AACI Appoints Second Executive Director in 19-year History

JWP headshotJennifer W. Pegher, MA, is the new executive director of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI). She is AACI’s second executive director in its 19-year history and succeeds its founding executive director, Barbara Duffy Stewart, who retired earlier this month.

Jennifer has been with AACI for six years, most recently serving as the association’s deputy director. Previously, she managed AACI’s government relations efforts. She holds a master’s degree in government from the Johns Hopkins University and has deep experience in Washington, DC, having worked for former Congressman Philip S. English of Pennsylvania and the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions (formerly the National Association of Federal Credit Unions). Before joining AACI, she served as executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation.

“The Executive Committee of the AACI Board of Directors and I are delighted that we were able to identify someone with the talent, experience, and leadership capabilities of Jen Pegher to assume the role of executive director upon Barbara Duffy Stewart’s retirement,” said AACI President Roy A. Jensen, MD. “Barbara is an icon in the cancer centers community, but I sincerely believe that we have found the one person capable of carrying on Barbara’s legacy in the vital role of executive director of AACI. The fact that we have watched Jen grow into this position—and while doing so demonstrate a profound commitment to our organization, the nation’s leading cancer centers, and the patients that those centers serve—is very reassuring. We are all excited to welcome Jen into her new role for our organization.”

Read the full press release.
Watch Dr. Jensen’s Bench to Bedside conversation with Jennifer.

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Annual Meeting Considers Shape of Things to Come in Cancer Research

PrintPerspectives on the future of cancer research and care, including the latest on CAR T-cell therapy, Big Data management, and international partnerships, will highlight the AACI/CCAF Annual Meeting, September 30 – October 2, in Chicago.

Stanton L. Gerson, MDIn the meeting’s first panel discussion, four distinguished cancer center leaders will share their insights and predictions for how academic cancer centers will evolve over the next decade. The discussion will be moderated by AACI President Stanton L. Gerson, MD, director of Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Gerson will be joined by Candace S. Johnson, PhD, president and CEO of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center; Michael B. Kastan, MD, PhD, executive director of the Duke Cancer Institute, Duke University Medical Center; and Steven T. Rosen, MD, provost and chief scientific officer at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Gerson will also provide an update on AACI’s Network Care Initiative, including results of a survey looking at network management; standardization of care and the use of care paths; collaboration among cancer centers and community sites; employment network models; and access to clinical trials.

Roy Jensen, MDThe meeting will mark two major leadership transitions for AACI. Roy A. Jensen, MD, director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center, will become the association’s new president and will introduce his presidential initiative, which aims to develop a comprehensive, cancer-specific clearinghouse of model legislation for AACI cancer centers to share with their state legislators. In addition, Barbara Duffy Stewart, MPH, will preside at her final annual meeting after 19 years as AACI’s first executive director. Jennifer W. Pegher, who has served for six years at AACI as director of government relations and deputy director, will be the new executive director.

The annual meeting program includes a panel discussion on the nuts and bolts of
developing a CAR T-cell therapy program, including intake and management issues,
standard operating procedures, financial challenges, and regulatory requirements.
Approaching cancer care from a high-tech angle, a panel moderated by Moffitt Cancer
Center Director Thomas A. Sellers, MD, will convene commercial and academic players
in the Big Data arena with an eye toward enhancing dialogue and developing stronger
linkages that could lead to expanded information-sharing and improved patient care.

With a growing number of cancer centers establishing partnerships with countries in
the developing world, the AACI annual meeting will include an overview of cancer
research and treatment efforts in several countries including Kenya, Malawi, and Cuba,
where U.S. sanctions are creating unique collaboration challenges.

Meeting attendees will also hear a report from NCI Director Norman E. Sharpless, MD,
and a panel will examine revised guidelines for NCI’s Cancer Center Support Grant
application.

Richard and Susan RogelOn Monday, October 1, AACI will present its first Champion for Cures Award to Richard and Susan Rogel in recognition of their $150 million gift to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, which was renamed Rogel Cancer Center in their honor.

Also on October 1, Charles M. Perou, PhD, will receive the AACI Distinguished ScientistCharles M. Perou, PhD
Award. Dr. Perou, a pioneer in breast cancer research and precision medicine, will deliver a talk focused on sequencing studies for gene expression analysis, specifically, on research results showing the value of sequencing-based approaches in breast and lung cancers. The May Goldman Shaw Distinguished Professor of Molecular Oncology at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Perou is also the faculty director of UNC Lineberger’s Bioinformatics Group, co-director of its Breast Cancer Research Program, and a professor in its Genetics and Pathology & Laboratory Medicine departments.

