Today the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and the University of New Mexico Cancer Center announced the recruitment of four world-renowned cancer physicians and scientists. The UNM Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of the State of New Mexico and one of the nation’s 60 premier National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Cancer Centers. The four new recruits will assume top leadership roles this summer and bring new expertise to New Mexico’s fight against cancer.
Joining the UNM Cancer Center and UMN School of Medicine are: Wadih Arap, MD, PhD and Renata Pasqualini, Ph.D., recruited from the University of Texas – MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, international experts in the discovery of new cancer drugs and the treatment of prostate and other advanced cancers; Martin J. Edelman, MD, FACP, recruited from the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in Baltimore, an international expert in the treatment of lung and aerodigestive cancers; and Anita Kinney, PhD, recruited from the Huntsman Cancer Center at the University of Utah, an international expert in cancer prevention and public health, community-based research, and cancer health disparities.
“These four world-renowned experts in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and the development of new cancer drugs and therapies will take the outstanding cancer research and treatment programs at the UNM Cancer Center to a whole new level,” said Cheryl Willman, MD, Director and CEO of the UNM Cancer Center, and the Maurice and Marguerite Liberman Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research. “We are absolutely thrilled to have them join our team. Their expertise will not only greatly benefit New Mexicans in their fight against cancer, but their success in the discovery of new cancer drugs and the development of new biotechnology companies will spur New Mexico’s economic development.”
Wadih Arap, MD, PhD will join UNM as the new Deputy Director of the UNM Cancer Center and Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology in the Department of Internal Medicine in the School of Medicine. He will hold the Victor and Ruby Hansen Surface Endowed Chair in Cancer Medicine. Currently the Stringer Professor of Medicine and Experimental Diagnostic Imaging and Deputy Chair of the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology in the Division of Cancer Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Arap earned his MD degree from the University of São Paulo Medical School in Brazil and completed his clinical training at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He earned his PhD in Cancer Biology from Stanford University and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in La Jolla.
During his 14-year tenure at M.D. Anderson, Dr. Arap gained international recognition for his expertise in the treatment of prostate cancer. His research focused on the development of new cancer drugs and therapies that could be precisely targeted to cancer cells. His research, supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, and several philanthropic foundations, has led to over 60 patents worldwide and the publication of over 150 scientific studies. Among his many honors are The V Foundation Award on Translational Cancer Research (2001), The Edith and Peter O'Donnell Award from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (2009) and his election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation.
“Dr. Arap is a highly accomplished physician-scientist with an exceptional record as a visionary and an effective leader. I am confident he will guide the UNM Health Sciences Center to even greater excellence in research and his recruitment will accelerate our efforts to provide outstanding cancer care for all New Mexicans,” said Paul Roth, M.D., UNM Chancellor for Health Sciences, Dean of the UNM School of Medicine, and CEO of the UNM Health System.
Renata Pasqualini, PhD, will join UNM as the new Associate Director for Translational Research. She will co-lead the UNM Cancer Center’s Program in Experimental Therapeutics and Drug Discovery with Larry Sklar, PhD, Distinguished Regents Professor of Pathology. Dr. Pasqualini will be a Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine and will hold the Maralyn S. Budke Endowed Chair in Cancer Experimental Therapeutics. Currently the Helen Buchanan & Stanley Seeger Professor of Medicine and Experimental Diagnostic Imaging in the Division of Cancer Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center, she earned her PhD in Biochemistry from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the Institute of Chemistry at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Dr. Pasqualini completed her research training at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard-Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in San Diego.
During her 14-year tenure at MD Anderson, Dr. Pasqualini has won international acclaim for her scientific contributions in cancer biology and drug development. Working with her husband, Dr. Arap, in their joint laboratory program, she has developed novel diagnostic and imaging tools for cancer and obesity. Their research has been supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, and several philanthropic foundations including the American Association for Cancer Research, The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, The Marcus Foundation, The Prostate Cancer Foundation, and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
This powerful research team has made ground-breaking discoveries about the diversity of blood vessels in normal and diseased organs. They developed a system that discovered different proteins (referred to as “molecular signatures” or “ZIP codes”) characterizing the blood vessels in different normal tissues of the body and in different cancers. These “zip codes” can be used to selectively deliver therapeutic and diagnostic agents to specific blood vessels in normal or cancer cells, allowing them to design new drugs that can be targeted specifically to cancer cells. They have taken a similar approach to develop drugs for obesity. Ongoing human clinical trials are determining the value of these innovative approaches.
Dr. Pasqualini has published over 150 scientific studies and holds or has applied for more than 100 patents worldwide. Among her many honors are the Susan G. Komen Career Development Award in Basic Cancer Research (1999), The V Foundation Award on Translational Cancer Research (2001), The Living Legend Faculty Achievement Award from UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center (2005), the Edith and Peter O'Donnell Award from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (2009), and The Lombroso Award in Cancer Research from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel (2011). She has also been named as one of the nation’s “Top 400 Inventors.”
