Roy Jensen, M.D., director of the Cancer Center, was invited to be a panelist at a Feb. 6, 2013, Capitol Hill briefing to educate and orient members of Congress, legislative staff and advocates about the vital role federal agencies and the medical research sector play in advancing medical progress.

The purpose of the meeting, titled The Blueprint of Medical Research: How New Medicines Get from the Lab to the Patient, was to discuss ways of improving and accelerating the medical research and development (R&D) path.

"Turning a scientific discovery into a safe and effective therapy can take nearly 14 years and more than $1 billion dollars," said Dr. Jensen. "For the one in three Americans suffering from cancer and other diseases for which there are still no cures and often few meaningful treatment options, drug discovery and development is their only hope."

Other members of the panel included Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, and Margaret Hamburg, M.D., commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with representatives from biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries, academia, and patient-driven research and advocacy groups.

"The Learning Collaborative, the partnership between The University of Kansas Cancer Center, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the NIH, is a great example of how federal agencies, industry, academia and patient groups can work in collaboration with each other to speed up the time it takes to get new medicines from the lab to the patient," said Scott Weir, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation, who also attended the event. "We are proud to have been invited to this prestigious briefing to share our successes at the cancer center and learn from our colleagues."

RTOG provisional full membership impacts clinical research

The University of Kansas Cancer Center and the Department of Radiation Oncology achieved another first by earning provisional full membership status in the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG).

To become a provisional full member, an institution is required to enroll at least 25 new patients in RTOG clinical trials, and our department enrolled 35 in 2012.

RTOG is the only national cooperative research group focused on radiation therapy clinical trials funded by the National Cancer Institute. The group's mission is to conduct clinical research in virtually all types of cancer.

"Being a provisional full member of RTOG gives the University of Kansas and the Radiation Oncology department greater involvement in the conduct of radiation oncology clinical trials at the national level," said Parvesh Kumar, M.D., chairman, Radiation Oncology, and The University of Kansas Cancer Center Principal Investigator for RTOG. "We now have a seat at the table to determine what types of clinical trials are conducted across the country to best serve our patients."

RTOG consists of both clinical and laboratory investigators from more than 360 institutions across the United States and Canada. Its membership includes nearly 90 percent of all NCI-designated comprehensive and clinical cancer centers.

The University of Kansas Cancer Center is the only RTOG provisional full member in Kansas and just the fourth full member in the seven-state Midwest region.

Cancer Center Leadership Award honors Senator

In recognition of her longstanding support for cancer research, therapies and prevention, The University of Kansas Cancer Center has presented the 2013 Leadership Award to Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle.

The presentation was made by KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and cancer center director Roy Jensen, M.D., at the Kansas Statehouse.

"Senator Wagle is an exceptional role model for the many fellow Kansans who are struggling with cancer," said Dr. Jensen. "She has battled the disease and continues to win. Her tenacity for fighting against cancer is inspirational. We are proud of her victories – both in her personal health and that of her family's – and those she's waged for other cancer patients in championing various public policy measures. It is an honor to recognize such an accomplished policy maker."

Senator Wagle has survived two battles with lymphoma and recently spent months undergoing chemotherapy treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the body-cleansing lymphatic system. She was given a clean bill of health from her physician this fall. Her colleagues elected her president of the Kansas Senate in December. Wagle passed on a chance to seek the Senate presidency in 2004 to care for her son who was afflicted with leukemia.

"We are proud to have received the National Cancer Institute designation for our cancer center this summer," said Chancellor Gray-Little. "It means our friends and neighbors won't have to travel great distances to seek cutting edge treatments. The resources to achieve NCI designation came from many sectors, including the Kansas Legislature. We are grateful for this support and the difference it means in the daily lives of fellow Kansans. Thank you especially to Senator Wagle for her commitment to help Kansans whose lives are affected by this disease."

New Faces

Joan Lewis-Wambi, Ph.D., has joined the department of Cancer Biology. Dr. Lewis-Wambi's research deals with how breast cancer cells respond to hormones and develop resistance to hormone-based therapies.

In addition to endocrine-based therapies, her lab is interested in developing alternative treatment options for patients who develop hormone resistant breast cancers. Dr. Lewis-Wambi comes to the cancer center from Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia where she was assistant professor for the Women's Cancer Program.

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