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March 11, 2013


Stan Gerson, MD
Director, Case CCC

Report on the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors Meeting

I would like to report on the March 4, 2013 meeting of the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors.

As Dr. Varmus has expanded upon in his recent email (please see the "Announcements" section below) the sequestration will result in an overall 5% reduction in support and 4.7% reduction in NCI funding. Since this is intended to last 10 years, the only choice of the NCI is to plan across the board reductions that are equitably spread. Dr. Varmus also indicated his intention to preserve funding for young investigators and to balance reductions. Each of us can expect to see reductions, and this includes the CCSG core grant.

At the meeting, there were presentations on two issues that are plaguing our field: reproducibility of research, and the ability to validate potential biomarkers in clinical development effort. Overall, the ability to validate potential biomarkers in other labs either using bio assays or gene profiles is poor. Some of this may relate to experimental conditions, efforts by the initiating lab to control variables, types of samples analyzed, and uniformity of tissue collection and accuracy of clinical annotation.

In response, I ask that you review recent publications from the NCI designed as guides for these sort of studies:

Addressing these elements in BIOMARKER validation studies will be important. In fact, at the breast cancer retreat today, there were a number of examples of how these guidelines will assist in the research effort. The NCI is rapidly moving towards requiring these to be addressed in grant applications and in publications.

From a practice vantage point, our biorepository has in place sample preparation SOPs to assist and our biostatistical groups can help with assay development and analysis of variance.

The NCI will expand the effort of the TCGA towards a deep study of certain tumors to further identify genomic drivers of cancers that were not seen in the 500 tumor samples of the TCGA. They are committing to a 10,000 tumor sample to fully characterize a genetic change if it exists.

The goal would be to identify all driver mutations at a 1% incidence to more fully characterize each tumor type. This effort would assist clarification of genetic changes linked to germline predisposition, environmental links, therapeutic selection, etc. Issues raised by this initiative include the value of the additional effort, whether the endpoint can be informative, how to improve academic cancer center access to the data, and whether this would lead to therapeutic impact.

Other issues I suggest we consider include:

  • What about minority populations?
  • How do mutations in stroma drive mutations in tumor heterogeneity?
  • Does this approach identify the contributions of Epigenetics in cancer progression?
  • What is the cause of the increased background mutation rate observed in cancers and metastatic lessons?
  • How do this profile link to critical pathways?
  • Have these samples captured critical minority populations?
  • What is the biology of the mutations found?
  • What is the cause of cancers without a driver mutation?

These studies will undoubtedly be the focus of future provocative questions and RFAs.


Message from Dr. Harold Varmus

To the NCI-supported scientific community:

As you have heard and read, the Budget Control Act (aka "sequestration") has gone into effect as of March 1st. All components of the NIH, including the NCI, are working diligently to assess the impact of this unprecedented budget reduction on our ability to manage the current research portfolio and to continue to award new and competing grants in this fiscal year. Knowing the anxiety that we all share about these developments, I am writing to report to you on our objectives, progress, and prognostications, even though a full account is not yet possible.

First, I must emphasize that we cannot provide a definitive and detailed account of our plans for the year at this time because we are currently operating on a so-called Continuing Resolution that extends only through March 27th. Funding for the rest of the fiscal year (FY2013) will depend on Congress’s ability to propose and pass appropriations measures that carry us through September 30th. This could be done through another Continuing Resolution, through a more typical appropriations bill, or through some kind of omnibus bill that bundles measures affecting many agencies.

At present, our Continuing Resolution provides funds to the NCI for the first six months of this fiscal year (October 1 - March 27) at 0.62% above last year’s level for the same time period. Under these circumstances, as in many other years that have begun with Continuing Resolutions, we are paying both new and continuing grants at about 90% of expected levels — a conservative measure that acknowledges our uncertainty about the rest of the year. Even in this especially difficult year, we anticipate increasing the funding level for those awards (by an amount still to be ascertained) once our funding for the full year has been determined. As I have described in earlier messages and as is detailed on the NCI's web site, we continue to evaluate our applications for new and renewing grants by a careful combination of peer and programmatic review. I urge you to visit the site to see the outcomes of that process for the past two years.

