l quick takes REsEaRCH bRiEFs

THE Uab Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Deep South Network for

Cancer Control has received a five-year,

$6-million grant from the National

Cancer Institute (NCI) to continue its

work in reducing cancer disparities in

minority and medically underserved poor

populations in Alabama and Mississippi.

The funding, from the NCI’s Center

to Reduce Cancer health Disparities,

establishes UAB as one of six National

Community Network Program Centers.

This is the third five-year NCI grant the

Deep South Network has received.

The new grant will fund the network’s

first randomized community interven-

tions into cancer research within its target

areas. The research project will look at

the sociocultural influence on dietary

intake among black women in the Deep

South and assess the potential of regular

physical activity to reduce substantially

the risk for developing and dying from

cancer. Monica Baskin, Ph.D., associate

professor of preventive medicine, will lead

these efforts by conducting a 20-week

weight-loss intervention in eight of the 22

counties within the network that provide

peer and community support during the

24-month intervention.

The Deep South Network targets two

poor, rural regions—Alabama’s Black

Belt and the Mississippi Delta—and

two urban areas—Jefferson County,

Ala., and the hattiesburg/Laurel, Miss.,

metropolitan region. The network has

trained more than 1,000 volunteers,

called community health advisors trained

as research partners (ChARPs), in

these communities to educate family and

friends about the importance of preven-

tion and early detection of cancer.

Deep South Network Receives Renewal

Soong Receives AJCC Award sENg-jaw sOONg, PH.D., professor emeritus of medicine, director emeritus of

the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Unit,

and associate director emeritus of the UAB

Comprehensive Cancer Center, received a

special recognition from the American Joint

Committee on Cancer (AJCC) at its recent

annual meeting in Chicago for his “efforts

to advance AJCC TNM (tumor, node,

metastasis) staging system and classifica-

tion of melanoma through development of

pioneering technology for the prediction of

patient-specific clinical outcome,” which is

useful for patient treatment planning and


Dr. Soong is internationally known for

his research on melanoma, particularly in

the area of statistical modeling of melano-

ma prognosis and staging. As chair of the

AJCC Statistical Task Force and vice chair

of the Melanoma Staging Committee, Dr.

Soong has played a vital role in reshaping

the criteria for staging and classification

of melanoma and has demonstrated the

value of evidence-based staging, which

has influenced many additional cancer-

staging committees. he continues to play

an important role in the AJCC as it moves

into the area of electronic staging and pre-

dictive tools, for which his contributions

have been pioneering.

Experimental Drug for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Shows Promise

aN ExPERimENTaL drug for hodgkin’s lymphoma studied at the UAB Comprehensive

Cancer Center has shown beneficial effects in

stopping tumor growth with moderate side-

effects, according to findings published in the

New England Journal of Medicine.

The phase 1 trial was designed to establish a

maximum tolerated dose of brentuximab vedo-

tin (SGN-35), a combination of the monoclo-

nal antibody cAC10 and an antitubulin agent,

monomethyl auristatin e (MMAe), developed

by Seattle Genetics. Using a dose-escalating

protocol, the researchers administered a dose of

0.1 to 3.6 mg per kilogram of body weight.

“Our primary goal was to establish the

maximum tolerated dose, one that would not

cause adverse side effects of SGN-35,” says

Andres Forero, M.D., Cancer Center senior

scientist and a senior author of the study. “In

the process, we were pleased to discover that

positive responses were observed in 17 of the

45 patients involved in the study, including

11 complete remissions.”

As many as 30 percent of hodgkin’s dis-

ease patients don’t respond to conventional

therapy, and the disease kills an estimated

1,300 people annually in the United States

alone. Because hodgkin’s disease frequently

strikes young adults, these premature deaths

can have a significant social impact.

Dr. Forero says tumor regression lasting

more than nine months was noted in 36 of

the 42 patients who could be evaluated.

Research was funded by Seattle Genetics.

Collaborators are the University of Texas

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; Washington

University, St. Louis, and Weill Medical

College of Cornell University.

jONas s. aLmEiDa, Ph.D., has joined the UAB

Comprehensive Cancer

Center as a senior scientist

and professor of pathology.

he is the inaugural direc-

tor of the Department of

Pathology’s new Division of

Informatics, which began in

January 2011 with his arrival.

Prior to coming to UAB,

Dr. Almeida was a profes-

sor of bioinformatics at the

University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer

Center and an adjunct professor at the

University of Texas health Science Center

at houston from 2006 to 2010. Prior to that,

he served as an associate professor of bioin-

formatics at the Medical University of South

Carolina in Charleston.

Born in Portugal and raised

in Angola, Dr. Almeida even-

tually returned to Lisbon,

receiving his undergraduate

degree at the University of

Lisbon. After obtaining his

Ph.D. in biological engi-

neering in Lisbon at the

University Nova in 1995, he

came to the United States

as a postdoctoral fellow in

microbial ecology at the

University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National


Dr. Almeida has 120 peer-reviewed publi-

cations to his name and is an internationally

recognized authority in the field of bioin-

formatics. his main areas of interest include

bioinformatics, computational statistics and

computational infrastructure for integration

of data acquisition and analysis. Dr. Almeida

is involved in a number of collaborative

research initiatives including the Center for

Translational Science Awards and the Cancer

Genome Atlas.

The Division of Informatics pursues

computational research and tool develop-

ment to integrate biomolecular and clinical

data and advance personalized medicine.

Accordingly, collaborative research is config-

ured to involve computational statisticians and

clinical researchers. The resources developed

and maintained at the division to support

this research range from novel integrative

algorithms and the corresponding software

libraries to novel integrative computational


Grizzle Named Senior Editor

wiLLiam E. gRizzLE, M.D., Ph.D., a longtime member of the editorial board

of Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of

the American Association for Cancer

Research (AACR), has accepted an invi-

tation to serve as a senior editor of the


Dr. Grizzle is a senior scientist in the

Cancer Center and director of the UAB

Tissue Collection and Banking Facility,

which provides tissue samples to UAB

researchers. he also is a past president of

the International Society of Biological and

environmental Repositories (ISBeR).

In December 2010, Dr. Grizzle

delivered the plenary keynote address at

the eighth Annual Conference of the

Australasian Biospecimens Network

Association (ABNA) in Brisbane,

Australia. he spoke on factors that affect

the quality and usefulness of tissues in

biomedical research.

Almeida Joins Cancer Center

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