so far have left inspiring words and some of the stories are highlighted below.

• Mary, a 17-year-old double survivor of Ewing Sarcoma from Farmville, Virginia discovered love of equestrian competitions and is now a top 15 world champion in Hunter Under Saddle quarter horse competitions. • Bob, an oral cancer survivor in his late 50s living in New Hampshire, rediscovered love of the outdoors and is currently hiking and camping in the backcountry of Africa and America. • Carolyn, a breast cancer survivor in her 50s from Richmond, published a book of her journal that chronicled her cancer journey and now enjoys speaking to women’s groups. • Daisy, a lymphoma survivor in her 60s living in Northern Virginia, is now back to jogging, doing yoga and enjoying her grandchildren.

Three New Clinical Trials Available Prostate Cancer:

Mitchell Anscher, MD, is conducting a Phase II clinical trial studying shortened radiation therapy for prostate cancer. Melanoma:

Members of the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals (MCVH) Auxiliary (left to right) Ann Carter, Maxine Brewer, Valli Duval, Mary Gill, Lois Trani, Linda Krauth, Dr. Dean Goplerud, Judy Hanshaw, Karen Shudtz, Fara Caldwell and JoAnn Burton

Palliative Care on Wheels


ith funds provided by the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals (MCVH) Auxiliary, volunteers from the Thomas Palliative Care Unit developed a cart full of materials for activities that offer comfort to patients and their families, as well as tools for nurses to enhance care. The activities fostered by the cart provide patients with an outlet to talk about their illness and gives them ways to create memories with their families. Hospital volunteers stock the cart with blankets, handprint-making tools, books, crayons, paints and other items.

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Andrew Poklepovic, MD, is the principal investigator for a Phase II and Phase III melanoma trial studying the treatment of patients with high-risk melanoma that has been removed by surgery. Ovarian Cancer:

Weldon Chafe, MD, is conducting a Phase III clinical trial focusing on lifestyle intervention to reduce risk of ovarian cancer recurrence. Learn more at

Welcome New Massey Members!


assey Cancer Center research membership is open to research investigators, clinicians, cancer survivors, patient advocates and community leaders engaged in and/ or supportive of cancer-related research. Membership eligibility and privileges are defined by a candidate’s level of current cancer-related research activity. Please join us in welcoming the following new scientists as Massey Members:

Stony Point Facelift

• Larisa Litovchick, MD, PhD,* Cancer Molecular Genetics program


• Michael F. Miles, MD, PhD, Cancer Molecular Genetics program

Recently Awarded Massey Pilot Projects

Faculty Honors

assey’s hematology/oncology clinic and Lois Trani Patient Resource Library at Stony Point have a fresh new look. Recent cosmetic renovations brightened up the satellite location of Massey with new flooring, paint, furniture and fabric in the waiting area and treatment space. The library was also improved and now has more space to accommodate small gatherings and meetings, as well as easier visibility and access for patients. “The comfort of our patients is always top-of-mind,” says Mary Ann Hager, associate director for oncology services. “These improvements bring a serene environment to compliment the high caliber of care and resources available to those we serve.”


assey offers funding for pilot projects to encourage new collaborative cancer research projects and to provide initial funding for new, collaborative projects with significant involvement of at least two independent investigators. Massey research members and associate members are eligible to apply for up to $30,000 for a one-year project. Below is a list of Massey’s most recent grant recipients:

Richard F. Brown, PhD, Cancer Prevention and Control Program

“Developing an Online Clinical Trial Specific Question Prompt List” This project aims to test innovative methods to bolster patients and physician use of Question Prompt Lists (QPLs), a method that has been shown to aid patient-physician consultation communication. Yi Ning, MPH, MD, ScD, Cancer Prevention and Control Program

“Genetic Variants, Diabetes and Adverse Late Effects of Radiation Therapy” This project will conduct a study investigating genetic variants, medical treatment, and socio-demographic factors as predictors of the adverse late effects of radiation therapy, its severity, and its pervasiveness. Lynne Elmore, PhD, Cancer Molecular Genetics Program

“Senescence and Cognitive Function in Women with Breast Cancer” In this pilot study, the investigators begin to examine whether patient-derived cells age in response to chemotherapy.

