Case Western Reserve University
Professor of Radiology, Biomedical Engineering and Pathology, Case Western Reserve University
Dr. James Basilion and his team at the NFCR Center for Molecular Imaging are developing new tools that can literally change the way doctors are looking at cancer. One newly-designed molecular probe allows researchers to view multiple molecular biomarkers simultaneously and see a tumor’s genetic structure in real time. This visualization allows for the very early detection of tiny tumors that will greatly improve treatment outcomes.
Additionally, the team developed an imaging technique that may revolutionize cancer surgeries and be particularly helpful with treatments for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM – the most aggressive brain tumor), skin cancers and with breast lumpectomies. This new technology allows surgeons to assess the margins of their surgeries as they are being conducted to see if all cancer cells have been removed. This novel approach could dramatically reduce re-excision rates and reduce or eliminate local tumor recurrence.
Center researchers are now adapting their enhanced sensitivity imaging probe for the early detection of liver cancer. The prostate-specific membrane antigen (PMSA) is found in the vasculature of liver tumors and Dr. Basilion is the first to conduct PMSA-based imaging of liver cancer. The PMSA probe, which is used with PET scan, may detect the tiniest of tumors during early liver cancer development. Currently, there are detection limits with current clinical tests and the PMSA probe would fill the gap. Plus, promising preliminary results show that the PMSA probe may also be used to concentrate the radioactivity in a tumor to destroy it, which could offer a potential new treatment for patients with liver cancer.
James P. Basilion, Ph.D., studied biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania in 1984 and attended graduate school at the University of Texas Health Science Center. He then completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health and, during this time, he began a series of studies with investigators at the Center for Molecular Imaging Research at Massachusetts General Hospital.
In 1996, Dr. Basilion worked at a small genomics and anti-cancer biotech company and, in 1999, he joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital-Center for Molecular Imaging Research. He was later recruited at the Case Western Reserve University Schools of Medicine and Engineering and is currently a professor in both the Departments of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering.
In 2005, Dr. Basilion was tapped to be Director of the NFCR Center for Molecular Imaging. Additionally, he serves as an external advisory board member for the Pacific Ovarian Cancer Research Consortium and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, and was a standing member on the MEDI Study Section for the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Basilion has held several offices in the Society for Molecular Imaging (SMI), and was instrumental in the merger to form the World Molecular Imaging Society (WMIS), where he served as treasurer.
Dr. Basilion provides reviews for several academic journals and holds editorial board positions for molecular imaging-centric journals. He has also founded Akrotome Imaging, Inc., a company devoted to the translation of molecular imaging technologies.
Franklin C. Salisbury, Jr., M.Div., J.D. has served as the Chief Executive Officer of the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) since 1997, leading NFCR to expand its cancer research program from basic cancer research to translational and clinical research so that the cancer research discoveries made at the bench might reach patients at their bedsides faster. Under his leadership, the 40-year old NFCR has become one of America’s largest public charities dedicated to cancer research.
Franklin came to lead the NFCR after a diverse background in economics, law and religion. Trained as an environmental/public utilities economist, he served as Chairman of Washington, DC’s Consumer Utility Board in the 1980s.
Franklin holds a B.A. in economics from Yale in 1978, a Masters of Arts degree from the University of Chicago, and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. He also earned his J.D. from the University of Georgia in 1992.
Dr. Sujuan Ba serves as the President and COO of the National Foundation for Cancer Research. She is also the founder and CEO of the Asian Fund for Cancer Research. Dr. Ba has served continuously for 13 years as co-Chair of the Prize Selection Committee of the Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research. The Committee is comprised of academic leaders and pharmaceutical industry executives, and the annual Prize has become one of the premier cancer research awards in the world.
Dr. Ba co-founded and serves as a founding board member of the Global Coalition for Adaptive Research (GCAR), the organizing body leading the global implementation of GBM AGILE, a groundbreaking adaptive clinical trial initiative designed to produce new and better treatments for glioblastoma multiforme, a fatal brain cancer. She is also a co-founder of the International Cancer Impact Fund, the former President of the Chinese Biopharmaceutical Association, and serves on the International Consulting Committee of the China National Research Center for Translational Medicine (Shanghai). She also sits on the Scientific Advisory Boards of Medelis, Inc. (Fountain Hills, Arizona) and Immunicom Inc. (San Diego).
