Sep 23

Duke Team Identifies Blood Biomarkers in Drug-Resistant Cancer Tumor Cells

Andrew Armstrong, MD

Andrew Armstrong, MD

While searching for a non-invasive way to detect prostate cancer cells circulating in blood, Duke Cancer Institute researchers have identified some blood markers associated with tumor resistance to two common hormone therapies.

In a study published online this month in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, the Duke-led team reported that they isolated multiple key gene alterations in the circulating prostate tumor cells of patients who had developed resistance to abiraterone or enzalutamide.

Enzalutamide is a drug that blocks the male androgen receptor, and abiraterone is a drug that lowers testosterone levels. Both drugs are approved to treat hormone-resistant prostate cancer, but the tumors typically develop resistance within a few years.

The study, focusing on a small number of patients and using sophisticated blood analysis technology, demonstrated that circulating tumor cells detected in blood have the potential to reveal important genetic information that could guide treatments selection in the future, and suggest targets for new therapies.

“We have developed a method that allows us to examine the whole genome of rare circulating cancer cells in the blood, which is unique in each patient, and which can change over time during treatment,” said senior author Andrew Armstrong, M.D., a medical oncologist and co-director of Genitourinary Clinical-Translational Research at the Duke Cancer Institute (DCI).

“Among the genomic changes in the patients’ individual cancers, we were able to find key similarities between the cancer cells of men who have hormone-resistant prostate cancer,” Armstrong said. “Our goal is to develop a ‘liquid biopsy’ that would be non-invasive, yet provide information that could guide clinical decisions.”

Armstrong and colleagues from the DCI and the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute used a process called array-based comparative genomic hybridization to analyze the genome of the circulating tumor cells of 16 men with advanced, treatment-resistant prostate cancer. The technique enabled them to determine which genes had extra copies and which regions were deleted.

Focusing both on genes that have previously been implicated in tumor progression, plus other genes important to cancer biology, the researchers found changes in multiple genetic pathways that appear to be in common among the men’s circulating tumor cells. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sep 23

DCI Seminar Series (9.28.16)

Sunil R. Hingorani, M.D., Ph.D.

Sunil R. Hingorani, MD, PhD

On Wednesday, Sept. 28, Sunil R. Hingorani, MD, PhD, professor at University of Washington School of Medicine and director of the Center for Accelerated Translation in Pancreas Cancer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, will present “Targeting the Pancreas Cancer “Neo-Organ” to Therapeutic Advantage.”

Hingorani, a medical oncologist and cancer biologist specializing in pancreas cancer, is also the founding director of the Pancreas Cancer Specialty Clinic at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), a real-time multidisciplinary clinic which serves as the focal point for a comprehensive translational research program in pancreas cancer. His laboratory studies the molecular and cellular pathogenesis of pancreas cancer primarily through the use of genetically engineered mouse models. These animal models of distinct genetic subtypes of pancreas cancer form the basis for an integrated, systematic and multidisciplinary program of study.

Hingorani is currently PI of a national Phase 2 trial testing the strategy of enzymatic degradation of hyaluronan in combination with standard chemotherapy for metastatic pancreas cancer.

The Sept. 28 DCI Seminar Series will be held in room 143 of the Jones building. The Hematology Oncology Fellow presentation begins at 7:30 a.m. Hingorani will speak at 8:10 a.m.

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Sep 23

myRESEARCHhome Offers Personalized Dashboards for Duke Research Community

myRESEARCHhome, a new web-based portal targeted at Duke researchers that puts relevant applications, resources, and information specific to researchers and their projects at their fingertips, launched late last month and continues to add useful features.

Developed by Duke School of Medicine and funded by the Duke CTSA (Clinical & Translational Science Award) from the NIH and School of Medicine, the free-of-charge portal is customizable and available for use by all members of the research community.

According to Duke Office of Clinical Research at Duke University School of Medicine, hundreds are already using the portal, which acts like a personalized dashboard or workspace to receive announcements, post frequently visited internet links, find funding opportunities, locate clinical trials, and store reference documents (including patents, CDAs, MTAs, SRAs) and forms. Researchers can also access their research account balances and get reminders on required trainings.

One of the benefits of the portal is that by centralizing all work-related apps in one place, including Duke Box, Duke@Work, and Qualtrics, researchers only need to log in once with their Net Id instead of logging into each one separately.

