UAMS Scientist Crooks Honored by Cancer Institute Auxiliary

Peter Crooks, Ph.D., D.Sc., was honored by the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute for his achievements in drug development.

Peter Crooks, Ph.D., D.Sc., was honored by the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute for his achievements in drug development.

May 25, 2018 | The process of creating new drug therapies is completely foreign to most people. But for UAMS’ Peter Crooks, Ph.D., D.Sc., it’s just another day at the office.

In honor of his many contributions to the field of drug discovery, Crooks was named the 2018 Distinguished Honoree by the volunteer auxiliary of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. The award was presented May 17 at a luncheon hosted at the home of auxiliary member Martha Murphy.

Crooks, who serves as chairman of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the UAMS College of Pharmacy, was presented the award by Laura Hutchins, M.D., professor of medicine in the UAMS College of Medicine and associate director of clinical research at the Cancer Institute.

Peter Crooks, Ph.D., D.Sc., (center) is joined by Interim UAMS Chancellor Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., (left) and Laura Hutchins, M.D., prior to his introduction as the 2018 UAMS Cancer Institute Auxiliary Distinguished Honoree.

Peter Crooks, Ph.D., D.Sc., (center) is joined by Interim UAMS Chancellor Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., (left) and Laura Hutchins, M.D., prior to his introduction as the 2018 UAMS Cancer Institute Auxiliary Distinguished Honoree.

“Dr. Crooks’ extensive career had led to improved therapies for patients with complex medical conditions, including cancer. We are privileged to have him and his research team at UAMS and to be witness to these extraordinary and life-changing discoveries,” Hutchins said.

Among Crooks’ most significant accomplishments is the fact that five drugs discovered in his lab have made it into clinical trials, a years-long, highly regulated process in which people participate as patients or healthy volunteers to determine the safety and effectiveness of new drugs.

“The stars aligned when we recruited Dr. Crooks to bring his drug development program to UAMS. Getting one new drug into clinical trials is a significant accomplishment for any scientist. Dr. Crooks has achieved this milestone five times, which truly deserves recognition and appreciation,” said Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., interim UAMS chancellor, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost.

Hutchins described for the crowd of about 60 guests the five drugs Crooks’ team has translated into clinical trials or had approved by the FDA for widespread use:

• Valchor, an anticancer drug approved by the FDA in 2013 to treat early-stage cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
• A drug for treatment of acute myeloid leukemia, currently in phase 1 clinical trials
• Two drugs developed to treat methamphetamine abuse and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
• A drug for treatment of early onset Alzheimer’s disease

His lab is now working on a development of a drug to treat neuropathy, which is the weakness, numbness and pain often experienced by people undergoing cancer treatment.

“I am optimistic for the future. In the next few years, I believe you will find drugs developed at UAMS, patented by UAMS, and used clinically for UAMS patients,” said Crooks, who holds the Simmons Endowed Chair in Cancer Research.

In addition to his clinical trials, Crooks also is a fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Inventors, holds more than 80 issued drug discovery patents and has 103 patent applications pending. His entrepreneurial activities have led to the founding of seven start-up drug discovery companies during the past 30 years.

Crooks’ role as professor of pharmaceutical sciences also has had a significant influence on the future generation of scientists. During his career, he has mentored more than 90 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

“Dr. Crooks creates magic in the classroom and excites students in ways that no one else can,” Gardner said.

Crooks has authored more than 600 peer-reviewed research articles and 700 symposium abstracts. He serves on the editorial board of several prominent science journals, is a Fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.

The Cancer Institute Auxiliary is one of Arkansas’ largest volunteer organizations with almost 500 members dedicated to providing information, service, compassion and hope to those whose lives are touched by cancer. Each year, the auxiliary selects a faculty or staff member at the Cancer Institute to honor for his or her dedication to the institute’s mission.

Janie Lowe serves as director of the UAMS Cancer Institute Department of Volunteer Services and Auxiliary. Tara Smith was the auxiliary’s 2017-2018 president.


El Dorado Artist Melinda Cameron-Godsey Donates Original Painting to UAMS Cancer Institute

El Dorado artist Melinda Cameron-Godsey (fourth from right) celebrated the installation of her painting titled

El Dorado artist Melinda Cameron-Godsey (fourth from right) celebrated the installation of her painting titled “Hope” at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. She is joined by Liudmila Schafer, M.D. (third from right); daughter Courtney Cassinelli (far left); friend Carla Emanuel (front row far left); and nurses from Infusion Clinic 1.

