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News Highlights

April 21, 2016


HONOLULU ÔÇô Joe W. Ramos, PhD, has been appointed Interim Associate Director of the University of Hawai'i Cancer Center as former Interim Associate Director, Dr. Patricia Blanchette, transitions out of her current position to continue with the John A. Burns School of Medicine as Interim Associate Dean for Medical Education and Academic Affairs. In that role she will focus on the coordination of an outstanding team of people who are working on preparing for the School's reaccreditation.

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Dr. Blanchette

Dr. Blanchette reduced Cancer Center expenditures by more than $3M a year while by relocating all Center activities into the Center buildings and releasing leased space, not filling or replacing certain administrative staff positions, working with the Medical School for joint efforts in contracting, and eliminating unnecessary expenses and duplication. This was accomplished without harming the Center's productivity.

"I leave the Center even more convinced about its importance and potential. Dr. Ramos is a respected world expert on cancer signal transduction and metastasis who has considerable experience with NCI designation from his five years as the Cancer Biology Program Director," said Dr. Blanchette. "An excellent transition plan has been presented for the new Interim Associate Director. I am assured that the Center will be in very good hands."

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Dr. Ramos

Appointed Interim Associate Director, Joe W. Ramos, PhD
Joe W. Ramos, PhD, is a Professor and Program Director at the University of Hawai'i Cancer Center. He has been on the faculty of the UH Cancer Center for more than 12 years. He served as Program Director of the Cancer Biology Program from 2011 and took part in the 2012 renewal of the UH Cancer Center's NCI designation. In the last year he has served as one of the Chief Academic Leads at the Cancer Center responsible for helping the faculty work with the NCI External Advisory Committee towards the upcoming renewal of the NCI designation in 2017. In addition, he has served the University of Hawai'i as chair and member of many faculty committees, as a Faculty Senate representative where he served as Chair of the Committee on Student Affairs and as a UHPA representative.

Since coming to the UH Cancer Center from a position at Rutgers University in 2004, he has used insights from his research to identify novel potential drug targets to better fight cancer.

In collaboration with Chemists in M─ünoa and New York, he has developed a number of new anti-cancer therapeutic drug leads including one recently patented for kidney cancer. More recently he has focused on identifying new drug leads for brain tumors. His work has been published in top scientific journals including Nature, Cancer Research and PNAS.

Dr. Ramos serves on several national and international grant review boards and is editor at the journal Molecular Cancer. The National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Hawai'i Community Foundation, among others, have supported his work.

"As Interim Associate Director I will focus on continuing the good stewardship that Dr. Blanchette established while being proactive in working with the outstanding Cancer Center faculty to ready the Center for a new Director and renewal of the NCI designation. "

The University of Hawai'i Cancer Center (UH Cancer Center) and The John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) significantly influence the medical community, the lives of students and residents, and the O'ahu economy as a whole. Together, JABSOM and the UH Cancer Center added $510.6 million to the O'ahu economy in 2015, equivalent to creating 5,972 new jobs. The UH Cancer Center is one of 69 National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer centers, and JABSOM is one of the leading medical education institutions in the United States.


News Highlights

April 4, 2016

The economic value of the John A. Burns School of Medicine and University of Hawai'i Cancer Center

The University of Hawai╩╗i at M─ünoa supports one of the leading medical education institutions and cancer centers in the United States. The John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) and the University of Hawai╩╗i Cancer Center, collectively, generated $510.6 million in total added income to O╩╗ahu's economy in fiscal year 2015 as highlighted in the economic impact analysis conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International. This impact is equal to 0.9 percent of O╩╗ahu's gross regional product and is equivalent to the creation of 5,972 new jobs in Hawai╩╗i.

The Kaka╩╗ako health and wellness campus serves the entire state. Dedicated faculty and staff members work to develop cutting-edge treatments to fight cancer and train the next generation of physicians. The campus, envisioned in the early 2000s by the former Governor of Hawai╩╗i Ben Cayetano and the late and former John A. Burns School of Medicine Dean Edwin Cadman, celebrated its 10th anniversary in September 2015. The duo's vision was to not only provide a home for the John A. Burns School of Medicine and the UH Cancer Center, but to assist in one of Hawai╩╗i's state goals "to diversify the economy with the biotechnology industry" (Cadman at a UH Board of Regents meeting in 2005).

The state-of-the-art health sciences and cancer research laboratories, medical library, willed body cadaver lab, translational research clinic, medical education and administrative office space on the campus serves more than 600 students and more than 1,300 employees. Additionally, as the state's and UH's only medical school and research-focused cancer center, JABSOM and the National Cancer Institute-designated UH Cancer Center provide community-based health education, research and service on behalf of the people of Hawai'i.

The vision of Cayetano, Cadman and many legislative and community leaders to create a vibrant, health and wellness campus in Kaka╩╗ako has taken a decade to evolve, but is clearly making a significant contribution to the Hawai'i state economy and to the lives of all in Hawai'i.