Dr. Ba is a member of the Editorial Board of the Chinese Journal of Cancer and formerly served on the Membership Committee of the International Union against Cancer (Geneva) and the Activity Steering Committee of the Cosmos Club (Washington, DC). She also belongs to BayHelix, an invitation-only organization of leaders of Chinese origin involved globally in life sciences and health.
She was recognized in 2017 by the Chinese Medical Doctor Association for her outstanding contributions to international cooperation and was named one of the “Top 300 Women Leaders in Global Health” in 2015 by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies’ Global Health Programme.
Dr. Ba received her B.S. in radiochemistry from Peking University and her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania.
Learn more about Dr. Sujuan Ba here.
Dr. Kwok Leung joined the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) as a consultant in 2003 and was promoted to Controller in 2008. He oversees three supporting functions of NFCR’s operations: accounting and reporting, compliance, and human resource and office administration.
Prior to joining NFCR, Dr. Leung was a faculty at the Catholic University of America, and at the University of Maryland, College Park, teaching accounting at both undergraduate and graduate levels. His research interests were management accounting and executive compensation. He also served as consulting staff and researcher for the World Bank and U.S. Department of Transportation.
Dr. Leung received his B.B.A (Hon.) from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park, majoring in accounting and minoring in finance and statistics. He was a licensed CPA in Maryland.
Dr. Wang is actively involved in developing strategic alliances and critical collaborations with international organizations in both academic and industrial communities and working closely with the Office of Technology Transfer at various universities to facilitate the protection and commercialization of NFCR-sponsored intellectual property (IP) through patent filling and licensing. Dr. Wang has extensive experience in scientific program management, strong capability for technical and financial due diligence, and broad knowledge about early-stage technology evaluation and development., Dr. Wang has previously served as Chief Science Officer overseeing all the aspects of NFCR’s cancer research programs and research initiatives, which is operated at 9 discovery centers and 30 plus laboratories in universities, research institutes, and teaching hospitals in the US, Germany, and China.
Dr. Wang also serves as the Chief Operating Officer for the Asian Fund for Cancer Research (Hong Kong, China). He is actively involved in identifying collaborative opportunities so that cancer researchers from Asia can work closely with scientists from the U.S. and Europe to maximize the utilization of resources.
Dr. Wang received his medical degree from the Second Military Medical College in Shanghai, China, his Ph.D. in molecular biology from Kyoto University, Japan, and his MBA from Penn State University. Before joining NFCR in 2002, Dr. Wang had worked at the University of Pennsylvania as a Research Fellow, and at a leading technology transfer company British Technology Group (BTG) as a Senior Business Development Manager for both the Oncology group and the Genomics & Proteomics group.
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Vice President for Translational Research, Internist and Professor of Medicine, Harry Carothers Wiess Distinguished University Chair for Cancer Research,the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Improving early detection techniques is important for many types of cancer, but it is especially important for ovarian cancer, as it is likely the most effective way to achieve a cure.. In fact, the five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is above 90% if found during the earliest stage. Unfortunately, only 15% of cases are diagnosed at this stage, making ovarian cancer a notorious “silent killer”. Throughout his entire career, Dr. Bast has been working to change that.
Dr. Bast is best known for developing the OC125 (CA125) monoclonal antibody in 1981 that led to the production of the CA125 radioimmunoassay – the first useful biomarker for monitoring the course of patients with epithelial ovarian cancer. Since this discovery, Dr. Bast and his team have been evaluating ways CA125 can be used to screen for ovarian cancer. For example, results from a large clinical trial involving 200,000 women in the United Kingdom showed that Dr. Bast’s “two-step” approach for the early detection of ovarian cancer – using CA125 detection and sonography – effectively reduces fatalities by 20%.
Dr. Bast is currently testing a panel of seven biomarkers (that include CA125 plus six auto–antibodies) to see if it is more sensitive than using the CA125 biomarker alone. This has the potential to produce an even more sensitive early detection screening tool.
Dr. Bast’s laboratory is also developing a more sensitive imaging technology called a Superconducting Quantum Interfering Device (SQUID). This device aims to improve the sensitivity to detect tiny, early-stage tumors over existing techniques, such as CT scans, MRIs and PET-CTs. Moreover, Dr. Bast and his colleagues are working to identify the best combination of biomarkers that can be used together to produce the most sensitive, ovarian-cancer-identifying signal possible. Using more specific and sensitive biomarkers, in conjunction with the SQUID technology, could greatly increase early detection and diagnosis of ovarian tumors.