May 24, 2018 |El Dorado artist, interior designer and cancer survivor Melinda Cameron-Godsey has donated an original piece of art to the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).

Titled “Hope,” the large, colorful acrylic painting of monarch butterflies can be viewed on the first floor near Infusion Clinic 1 and is a permanent addition to the Cancer Institute’s collection of art created by Arkansans.

“The monarch butterfly has been used a symbol of the Cancer Institute for many years and represents hope for all patients who come seeking hope and healing,” Cameron-Godsey said.

It was given in honor of the doctors and nurses who provide compassionate care for Cameron-Godsey’s ongoing cancer treatment. To celebrate the painting’s installation, she was joined by her physician, Liudmila Schafer, M.D., medical oncologist and assistant professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine; her daughter, Courtney Cassinelli; friends; and oncology nurses.

The painting also honors Kent McKelvey, M.D., director of Cancer and Adult Genetic Services and associate professor of family medicine and genetics in the UAMS College of Medicine, who was unable to attend.

In 2015, Cameron-Godsey was diagnosed with stage 4 linitis plastica, a rare stomach cancer that spreads to the muscles of the stomach wall, causing it to harden and become rigid. She remains under the care of Schafer and travels to the Cancer Institute in Little Rock for regular treatment.


BioVentures fastPace Course Helps Researchers Grasp Business Basics

Marie Burdine, Ph.D., left, makes her presentation to the judges, foreground, during the final class session of the fastPace course.

Marie Burdine, Ph.D., left, makes her presentation to the judges, foreground, during the final class session of the fastPace course.

May 15, 2018 | Even a classroom full of experienced researchers with Ph.D. and medical degrees still found useful things to learn about business during the fastPace course organized by BioVentures.

Nancy Gray, Ph.D., left, and Hari Eswaran, center, visit with some of the judges and teams during a break in the last class session. Gray and Eswaran both were instructors in the fastPace course.

Nancy Gray, Ph.D., left, and Hari Eswaran, Ph.D., center, visit with some of the judges and teams during a break in the last class session. Gray and Eswaran both were instructors in the fastPace course.

“We enrolled in the class because we thought we had a good idea, but we didn’t really know how to take it to the next step,” said Marie Burdine, Ph.D. “We didn’t know the channels to take, what the patent process was like or if this was even a good idea. That’s why we took the course, to get more information about the process. We learned how to do market research and got great feedback on how to target more people to generate more revenue.”

Burdine is an assistant professor in the Division of Surgical Research in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Surgery.

FastPace was developed by FastForward Medical Innovations at the University of Michigan and is designed for the busy medical academician with an early-stage project. It blends in-person and online education to help faculty researchers and clinicians learn the basic components of biomedical commercialization and prepare a successful business case for funding and developing partnerships.

FastPace is one of the newest courses offered by BioVentures and the researchers and clinicians who enrolled was the first class at UAMS to complete the course. Course sessions for the four-week course in biomedical commercialization started in late March.

Michael Owens, Ph.D., left takes notes while his fellow fastPace judges listen to a presentation.

Michael Owens, Ph.D., left takes notes while his fellow fastPace judges listen to a presentation.

Burdine teamed up with her husband, Lyle Burdine, M.D., an assistant professor in the College of Medicine’s Department of Surgery and a transplant surgeon, to develop a nanoparticle for treating clostridium difficile, a bacterial infection of the colon commonly referred to as C. diff. The nanoparticle binds to toxins caused by C. diff and removes them from the colon.

On April 27, there were 10 teams that finished the fastPace course.  Five were in the device/diagnostic track, three were in the therapeutics track and two were in the health information technology track. Seven teams were from the College of Medicine, two from hospital staff and one from University of Arkansas, Little Rock.  Nancy Gray, Ph.D., head of BioVentures, served as site director and lead instructor for fastPace. Curtis Lowery, M.D., Nancy Rusch, Ph.D., and Hari Eswaran, Ph.D., served as co-instructors.

Lowery chairs the College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Eswaran is a professor in the same department. Rusch chairs the College of Medicine Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and leads the educational efforts of the UAMS Translational Research Institute.