• Iain Morgan, PhD, Cancer Molecular Genetics program *Litovchick is also a new VCU physician scientist with the Division of Hematology, Oncology and Palliative Care and was recently named a Harrison Scholar.

• Paul B. Fisher, MPh, PhD, presented as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series at the Cancer Grant Rounds at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. • Christopher R. Johnson, MD, has been named an Associate Editor of the journal Radiology. • Amir Toor, MD, was a featured speaker at TEDxRVA, an event “uniting extraordinary people through inspired and profound discussions.” • Jeffrey F. Williamson, PhD, has been named Editor in chief of the journal Medical Physics. Spring 2013 • 9

Cancer Prevention and Control Simpler Colonoscopies Are Safer


he number of colonoscopy procedures is expected to surpass 14 million per year, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Colonoscopy is the most common form of colorectal screening and uses a flexible fiber-optic tube to check for cancer or polyps (growths that can be removed before they turn into cancer) in the colon or rectum. Although colon­oscopies are relatively safe, there are risks. A new study by VCU Massey Cancer Center researchers discovered that as the complexity of colonoscopies increases, there is a higher risk of adverse events. Published in the journal Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the retrospective study was led by Aksar Chukmaitov, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Healthcare Policy and Research at ­Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, who analyzed hospitalizations that were linked to colonoscopy procedures that caused serious adverse events within 30 days. The research found that the risks of adverse events were higher for procedures performed by low-volume endoscopists, which were classified as

less than 300 cases per year. Regarding facility type, the researchers found that outpatient colonoscopies provided at ambulatory surgery centers were associated with higher risks of adverse events than hospital outpatient departments. “This issue could be addressed by monitoring surgeon volume and by urging primary care physicians to refer patients to experienced endoscopists who perform a high volume of colonoscopies,” said Chukmaitov. The researchers also found that “simple” colonoscopies, ones without polypectomy (which is surgery to remove polyps) are associated with the lowest risk of adverse events and that the use of cold biopsy forceps over hot biopsy forceps, when applicable, had better outcomes. As for colonoscopies with polypectomy, ablation which burns the polyps with laser-like devices, was associated with the fewest adverse events. “Given the large number of colonos­ copies performed each year in the United States, a reduction in the rates of adverse events will substantially reduce patient morbidity and mortality as well as health care costs,” said Chukmaitov. The American Cancer Society recommends that people who have no

Aksar Chukmaitov, MD, PhD identified risk factors should begin regular screening at age 50. Those who have a family history or other risk factors for colorectal polyps or cancer should talk with their doctor about starting screening at a younger age and/ or getting screened more frequently.

Stay Safe This Summer Tips to Reduce Your Risk for Skin Cancer • Seek shade, especially during midday hours. • Wear clothing to protect exposed skin. • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck. • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible. • Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection. • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. • Avoid indoor tanning. • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.

Tips courtesy of and

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Understanding Minority Participation in Clinical Trials


assey researcher Lynne Penberthy, MD, PhD, led a team of Massey researchers to study the reasons why Caucasian and African-American patients who are offered a clinical trial are ineligible or refuse to participate. Penberthy’s team discovered that Caucasian patients are more likely to be ineligible to participate due to their type of cancer or characteristics specific to the study. African-American patients were more likely to be ineligible because they were unable to provide informed consent or had challenges with compliance, such as the inability to attend appointments due to lack of transportation. As for reasons for refusal, Caucasian patients were more likely to refuse due to the extra burden related to traveling to the additional clinic visits that clinical trials often require; preference for

their own physician versus the physician leading the trial; or concerns about randomization or toxicity. African Americans were more likely to refuse due to lack of interest in a clinical trial, family pressures or feeling overwhelmed by their diagnosis. “It is important for clinical trials to have participants from all different ages, races, sexes and ethnicities, so that the results can have a much wider applicability and, therefore, medical advancements can help more patients,” said Penberthy. “But unfortunately, there continues to be a huge gap between Caucasian and minority participants despite the National Institutes of Health’s 20 years of focus on increasing minority participation.” According to the Center for ­Information & Study on Clinical ­Research Participation, of the 75,215

