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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

DCEG Annual Town Meeting

November 2011 - Linkage Newsletter

by Victoria A. McCallum, M.P.H.

In June, DCEG held its Annual Town Meeting to celebrate the accomplishments of Division members during the past year. Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., M.D., Division Director, welcomed the staff and introduced the featured speaker, Douglas Lowy, M.D., NCI Deputy Director.

In his presentation, Dr. Lowy described current NCI research priorities. These priorities include maintaining a vigorous investigator-initiated research portfolio, expanding research in cancer genomics, and restructuring the clinical trials process. He also gave an update on new NCI appointments and budget issues.

Shelia Hoar Zahm, Sc.D., DCEG Deputy Director, provided a "year in review" of the Division's research, honors and awards received by DCEG investigators, staff additions and departures, training activities, and other special events. Significant DCEG scientific publications over the past year included findings from studies on obesity and physical activity, the Vitamin D Pooling Project, cancer susceptibility syndromes, HIV and cancer, and genome-wide association studies. Dr. Zahm also summarized infrastructure improvements and scientific accomplishments at DCEG-affiliated laboratories, including the SAIC Core Genotyping Facility, the NCI DNA Extraction and Staging Laboratory, biorepositories, and the NCI Hormone Measurement Laboratory.

Dr. Fraumeni honored scientific contributions and outstanding service by DCEG members. Fellowship Achievement Awards honored fellows who excelled during the past year and included stipend increases at the next appointment renewal. Recipients were Jonathan Hofmann, Ph.D., Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch (OEEB), Alison Mondul, Ph.D., Nutritional Epidemiology Branch (NEB), Sarah Nyante, Ph.D., Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch (HREB), and Sara Schonfeld, Ph.D., Radiation Epidemiology Branch (REB).

Awards were also given for DCEG Outstanding Research Papers of 2010 in recognition of exceptional publications from fellows and staff scientists or clinicians. The Division's Senior Advisory Group judged the competition based on the papers' impact, innovation, and clarity of thought and language. Five fellows received awards:

Samsiddhi Bhattacharjee, Ph.D., Biostatistics Branch (BB): "Using principal components of genetic variation for robust and powerful detection of gene-gene interactions in case-control and case-only studies," American Journal of Human Genetics

Michael B. Cook, Ph.D. (HREB): "Cigarette smoking and adenocarcinomas of the esophagus and esophagogastric junction: A pooled analysis from the International BEACON Consortium," Journal of the National Cancer Institute

Idan Menashe, Ph.D. (formerly of BB): "Pathway analysis of breast cancer genome-wide association study highlights three pathways and one canonical signaling cascade," Cancer Research

Ju-Hyun Park, Ph.D. (BB): "Estimation of effect size distribution from genome-wide association studies and implications for future discoveries," Nature Genetics

Sara Schonfeld, Ph.D. (REB): "Effect of changing breast cancer incidence rates on the calibration of the Gail model," Journal of Clinical Oncology

The recipient in the staff scientist or clinician category was:

Steven L. Simon, Ph.D. (REB): "Radiation doses and cancer risks in the Marshall Islands associated with exposure to radioactive fallout from Bikini and Enewetak nuclear weapons tests," Health Physics

DCEG Special Appreciation Awards were given to Denise Brandenburg, Administrative Resource Center, for her skillful management of the Division's budget and the development of a valuable automated system for tracking DCEG expenditures at SAIC-Frederick; Geoffrey Tobias, Human Genetics Program, for his outstanding technical support and advice, particularly in his role as executive secretary for several genetics-related oversight committees; and Tawanda (Tee) Roy (NEB) and Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D., Deputy Chief of NEB, for their selfless administrative and scientific contributions to NEB during the extended illness of the former NEB Branch Chief.

Neal D. Freedman, Ph.D., M.P.H. (NEB), and Mary H. Ward, Ph.D. (OEEB), received DCEG Outstanding Mentor Awards in recognition of their exceptional commitment to the growth and productivity of junior scientists. In the nomination by fellows, Dr. Freedman was described as "an exceptional mentor and admirable role model because of his strong work ethic, generosity, and love of science." Dr. Ward was praised for her skills as "a thoughtful listener, recognizing fellows' strengths and individuality and offering suggestions on how to build on those areas."

A DCEG Exemplary Service Award was given to Debra T. Silverman, Sc.D., Chief of OEEB. Recognized as a world-class epidemiologist, Dr. Silverman's research focuses on the origins of cancers of the bladder and pancreas as well as on the carcinogenic effects of diesel exhausts. Her recent work on bladder cancer has yielded new etiologic insights, including reasons for the persistently high rates reported in New England. Her work on the effects of diesel exhaust exposure among underground miners promises to have significant public health importance.

A DCEG Exemplary Service Award was also given to Dr. Simon. An expert on assessing historical radiation doses from nuclear weapons fallout, Dr. Simon has provided advice over many years to national and international organizations on the health effects of environmental contamination from nuclear testing. In March 2011, he took service to a new level when he was deployed to Japan to advise the U.S. embassy and consulates on health issues related to radiation exposure following the earthquake, tsunami, and damage to a nuclear power plant at Fukushima Daiichi.

Winners of the DCEG Fellows Award for Research Excellence and the DCEG Intramural Research Awards, which had been announced earlier in the year, also received recognition at the Town Meeting. The event was coordinated by Alyssa Voss, M.P.H., Office of Communications and Special Initiatives.