One of the guiding principles in our plans for adapting to sequestration is to maintain the number of competitive awards — new grants and renewals — at levels similar to that achieved in the past few years (over 1000 grants, with success rates of 13 to 14 percent). These are, of course, fewer grants than we would like to make, and the grant sizes are often smaller than they should be. Moreover, to achieve this goal, we need to make reductions, modest but significant, in virtually all of our extra- and intramural programs, including non-competitive (type 5) grant renewals, cancer centers, and research contracts. In addition, we do not expect to reduce salaries, place employees on furlough, or take other drastic steps in making these adjustments. Yet in the plan we envision, we hope to protect, as best we can, the potentially most vulnerable parts of our community: fully trained scientists who are applying for their first grants, experienced investigators who are renewing their grants and maintaining their research teams, and the trainees we will need for cancer research in the future.

I intend to send you more details about plans for FY2013 once budgets for the rest of the year have been defined. But I want you to know that those of us working on your behalf at the NCI are making every effort to sustain the functionality of our research enterprise in difficult times.

Harold Varmus 
Director, NCI


Referring Colorectal Cancer Patients to Genetic Counseling for
Cancer Network - Mar 5, 2013
The results of this study were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology by Charis Eng, MD, PhD, The Sondra J. and Stephen R. Hardis ...


Specialized Program of Research Excellence in Gastrointestinal Malignancies (GI SPORE)

All Faculty members are invited to submit outlines for pilot projects to be funded by the NIH P50 GI SPORE. Proposals must be submitted through CTSC Webgrants. Please note that a SPORE project must be directed toward translational research of a GI malignancy. At least one specific aim should involve either direct patient contact or the study of patient derived tissue samples.

More information on grant application is available at or through John Pounardjian,, 216.368.1976. Information is also posted on the CWRU GI SPORE website.

Deadline: April 1

Barrett's Esophagus Translational Research Network (BETRNet)

All Faculty members at participating institutions are invited to submit applications for Individual and/or Cross BETRNet pilot projects‌ of up to $50,000 to be funded by the U54 BETRNet. Note that a BETRNet project must be directed toward translational research related to Barret'’s Esophagus. At least one specific aim should involve either direct patient contact or the study of patient derived tissue samples.

More information on grant application is available at or through Angele Latham,, 216.368.1674.

Deadline: May 10

Computational Genomic Epidemiology of Cancer Postdoctoral Training Program

The Case CCC invites applications to its 2-3 year NCI-funded Computational Genomic Epidemiology of Cancer Postdoctoral Training Program. The program combines a mentored cancer research project designed by the fellow in collaboration with their mentors with a specialized curriculum of formal didactic training and individualized longitudinal curriculum.

This program is designed to prepare trainees for careers as independent investigators engaged in research at the intersection of cancer research, genetics, epidemiology, biostatistics and computer science. Cancer researchers obtaining training will have the skills vital to decipher the complex pathways comprising genetic and environmental risk factors for disease, and will ultimately be able to provide clinicians and their patients with valuable information for the prevention and treatment of cancer.

Candidates with an MD, PhD, or MD/PhD degree, strong quantitative skills, and an interest in a career in genetics research are encouraged to apply.


Childhood Brain Tumor Foundation
Deadline: March 12

American Society of Hematology Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Deadline: March 14

Doris Duke Innovations in Clinical Research Award
LOI Deadline: March 14
Proposal Deadline: May 13

(LOI Deadline: February 18)
Application Deadline: April 5

Translational Technology Concept Studies of Circulating Tumor and Endothelial Cells (CTC/CEC)
Deadline: Open

AACR Scholar-in-Training Awards - Other Conferences and Meetings
Deadline: Open

Case CCC Protocol Specific Research Support (PSRS)
Deadline: Open

International Union Against Cancer (UICC) International Cancer Technology Transfer Fellowships
Application Deadline: Open

International Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia Foundation (IWMF) Research Grant Program
Application Deadline: Open

James S. McDonnell Foundation Collaborative Activity Awards
Deadline: Open

SAIC-Frederick Support of the Cancer Genome Atlas Program
Application Deadline: Open

Solving Kids' Cancer Therapeutic Development Initiative
Application Deadline: Open

NIH BULLETIN – Notices and Funding Opportunities

The NCI Transition Career Development Award (K22)(PAR-12-121)

Translational Research at the Aging/Cancer Interface (TRACI) (R01)(PA-12-136)

