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Supporting Future Breast Cancer Research

On Aug. 27, breast cancer survivor, Carolyn Choate, and her daughter Sydney Turnbull will paddle in to Baltimore Harbor near the amphitheater at 8:30 a.m., completing their 300-mile kayaking journey to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM).

Choate, 59, a 14-year breast cancer survivor, credits the work of the late UM SOM scientist Angela Brodie, PhD for saving her life. Dr. Brodie developed the use of aromatase inhibitors to fight estrogen-driven breast cancer, a common form of cancer. The mother-daughter team on Aug. 10, will begin their journey on the Delaware River, making several stops along the way for media events and to share their survivor story. They will be raising funds for a special endowment in honor of Dr. Brodie.

As Carolyn and Sydney finish their journey in Baltimore Harbor, representatives from the University of Maryland and the School of Medicine, Baltimore City, and Maryland State officials will be there to greet them and highlight the impact UM SOM’s breast cancer research has had on millions of survivors worldwide.

Carolyn will also be honored by the Orioles at their home game in Oriole Park on Aug. 28. Please come and show your support.

As you follow Carolyn and Sydney on their journey, be sure to share your thoughts and photos using the hashtag #cancerkayakers.

Visit the UM SOM website to learn more about their trip and how to support future breast cancer research in honor of Dr. Brodie, so more individuals like Carolyn and Sydney can experience the positive impact of this research.

Sarah Bradley Bulletin Board, Collaboration, Community Service, Education, People, Research, University LifeAugust 2, 20170 comments
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Hope Lodge Needs Your Help

The Hope Lodge needs volunteers for two upcoming Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events.

Event One

Wednesday, Aug. 19, 3 to 5 p.m.
Assist with setup of registration and Kickoff Breakfast tables.

Thursday, Aug. 20, 6 to 10 a.m.
Assist with registration, balloons, parking lot, photo booth, breakfast program, and cleanup.

Event Two

Sunday, Oct. 18 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
This is a big event – 100 volunteers needed!
Assist with set-up/break down, registration, cheerleaders, T-shirt booth, guides, and so much more.

Karen Seaberry | Hope Lodge Manager
American Cancer Society, Inc.
636 W. Lexington St.
Baltimore, MD 21201

Karen SeaberryCollaboration, Community Service, For B'more, Global & Community EngagementAugust 4, 20150 comments
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Saving Lives Worldwide

Angela Brodie is a fourth-generation scientist. But to say she’s gone into the family business is a bit of an understatement: Brodie, PhD, professor of pharmacology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (SOM), is one of the world’s most decorated scientists in cancer research. Her pioneering work over 40 years has saved the lives of thousands of women worldwide.

Early in her career, Brodie won a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-sponsored fellowship to the Worcester (Mass.) Foundation for Experimental Biology. It was at the foundation that she met her husband; together, they began developing inhibitors to block estrogen synthesis. Brodie was confident this could be the link leading to non-surgical breast cancer treatment. The proposal she submitted to NIH hypothesizing as much was funded by the agency in 1975. Four years later, she relocated her laboratory to the SOM.

Her research over the next 20 years laid the groundwork for a class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors, which help prevent recurrence of breast cancer in postmenopausal women by reducing estrogen produced by the body, thereby starving the hormone-dependent cancer cells.

Prior to her discovery, the primary non-surgical breast cancer treatment was tamoxifen, a drug that, despite its effectiveness, can lead to stroke and endometrial cancer. Today, aromatase inhibitors, which are effective without incurring serious complications, have supplanted tamoxifen as the go-to defense against breast cancer, diagnosed in nearly a quarter-million American women each year. “The development of this class of drugs is arguably one of the most important therapeutic advances in treating women with breast cancer in the last quarter century,” says Kevin Cullen, MD, director of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.

Brodie has been funded by the NIH for four decades, and is the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Kettering Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation. Among many additional awards, she’s won the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s International Brinker Award, the Landon Award from the American Association of Cancer Research, and the Pharmacia Award of the American Society for Experimental Therapy. In 2013, she was in the first class of fellows inducted into the American Association for Cancer Research Academy, established to honor scientists whose major scientific contributions have catalyzed significant progress against cancer.

Following her breakthrough in breast cancer research, Brodie began developing inhibitors against prostate cancer, which had claimed her father. She believed the mechanisms leading aromatase inhibitors to suppress the disease in the breast might apply equally well to cancer of the prostate.