This first release of the portal includes reports and functions previously available in MyResearch, which was accessed in Duke@WORK. (When clicking on the MyResearch tab in Duke@WORK, researchers will be directed automatically to myRESEARCHhome.)

To find out more and start your own dashboard, click here:

To connect with myRESEARCHhome navigators who can help you maximize the potential of this new tool call 919.684.2243 (Press 4 for Research) or email


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Sep 21

LeBlanc to Speak at NCCN Annual Meeting on Hematologic Malignancies (10.1.16)

Thomas LeBlanc, MD, MA

Duke Cancer Institute’s Thomas LeBlanc, MD, MA, will present “Shared Decision Making at Key Points in the Management of Hematologic Malignancies” at the annual National Comprehensive Cancer Network meeting on Hematologic Malignancies in New York. The conference spans two days: Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1. He will speak on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 11:25 a.m.

LeBlanc is an assistant professor of medicine, a medical oncologist and palliative care physician. His practice focuses on the care of patients with hematologic malignancies, with a particular emphasis on myeloid conditions including acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), and myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs/MPDs), and lymphomas. He is an active member of the inpatient non-transplant hematologic malignancies care team, based on the 9100 ward of Duke Hospital.

LeBlanc’s research interests converge on common issues faced by patients with cancer, particularly those with high-risk or relapsed/refractory hematologic malignancies. Issues of symptom burden and quality of life are of central importance in these settings, and may lead patients to face difficult decision-making scenarios. His research explores the experience of patients and families in these settings, and aims towards the development of targeted interventions to improve the experience of patients with blood cancers, including the involvement of specialist palliative care services as part of their comprehensive cancer care, even alongside active cancer-directed therapy.

CLICK HERE to register for the conference

CLICK HERE for full conference agenda

CLICK HERE for faculty listing


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Sep 15

Brain Tumor Center Welcomes New Administrative Director

Christina Cone, ANP-BC, AOCNP

Christina Kitchin Cone, ANP-BC, AOCNP, has been named administrative director of The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center (PRTBTC). She assumed the new role in July.

Cone was part of the PRTBTC for nearly seven years as a seasoned oncology nurse practitioner, and more recently as the Duke Cancer Institute APP team lead representing the PRTBTC extenders. She also served as the interim administrative co-leader of the PRTBTC with Susan Boulton after Caroline Sarratt’s, the program’s former AD, departure.

Adding to Cone’s leadership expertise, she will soon complete her post-graduate work in health care leadership (receiving her doctor of nursing practice from East Carolina University in Dec. 2016), which, according to PRTBTC and DCI management, made her the ideal selection to assume the role of administrative director of the center. Cone earned a master of science in nursing from Duke University in 2004 and her bachelor of science in nursing from East Carolina University in 1999.

Before joining The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, Cone served as an adult nurse practitioner at Cancer Centers of North Carolina in Raleigh, as an oncology clinical nurse educator for Innovex with Bristol Myers Squibb, and as a clinical research associate, oncology division, for PharmaNet. She has also served as a staff nurse in hematology and oncology at UNC Chapel Hill Hospital, and as a staff nurse in the adult bone marrow transplant unit at Duke University Medical Center.

Cone will play a critical role in support of all administrative leadership responsibilities for The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center’s strategic and operational efforts within Duke Cancer Institute and the Department of Neurosurgery.

“My mission is to lead with courage, care and compassion one of the most dynamic and empowered teams at Duke; a team that demonstrates interdisciplinary excellence within an operationally efficient organization,” said Cone. “I plan to embrace and initiate beneficial changes that result in continuous improvement in service delivery and patient satisfaction, while promoting a safe and healthy work environment for the center’s employees.”


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Sep 15

Gosselin Assumes Duke Hospital CNO Position After 23 Years In Oncology


After 23 years in oncology care and administration, Tracy Gosselin, PhD, RN, AOCN, assumed the role in August of CNO for Duke University Hospital.

When she began her nursing career, Tracy Gosselin, PhD, RN, AOCN, the new chief nursing and patient care services officer for Duke University Hospital (DUH), chose right away to specialize in oncology. As a student nurse in her native Boston, she had worked with many cancer patients. Why cancer?

“Why not? I loved the patients, their stories, their families, their journey that they were willing to share,” she explained in an interview from her new office at DUH.

She said that the young Tracy Gosselin thought to herself, “Wow, I really like this, I think I can make a difference.”

