3rd Annual Giants of Cancer Care Class Brings Together Diverse Honorees

OncologyLive, June 2015, Volume 16, Issue 6

After weeks of deliberations, the final votes have been cast and the winners of the 2015 Giants of Cancer Care® can now be revealed.

One could be considered the “father of combination chemotherapy,” another furthered the understanding of oncogenes in cancer, and yet another explored the barriers to healthcare that underserved populations experience. Though coming from diverse backgrounds and different career paths, this year’s Giants of Cancer Care can all boast making significant strides in research and cancer biology that have helped improve the care of countless patients.

After weeks of deliberations, the final votes have been cast and the winners of the 2015 Giants of Cancer Care® can now be revealed. Sixty-three of the brightest names in cancer treatment and research have been winnowed down to the winners in eight tumor-type categories and four specialty categories for this year’s awards.

This marks the third year that this premier oncology awards program honors the pioneering research efforts and compassionate care these specialists provide to their patients.

The 2015 recipients of the Giants of Cancer Care awards are:

  • Gabriel N. Hortobagyi, MD — Breast Cancer
  • Harold P. Freeman, MD — Community Outreach/Education
  • Robert J. Mayer, MD — Gastrointestinal Cancer
  • Maha H. Hussain, MB ChB — Genitourinary Cancer
  • Robert C. Bast Jr, MD — Gynecologic Malignancies
  • Carl H. June, MD — Immuno-Oncology
  • Emil J. Freireich, MD, DSc — Lymphoid Neoplasms
  • John Minna, MD — Lung Cancer
  • Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD — Melanoma
  • Clara D. Bloomfield, MD — Myeloid Neoplasms
  • Robert A. Weinberg, PhD — Scientific Advances
  • Charles L. Loprinzi, MD — Supportive/Palliative Care

The Giants of Cancer Care program celebrates individuals who have achieved landmark success within the field of oncology. This year’s class provides cuttingedge care to patients from cancer centers and academic institutions throughout the United States.

“The Giants of Cancer Care program celebrates individuals chosen from a pool of elite national and international physicians who have made outstanding contributions to tumor-specific specialties, scientific advances, community outreach, immuno-oncology, or supportive/palliative care,” said Michael J. Hennessy Sr, chairman and CEO of Michael J. Hennessy Associates, Inc, which sponsors the awards program through its OncLive group.

In selecting this year’s Giants, a nominee’s body of work, including clinical impact, significant contributions, and overall accomplishments were taken into consideration. The nomination process was open to a national audience, with final voting made by the Giants of Cancer Care selection committee members. The Giants of Cancer Care award is judged by a 28-member advisory panel of oncologists and leaders in the field that is chaired by Hope Rugo, MD, a medical oncologist and hematologist specializing in breast cancer research and treatment. Currently, Rugo serves as director of Breast Oncology and Clinical Trials Education at the University of California, San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Advisory Board members have dedicated their valuable time to the program, providing guidance to OncLive as it further develops the program and, most importantly, selects the oncologists who will be named Giants.

“We are proud to partner with these eminent oncologists to shine a spotlight on the tireless efforts of physicians and researchers who improve patient care, develop groundbreaking treatments, and prolong the lives of those with cancer,” said Jack Lepping, MJH vice chairman.

Initially launched in 2013, this dynamic program has laid the groundwork for future development and expansion, honoring not only the oncology trailblazers of today, but also cultivating the ideas and aspirations of a new generation who are the potential Giants of Cancer Care in years to come.


Robert C. Bast Jr, MD

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Developed antibody that led to ovarian cancer biomarker

Robert C. Bast Jr, MD, is vice president for Translational Research, professor of Medicine, Department of Experimental Therapeutics, and the Harry Carothers Wiess Distinguished University Chair for Cancer Research, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. His work and accomplishments include:

  • Developed the OC125 monoclonal antibody that led to the production of the CA125 radioimmunoassay, the first generally useful marker for monitoring the course of patients with epithelial ovarian cancer.
  • Research interests that focus on cell growth regulation of ovarian and breast carcinomas, imprinted tumor suppressor genes, autophagy and tumor dormancy, early detection and prevention of ovarian cancer, and modulation of taxane sensitivity
  • Recipient of numerous honors and awards including the Shashikant Lele Lecture award from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in 2014, the Claudia Cohen Award from the Gynecological Cancer Foundation, and the Emil Frei III Award for Excellence in Translational Research from MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2011
  • Member of the American Association for Cancer Research and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science