Limited Competition - Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study: Center for the Coordination, Analysis, and Management of the MACS (CAMACS)(UM1)(RFA-AI-13-010)

Limited Competition - Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) Clinical Research Sites (U01)(RFA-AI-13-011)

Lasker Clinical Research Scholars Program (Si2)(RFA-OD-13-004)

Bioengineering Research Grants (BRG) (R01)(PAR-13-137)

Produced by:
Gillian Irwin Todd
11100 Euclid Avenue, Wearn 149
Cleveland, Ohio 44106-5065
216.844.8317 phone
216.844.7832 fax


If you have a new grant, recently won an award, or have other newsworthy items, please let us know so we can publicize them in the newsletter and other media outlets. You deserve the accolades!

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March 11

Breast Cancer Program in Development Annual Retreat
9 am-5:30 pm Dively Building
Pre-registration required

Pathology Research Seminar Series
Scott Emr, PhD
Frank Rhodes Professor, Molecular Biology and Genetics
Cornell University
Topic: Protein Quality Control at the Plasma Membrane – Essential Role of the ESCRT Machinery and an Arrestin-ubiqutin-ligase Adaptor
12 pm WRB 1-413

Sequencing Data Interest Group (SDIG)
Matthew Cannon, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Serre lab, Genetics
CWRU/Cleveland Clinic
Topic: Genome-Wide Gene Expression and Epigenetic Analyses of Mice Born From Lean and Obese Mothers
2:30 pm WRB 1-403

Melanoma Mini-Symposium
March 11
3-7 pm Wolstein Research Building
Pre-registration required

Physiology and Biophysics Seminar
Augustine Choi, MD
Chief, Div. of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine 
Professor, Medicine
Harvard University/Brigham and Women's Hospital
Topic: Cross Talk Between Autophagy and Inflammasomes
4 pm SOM / Robbins Building, E-501

March 12

Molecular Genetics Departmental Seminar
Sudip Bandyopadhyay, PhD
Project Staff, Sen Lab, Molecular Genetics
Cleveland Clinic
Topic: Apoptosis in Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells (RPE) by Oxidative Stress: Role of TLR3
9:30 am NE1-205 Cleveland Clinic

Cancer Biology Invited Speaker Seminar
Simon Bekker-Jensen, PhD
Associate Professor, The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research, Ubiquitin Signaling Group
University of Copenhagen
Topic: The Many Faces of Ubiquitin in the DNA Damage Response
11 am NC1-202 Cleveland Clinic

Medicine Grand Rounds
Theodore Parran, MD
Internal Medicine
Topic: Evidence-Based Approaches to Managing Alcohol Withdrawal
12 pm Kulas Auditorium, Lakeside 5th Fl.

Cancer Center Faculty Candidate
Satyanarayana Ande, PhD
Research Assistant Professor, Internal Medicine
University of Texas Medical Branch
Topic: Genetic Mouse Models to Investigate Molecular Mechanisms of Obesity, Liver Regeneration & Liver Tumorigenesis
4 pm WRB 3-136

March 13

Hematology and Oncology Division Research Conference
Topic: TBD
8 am Lerner B-151

March 14

March 15

Hematology and Oncology Fellows Conference 
Topic: TBD
8 am Wearn 137/Breen Conference Rm.

Taussig Cancer Institute Grand Rounds
Dean Bajorin, MD
Genitourinary Oncology
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Topic: Bladder Cancer Update: New Insights and Perhaps New Treatments
8 am R3/002-003 Cleveland Clinic

Cancer Center Seminar Series
James J. Bieker, PhD
Professor, Developmental & Regenerative Biology
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Topic: EKLF/KLF1 and the Hematology of Red Blood Cells
12 pm BRB 105

Cancer Center Research in Progress
4 pm WRB 3-136

Case CCC Calendar

LRI Calendar


IMPACT: Improving Sickle Cell Patient Adherence Through Collaborative Teaching
March 23
Wolstein Research Building

Breast Cancer Conference
May 17
Hilton Cleveland East

Impact of Genomics on Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment: Open Drug Policy Forum
June 24
9 am - 3 pm Wolstein Research Building

Annual Cancer Center Scientific Retreat
July 11-12


National GvHD Health Symposium
November 1