Webinar Recap: The Impact of 340B Reimbursement Cuts on AACI Cancer Centers

Since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reimbursement cuts to the 340B drug pricing program went into effect January 1, AACI has been advocating to protect the program. CMS slashed what Medicare pays 340B hospitals for many oncology infusions and other physician-administered drugs, reducing reimbursement rates by nearly 30 percent. As a result, several AACI cancer centers have eliminated jobs, suspended faculty recruitment, and cut back on important educational programming. Among those hit hardest by the cuts are cancer centers and safety-net hospitals that care for low-income and rural patients, compounding cancer health disparities in the U.S.

As a continuation of its ongoing advocacy efforts, AACI hosted a webinar on Friday, September 14, titled “The Impact of 340B Reimbursement Cuts on AACI Cancer Centers.” Featured presenters were Jeff Davis, senior advisor and of counsel at Baker Donelson; Cheryl L. Willman, MD, CEO and director of University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center (UNMCCC); and Sandra F. Durley, PharmD, senior associate director of ambulatory care pharmacy services at UI Health. AACI Deputy Director Jennifer Pegher moderated the webinar.

Following a detailed overview of the 340B program and its original intent from Mr. Davis, Dr. Willman described the negative repercussions of 340B program cuts she has already encountered at the UNMCCC.

“The excellent outcomes that we desire for our patients require access to clinical trials and many new cancer treatment modalities,” said Dr. Willman. “These include precision medicine, genome sequencing, targeted therapies, immunotherapies, and new experimental therapies – often of an exceedingly high cost.”

Through robust data, Dr. Durley described the financial impact on UI Health, where, she pointed out, oncology-related purchases accounted for 52 percent of 340B spending in Fiscal Year 2018.

She also shared moving patient stories, including that of I.H., an uninsured 30-year-old-man who was able to receive $5,700 worth of medication to treat acute myeloid leukemia for only $20, thanks to 340B discounts and the Medication Assistance Program.

“I wanted nothing more than to get well,” I.H. said. And he did: I.H. is still in remission today.

More than 80 participants—including cancer center directors, administrators, finance officers, and clinical trials office managers—tuned in to the webinar, which is just one facet of AACI’s advocacy efforts to preserve the 340B program.

AACI is still collecting responses to its 340B Impact Survey. And we encourage member centers to participate in our advocacy efforts by writing op-eds, contacting their state’s Senators and Congressional representatives, sharing social media posts using the hashtag #Protect340B, and submitting their comments to CMS by Monday, September 24. Please contact AACI for sample op-eds and supplemental educational resources on the program.

Download the webinar slides.
Download the audio recording.

Pictured (left to right): Jeff Davis, Dr. Cheryl L. Willman, Dr. Sandra F. Durley  

 

 

A Legislation Library to Benefit AACI Cancer Centers

Roy Jensen, MD

Roy A. Jensen, MD

Cancer centers are an enormous force for good and collectively have worked to lower cancer incidence and mortality rates for over four decades. In many cases, this improvement has resulted from basic science advances being translated into the clinic for the benefit of cancer patients. But in other cases, cancer centers worked diligently to prevent cancer from developing in patients in the first place. This has primarily resulted from the enactment of good public policy that limits carcinogen exposures or promotes the adoption of healthy behaviors in large populations. Such efforts can often save hundreds—if not thousands—of lives over the course of many years and represent a critical tool in our efforts to lower cancer mortality.

As a membership organization serving 98 cancer centers in the United States and Canada, the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) has an unprecedented opportunity to exert enormous influence on public policy. I suspect nearly every AACI cancer center in our organization is working to advance at least one public policy initiative, however we haven’t been able to leverage our collective efforts for maximum impact.

At the upcoming AACI/CCAF Annual Meeting, September 30 to October 2 in Chicago, I will begin my two-year term as president of AACI. For my presidential initiative, I intend to spearhead the development of a comprehensive, cancer-specific clearinghouse of model legislation for AACI cancer centers to share with their state/province legislators.

My hope is to offer a dynamic, online library of model policies – each of which is the product of many hours of research and data collection. Using this framework, I believe AACI would be positioned to become a “one-stop shop” for cancer-related public policy. AACI will not engage in formal lobbying; however, the database will serve as a go-to source for information that AACI’s members can use to educate legislators on the issues vital to decreasing cancer incidence and mortality in their catchment area.

Read more from Dr. Jensen, CEO and director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center and AACI vice president/president-elect, in AACI’s September 2018 Commentary

Member Spotlight: September 2018

Albert Einstein Cancer Center

Albert Einstein Cancer Center

The Albert Einstein Cancer Center, in the Bronx, NY, was established in 1971 and was among the first academic cancer research centers to be funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a designation continuously held since 1972. Today the center comprises more than 150 members from 18 academic departments at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, fostering basic, clinical, population, and translational research to better understand the origins of cancer and its effective detection, prevention, and treatment.