patients who enrolled in National ­Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical trials from 1996 to 2002, 85.6 percent were Caucasian, 9.2 percent were African American, 3.1 percent were Hispanic, 1.9 percent were Asian/Pacific Islanders and 0.3 percent were American Indians/ Alaskan Natives. The goal of this research is to inform cancer centers of patient barriers so that they can close the accrual gap in minorities by addressing the barriers specific to their minority patients. To help improve the clinical trial process, Penberthy suggests that cancer centers select clinical trials that are most appropriate for their population and change the eligibility criteria that restrict the participation of minority patients. The next step is to continue analyzing and gathering data to support further studies that address minority accrual barriers.

Junius Hayes was the first patient in the United States to participate in a clinical trial testing an inflatable biodegradable balloon and its effectiveness of providing less damage to the healthy areas surrounding the prostate during radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Hayes’ extensive knowledge in the scientific field led to his participation in the clinical trial but as Lynne Penberthy discovered, the decision to participate in a clinical trial can be overwhelming for a majority of people.

Spring 2013 • 11

Investments in Progress Research for Life Campaign Update


CU Massey Cancer Center’s Research for Life Campaign continues to gain momentum following its public launch in November. With more than $78 million raised toward the campaign’s $100 million goal, the opportunity for partnering in the expansion of Massey’s people, places and programs is engaging more donors than ever in all types of giving, from annual gifts, to event participation to significant major gifts.

Recent notable gifts include: • Mr. and Mrs. C.T. Hill (above) committed $250,000 to the campaign. Hill, a longtime member of the Massey Advisory Board is currently serving as co-chair of the Research for Life Campaign. The gift combines a $50,000 commitment from the C.T. Hill and Moira Hollander Hill ­Charitable Fund with a $200,000 bequest from C.T. Hill. In recogni­tion of this gift, a conference room in Massey’s Research Pavilion in the McGlothlin Medical Education Building will bear the Hill’s name. • Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Laughon, Jr. (right) made a $100,000 gift on behalf of their daughter, Page, her husband, Jeffrey, and their children Ashe and Kaki. The gift was made from the Stuart B. and Frank E. Laughon, Jr. Charitable Fund of The Community Foundation Serving Richmond & Central Virginia. The donation from the Laughon family, 12 • Advance

Goal: $100 million Funds Raised: $78 million

which was made in honor of Gita Massey, MD, and India Sisler, MD, pediatric oncologists, supports a joint effort between Massey and VCU’s Department of Pediatric Oncology to establish an endowed chair in pediatric cancer research. Once fully funded, the chair will assist in the recruitment of a nationally-recognized physician-scientist with a solid background in basic, clinical and translational research. Thanks to generous supporters, the fund has currently raised over $400,000 towards a $1 million goal.

Glasgow Incentive

Massey’s supporters continue to take advantage of the “Glasgow Incentive,” through which gifts of $500,000 or more to an endowment will allow for funds to be drawn from the Glasgow Trusts in a matching amount— essentially doubling a donor’s gift and its intended impact. Recent gifts that have utilized the Glasgow Incentive include: • Through their foundation, Universal Corporation recently committed an additional $500,000 to VCU Massey Cancer Center. This gift will elevate the existing Universal Corporation Distinguished Professorship, held by Paul Dent, PhD, since its creation in 2003, to the Universal Corporation Endowed Chair in Cancer Cell Signaling and will continue to support Massey’s notable work in cell signaling. “Although our foundation is not large, we decided that we want to have a significant impact on Massey and, in particular, on Dr. Dent’s groundbreaking research,” said George C. Freeman III, chairman, president, continued on page 13

(Left to right) Ashe Allende; Page Allende; Gita Massey, MD; India Sisler, MD; Kaki Allende and Jeffrey Allende.

Research for Life Campaign Update continued and chief executive officer of Universal Corporation. “Universal believes in the work being performed at Massey, and this gift is a reflection of our commitment to furthering the fight to defeat cancer.” • John R. “Jack” Congdon, Sr. committed $500,000 and engaged the Glasgow Incentive to create the Natalie N. and John R. Congdon, Sr. Endowed Chair in Cancer Research. The gift was made through the Natalie and Jack Congdon Charitable Fund of The Community ­Foundation Serving Richmond & Central ­Virginia. It is the second significant gift to Massey that Congdon has made. A previous $500,000 gift in 2010 supported Massey’s Statewide Clinical Research Affiliation Network.