Brodie collaborated with the SOM’s Vincent Njar, PhD, and together they developed a promising compound, VN/124. The compound is the basis for galeterone, an androgen-blocking drug Brodie and Njar have exclusively licensed to Tokai Pharmaceuticals. Results of Phase 2 clinical trials, recently concluded, are extremely encouraging: Trial subjects’ prostate-specific androgen (PSA) levels, often elevated in men with prostate cancer, are significantly reduced, and galeterone’s approval has been fast-tracked by the Food and Drug Administration.

Brodie’s great-grandfather, grandfather, and father were all accomplished scientists before her. And while it’s tempting to say that she’s followed in their footsteps, it’s clear the path she’s paved is all her own.

Mike RuddockClinical Care, Education, People, ResearchSeptember 26, 20140 comments
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An Encounter With Cancer Patients and Hope

If you look across the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) campus, you find a tiny building adjacent to the Saratoga building facing Lexington Street. The bold sign outside announces the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge, Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Campus of Hope.

Faculty, staff, and students rush by the building everyday on their way to research projects, administrative tasks, and classes. I’ve done that hundreds of times in past years, though one day in May 2013 I entered the building for the first time and the experience remains etched in my memory.

About Hope Lodge

Hope Lodge is a foundation-supported service to cancer patients who are undergoing daily radiation but live too far away to make day trips feasible. I was going there intent on giving loving kindness, but it was a turnabout—I got much more than I gave from the out-of-town folks who were staying there during cancer treatment, accompanied by spouses and significant others.

How did I get to have such an experience?

As many UMB folks know, we have a University agenda to promote shared activities among faculty, staff and students. Last winter, the faculty senate, staff senate, and student government leaders met for the first time. One issue that came up was finding a task of mutual interest to share. A charitable act was easily agreed upon. Thus, the call went out for unmet needs in the community and—you guessed it—dinner with Hope Lodge’s short-time residents was identified.

Turkey Dinner From Lexington Market

Acting Dean of Admissions Judy Porter, DDS, of the School of Dentistry organized a team of faculty senators from medicine, nursing, and pharmacy along with young, bright-faced nursing students. “Getting faculty into action is worse than herding cats,” Porter acknowledges. But, with her persistence and gentle prodding, by May 23 a timid band of 12 descended on Hope Lodge guests rolling a cartful of turkey dinners ala Krause’s stand at Lexington Market.

Hope Lodge has a laid-back, family atmosphere in the dining area with cozy round tables that seat four guests. After reheating the food in the kitchen, we served buffet style and then proceeded to join in the meal and conversation at individual tables.

That’s when the conversations began in earnest and I started to observe the strong resolve and gentle style of folks who were not hiding, denying or sugar-coating their circumstances. And they did so with such great appreciation for what, for us, was just a few hours of our time.

The Patients: Models of Courage and Determination

Cancer has many faces, a variety of backgrounds, personal belief systems, and neighborhoods. The patients I met that evening appeared experienced in facing serious challenges—sober, but not sad-faced. Couples cared for each other quietly as long-term partners often do, anticipating needs with little fuss and few words. Stories often turned to the hospital staff and their support through rigorous protocols, and how staying at Hope Lodge was reducing the day-to-day stress for them.

I am a breast cancer survivor, but that evening I understood I was in another place here among Hope Lodge guests—at least for the moment. And their gift to me and my student and faculty colleagues that May evening was to show us how courage and determination are modeled in the face of great uncertainty.

Julie ZitoGlobal & Community Engagement, University LifeJanuary 9, 20140 comments
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Pink Paddlers

Calling all breast cancer survivors and supporters! Come experience the surprising sport of dragon boating. It is a great way to get fit and help increase your strength. Athletic ability and paddling experience are not required! Feel free to bring your friends and family.

Sept. 28
9:30 a.m. to noon
Under Armour World Headquarters
1020 Hull Street
Baltimore, MD 21030

RSVP to For more information, click here.

Barbara Van de CastleBulletin Board, For B'moreSeptember 20, 20130 comments
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GammaPod System to Treat Breast Cancer

An experimental innovation in cancer treatment from the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine could provide a new, high-precision, noninvasive method of treating early-stage breast cancer.

The GammaPod was invented by Cedric Yu, MS, DSc, the Carl M. Mansfield Endowed Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology, who patented the technology in 2006. Although the device has not yet been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used on patients, the manufacturer is actively seeking that approval and the department hopes to begin clinical trials as soon as October 2013.