Robert C. Bast, Jr., M.D., received his B.A. from Wesleyan University and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He completed a medical internship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and then served as a research associate at the National Cancer Institute. After Dr. Bast completed a medical residency at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and a fellowship in Medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, he joined the faculty at Harvard and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Bast joined the Duke University Medical Center in 1984 and, ten years later, Dr. Bast was recruited to head the Division of Medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In 2000, Dr. Bast was appointed Vice President for Translational Research at MD Anderson Cancer Center and, in 2004, he became the Harry Carothers Wiess Distinguished University Professor for Cancer Research.
In addition to his position as a Project Director at NFCR, Dr. Bast is a member and/or fellow at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association for Cancer Research, the Association of American Physicians, the American Association of Immunologists, the American Clinical and Climatological Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Federation for Clinical Research, the American Society for Microbiology, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society of Hematology, the Clinical Immunology Society, the International Gynecological Cancer Society, the International Society for Immunopharmacology, the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, the Society for Biological Therapy, the T. J. Martell Foundation, the V Foundation, the Reticuloendothelial Society and the American Society for Clinical Investigation.
Throughout his career, Dr. Bast has received numerous honors and awards, including the 1971 Henry Asbury Christian Award from Harvard Medical School, the 1990 Robert C. Knapp Award, the 1994 Award for Scientific Excellence from the Mediterranean Society of Tumor Marker Oncology, the 1996 SmithKline Beecham Clinical Laboratories Award from the Clinical Ligand Assay Society,the 1998 Partners in Courage Award of Achievement from the American Cancer Society, the 2001 ISOBM-Abbott Award from the International Society for Oncodevelopmental Biology and Medicine, the2006 Award for Excellence in Gynecologic Oncology from the International Gynecologic Cancer Society, the 2007 Outstanding Leadership Award from the National Cancer Institute, the 2008 Rosalind Franklin Award for Excellence in Ovarian Cancer Research from the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance,the 2011 Hero Award from Cattlemen for Cancer Research,the 2011 Emil Frei, III Award for Excellence in Translational Research from MD Anderson Cancer Center, the 2013 Claudia Cohen Award from the Gynecological Cancer Foundation and the 2014 ShashikantLele Lecture award from Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
He is also the recipient of various lectureships, including the 1987 Edward G. Waters Memorial Lecture, the 1991 D. Nelson Henderson Lecture at the University of Toronto, the 1991 John Ohtani Memorial Lecture at the University of Hawaii, the 1992 Stolte Memorial Lecture at the Free University of Amsterdam, the 1993 Master Lecturer at CA125 Ten Years Later, the 1993 Arnold O. Beckman Distinguished Lecture for the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, the 1996 Robert C. Knapp Lecture at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the 1997 AlonDembo Memorial Keynote Lecture for the International Gynecologic Cancer Society, the 2000 George D. Wilbanks Lecture at the University of South Florida, the 2002 Lecture at the International Society for Oncodevelopmental Biology and Medicine, the 2002 Lecture at the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center Symposium at the University of California, the 2006 Richard W. TeLinde Lecture at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and the 2008 American Cancer Society Lecture for the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists.
Dr. Bast has published more than 500 articles and chapters, and has edited the textbook Cancer Medicine. Moreover, since 2003, he has been recognized by the Institute for Scientific Informal as one of the most frequently cited scientists in his field. Dr. Bast continues to care for patients with breast and ovarian cancers and has been listed in the Best Doctors of America since 1992 and in America’s Top Physicians since 2003.
New Haven, Connecticut
Henry Bronson Professor of Pharmacology, Yale University
Chairman, Consortium for the Globalization of Chinese Medicine
While the therapeutic benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have been recognized anecdotally for centuries, they have often been discounted as “alternative therapies” because there was little scientific proof of effectiveness. Dr. Cheng’s laboratory is working to bring TCM into the mainstream of Western medicine, with hopes of reducing the side effects of chemotherapy, while enhancing the benefits.