(Left  to  right) Advisory Board members Judy  Turbeville, Dianne Harris Wright, Ted Chandler (Chair), Cessie Howell, and Ann Austin

Advocacy Pays Off


wo years ago, Governor Bob McDonnell allocated $7.5 million per year in the biennial budget to support cancer research at Massey. The amended budget for fiscal year 2014 that was passed by the General Assembly included an additional $1 million for cancer research at both Massey and the University of Virginia. Advocacy from volunteers, donors, patients and staff is essential in reinforcing to our legislators that funding cancer research is crucial to creating a cancer-free Virginia. January’s annual morning of advocacy, dubbed “Massey Day on the Hill,” had more than 60 staff and volunteer advocates canvassing the General Assembly building with a message of Massey’s mission and information about how Massey’s research, education and patient care reaches all corners of Virginia.

Thomas Palliative Care Program Receives New Support


assey Cancer Center’s Thomas Palliative Care Program is a national leader in providing compassionate, holistic care to alleviate suffering and maximize quality of life of those with cancer and other chronic diseases. The program’s clinicians and physician-scientists are also committed to expanding research and education related to this growing segment of cancer care. Recently, several significant gifts have been directed to the program in support of their mission: • A generous gift from NewMarket Corporation created the Susan White Holsworth Palliative Care Scholar Endowed Fund to permanently support a skilled clinician who provides tailored and caring treatment options

to palliative care patients. Patrick Coyne, APRN, clinical director of the Thomas Palliative Care Program, was awarded the scholarship. NewMarket Corporation’s gift to the palliative care program as well as a second gift establishing the Susan White ­Holsworth Patient Resource Library Acquisition Fund, was made in memory of Susan White Holsworth, a valued employee and Massey supporter, in recognition of her career as a librarian and in gratitude for the care she received at Massey during her illness. • The Jessie Ball duPont Fund invested $105,732 to support the launch of a one-year pilot project that will provide specialized education in

palliative care to advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). Targeted to APRNs who are practicing in rural or underserved areas of Virginia, the gift is intended to promote a better quality of life for Virginians with lifelimiting illnesses who may have more difficulty accessing quality care, and to create a model that can be applied on a national scale. • American Hospice Foundation committed $49,157, underscoring the longstanding partnership between Hospice of Central Virginia and Massey’s Thomas Palliative Care Program. The gift will support the program’s efforts in educating providers and the community about palliative medicine.

Spring 2013 • 13

Around the Commonwealth Project LIFE! Puts Faith in Churches to Influence Healthy Behavior


The Community Memorial Healthcenter (CMH) oncology team, led by Tzann Fang, MD

Massey Opens Clinical Trials in South Hill


hree Massey clinical trials are now open and enrolling patients at Community Memorial Healthcenter (CMH) in South Hill, Virginia, where Massey began providing medical oncology care in the summer of 2012. The partnership between Massey and CMH allows therapeutic trials to be offered through Massey to patients in the Southern Virginia region. Trials will focus on breast, colon and lung cancer after a needs assessment conducted by Massey deemed those cancer types the most prevalent in the region. Led by Massey physician Tzann Fang, MD, and CMH research nurse, Donna Robertson, RN, OCN, the research team enrolled their first patient in a trial at the end of March. The trial compares different treatment options for breast cancer, and is the first trial led by a Massey physician at a partner institution. “This offers patients the convenience of staying in their home town instead of traveling to Richmond for access to a clinical trial,” says Marjorie Halverson, RN, OCN, clinical protocol activation manager at Massey, who has worked closely with the team in South Hill. The Massey clinical, regulatory, administration and affiliate research teams provided several comprehensive training sessions for the CMH staff leading up to the opening of the three clinical trials. These Massey research teams continued this collaboration over many months in order to implement all of the necessary steps to open these clinical trials at the South Hill location. Partnering with Massey’s collaborative effort at CMH are Mary Hardin, RN, MSN, OCN, CMH Cancer & Specialty Care director; Donna Robertson, RN, OCN, lead research nurse; Julie Hamby, RN, BSN, OCN, and Teresa Collins, RN, research nurses. “Working with Massey to bring our patients access to these cutting-edge treatments is extremely gratifying,” says Robertson. “We’re committed to excellence in care and partnering with Massey underscores that commitment.” “Clinical trials provide state-of-the-art care to patients and also allow the development of new therapies,” says Halverson. “The opening of these clinical trials in South Hill marks another way in which Massey is spreading our research to different areas of the Commonwealth and engaging more patients in trials while providing the high level of care and expertise for which Massey is known.”