Yu’s research was funded initially by $3.5 million in Small Business Innovation Research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). With support from the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Office of Research and Development (ORD), he founded a new company called Xcision Medical Systems, LLC, to pursue the development of the GammaPod. In 2010, Yu received the University System of Maryland’s Entrepreneur of the Year award for his research leading to the development of the GammaPod.

“I am so happy that this University encourages entrepreneurship and recognizes the importance of translational research that converts new knowledge into new products,” says Yu.

The GammaPod enables a proven technology called stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) to be used for breast cancer. SBRT has been used to successfully obliterate inoperable brain tumors and hard-to-reach lung and liver cancers. However, SBRT technology has not been applied to breast cancer. GammaPod system is the first device created specifically for the treatment of breast cancer. It is designed so that patients can receive external radiation treatments while lying on a comfortable treatment couch. The device uses tens of thousands beams of radiation from 36 rotating sources to focus the radiation to the tumor.

The affected breast is fitted into a patented two-layer, vacuum-assisted cup that immobilizes the breast during imaging and treatment. The breast cups come in 28 sizes to provide a proper fit. Such immobilization allows the radiation to strike only the tumor with pinpoint accuracy and minimizes damage to surrounding healthy tissue and adjacent major organs such as the heart and lungs. Treatment will take anywhere from five to 40 minutes, depending on the treatment plan.

“We want to make sure the treatment process is as comfortable for women as can be,” says Yu.

“Dr. Yu’s accomplishments represent the type of extraordinary innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that we foster here at the School of Medicine,” says E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean of the School of Medicine. “His research is turning groundbreaking discoveries from the laboratory into potentially lifesaving solutions for patients. He is an outstanding research scientist, and we are hopeful that his work will revolutionize the field, changing the way that radiation oncologists approach breast cancer treatment.”

Although it has yet to be tested on breast cancer patients, Yu hopes that the GammaPod will one day offer an alternative to invasive surgery in those with early-stage tumors.

“With standard therapy, breast cancer patients often have surgery to remove the tumor, followed by five to seven weeks of radiation treatments to destroy any residual cancer cells,” says Yu. “We hope that GammaPod will dramatically reduce the treatment time to a few treatments that can be done over the course of a week. There is potential that the need for surgery could be eliminated altogether, meaning no needles, no knives, no anesthesia and no scars.”

Clinical trials are a critical next step to bringing the GammaPod to patients. Principal investigator on the trials at the School of Medicine is Steven Feigenberg, MD, associate professor, director of clinical research and co-director of the program of excellence in technology-based translational research in the Department of Radiation Oncology. He is currently seeking approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the trials, although they will not be able to start until the FDA approves the device for clinical testing.

“Patients in the clinical trial will be treated with the GammaPod system before they have a lumpectomy to remove the tumor,” Feigenberg explains. “We want to see if GammaPod can neutralize the tumor and will check for any traces of cancer in the area around the tumor. Patients will, of course, still have the option of partial or whole-breast irradiation, if it is needed.”

Another common treatment for breast cancer involves brachytherapy, or “internal” radiation, to treat the cancer with radioactive seeds placed inside the breast through small catheters. Yu hopes the GammaPod will offer an alternative to this procedure, in which 10 to 20 catheters are placed, requiring an operating room and general anesthesia for the patient.

“I had participated in many of these procedures, and I knew there had to be a better way to get the same or better results without putting women through these invasive treatments,” Yu says.

“One hundred thousand women a year are receiving breast conservation therapy (BCT), traditionally a lumpectomy followed by weeks of radiation therapy,” says William F. Regine, MD, the Isadore & Fannie Schneider Foxman Professor and chair in the Department of Radiation Oncology. “An even greater number could receive BCT if treatment could be done in a matter of one to three days and with less radiation exposure. We hope the GammaPod will meet the challenge of developing a simpler and safer treatment for early-stage breast cancer that will help women avoid the self-image distortion that too often is a result of current treatment approaches.”

Yu, who has been at the School of Medicine since 1997, has a master’s in electrical engineering and a PhD in medical physics from Washington University in St. Louis. He holds 10 patents and has invented a number of other technological advances that are now used in the field of radiation oncology. Among those is Intensity Modulated Arc Therapy, which delivers radiation directly to a tumor two to eight times faster than conventional intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). His other innovations include direct aperture optimization (DAO), an enhancement of IMRT therapy and Translational Tomosynthesis Mammography.

by Karen Robinson

Karen RobinsonResearch, TechnologyJuly 12, 20130 comments
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