Since the late 1990s, Dr. Cheng’s team has been exploring the therapeutic properties of PHY906, a Chinese herbal medicine formula. They have discovered that cancer treatment with PHY906, combined with chemotherapy, alleviates the unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects of chemotherapy for colon, rectal, pancreatic and liver cancer patients. Moreover, their research demonstrated that PHY906 also has its own, solo anti-tumor attributes. If there is continued success in three ongoing clinical trials, PHY906 could become one of the first FDA-approved oral herbal medicines for anti-cancer treatment. Dr. Cheng and his team are also evaluating other TCM herbal formulas that could be part of a new class of drugs.
Dr. Cheng also discovered deoxynucleoside agents that inhibit cellular DNA and hypoxic cancer cells found in lung cancer. His research also continues to explore the use of anti-viral drugs in preventing or delaying the onset of viruses such Hepatitis B and C and HIV that can lead to liver and other cancers.
Yung-Chi Cheng, Ph.D., received his B.S. in chemistry from Tunghai University in Taiwan and his Ph.D. in biochemical pharmacology from Brown University. Dr. Cheng then performed his postdoctoral work at Yale University from 1972 to 1974. Upon completing this work, Dr. Cheng joined the faculty of the Roswell Park Memorial Institute in Buffalo, NY and worked there until 1979.
Dr. Cheng was a professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and became the Director of the Developmental Therapeutics Program at UNC’s Cancer Center. In 1989, he returned to Yale University as the Henry Bronson Professor of Pharmacology and Director of the Developmental Therapeutics Program of the Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Dr. Cheng is a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the Division of Cancer Treatment for the National Cancer Institute, the AIDS Research Advisory Committee for the National Institutes of Health, the Board of Directors for the American Association for Cancer Research and a member and Chairman of the Therapeutic Study Section at the National Institutes of Health. He was elected as a Special Advisor to the Committee for the Biotechnology Industry in Taiwan, was Chairman of the Action Committee for Medical Biotechnology in Academia Sinica in Taiwan, was Chairman of the Biopharmaceutical Division of Scientific Counselors for the National Health Research Institute in Taiwan and also provided advice on biomedical science research funding for the government in Hong Kong. Dr. Cheng serves as a consultant for many pharmaceutical firms and is the scientific founder of two biotechnology companies sponsored by Yale University.
Throughout his career, Dr. Cheng has received many honors and awards, including a Leukemia Society of America Scholar Award, the Rhodes Memorial Award from the American Association for Cancer Research, an Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Cancer Institute, an Outstanding Alumni Awards from Tunghai University and Brown University, an Outstanding Investigator Award in Bio-Medical Science from the Society of Chinese Bioscientists in America, the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Award and was the BMRC Distinguished Visitor in Singapore.
He has also received several honorary professorships, including from the Union Medical University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Science in China, from Beijing Medical University, from the Institute of Material Medica at the Chinese Academy of Science and he earned the title of Honorary Visiting Scientist at the Institute for the Advancement of Chinese Medicine in Hong Kong. Additionally, Dr. Cheng was elected as an academician of Academia Sinica in 1994 and, in 1998, became a member of the Connecticut Academy of Sciences and Engineering.
Dr. Cheng has been on the editorial or advisory boards of many scientific journals, including Virus Genes, Cancer Communications and the Chinese Journal of Pharmacology & Toxicology. He also serves as Chairman of the Consortium for Globalization of Chinese Medicine.
University of Maryland School of Medicine
Associate Dean of Research, University of Maryland School of Medicine
Director, Center for Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine
Leukemia is a great success story for cancer research — one in which Dr. Curt Civin played an important role. His early work on bone marrow stem cell transplantation was partially responsible for the dramatic increase of the five-year survival for all types of leukemia over the past 20 years.
Dr. Civin discovered CD34, the first – and still best – marker of hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells ever found. His subsequent isolation of CD34+ stem cells opened entirely new approaches to leukemia treatment. The CD34+ transplantation technology, created by a team of scientists in Dr. Civin’s laboratory, has been widely applied and thousands of patients’ lives have been saved because of this approach to treating cancer.
And now, for patients still suffering from certain leukemias that are difficult to treat and waiting for a cure, Dr. Civin’s current research may once again hold the key. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the deadliest form of leukemia, and Dr. Civin recently discovered that artemisinins – a class of drugs with low toxicity used to successfully treat malaria – are also effective in killing AML cancer cells. Through research, he identified ART-838, a specific artemisinin compound that shows remarkable preliminary effectiveness against leukemia cells and works well in combination with established anti-leukemia drugs. In addition, the compound can be given orally and stays active in the bloodstream for a long time. Plus, it doesn’t appear to harm normal bone marrow cells, so it may prove to be an effective new treatment for AML patients.