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n early 2013, the American Cancer Society released a report revealing that cancer death rates are significantly higher among African Americans than Caucasians. Decreasing this disparity was one of the objectives behind Project LIFE! (Lord, Intimate relationships, Fitness and Early detection), which utilizes the power and influence of the African-American church to address this major health concern. “Our goal is to evaluate the impact on the behaviors of congregants when their church adopts a ‘health and wholeness’ pledge to practice and promote healthy behaviors,” said project lead and VCU Massey Cancer Prevention and Control researcher Maghboeba Mosavel, MA, PhD. “The expected outcome is that there will be an increased knowledge of cancer screening resources; increase in screening; and more integration of healthy practices within the church.” Project LIFE! is currently active in three churches in Danville and ­Pittsylvania, Virginia. Eleven congregants were trained to serve as LIFE! coaches to spread health promotion messages and host tailored activities aimed at increasing healthy behaviors and promoting early detection for cancer.

Maghboeba Mosavel, MA, PhD

Interactive Audiovisual Tool Developed to Educate Communities About Cancer Screenings


he Community Engagement Educational Program (CEEP), led by VCU Massey Cancer Prevention and Control researcher Arpita Aggarwal, MS, MD, recognized the significant disparities in patient knowledge of healthy behaviors, screening guidelines and resources available in the Piedmont and Mount Rogers health districts of Virginia and identified a need for community-based resources for preventive health education. CEEP developed an educational computer program, in partnership with the two districts, to test an interactive audiovisual tool, which reflects the community’s language and culture, in providing information about recommended preventative cancer screening. The program is used by community facilitators and includes tutorials on cancer risk behaviors and recommended screening guidelines for cervical, breast, colorectal, prostate and skin cancers. “In addition to increasing health awareness in our partnering communities,” said Aggarwal, “our long-term goal is to build community sustainability by developing local leaders and training community facilitators.” The interactive tool is currently being tested in more than 400 participants in 20 towns of the two health districts.

Arpita Aggarwal, MS, MD

New Clinical Research Affiliates in Winchester and Fredericksburg


henandoah Oncology, PC, in Winchester, VA, and Mary Washington Healthcare in Fredericksburg, VA are the two newest clinical research affiliates of VCU Massey Cancer Center. Shenandoah Oncology has been caring for patients in the surrounding areas of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland since 1979 and opened their first Massey-affiliated clinical trial in March of 2013. The practice consists of several board-certified physicians specializing in oncology and hematology, as well as oncology-certified nurse practitioners. On-site services include a patient navigator, nutritional counseling, survivorship program, genetic counseling, support services program, radiation oncology, and surgical oncology.

“Our affiliation with Massey’s research program provides access to Phase II and III clinical trials for both solid tumor and hematology diagnoses,” says Claudia Phillips, RN, BSN, OCN, CCR, clinical research nurse at Shenandoah Oncology. “This ensures the most up-to-date care in the community setting and ensures all of our physicians are registered as investigators with the National Cancer Institute.” The Mary Washington Hospital (MWH) Research Department was established in 2004 with a primary focus on cardiology studies and in 2007 broadened their scope to include oncology studies. In March of 2013, Massey’s


affiliation with MWH was formed and will focus on providing clinical trials for lung cancer as well as cardiology research trials. Staffed by several certified clinical research professionals, the research program is under development and trials are expected to be active by the summer.


existing clinical research affiliate locations

NEW! Winchester


NEW! Fredericksburg



H Spring 2013 • 15

Special Events

Teaming Up With the YMCA to Support the HDL, Inc. Massey Challenge


assey Challenge committee members ran and walked with the more than 20 YMCA training teams as a way to encourage participation and say thank you for accepting the HDL, Inc. Massey Challenge. The YMCA Training Teams accepted the Challenge in creative ways by holding spare change drives, bake sales, barrel rides, and costume contests.