“The fastPace course was designed to teach members of the biomedical community how to develop a business case to secure funding, determine commercial viability of an innovation, build a business network and instill confidence in making a business presentation,” Gray said. I think it achieved all those things and a fuller understanding of what’s needed to take something from the lab to the market.”

Robert Griffin, Ph.D., professor in the College of Medicine’s Department of Radiation Oncology, was part of the Wild Parsnip team with Samir Jenkins, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the same department. The team’s product is a cancer therapy based on one of the chemicals in wild parsnip that is activated by ultraviolet light to be toxic to cancer cells. The treatment is designed for patients with cancer that is recurrent, in an anatomical position that’s not conducive to surgery or where a residual tumor is still present in the patient.

“I have a little bit of background working with other small companies, but fastPace is more in-depth and focused,” Griffin said. “We were pushed to get a lot of stuff done in a month. It usually takes a year to do this sort of thing.  The most valuable part of the course was the understanding we gained about the different stakeholders that you have to convince and what is the value at each stage of development. With cancer, you think of the patient first, but there are a lot of steps before that. That was useful.”

 


UAMS Proteomics Workshops Educate, Promote Collaborations

Scientists from across the nation gathered at UAMS in April to learn more about their specialty: proteomics.

Scientists from across the nation gathered at UAMS in April to learn more about their specialty: proteomics.

May 8, 2018 | A skillful proteomics facility translates into improved care for a host of conditions.

The research it fosters in identifying the functions of proteins drives the development of new treatments for diseases with high prevalence in Arkansas such as cancer, obesity and cardiovascular disease. The key is a trained, knowledgeable staff.

The UAMS Proteomics Core hosted two workshops in April with that objective in mind. It welcomed proteomics core staff, faculty and graduate students from across the nation to share its expertise in the specialized research field of proteomics.

The IDeA (Institutional Development Award) National Resource for Proteomics, a partnership between the Arkansas and Oklahoma INBRE (IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence) programs, sponsored the workshops. Lawrence Cornett, Ph.D., UAMS vice chancellor for research, directs the Arkansas INBRE program.

The UAMS Proteomics Core hosted two workshops for proteomics staff, faculty and graduate students.

The UAMS Proteomics Core hosted two workshops for proteomics staff, faculty and graduate students.

Puerto Rico and 23 states make up the IDeA program, which is intended to help states that historically receive less grant money than other states for biomedical research. In all, this year’s workshops hosted 30 participants representing 22 of 23 states and Puerto Rico.

Core directors met April 3-5 to learn new approaches, share their experiments with peers, compare notes and share ideas.

“We want core directors in IDeA states to leave here able to implement new approaches to help their facilities and local investigators,” said Alan Tackett, Ph.D., co-director of the IDeA National Resource for Proteomics.

Faculty and graduates students from IDeA states assembled April 10-12 to learn proper experiment design for data collection and how to analyze the data. Faculty and students were able to bring experimental ideas to the workshop and receive guidance on how to effectively perform their studies.

“This helps address an issue we see in proteomics, which is incorrectly designed experiments that end up costing time and money,” said Tackett.

Researchers who would not interact otherwise are brought together, said Tackett. This creates countless opportunities for collaborations, including at UAMS.

“More traditionally, we serve the needs of UAMS and the people of Arkansas, but these workshops help us operate nationwide to serve people from the other IDeA states as well,” said Tackett.

Continued support from the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the UAMS Translational Research Institute and the Arkansas INBRE has enabled the UAMS Proteomics Core to establish itself as a hub for proteomics service and educational opportunities, said Tackett.

The UAMS Proteomics Core is not only able to examine samples, but help investigators plan projects, design experiments and analyze results. The UAMS Proteomics Core is co-directed by Rick Edmondson, Ph.D., and Sam Mackintosh, Ph.D.

“It’s very difficult work, but we’re fortunate to have an exceptional proteomics core staff that is as well-qualified as any group in the country, and has a high expertise in operating the equipment and reading data,” said Tackett. “These workshops allow us to take what we do well and help people across the nation advance science and ultimately patient health.”


May 7, 2018

Osteosarcoma and Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma of Bone Treatment

Bone Cancer

Osteosarcoma and malignant fibrous histiocytoma (MFH) of bone are most successfully treated with a combination of systemic chemotherapy and complete resection of all clinically detectable disease.


