Wilmot Cancer Center Update - July 2013

WCC News

URMC, Roswell Park Cancer Institute Announce Joint Program to Train Surgical Oncologists

The URMC and Roswell Park Cancer Institute have received accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education for a joint, two-year fellowship program in Complex General Surgical Oncology.  Surgeons who are accepted into the program will train at both institutions, and upon completion of the program will be eligible for board certification in surgical oncology.  

Roswell Park has had a highly successful Surgical Oncology fellowship program for decades.  But in order for the program to earn ACGME accreditation, it had to be part of an accredited residency program in General Surgery.  Roswell approached Rochester this spring, and the institutions submitted a joint application to ACGME in May.

The program will accept four applicants each year.  John Kane III, M.D., associate professor of Surgery at Roswell Park, will continue to serve as program director, and Diane Hartman, M.D., professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and senior associate dean for Medical Education at the University of Rochester, will serve as the institutional official.  As part of the collaboration, 12 surgeons at Roswell Park who are involved in the fellowship program will receive faculty appointments at the University of Rochester.  

The joint fellowship program is the second formal cooperative effort between the institutions.  

Award Recipients

American Cancer Society Awards $2M for Diverse Cancer Research

A pair of grants from the American Cancer Society will support two URMC researchers to gain a better understanding of mutations that occur in the early stages of liver cancer; and to improve patient-centered care and communication.

Aram Hezel, M.D., is the leader of the first four-year project. He received $720,000 to use a recently developed mouse model as a tool to further investigate Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma (IHCC), a primary cancer of the liver with poor outcomes.  Using the model and samples of liver tumors from patients, Hezel’s research team is studying two important and poorly understood aspects of this disease:

  • The early stages of this cancer type, which they hope will lead to an early detection plan;
  • The energy and recycling pathways activated in IHCC tumors and other cancers, which could eventually lead to promising new treatments.

Robert Gramling, M.D., received $1.3 million to study palliative care consultations among people with advanced cancer. He will lead a four-year project that plans to enroll 300 patients while they are in the hospital. The goal is to investigate how patients, families, and palliative care doctors and nurses work together to craft treatment plans that match the patient’s values and options. Much of the research will take place at Strong Memorial Hospital and Highland Hospital at URMC, although other local hospitals may also be involved. 

Michael Becker Appointed Director, Blood and Marrow Transplant Program; Gordon Phillips Retires

Gordon Phillips, M.D., has announced his retirement effective October 15, and will step down as director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant program on July 15. Michael Becker, M.D. has been appointed the incoming director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, effective July 15.  

In his role, Becker will be responsible for clinical oversight, maintenance of FACT accreditation, patient outcomes, quality improvement initiatives, nurse practitioner and coordinator oversight, mentorship of junior faculty, and fellow/resident training experiences in leukemia and bone marrow transplantation.  As co-leader of the hematological malignancy program in the Cancer Center, he will also help shape the strategic plan for research in blood cancers, including recruitments of both clinical and research faculty.  

A celebration of Philips’ accomplishments will be planned in the months to come. 

Wilmot Cancer Center Receives National Recognition for Quality Care

Wilmot Cancer Center has received the 2012 Outstanding Achievement Award by the American College of Surgeons’ (ACS) Commission on Cancer (CoC)—a consortium of professional organizations dedicated to improving patient outcomes and quality of life for cancer patients. The award acknowledges 79 U.S. health care facilities with accredited cancer programs that achieve excellence in providing quality cancer care to patients.

Twenty-nine categorizes within four cancer program areas were used to evaluate the Wilmot Cancer Center: cancer committee leadership, cancer data management, clinical services and quality improvement. The award-winning, cancer-care programs on this year’s list represent approximately 19 percent of programs surveyed by the CoC.

Michele Janelsins-Benton Receives Outstanding Investigator of the Year Award

The Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC) is giving its 2013 Outstanding Young Investigator of The Year award to Michele C. Janelsins-Benton, Ph.D., M.P.H., a Wilmot Cancer Center researcher who studies the cognitive problems that develop due to chemotherapy. 

Specifically she won for a study on the effects of yoga in cancer survivors, and receives the award at MASCC’s annual meeting June 27, 2013, in Berlin, Germany. The National Cancer Institute also recently awarded $724,500 to Janelsins (K07 Career Development Award) to investigate how memory and other cognitive impairments develop during cancer treatment, and to assess interventions that target inflammation.

Karen Mustian Named Distinguished Visiting Professor for the Princess Margaret Cancer Center 


Karen Mustian, Ph.D., M.P.H., received the 2013 Drew Butterfield Distinguished Visiting Professor for the Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto. As part of this, Mustian provided two talks on June 10, including one on exercise oncology and rehabilitation.

Staff Profile: Michael Becker, M.D.

Michael BeckerWilmot Cancer Center Staff Profile:  Michael Becker, M.D. - Physician, Associate Professor of Medicine, Clinical Director of the Adult Leukemia Service

Employed at URMC since: December 2005

What I love most about my job: The great people I get to care for and work with.

If you could choose an occupation other than your current one, what would it be? Laboratory research assistant.

When I’m not at work, I enjoy: Spending time with my wife Diane and my children.

Last good movie I watched: The Avengers

Recently Published

Biologists Identify the Chemical Behind Cancer Resistance in Naked Mole Rats

Husband –and-wife team, Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov, discovered the chemical that makes naked mole rats cancer-proof. The research, published in the journal Nature, shows that these rodents are protected from cancer because their tissues are very rich with high molecular weight hyaluronan (HMW-HA). 

Seluanov and Gorbunova then showed that when HMW-HA was removed, the cells became susceptible to tumors, confirming that the chemical did play a role in making naked mole rats cancer-proof. They also identified the gene, named HAS2, responsible for making HMW-HA in the naked mole rat.

Advancement News

Cancer Survivors Unite at the Inaugural Warrior Walk 

More than 300 cancer survivors, their friends, family and care teams laced up their sneakers for the inaugural Warrior Walk: Celebrating Life Beyond Cancer on June 2 to commemorate National Cancer Survivors Day.  

The walk/run along the Erie Canal and at the University of Rochester River Campus raised more than $40,000 to support the Judy DiMarzo Survivorship Program. After the walk, participants enjoyed the opportunity to connect with one another over refreshments from local vendors, children’s activities, cancer survivorship education and live music. 

Please save the date for the second annual Warrior Walk on Sunday, June 1, 2014.

URMCMarketing's Warrior Walk album on Photobucket

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