Economic impact reports More on Economic Modeling Specialists International

Economic Modeling Specialists International, a CareerBuilder company, is a leading provider of economic impact studies and labor market data to educational institutions, workforce planners and regional developers in the U.S. and internationally. Since 2000, Economic Modeling Specialists International has completed more than 1,200 economic impact studies for educational institutions in four countries.


News Highlights

April 15, 2016

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(Left to right) Raymundo Elido, Launa Luk, Amy Yamamoto, Michelle Weaver, Gina Holdorff, Helene Hodges, Joni Davis, Janice Simpson

Hawaii Tumor Registry Awarded for High Performance and Celebrates National Cancer Registrars Week

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Michael Green

The Hawaii Tumor Registry (HTR) was awarded 1st place honors for high data quality at the annual meeting of the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program last month in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dr. Brenda Hernandez, Principal Investigator, Michael Green, Program Director, and Joni Davis, Senior Data Collection Supervisor, were present to receive the award. HTR staff members also include Eileen Elido, Raymundo Elido, Catherine Grafel-Anderson, Helene Hodges, Gina Holdorff, Rebecca Loeffers, Launa Luk, Alan Mogi, Kohei Miyagi, Sandra Overton, Janice Simpson, Michelle Weaver, and Amy Yamamoto. The HTR was also awarded Gold Star status this past year by the North American Association for Central Cancer Registries, which certifies cancer registries throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The HTR celebrated National Cancer Registrars Week, April 11-15, 2016. This year's theme was, "Cancer Registrars: The Heart of Improving Cancer Care "acknowledges the critical role cancer registrars play in the fight against cancer. They collect the data used by researchers and medical professionals to advance cancer research and improve cancer prevention and treatment programs.


News Highlights

March 30, 2016


University of Hawai'i Cancer Center and John A. Burns School of Medicine researchers receive awards to address military risk factors associated with cancer

HONOLULU ÔÇô University of Hawai'i Cancer Center and John A. Burns School of Medicine researchers were awarded three out of only 45 United States Department of Defense (DoD) grants for cancer research and career development.

"The UH Cancer Center is the only NCI-designated center in Hawai'i or the Pacific, and access to these critical funds will help them continue the groundbreaking work the center does every day. As someone battling cancer myself, I have a strong appreciation for the dedicated researchers that are working towards a cure. With the increased funding provided to NIH last year by Congress, more of these grants will become available, and I look forward to working with UH to make sure they see their fair share," said U.S. Congressman Mark Takai.

The awards to the University of Hawai'i are for malignant mesothelioma (MM) research and total more than $3 million. Mesothelioma is an asbestos-related cancer of the lining that covers the lungs and abdomen.

"I congratulate the University of Hawai'i Cancer Center and the John A. Burns School of Medicine for receiving these much-needed grants," said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz D-HI "This funding will help researchers advance our knowledge of cancers and help develop careers in the study of medicine."

Translational Team Science Award
UH Cancer Center Associate Professor Haining Yang and Michele Carbone, director of thoracic oncology, received as joint principal investigators a 3-year, $1.9-million Translational Team Science Award for their study, "HMGB1 and Its Isoforms as Biomarkers for Mineral Fiber Exposure and Mesothelioma Detection."

The researchers will work on discovering biomarkers to predict the risk of developing mesothelioma. A reviewer of the study noted, "It could have impact on military personnel who have had asbestos exposure and hopefully lead to early detection of mesothelioma."

Idea Award with Special Focus
Drs. Carbone and Yang are also the principal investigators for a 2-year, $600,000 Idea Award with Special Focus for the study, "Identification and Validation of Novel Germline DNA Variants Associated to Increased Risk of Malignant Mesothelioma."

The aim of the study is to identify novel genes that, when mutated, increase the risk of developing mesothelioma, especially among asbestos-exposed individuals. This potential discovery would lead to screening of susceptible individuals for prevention and early detection and to specific drug designs.

Career Development Award
Pietro Bertino, assistant researcher at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, received a 3-year, $550,000 Career Development Award for his study, "Preclinical Development of TVAX: An Advanced Multiantigen Vaccine for Therapy and Prevention of Malignant Mesothelioma." The overall objective for the study is to develop a vaccine against Malignant Mesothelioma.

Dr. Bertino's career goal is to become a translational research scientist focused on the development of treatment and prevention therapies for mesothelioma. The sponsoring mentors who will help him achieve his goals are Dr. Peter R. Hoffmann, an associate professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine and Dr. Carbone.

"The remarkable success of our Cancer Center and JABSOM researchers in obtaining these awards illustrates the role of the University of Hawai'i as leaders in mesothelioma research," said David Lassner, president of the University of Hawai'i. "This demonstrates our ability to reduce the burden of cancer locally, nationally and internationally."

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, several million individuals who have served in the military were exposed to asbestos during their service. More than 30% of mesothelioma patients were exposed to asbestos in some form of military service, primarily in the Navy, as noted in the review summaries.

The UH Cancer Center is one of 69 research institutions designated by the National Cancer Institute.  Affiliated with the University of Hawai`i at Manoa, the center is dedicated to eliminating cancer through research, education, and improved patient care. Learn more at Like us on Facebook at Follow us on Twitter @UHCancerCenter.