Dr. Pasqualini and Dr. Arap are scientific founders of five new biotechnology start-up companies, including AAVP Biosystems, Ablaris Therapeutics, Alvos Therapeutics, AMP Pharm., and Ceramide Therapeutics. Ablaris and Alvos are publicly traded as part of the portfolio of Arrowhead Research Corporation (NASDAC ARWR).
“Dr. Arap and Pasqualini are talented, creative, and resourceful, and we look forward to their joining the faculty,” says Pope Moseley, M.D., UNM Regents Professor and Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the UNM School of Medicine. “They will have a tremendous impact on our efforts to develop more effective treatments for cancer, but also for many chronic human diseases, including obesity and metabolic diseases, such as diabetes.”
Dr. Robert G. Frank, President of the University of New Mexico says, “Drs. Arap and Pasqualini are amazing recruits for the University of New Mexico and our State. Their world class science will not only have a tremendous impact on human health and foster a dynamic education and training environment for our students in biomedical research and engineering, but their expertise in commercialization and new company startups has the potential to catapult New Mexico’s growing biotechnology community and economy.”
Martin J. Edelman, MD, FACP, will join UNM as a Professor of Hematology/Oncology in the Department of Internal Medicine. He will be the new Associate Director for Clinical Research at the UNM Cancer Center and will co-lead the UNM Cancer Center’s Program in Lung Cancer and Aerodigestive Malignancies with Stephen Belinsky, PhD, of the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute. Dr. Edelman will also lead the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance, a collaborative statewide cancer clinical trials network between the UNM Cancer Center and several community healthcare systems. He will hold the Victor and Ruby Hansen Surface Endowed Chair in Clinical Cancer Research. Currently Professor of Medicine, Director of the Solid Tumor Oncology, and Director of Thoracic Oncology at the University of Maryland’s Greenebaum Cancer Center, Edelman earned his medical degree from The Albany Medical College and completed his clinical training at the Naval Medical Center, San Diego. Following active military service, he held faculty positions at the University of California at Davis and the VA Northern California Health Care System before joining the University of Maryland.
Dr. Edelman has won international recognition for his clinical and scientific contributions in lung and thoracic cancers. He serves on the Lung Cancer committee of the Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB) / Alliance National Cancer Institute-sponsored Clinical Research Group; as the Medical Oncology co-chair for the Lung Cancer Committee of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG); as a leader of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC); and as a Faculty Member of the European Society of Medical Oncology where he is assisting in the drafting of international guidelines for the clinical treatment of lung cancer.
Clinical trials are a crucial step in translating the latest advances in cancer research to human treatments. As Associate Director for Clinical Research at the UNM Cancer Center, Dr. Edelman will oversee the pioneering programs that the UNM Cancer Center and the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance collaboratively administer. These programs enable people throughout New Mexico to participate in cancer clinical trials while still under the care of their own physicians in their own communities and health systems. Richard Lauer, MD, FACP, and Chief Medical Officer at UNM Cancer Center, said, “We already have great programs, but Dr. Edelman’s strong leadership and expertise will bring us to even higher levels of excellence with our Clinical Trials program and will greatly enhance our treatment options for patients with lung and aerodigestive cancers.”
Dr. Edelman has published over 250 scientific articles, abstracts and book chapters, and has received numerous awards. He developed one of the most commonly used regimens for treating advanced lung cancer and has focused on the development of biomarkers to personalize lung cancer therapy. Much of his recent work has been directed at targeting eicosanoids, the signaling molecules similar to hormones which are directly exchanged between cells. Many eicosanoids send inflammatory signals and drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and Celebrex® (known as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDS) interfere with these signals. “By choosing special molecular characteristics of the tumor,” Dr. Edelman explains, “we can create increasingly personalized therapies for our patients.” Dr. Edelman is currently the national Principal Investigator for a National Cancer Institute- sponsored study of Celebrex® in addition to chemotherapy for selected patients with lung cancer. His work has also emphasized the multidisciplinary approach to the curative treatment of lung cancer, including radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. Dr. Edelman currently leads the only national study with that approach.
Dr. Edelman was especially interested in UNM Cancer Center’s approach to developing personalized treatment plans for each patient, based on new advances in genomic research and tumor sequencing, high throughput screening for effective drugs, and targeted nanotherapeutics. “The UNM Cancer Center and Health Sciences Center’s capacity for developing radio-therapeutics is spectacular,” he says. “And the engineering nanoparticle research holds great promise for therapeutic drug delivery.”