Richmond Christmas Gala


he Massey Alliance’s 2nd Annual Richmond Christmas Gala presented by Northwestern Mutual was held on December 8, 2012. Friends and advocates came together for holiday festivity and raised more than $34,000 for cancer research at Massey.

Worth Bugg (right), Massey Challenge committee member, speaks to the Manchester YMCA 10k Training Team.

A spare change drive at a local YMCA branch to fundraise for the Massey Challenge. (Left to right) George Emerson, Advisory Board member; Governor Bob McDonnell, and Becky Massey, Research for Life Campaign co-chair.

Capitol Square Basketball Classic


he 5th Annual Capitol Square Basketball Classic was held on February 28 at the VCU Siegel Center. Pitting lobbyists versus the Governor and his staff, and delegates versus senators, the friendly evening of competition raised $15,000 for Massey.

16 • Advance

Black & Blue Classic Supports Massey

(Left to right) Doug Arthur, MD; Lee Woodruff, Shelly Arthur, event chair; and Gordon D. Ginder, MD, director, VCU Massey Cancer Center.

Women & Wellness


he 18th Annual Women & Wellness Forum Series was held on February 5 at the Jefferson Hotel and featured author Lee Woodruff, who left nearly 700 breakfast and lunch attendees inspired, empowered and ready for life’s journey. This year’s event netted more than $218,000 for women’s cancer research at Massey and was presented in memory of Susan H. Fitz-Hugh.


hen crosstown rivals VCU and University of Richmond squared off against each other this season in men’s basketball, a first-time partnership between the two schools was formed to channel the hometown rivalry to benefit and raise awareness for Massey. At each game, fans were provided with a customizable cheer sign to honor those who have battled cancer and show their support for cancer research at Massey. Games also included touching tributes and an emphasis on cancer awareness.

Massey Challenge Chair Kaity Kasper fuels up on Green Monster at the Ellwood Thompson Juice Bar before practicing yoga in the community room.

Live Local, Give Local.

VCU Women’s Basketball Pink Out


n February 17, VCU Athletics teamed with VCU Massey Cancer Center to help raise breast cancer awareness during a VCU women’s basketball game at the Siegel Center. A special halftime presentation featured former and current Massey patients, where they were recognized at half court and honored by the fans in attendance.


n an effort to broaden the reach and expand community involvement during this year’s HDL, Inc. Massey Challenge, local businesses hosted events and donated proceeds to Massey. Examples included Ellwood Thompson’s Natural Food Market and Yoga Source hosting more than 25 yogis for a benefit yoga night and Cafe Caturra hosting an evening where a portion of sales were donated to the Challenge.

Spring 2013 • 17

Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center P.O. Box 980214 Richmond, Virginia 23298-0214

Non-profit Org. U.S. Postage Paid Richmond, VA Permit No. 869

Events Calendar May 1

Federal Reserve Golf Tournament Chesdin Golf Club

May 2

Lunch and Learn: Yoga, a Useful Tool! 12:00–1:00 VCU Massey Cancer Center at Stony Point To register, please call (804) 628-1550

June 8

11th Annual Moonlight Magic presented by Hunton & Williams 6:30–10:30 pm James River Cellars Tickets now available at

May 16

Secret Garden Party 5:30–8:30 pm Becky’s Healing Garden and other downtown gardens

May 16

Piankatank Golf Tournament Piankatank Golf Club

May 30, June 6, 13, 20

Living Well with Cancer: Yoga for Survivors 4:00–5:00 pm YMCA Richmond To register, please call (804) 628-1550

For more details on these and other events, visit or call (804) 827-9486. Follow Massey on Facebook at

Advance--Spring 2013  

VCU Massey Cancer Center's publication for supporters, volunteers and friends.

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