June 2014

WCI News

Pilot Grant winners announced

Wilmot Cancer Institute awarded $200,000 this month for pilot and collaborative studies in cancer research. Since 2011, the Institute has awarded more than $1.5 million in seed grants for cancer research. This year, two awards were given in behavioral, clinical or epidemiological cancer research, and three were given in basic or translational individual or collaborative projects.

This year's awards include:

Eric Kim, M.D., Department of Medicine, Hematology/Oncology
Solid Tumors: $25,000
Copper chelation as a strategy to overcome platinum resistance in NSCLC

Platinum-based chemotherapy is the mainstay of treatment for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, the response rates with first-line platinum-containing therapies are only 20 percent to 30 percent and even the initial responders rapidly develop resistance. Kim's team will evaluate the safety, pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics and preliminary efficacy of copper chelation by tetrathiomolybdate in combination with carboplatin and pemetrexed in metastatic non-squamous NSCLC.

Rick Phipps, Ph.D., Department of Environmental Medicine
Cancer Control and Survivorship: $25,000
Finding a treatment to prevent capsular contracture following reconstruction mammoplasty after breast cancer

This pilot project will test the hypothesis that the scar-forming cells that cause capsular contracture express a surface protein called Thy1. Phipps and his team propose to use a method to reduce Thy1 expression to block scar cell formation in human capsule scar cells and prevent the shortening and tightening of muscle and connective tissue after breast reconstruction.

Laura Calvi, M.D., Department of Medicine, Endocrine/Metabolism
Blood Cancers: $50,000
The role of the chemokine CCL3 in the initiation and progression of acute myelogenous leukemia

Calvi's team plans to test the effects of CCL3, a factor produced by leukemia cells known to affect bone cells, on the progression of leukemia. The study will examine whether CCL3 is affecting blood cells, bone cells or both. Using mouse models of leukemia and leukemia cells from human patients, they will also assess whether existing drugs designed to block CCL3 could be effective for leukemia.

Catherine Ovitt, Ph.D., Center for Oral Biology
Solid Tumors – Biology: $50,000
A genetic model for salivary gland adenoid cystic carcinoma

Ovitt and her team will generate a mouse model carrying an engineered MYB-NF1B fusion protein, which induces a common type of salivary gland tumor, to be used in combination with salivary gland-specific strains uniquely available in their laboratory. Using these models, they will investigate the origin and development of adenoid cystic carcinoma tumors. A better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for ACC tumor formation may allow earlier detection of malignancies and better prediction of tumor behavior, and will ultimately lead to the development of preventive therapies.

Lei Xu, Ph.D., Department of Biomedical Genetics
Hallmarks of Cancer – Biology: $50,000
ECM removal by GPR56 in transgenic melanoma model

Xu's team will test whether removing the extracellular matrix, or ECM, of tumors by removing an enzyme from a cell surface molecule called GPR56 will impede melanoma growth. They will test this hypothesis in a pre-clinical model using mice whose melanoma resembles that of humans. The results of their work will provide key information on the model's clinical utilization and serve as critical preliminary data to solicit federal funding.

Survivors, families and staff celebrate at the Warrior Walk

Warrior Walk

More than 400 people — including 70 survivors — took part in the second annual Warrior Walk on June 1 to celebrate life beyond cancer. The event benefits the Judy DiMarzo Cancer Survivorship Program at Wilmot Cancer Institute. Among the survivors who participated were those at the beginning of treatment and those well beyond a decade from treatment.

Check out some of the photos from the day, and mark your calendar to join us next year! The Warrior Walk is scheduled for Sunday, June 7, 2015.

Emilie Langfitt honored with Nursing Quality of Life Award


Palliative care nurse Emilie Langfitt was chosen for the 14th annual Quality of Life Award sponsored by the Cancer Center Nursing Service. The award recognizes excellence in oncology/palliative nursing that enhances a patient's Quality of Life.

Langfitt was among six nominees for this year's award. She was honored for her extraordinary care and compassion in helping meet the special needs of a patient's family. The other nominees for this award included:

  • Darlene Harmor, Palliative Care
  • The entire WCC5 unit (surgical oncology, urology and ENT)
  • Marj Earnhart from WCC7
  • Lise Silberberg from WCC6/BMT
  • Sharon Swift and Anne McKenna, BMT coordinators

The award was given during the 14th Annual Nursing Quality of Life Award Presentation and Showcase on June 17.