Anita Kinney, Ph.D., will join UNM as a Professor of Internal Medicine and as the new Associate Director for Cancer Control and Population Sciences in the UNM Cancer Center. Holding the Victor and Ruby Hansen Surface Endowed Chair in Cancer Population Sciences, Dr. Kinney will also assist in the development of the new College of Public Health at UNM. She is currently a Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology, Leader of the Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program, and a Jon and Karen Huntsman Presidential Professor in Cancer Research at Huntsman Cancer Institute and the University of Utah. Dr. Kinney first earned degrees in Nursing from Seton Hall University and the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston. She completed a National Cancer Institute-funded postdoctoral fellowship in epidemiology and cancer control at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Dr. Kinney is a world-renowned population scientist. During her 15-year tenure at the University of Utah, she has received international recognition for work in cancer prevention and control, disparities and behavioral epidemiology. She has published over 150 scientific articles and abstracts, and has won numerous awards, including the Founders Award for Outstanding Research and Scholarship from the International Society of Nurses in Genetics (2002), the YWCA Outstanding Achievement Award in Medicine/Health (2011), elected to the Executive Board of the American Society of Preventive Oncology, appointment as Co-Chair of the 36th American Society of Preventive Oncology Annual Meeting (2011); and appointment as Chair of the National Cancer Survivorship Special Interest Group (2010).
Dr. Kinney’s research interests focus on discovering ways to ensure optimal translation of genomic and other scientific discoveries to populations and communities to prevent cancer and improve cancer-related outcomes. She is particularly interested in developing effective interventions to improve informed decision-making and health outcomes among socially and geographically underserved populations. By combining epidemiology, behavioral science and clinical perspectives, Dr. Kinney studies how variations in behavioral and social factors influence cancer prevention, control, and outcomes. Several of her studies have looked first-hand at how translating genetic and research discoveries into clinical interventions is exquisitely coupled with behavioral, social and cultural issues. She explains, “much of my work involves developing and testing interventions to increase the reach of genetic discoveries, and studying how people use genetic information to make life-saving healthcare or health-related decisions.”
In a recent study, Dr. Kinney and her team developed an effective strategy for deliver personalized genomic risk counseling remotely for people at risk for colorectal cancer. Many studies have found that fewer than 50% of people who have a family history of colorectal cancer and who are therefore at an increased risk for developing the disease actually get recommended colonoscopies. So Dr. Kinney developed a counseling program in which cancer risk specialists remotely counseled intermediate-risk people and gave them supplemental personalized print materials. By giving such individualized attention, colonoscopy use increased significantly. Dr. Kinney plans to further test this intervention in different settings in New Mexico.
In another ongoing study, Dr. Kinney and her team are comparing telephone counseling with in-person counseling for women who may carry one of the inherited breast cancer susceptibility genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) and who may be candidates for genetic counseling and testing. Sisters, daughters, and cousins of women with these genes could be at an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer and male relatives may be at risk for the rare breast cancers that can occur in men. Explaining what the cancer risks mean could affect not only the women involved but also their families. Says Dr. Kinney, “our hope is that if telephone genetic counseling is equivalent and as safe as in-person counseling and testing, we can change health policy and increase access to these specialized cancer genetic services throughout our communities.”
Dr. Kinney also studies interventions to improve the health and quality of life for cancer survivors. There are now approximately 13.7 million cancer survivors in the United States and many suffer late and long-term effects. She studies cancer survivorship in all age groups and has two active projects focusing on seniors because, as she explains, “while cancers occur in people who are over 60 years in age, most research on cancer survivors is conducted in middle-aged adults and does not address the unique needs and problems encountered by older cancer survivors.”
“We could not be more thrilled to have recruited Dr. Anita Kinney as our new leader for Cancer Population Sciences and Prevention,” says Dr. Cheryl Willman. “With our ability to now sequence the genome of a human cancer in one day at the UNM Cancer Center, our ability to deliver this information effectively, ethically, and responsibly to our patients, from all ethnicities and walks of life is critical, so that they can make informed decisions about their care.” “Dr. Kinney will vastly improve New Mexico’s efforts in cancer prevention and screening and her work will help us meet our goal of overcoming the significant patterns of disparity in cancer risk, survivorhsip and survival in New Mexico’s communities and multi-ethnic populations.”
About the UNM Cancer Center
The UNM Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in the state. One of just 67 premier NCI-Designated Cancer Centers nationwide, the UNM Cancer Center is recognized for its scientific excellence, contributions to cancer research, the delivery of high quality, state of the art cancer diagnosis and treatment to all New Mexicans, and its community outreach programs statewide. Annual federal and private funding of over $72 million supports the UNM Cancer Center’s research programs. The UNM Cancer Center treats more than 60 percent of the adults and virtually all of the children in New Mexico affected by cancer, from every county in the state. It is home to New Mexico’s largest team of board-certified oncology physicians and research scientists, representing every cancer specialty and hailing from prestigious institutions such as M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University, and the Mayo Clinic. Through its partnership with Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, the UNM Cancer Center brings world-class cancer care to the southern part of the state; its collaborative clinical programs in Santa Fe and Farmington serve northern New Mexico and it is developing new collaborative programs in Alamogordo and in Roswell/Carlsbad. The UNM Cancer Center also supports several community outreach programs to make cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment available to every New Mexican. Learn more at www.cancer.unm.edu.