Charles L. Loprinzi, MD

Mayo Clinic

Explored better ways to manage treatment-related toxicities

Charles L. Loprinzi, MD, is the Regis Professor of Breast Cancer Research, emeritus chair of the Division of Medical Oncology, and emeritus vice chair of the Department of Oncology, Mayo Clinic. His work and accomplishments include:

  • Research that generated preliminary data about the benefit of minocycline for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced neuropathy so that larger studies could be planned
  • Focuses on studies of cancer-related problems such as cancer anorexia and cachexia, and the management of hot flashes among cancer survivors.
  • He has designed and implemented a world-renowned clinical research center focused on the treatment of sarcomas, and his team is at the cutting edge of developing personalized cancer therapeutics for specific subtypes of sarcomas.
  • From 2000 through 2010, served as founding editor for the “Art of Oncology” department in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, and edited two anthologies of articles from the “Art of Oncology” series (available in Kindle electronic book format)
  • Served as the principal investigator of the North Central Cancer Treatment Group, Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) research base for more than a decade
  • Recipient of numerous awards, including the Komen Foundation Brinker Award in 2002, the 2005 Komen Foundation Professor of Survivorship Award, and the 2006 Clinical Research Award from the Association of Community Cancer Centers


Clara D. Bloomfield, MD

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center

Conducted groundbreaking work in chromosome changes, including the Philadelphia chromosome

Clara D. Bloomfield, MD, is a Distinguished University Professor, the William G. Pace III Endowed Chair in Cancer Research, and cancer scholar and senior advisor at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her work and accomplishments include:

  • Early research focused on the study of chromosome abnormalities in cancers of the hematopoietic system
  • Key contributor in discovering the Philadelphia chromosome in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and in describing the rearrangement of chromosome 16q22 in acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • Recent research focusing on molecular changes that occur in adults with AML
  • Among the first to prove that elderly patients with AML, long believed to be fatal, could be cured through chemotherapy
  • Demonstrated that patients with certain types of leukemia required stem cell transplantation for cure, while others could be treated successfully without undergoing such intense intervention
  • Assumed the directorship of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1997, the third woman to lead such a National Cancer Institute— designated center
  • Advanced the role of women in medicine through her active mentorship, by serving as a role model, and through enhancing university policy guidelines on equal employment and other issues for women faculty


Emil J. Freireich, MD, DSc

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Refined multidrug chemotherapy regimens that form the backbone of treatment today

Emil J. Freireich, MD, is the Ruth Harriet Ainsworth Chair in the Department of Developmental Therapeutics at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. His work and accomplishments include:

  • Collaborated with James Holland, MD, and Emil Frei III, MD, to develop combination chemotherapy and organize the first cooperative group
  • Developed the first “curative therapy” for metastatic cancer, that is, POMP— prednisone, oncovin, methotrexate, purinethol (6-MP)— in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • First to perform leukocyte transfusion and to demonstrate engrafting of peripheral blood stem cells, providing allogeneic bone marrow grafts
  • Developed allogeneic platelet transfusion and treatment strategies for infectious complications
  • Patented the first continuous-flow blood cell separator, which is used in most pheresis centers
  • Continues to work in the Department of Leukemia, where he cares for patients with leukemia and supervises research protocols for treatment of this disease
  • In his joint appointment with the Department of Laboratory Medicine, he collaborates on an important transfusion study
  • Obtained one of the first formal training program grants in medical oncology at MD Anderson, and he serves on the Division of Cancer Medicine Committee for Medical Oncology Fellow Training


Robert J. Mayer, MD

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Improved treatment approaches to colon and rectal cancer, and to pancreatic cancer

  • Co-leader of the Gastrointestinal Malignancies program at the Dana-Farber/ Harvard Cancer Center, specifically, the Gastrointestinal Cancer Committee for the Cancer and Leukemia Group B—a multi-institutional collaboration supported by the National Cancer Institute
  • Defined optimal postsurgical treatment for colon and rectal cancer, and identified newer approaches to localized and advanced pancreatic cancer
  • Led research efforts to develop cetuximab for colorectal tumors that express the epidermal growth factor receptor
  • Served as program director for the Medical Oncology Fellowship Program at DFCI for more than 20 years, and has been responsible for the education of more than 200 trainees, many of whom have assumed major leadership roles throughout the United States
  • Past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology


Carl H. June, MD

Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Pioneer in the development of gene transfer therapies

Carl H. June, MD, is the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center. His work and accomplishments include:

  • Published the first round of groundbreaking results that detailed the world’s first successful and sustained demonstration of the use of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) gene transfer therapy to create designer T cells aimed at battling cancerous tumors.The treatment has now been used with promising results to treat both children and adults with refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
  • His research has helped to develop and champion multiple targeted therapies for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), including imatinib, dasatinib, nilotinib, ponatinib, bosutinib, and omacetaxine, all of which received FDA approvals for CML from 2001-2012. He is currently developing monoclonal antibodies in adult ALL.
  • Founded the Immune Cell Biology Program and was head of the Department of Immunology at the Naval Medical Research Institute from 1990 to 1995 before joining the faculty of the Perelman School of Medicine in 1999
  • Investigating various mechanisms of lymphocyte activation that relate to immune tolerance and adoptive immunotherapy for cancer and chronic infection
  • Recognized with numerous awards, including the 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America, and the Joan Miller and Linda Bernstein Gene Therapy Ovarian Cancer Award from the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy


John Minna, MD

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Translating molecular and radiotherapy discoveries in lung cancer

John Minna, MD, is the Max L. Thomas Distinguished Chair in Molecular Pulmonary Oncology and the Sarah M. and Charles E. Seay Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research in the Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology, Internal Medicine, and Pharmacology, University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) Medical Center. His work and accomplishments include:

  • Serves as director of the Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology Research, The Moncrief Center for Cancer Genetics, and co-director of the Experimental Therapeutics Program for the Simmons Cancer Center at UTSW
  • Leads a joint Lung Cancer NCI Special Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant between UTSW and MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC)
  • Directs a NASA Specialized Centers of Research study on the effects of high energy particle radiation (found in space) and low-dose gamma radiation (found on Earth) on lung carcinogenesis
  • Works with a team of UTSW, MDACC, and Baylor College of Medicine scientists to discover all of the “acquired vulnerabilities” in lung cancer and their associated predictive molecular signatures
  • Served as chief of the NCI-Navy Medical Oncology Branch for the NCI Intramural Clinical Oncology Program for the study of lung cancer
  • Worked with colleagues to establish a large panel of lung cancer cell lines that have provided the basis for many preclinical studies


Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD

UCLA School of Medicine/Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center

A key architect of pembrolizumab and other novel therapies

Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD, is professor of Medicine, Surgery, and Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, director of the Tumor Immunology Program Area, and member of the Signal Transduction and Therapeutics Program Area at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. His work and accomplishments include:

  • Served as principal investigator on pivotal investigations of the PD-1 inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda), which led the FDA to designate the drug as a breakthrough therapy and then approve the agent in September 2014
  • Conducted what is believed to be the largest phase I clinical trial in the history of oncology at UCLA and 11 other sites, with more than 400 patients participating in the pembrolizumab trial
  • Engaged in leading research into targeted therapies in melanoma, including the recent coBRIM trial into the combination of vemurafenib plus cobimetinib in patients with locally advanced or metastatic melanoma with a BRAF V600 mutation
  • Focusing on combination studies of immunotherapy and targeted therapies for melanoma, and investigations of mechanisms of resistance and toxicities
  • Received grants and awards to further his research, including a 2000 Career Development Award from the Conquer Cancer Foundation to investigate immunotherapy for hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Serves as chair of the Melanoma Committee at SWOG and is currently a member of the Journal of Clinical Oncology Editorial Board


Robert A. Weinberg, PhD

Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Whitehead Institute

Landmark discoveries on signaling pathways in cancer

Robert A. Weinberg, PhD, is the Daniel K. Ludwig Professor for Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a founding member of the Whitehead Institute. His work and accomplishments include:

  • Discovered the first human oncogene, Ras, and the first tumor suppressor gene
  • Coauthored the seminal paper, “The Hallmarks of Cancer,” published in January 2000 in Cell, that identified the six requirements for one renegade cell to cause a deadly cancer; in 2011, published an updated review article entitled “Hallmarks of Cancer: The Next Generation”
  • Published the landmark research papers, “Mechanism of Activation of a Human Oncogene” and “Creation of Human Tumor Cells with Defined Genetic Elements,” both in the journal Nature
  • Research focused on the interactions between epithelial and stromal cells (the two major types of cells found in mammalian tissue) that produce carcinomas and the processes by which cancer cells invade and metastasize
  • Explored the mechanisms by which tumors reactivate transcription factors that control invasion and metastasis; if these transcription factors can be exploited, researchers might determine how primary tumor cells disseminate through the body and seed cancer cells


Harold P. Freeman, MD

Founder, Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Institute

The father of patient navigation systems

Harold P. Freeman, MD, is chairman emeritus and founder of the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention, and professor emeritus of Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. His work and accomplishments include:

  • Past chairman of the US President’s Cancer Panel
  • Past national president of the American Cancer Society
  • Chief architect of the American Cancer Society’s “Initiative on Cancer in the Poor”
  • Author of the Report to the Nation on Cancer in the Poor, which demonstrated the barriers that underserved populations often face in the healthcare system
  • Pioneered the Patient Navigation Program, which addresses disparities in access to diagnosis and treatment, particularly among poor and uninsured individuals
  • The Patient Navigator, Outreach, and Chronic Disease Prevention Act was based on the Freeman Patient Navigation model and signed into law by President Bush in June 2005
  • Recipient of numerous awards, including the Mary Lasker Award for Public Service, the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor, the CDC Foundation’s Champion of Prevention Award, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s Jill Rose Award, the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Special Recognition Award, the Avon Breast Cancer National Leadership Award, and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer National Foundation’s Betty Ford Award


Gabriel N. Hortobagyi, MD

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Promoted the use of chemotherapy prior to surgery

Gabriel N. Hortobagyi, MD, is a professor of Medicine in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology, and the Nellie B. Connally Chair in Breast Cancer at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He also is Program Director of the Susan G. Komen Interdisciplinary Breast Fellowship Program at MD Anderson. His work and accomplishments include:

  • Developed and promoted the use of presurgical chemotherapy in patients with large tumors, reducing the tumors to 50% of their size prior to surgery and enabling subsequent surgical removal
  • Involved in the drug development of anthracyclines and taxanes in breast cancer therapy
  • Established the role of bisphosphonates in the management of bone metastases from breast cancer
  • Developed gene therapy approaches to breast cancer, and played a role in the initial development of gene expression profiling and its prognostic and predictive application in breast cancers
  • Past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Chair of the Southwest Oncology Group since 2007
  • Recipient of numerous awards, including the 2012 William L. McGuire Award and Memorial Lecture, CTCR-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, and the 1997 Brinker International Award for Clinical Research


Maha H. Hussain, MB ChB

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Translates scientific discoveries into clinical advances

Maha H. Hussain, MB ChB, is the Cis Maisel Professor of Oncology and a professor of Medicine and Urology at the University of Michigan. She serves as the associate director for Clinical Research and co-leader of the Prostate Cancer/GU Oncology Program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMCCC). Her work and accomplishments include:

  • Contributed to research that led to the FDA approval of docetaxel for the treatment of men with advanced prostate cancer
  • As lead investigator, she evaluated optimal schedules of androgen deprivation therapy for patients with newly diagnosed metastatic prostate cancer through an international collaborative trial
  • Pioneered novel clinical trials in bladder and prostate cancer
  • Guided national research through various leadership positions, including as co-chair of the Prostate Cancer subcommittee of SWOG GU committee, as a member and 2013 chair of the Integration Panel (IP) of US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Prostate Cancer Research Program, and as a member of the NCI-Cancer Biomarker Study Section and the NCI’s prostate cancer task force
  • Serves as an FDA consultant and has served as a member and chair of the FDA Oncology Drug Advisory Committee
  • Served/serves on the editorial boards of several national and international specialty publications, including the Journal of Clinical Oncology and the American Journal of Translational Research
  • Honored with the University of Michigan Medical School League of Research Excellence award and the 2012 Clinical & Health Services Research award