Curt Civin, M.D., is the Associate Dean for Research and the Founding Director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Dr. Civin graduated from Amherst College in 1970 before attending Harvard Medical School and completing fellowships in pediatric oncology with the National Cancer Institute.
Prior to joining the University of Maryland’s faculty, Dr. Civin spent 30 years at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine leading research and clinical pediatric oncology.
In addition to holding 21 biomedical patents, Dr. Civin’s 1984 discovery of CD34 earned him the National Inventor of the Year Award in 1999.
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
Professor and Chairman, VCU Department of Human and Molecular Genetics
Director, VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine
Thelma Newmeyer Corman Chair of Cancer Research, VCU Massey Cancer Center
Dr. Fisher’s laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular and biochemical basis of cancer development and progression, and utilizes this accrued knowledge to improve treatments for all types and stages of cancer, including the ultimate stage – metastasis.
When cancer metastasizes – or spreads to sites remote from the primary tumor to new target sites – treatment becomes more difficult and, in many instances, ineffective. Dr. Fisher’s experiments are designed to mechanistically understand tumor development, and he and his team have developed innovative approaches to identifying genes of relevance in the carcinogenic process. For example, they identified one in 1996 (prior to NFCR funding). when they reported, for the first time, how the gene mda-9/syntenin switches on an important signaling protein that results in increased cancer cell motility, invasion and metastasis.
Dr. Fisher has also created a new therapeutic approach to cancer therapy, which he calls a Cancer Terminator Virus (CTV.) As a genetically reprogrammed virus, CTV infects and destroys tumor cells while leaving normal cells alone. The Fisher team also engineered a CTV capable of producing a tumor-killing molecule – interferon gamma (IFNγ). As a natural product of our immune system, IFNγ can kill tumor cells both directly and indirectly by eliciting immune responses. This happens at the primary tumor and metastatic sites. CTV could be a potential treatment for early stage and metastatic prostate cancer, and recently, studies have been expanded to test its pancreatic cancer treatment potential.
Additionally, Dr. Fisher and his team have developed the first sensitive and specific imaging agent for bone metastases, which are the greatest cause of fatalities in prostate and other cancers. The molecular imaging technique detects cells that express a gene called AEG-1 – which was originally discovered by Dr. Fisher. The gene has high levels of expression in all of the cancer types investigated so far, with limited expression in normal tissues. The results when using the new imaging technique were more conclusive than usual and can lead to great improvements in clinical imaging overall. Research at Dr. Fisher’s laboratory is also combining selective cancer imaging with the targeted delivery of a therapeutic, a process termed “theranostics.” These imaging improvements and combinations may lead to earlier detection and treatment for metastases.
Most recently, Dr. Fisher has been collaborating with another NFCR-funded scientist, Dr. Web Cavenee, on a new pharmacological agent to treat glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the deadliest form of brain cancer. This agent could, with additional chemistry, lead to a new drug to prevent radiation-induced invasion of GBM cells. The researchers have tested the agent in combination with radiation and have seen profound survival benefits in pre-clinical models.
Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D., received his Bachelor’s degree from Hunter College and his Master’s from Lehman College. He went on to get his M.Ph. (Master of Public Health) and Ph.D. from Rutgers University, where he was also a postdoctoral fellow. Dr. Fisher later conducted research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and at Columbia University, where he became a Professor of Clinical Pathology, the Director of Neuro-Oncology Research and the Michael and Stella Chernow Urological Cancer Research Scientist.
Dr. Fisher joined the faculty of the Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) School of Medicine in 2008 and is currently a Professor and Chairman in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics, Director of the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine and holds the Thelma Newmeyer Corman Chair of Cancer Research in the VCU Massey Cancer Center.
In addition to his NFCR award, Dr. Fisher is a visiting research professor, eminent research scholar and adjunct professor at New York University, and a visiting professor at Burnham Institute for Medical Research. Dr. Fisher won the CaP CURE Award for Prostate Cancer Research in 1995 and the Lustgarten Award in 2003, 2004 and 2005. More recently, Governor Terry McAuliffe recognized Dr. Fisher as Virginia’s Outstanding Scientist of 2014. In 2018, Dr. Fisher was invited to join the new, illustrious editorial board of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) and JNCI Spectrum.