Bladder and Other Urothelial Cancers Screening

Omar T. Atiq M.D., Named Chair-elect of the Board of Governors of National Doctors Group

Omar T. Atiq, M.D.

LITTLE ROCK – Omar T. Atiq, M.D., has been named chair-elect of the board of governors of the American College of Physicians (ACP), the national organization of internists.  His term began during Internal Medicine Meeting 2018, ACP’s annual scientific meeting held in New Orleans from April 19-21.

Atiq is a professor of medicine and otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). He also serves as director of the Cancer Service Line at UAMS Medical Center and associate director of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

He most recently served as governor of the Arkansas Chapter of ACP. Governors are elected by local ACP members and serve four-year terms. Working with a local council, they supervise ACP chapter activities, appoint members to local committees, and preside at regional meetings. They also represent members by serving on the ACP board of governors. He has been a fellow of ACP (FACP) since 1993.  FACP is an honorary designation that recognizes ongoing individual service and contributions to the practice of medicine.

Atiq earned his medical degree from the Khyber Medical College, University of Peshawar, Pakistan.  He is board certified in medical oncology, hematology and internal medicine.

The main areas of professional interest for Atiq include national health reform, Arkansas health care access, scope of practice, private and community practice, and payment reform.

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 152,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.


$1 Million Estate Gift to Benefit Breast Cancer Research at UAMS Cancer Institute

Linda Riggs

LITTLE ROCK – A $1 million gift from the estate of Linda Garner Riggs to the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) will be used to advance research of triple negative breast cancer. Riggs, who died in Nov. 2017, was a former Arkansas insurance commissioner and managing director at Stephens Inc.

“This gift will have long-lasting effects on UAMS’ ability to help women living with breast cancer. We are grateful to Mrs. Riggs for this transforming gift, which provides vital funds for our ongoing initiative for cancer research,” said UAMS Interim Chancellor Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D.

A native of Fordyce, Riggs worked about 10 years in state government, serving as director of the research and committee staff of the Arkansas Legislature; legislative and budgetary director for Gov. Frank White; and insurance commissioner. She later joined Stephens Inc. where she worked for 25 years in corporate finance and as managing director of investment banking.

“Linda lived an exemplary life, and I was so privileged to know her and be her partner in it. She was a wonderful example and role model to anyone who wanted to become a better person,” said her husband, Lamar Riggs of Little Rock.

“We are honored and humbled that Mrs. Riggs designated the UAMS Cancer Institute as a recipient for this generous gift from her estate. Her foresight and dedication to the importance of cancer research will enable us to expand our efforts at understanding the causes of and improving the treatments for women with triple negative breast cancer and will move us closer to achieving National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation,” said Cancer Institute Director Peter Emanuel, M.D. Emanuel also serves as professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Division of Hematology.

NCI-designated cancer centers are recognized for their scientific leadership, resources, and research in basic, clinic and population science. There are 70 designated cancer centers in the United States, and the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute is in the process of pursuing this nationally recognized status.

In triple negative breast cancer, the cancer cells do not contain the hormones estrogen and progesterone or the protein HER2. Therefore, the most common hormonal therapies for breast cancer are not effective for women with this form of the disease, which is often aggressive and likely to spread or return after the initial diagnosis.

Triple negative breast cancer is diagnosed in up to 20 percent of cases and is more likely to occur in younger people, African-Americans, Hispanics and those with the BRCA1 gene mutation.

In appreciation of her gift, Riggs will be honored as a member of the 1879 Society of UAMS, recognizing all individuals who have made estate gifts to the university.

 


UAMS Doctor to Speak on Women’s Cancers and Cancer Genetics at May 24 Event in Conway

Kristin Zorn

LITTLE ROCK – The public is invited to learn about the latest advances in gynecologic cancers and cancer genetics at a free event sponsored by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).

The program will be held at 6:30 p.m. May 24 at Moix RV Supercenter, 800 N. Creek Drive, in Conway. Featured speaker will be Kristin Zorn, M.D., director of the UAMS Division of Gynecologic Oncology and Hereditary Gynecologic Cancer Clinic. Zorn also is associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Division of Genetics.

There is no charge to attend, and hors d’oeuvres will be served. To make a reservation, call (501) 686-7327 by May 17.

This event is presented by the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. It is sponsored by Moix RV Supercenter and the Envoys, an advocacy group of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Foundation.


Uterine Sarcoma Treatment

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