The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center

University of Chicago MedicineFounded in 1973, The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center received its NCI designation that year and its comprehensive cancer center designation in 2008. Patient care takes place at University of Chicago Medicine, where more than 4,000 cancer patients are diagnosed and/or treated annually. The 10-story Center for Care and Discovery, a hospital opened in 2013, includes an entire floor for cancer treatment, including a 28-bed stem cell and bone marrow transplant unit.

UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer CenterUNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Chapel Hill, NC, is one of only 49 NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and was rated as “exceptional”—the highest category—by the NCI. The center was named for the Lineberger family, pioneers in the textile industry. In 1977, the Lineberger Foundation pledged $1 million to a building fund that provided the core financing for the original three-story research building that opened in 1984.

Monthly Links Roundup: August 2018

This month, we announced that Karen E. Knudsen, PhD, enterprise director of Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC) – Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, has been elected vice president/president-elect of the AACI Board of Directors.

Dr. Knudsen will be joined by four other new board members:

Randall F. Holcombe, MD, MBA
, University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center
Thomas P. Loughran, Jr., MD, UVA Cancer Center
Leonidas (Leon) Platanias, MD, PhD, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center
Benjamin G. Neel, MD, PhD, Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone

The new members will officially join the board at our AACI/CCAF Annual Meeting, September 30 – October 2 in Chicago.

We highlighted Richard and Susan Rogel, recipients of the inaugural Champion for Cures Award, and Charles M. Perou, PhD, who will receive the AACI Distinguished Scientist Award at the annual meeting on October 1.

During the dog days of summer, we shared sun safety tips for Summer Sun Safety Month.

We highlighted the importance of HPV vaccination during National Immunization Awareness Month and encouraged AACI members to nominate exceptional physicians for the HPV Vaccination Champion Award.

Coming up in September:

Events:

Thursday, September 13 |Rally for Medical Research Capitol Hill Day – Washington, DC
Friday, September 21 | Biden Cancer Summit – Washington, DC
Sunday, September 30 – Tuesday, October 2 | AACI/CCAF Annual Meeting – Chicago, IL

Awareness Campaigns:

  • Blood Cancer/Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month
  • Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
  • Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month
  • National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
  • National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
  • Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

 

AACI Announces New Vice President/President-elect, 4 New Board Members

knudsen - squareAACI members have elected Karen E. Knudsen, PhD, as vice president/president-elect of the board of directors. Her two-year term will begin on September 30 during the AACI/CCAF Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Since 2015, Dr. Knudsen has been enterprise director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center – Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, where she previously served as deputy director and the founding member of the Prostate Cancer Program.

Dr. Knudsen is the third director of SKCC, an NCI-Designated Cancer Center
since 1995. She has been a member of AACI’s board of directors since 2016 and was program chair of the association’s 2017 annual meeting. She also serves on review, advisory, and elected panels for the Department of Defense, ASCO, AACR, and the NIH.

“Karen has contributed significantly to AACI through her dedicated service as a member of our board of directors and the association will undoubtedly become an even stronger advocate for cancer centers under her leadership,” said AACI Executive Director Barbara Duffy Stewart.

In addition to Dr. Knudsen, four leaders of AACI member cancer centers will join the board of directors on September 30:

holcombe - squareRandall F. Holcombe, MD, MBA, has been director of the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center since 2016. Dr. Holcombe led the center through major milestones including NCI re-designation and renewal of its NCI Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

He is program chair for the 2018 AACI/CCAF Annual Meeting and has served as a member of AACI’s Clinical Research Initiative (CRI) Steering Committee and chaired AACI’s Physicians Clinical Leadership Initiative (PCLI).Loughran - square

Thomas P. Loughran, Jr., MD, is the director of the UVA Cancer Center in Charlottesville, Virginia. Under his leadership, the center’s CCSG was renewed in 2017 with an outstanding rating, the highest score ever for UVA.

Dr. Loughran previously served as the founding director of the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute (2003–2013) and as program leader of hematologic malignancies at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute at the University of South Florida.

platanias - squareLeonidas (Leon) Platanias, MD, PhD, leads the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University in Chicago, an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Since becoming director in 2014, Dr. Platanias has overseen a 50 percent increase in NCI funding for the center, a near doubling of the number of patients enrolled in early phase trials, and the recruitment of more than 100 new faculty.

Prior to his appointment as director, Dr. Platanias served as Lurie Cancer Center’s first deputy director from 2002 to 2013.

neel - squareBenjamin G. Neel, MD, PhD, has been appointed to fill the remainder of Dr. Knudsen’s term as a regular board member. Dr. Neel is director of the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center and professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health in New York City.

Dr. Neel is also an elected member of the American Academy of Physicians, a member of the AACR, and the co-founder of Northern Biologics, a company focusing on antibody therapeutics for cancer and fibrosis.

Drs. Knudsen, Holcombe, Loughran, Platanias, and Neel will work closely with other AACI leaders to support our mission of enhancing the impact of academic cancer centers.

Read our full press release to learn more about the new board members’ research interests, awards, and accomplishments.