“So transitioning into the nurse role after graduating, that’s what it was about, that I could make a difference in someone’s life — recognizing that it may not always be for cure but it might be for hope.”

Twenty-three years later, as she takes up the most senior nursing position at Duke University Hospital, Gosselin is being praised for the many contributions she made to cancer care and nursing leadership at Duke.

Most recently Gosselin served as assistant vice president and associate chief nursing officer for Duke Cancer Institute (DCI) (since June 2010) and since January 2014 as associate chief nursing officer for Duke Hospital’s Ambulatory Services — positions she continues to support until replacements are found.

During her time with DCI and ambulatory services she oversaw nursing practice, education and patient care for numerous multi-site practices, infusion and research areas. She led nursing areas through clinical redesign efforts, served as the nurse leader for the development and implementation of triage services and participated in a variety of health system nursing initiatives.

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Sep 14

Gaskins Named Director Of Finance

Jane Gaskins

Jane Gaskins, CPA

Jane Gaskins, CPA, formerly general accounting manager for Duke University Health System (DUHS), has been named director of finance of Duke Cancer Institute (DCI). She assumed her new role in August.

Gaskins received her Bachelor of business administration degree in accounting from Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina. She joined DUHS in April 2015. In her role as general accounting manager she was responsible for managing general accounting activities for all DUHS business units and also corporate DUHS. Activities included developing, implementing and maintaining common accounting practices and ensuring timely periodic production of DUHS financial analysis as well as oversight of the audit function and budgeting for assigned DUHS units.

Previously, from 2012 to 2015 Gaskins was affiliated with Harnett Health System in Dunn, North Carolina where she was director of finance supervising all financial activities for a two-hospital, 151 bed system. From 2004 to 2012, she served as controller for Pathology Service Associates in Florence, South Carolina where she managed all financial activities for a physician business services company with approximately $30 million in annual gross revenue.

“I’m delighted to be joining the Duke Cancer Institute,” Gaskins said. “I look forward to working with the vast array of professionals here at Duke as together we continue to grow and strengthen the financial health of our organization. This is such a unique opportunity and I am honored to be a part of such an esteemed institution.”

In her new role as director of finance, Gaskins will be the architect of financial reports and models to support the DCI. She will also be responsible for the planning, analyses and managing of the financials as well as overseeing both the clinical financial portfolio and the academic finances of DCI.


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Sep 13

Ovarian Cancer Survivors and their Families Inspire, Help Advance Research

Melanie Bacheler presents a check made out to the Duke GYN/Oncology division to Andrew Berchuck, MD (at left) and Fidel Valea, MD (at right) at last year's Gail Parkins Memorial Ovarian Cancer Walk and 5K Run. Bachelor's husband Tim and her daughters — all active volunteers for the cause, are behind them. This year's event is being held this Saturday, September 17.

Melanie Bacheler presents a check made out to the Duke GYN/Oncology division to Andrew Berchuck, MD (at left) and Fidel Valea, MD (at right) at last year’s Gail Parkins Memorial Ovarian Cancer Walk and 5K Run. Bacheler’s husband Tim and her daughters — all active volunteers for the cause, are behind them. This year’s event is being held this Saturday, September 17.

It’s been called the silent killer because it spreads fairly quietly, before causing painful symptoms. By the time many women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, its already advanced through the abdominal cavity.

This is what happened to Gail Parkins, who, at the age of 54, was eventually diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian epithelial cancer.

At that time, her daughter Melanie Bacheler was a new mom of a six-month-old. For two years and two months Bacheler became Parkins’ main care-giver, shuttling back and forth to the hospital and sitting with her during treatments. She quit her job as a pharmaceutical company sales representative and trainer and part-time gymnastics coach, as motherhood and caring for her mother consumed most of her time.

Before diagnosis Parkins had been fatigued and was losing weight everywhere but her middle. One doctor had put her on anti-depressants. She was also treated by a gastroenterologist. As Bacheler explained, it wasn’t until her mother woke up from pain and went to an urgent care doctor who discovered “tumors everywhere” that she was diagnosed with cancer. So she went to Duke to see a specialist and within days was in surgery where doctors found three liters of ascites fluid in her stomach and tumors on every organ in her abdomen.

Parkins lost her battle at 56.

“When she passed away, I was kind of lost,” said Bacheler. “So much of my time had been taken up with all the appointments and things that it was a way for me to channel my grief, to continue to do something. I wanted her back desperately. I missed her. I needed her.”

