A Conversation with a Living Legend

On November 24th BB&R hosted a luncheon event in Maryland benefiting MD Anderson Cancer Center.

( FYI: The mission of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is to eliminate cancer in Texas, the nation, and the world through outstanding programs that integrate patient care, research and prevention, and through education for undergraduate and graduate students, trainees, professionals, employees and the public.)

The purpose of the event was to get together to hear about A Conversation with a Living Legend taking place at the Kennedy Center on April 21st, 2015. The event will raise money for MD Anderson Cancer Center, and will feature a conversation between President Bill Clinton and General Colin Powell, moderated by Bob Schieffer.

The proceeds of the April 21st event will benefit cancer in general, but a portion is allocated to the Pancreatic Research Center, which will be like none other in the world, bringing scienteists, oncologists, surgeons, radiologists and pathologists under one roof. Dr. Anirban Maitra joined us at the November 24th luncheon to speak about the latest and very hopeful findings about Pancreas cancer.

BB&R supported the luncheon and will support the event on April 21st because we, like many others, have been touched by the dreaded disease of cancer and we are doing our small part to help find a cure.

BB& R sponsored the luncheon by providing a menu of cancer fighting, nutrient filled delicious food for the 25 guest in attendance.

Hospital in Houston, Texas–the leading Cancer center appoints first scientific director and co-director of the Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research

MD Anderson News Release 04/04/13

unnamedAnirban Maitra, M.B.B.S., a pre-eminent expert in the genetics of pancreatic cancer and the development of targeted therapies for the disease, will lead research at a new center at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center devoted to this highly lethal cancer.

Maitra becomes co-director and scientific director of the Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research on Aug. 1, bringing his passion for improving patients’ survival by discovering and developing ways to detect and treat pancreatic cancer to Houston.

“It’s a revolutionary time to be at MD Anderson if you’re a cancer researcher,” Maitra said. “There are so many positive things happening at the institution, from recruitment of star faculty to the  Moon Shots Program and just the ability to do cutting-edge, mission-driven science.

“The pancreatic cancer research center by itself is an incredible opportunity to build one of the best, well-rounded pancreatic cancer groups in the country, bringing MD Anderson basic scientists, oncologists, surgeons, radiologists and pathologists under a single umbrella,” Maitra said. “Integrated, multidisciplinary research and patient care will allow MD Anderson to become the vanguard place for pancreatic cancer treatment and research.”

Maitra comes to MD Anderson from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, where he’s a professor of Pathology and Oncology at the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, as well as an affiliate faculty member of the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine.

“As a consummate physician-scientist, Anirban Maitra has impacted on our fundamental understanding of pancreas cancer and has translated such knowledge into clinical trials,” MD Anderson President Ron DePinho, M.D., said. “He is a gifted leader and team builder who will enable MD Anderson to harness its maximal potential in pancreas cancer.”

The pancreatic cancer research center is funded by a $150 million grant from the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, the largest ever received by MD Anderson, made in honor of the founder and late president of the United Arab Emirates and his sons. The grant also established the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy and made possible the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Building for Personalized Cancer Care, presently under construction.

Dedicated to translating lab research to help patients

Maitra also will be deputy division head for academic science in MD Anderson’s Division of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine as well as a professor in the Departments of Pathology and Translational Molecular Pathology.

“Dr. Maitra is an internationally recognized expert in pancreatic cancer,” said James Abbruzzese, M.D., director of the pancreatic research center and chair of MD Anderson’s  Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology.
“As a pathologist and laboratory investigator we look forward to his active leadership in the pancreas program and we’re particularly excited about his passion to see concepts from the laboratory applied to our patients in an effort to improve outcome,” Abbruzzese said.

Treating cancer of the pancreas is an antidote for hubris, Maitra noted. “This is a very humbling disease, with almost uniform mortality,” Maitra said. About 5 percent of patients survive for five years. An estimated 45,220 adults will receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2013 and 38,460 will die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.

‘We want to do the best, science-driven clinical trials’

“There is so much to be done in this disease, so many people who get it die so quickly,” Maitra said. There’s currently no reliable way to diagnose pancreatic cancer early, he noted, so 80 percent of patients have inoperable disease at diagnosis and available drugs have a modest effect. “We need to discover this disease earlier.”

An integral part of the research team that has uncovered what he calls “the mutational landscapes” of pancreatic cancer during the last decade, Maitra also develops biologically relevant animal models of the disease that lead to clinical trials of new approaches.

He also investigates developmental molecular networks, such as the Notch and Hedgehog signaling pathways that predominantly function during embryonic development but are abnormally reactivated in adult cells. His research led to one of the first clinical trials for a Hedgehog inhibitor in pancreatic cancer.

“We always need to remember that what we do in the lab or with animal models needs to end up in patients. It’s not about an elegant experiment performed on mice and an excellent scientific publication, it’s all about translation, translation, translation,” Maitra said.

“I’m delighted to have someone as enlightened as Jim Abbruzzese as director and clinical leader of the center,” Maitra said. “We want to do the best science-driven clinical trials and a lot of that will come from the science, but science has to be talking continuously with the clinic. The center framework will make this much easier to do.”

Maitra earned his medical degree in New Delhi at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. He completed a residency in anatomic pathology at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where he also obtained fellowship training in molecular and pediatric pathology. He then completed a clinical/research fellowship in gastrointestinal and liver pathology at Johns Hopkins and later joined the faculty in 2002, where he rose quickly through the academic ranks and was promoted to professor in 2010.

Mentor to award-winning teen scientist

His collaborative and mentorship skills yielded a surprising result last year, when 15-year-old Jack Andraka won the grand prize at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for an innovative pancreatic cancer detection tool he developed in Maitra’s lab at Johns Hopkins.

Andraka drew up a research protocol for his idea and emailed 200 scientists. Only Maitra answered.

“Jack Andraka is fabulous. I’ve been delighted and honored to have him in my lab,” Maitra said. “He sent me a nice write up on his lab plans and research, very interesting coming from a 15-year-old boy. You’ve got to be able to give people a chance. I’m fortunate to have answered his email.”

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