Strong Wilmot presence at ASCO

Many Wilmot Cancer Institute physicians and scientists attended the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting May 30-June 3 in Chicago, presenting more than 30 abstracts on topics ranging from the results of experimental treatments for lymphoma, leukemia, and gastric cancers, to studies of symptom management and the benefits of exercise for cancer patients.

ASCO's annual event is the world's largest gathering of oncologists, where invited speakers and meeting attendees trade and discuss the most current information on cancer care and research. The Wilmot group from Cancer Control and Survivorship presented several studies, as did the team from geriatric oncology, such as the factors involved in falls among older cancer patients, and gene expression during exercise to improve muscle strength in prostate cancer patients. Wilmot was also a big player in two key, national clinical trials testing the drugs alisertib and ibrutinib for certain lymphomas.


Advancement News

Time to tee it up
Community groups throughout the Rochester area are hosting golf tournaments this summer to support research at Wilmot Cancer Institute. If you're looking for a good reason to hit the greens, here are a few to choose from:

Sunday, July 13
The For Pete's Sake Golf Tournament will take place at Victor Hills Golf Club in Victor. Proceeds from the tournament benefit cholangiocarcinoma research at Wilmot Cancer Institute. For more information, contact Kaitlyn Osterling.

Monday, July 14
The 5th Annual Michael F. Contestabile Memorial Golf Tournament will tee off at Shadow Pines Golf Club, Penfield. Proceeds from the tournament benefit pancreatic cancer research at Wilmot Cancer Institute. For more information, contact Frank Pettinaro.

Monday, July 28
The Kovalsky-Carr Golf Tournament will take place at Irondequoit Country Club in Pittsford. The proceeds from the event will benefit the Kovalsky-Carr research fund. For more information, contact Don Bausch.

The Edelman-Gardner Ladies Golf Tournament tees off at Timber Ridge Golf Club in Brockport. Proceeds from the tournament will benefit Edelman-Gardner Cancer Research Foundation, which supports research at Wilmot Cancer Institute. For more information, contact Cheryl Edelman at (585) 489-5610.

Monday, Aug. 14
The Edelman-Gardner Men's Golf Tournament will take place at Salmon Creek Country Club in Spencerport. The proceeds will benefit the Edelman-Gardner Cancer Research Foundation, which supports research at Wilmot Cancer Institute. For more information, contact George Kaufman.

Staff Profile

Liz Scarsella

Wilmot Cancer Center Staff Profile: Liz Scarsella

Position: Nurse Manager, Pluta Cancer Center and SMH Infusion at Highland Hospital

Employed at URMC since: I started working at URMC in 2002 on 634 (inpatient medical oncology) as a staff nurse.

What I do: As a nurse manager, I am responsible for managing the clinical operations at both sites, which includes clinic as well as infusion. In my role, I need to collaborate with several disciplines, including providers, to provide safe, compassionate, cutting edge care to the patients that we care for. Recently, Comprehensive Breast Care has relocated from Wilmot to Pluta. This relocation has provided me the opportunity to make work flow and operational changes in order to accommodate the increase in patient volume.

What I love most about my job: Finding solutions to operational challenges and of course the opportunity to interact with and help patients as they navigate a cancer diagnosis. Working with cancer patients is incredibly rewarding.

If you could choose an occupation other than your current one, what would it be? That is a tough question, but I would have to say that after finishing my business degree, I could see myself doing something in administration or finance, remaining within health care. If I were to be completely unrealistic, I would drive a race car.

When I'm not at work, I enjoy: Hiking, gardening, cooking, and watching my son's soccer games.

Something that people might be surprised to know about me: I bartended my way through U of R, so I can make you a mean cocktail!

Last good movie I watched: The Lego Movie with my kids! I thought it was going to be awful, but it actually turned out to be pretty good.



  • Monday, Aug. 18
    • Survivors Night with the Rochester Red Wings
    • Game starts at 7:05 p.m. at Frontier Field, 1 Morrie Silver Way
    • For tickets and more information, contact Derek Swanson