So in her mother’s honor she organized a benefit walk and 5K in Raleigh. That was 14 years ago, and it’s still going.

“Ovarian cancer survivors feel like the stepchild cancer because breast cancer gets so much attention,” said Bacheler, who can’t stress enough their commitment to the cause. “They are very loyal to this. There are a lot of family reunions at the walk. Even when husbands get remarried, they still participate, and their new wife has to get onboard.”

The first Gail Parkins Memorial Ovarian Cancer Walk and 5K Run attracted 200 participants. The following year more than 500 registered. This year’s walk, to be held on Saturday, Sept. 17, will have more than 3000; drawing people from as far away as New York and Florida. For each of the past five years there have been 100 plus teams participating annually in the event.

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Sep 13

Blood Cancer Survivors and Fighters Are Ready to Light the Night: Will You Join Them?

Kaitlyn Kopala (campaign assistant for Light the Night), Pat Luke (volunteer for Light the Night and CLL survivor), and Cameron Sims (campaign specialist for Light the Night) at the Sept. 1 kick-off booth at the Duke Cancer Center. (All with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society)

Kaitlyn Kopala (campaign assistant for Light the Night), Pat Luke (volunteer for Light the Night and CLL survivor), and Cameron Sims (campaign specialist for Light the Night) at the Sept. 1 kick-off booth at the Duke Cancer Center. (All with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society)

Pat Luke, a volunteer with The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, had walked in the society’s Light the Night fundraiser for 16 years — long before she became a volunteer. She began when she was the head executive administrator for the vice president of the Raleigh-based EMC Corporation, which sponsored the first-ever Light the Night walk. She was an EMC team member. When she retired from EMC, she organized her own team.

Six years ago, Luke herself was diagnosed with a blood cancer; chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and she came to learn that her mother had passed away from the same disease. Eschewing the term “survivor,” Luke considers herself a “CLL fighter.” While there’s no treatment for CLL, her condition is being monitored by Danielle Marie Brander, MD, a hematologic specialist at Duke. Luke has a shiny disposition–upbeat and gregarious. Living with cancer hasn’t slowed this cool grandma down. She recently took her teenage grandson on vacation to Japan.

Earlier this month Luke could be found manning a Light the Night registration kick-off table at the Duke Cancer Center; greeting patients and their families who stopped by to donate or pick up literature about the upcoming Light the Night Walk, which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Koka Booth Ampitheatre in Cary, North Carolina. Duke will hold two more of these kick-off parties: on Wednesday, Sept. 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the North Pavilion Atrium and on Monday, Sept. 19 at the Duke Cancer Center lobby and level 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Anthony Bethea, who's being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and small lymphocytic lymphoma, stands with Pat Luke, CLL survivor and volunteer for Light the Night.

Anthony Bethea, who’s being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL), stands with Pat Luke, CLL survivor and volunteer for Light the Night.

There is no fee to register. However, participants are encouraged to form or join a team and raise funds. Those registering and raising or self-donating $75 or more at a kick-off party, will receive a coveted red lantern, usually reserved for participants raising at least $100. Patients and survivors registering will automatically receive the signature white lantern.

More than 5,000 people step out each year for the Triangle Light The Night Walk. Funds raised through Leukemia and Lymphoma events provide for vital programs and services to local patient battling blood cancers and also support local research to find better treatments and cures. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society currently funds more than $1 million in research grants at Duke.

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Sep 09

Duke Musicians Play the Cancer Center Piano

Duke Hospital’s president and others take turns playing a Steinway for patients

The Steinway & Sons piano on the lower level of Duke Cancer Center relies on volunteers to make it sing.

Sometimes, volunteers on the keys are Duke musicians – artists in residence, professors and administrators – who play for Duke Hospital patients, visitors and colleagues.

When Duke Hospital President Kevin Sowers gets a break in his day, he heads to the Steinway in the Duke Cancer Center and plays for passersby. He started learning how to play when he was 5 years old. His grandmother, who played the piano accompaniment for silent films, gave him lessons. Sowers was a voice and piano music major in college before he switched to nursing.

“Patients and families will always stop and enjoy the music, so it’s a wonderful thing in the midst of my day to be able to come over and give back a gift,” he said.

Meet Sowers and other Duke musicians who bring their favorite songs to the halls and waiting rooms of the Duke Cancer Center.


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