USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center

Community for a Cure

Community for a Cure is the official newsletter for the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center (USC Norris). Our dynamic newsletter keeps you up to date with everything happening at USC Norris. It features scientific discoveries from our exceptional researchers, inspiring patient stories, award recognitions of our faculty and staff, groundbreaking initiatives, new faculty spotlights,  developmental updates, and much more. 

Have something to contribute to Community for a Cure? Send it to Hinde Kast, Communications Coordinator, at Hinde.Kast@med.usc.edu

August/September 2022

Featured Stories

Honors and Appointments

    • Dr. Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, USC Norris Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement,  has been selected as the recipient of the Hands of Hope Award from the Lazarex Cancer Foundation.
    • Dr. Hossein Jadvar, member of the USC Norris Translational and Clinical Sciences Program, who was appointed Vice Chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Advisory Committee on Medical Uses of Isotopes (ACMUI)
    • The Vassiliadis Family Foundation has provided a generous gift to endow the new position of Chief Innovation Officer at USC Norris
    • Drs. John Monterosso and Alayna Tackett, members of the USC Norris Cancer Control Research Program, who were awarded a major grant by the National Cancer Institute
    • Dr. Jorge Nieva, a member of the USC Norris Translational and Clinical Sciences Program and a medical oncologist specializing in lung and head and neck cancer, was featured in a roundtable discussion at the 2022 American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting

Scientific Advances

    • USC Norris members reveal that hydra-elastin-like polypeptides increase rapamycin potency when targeting cell surface GRP78
    • Dr. Vinay Duddalwar, member of the USC Norris Translational and Clinical Sciences Program, revealed that CT-based radiomics signatures may prove to be useful tools to assess grade and stage of clear cell renal cell carcinoma
    • Dr. Jesse Berry, member of the USC Norris Genomic and Epigenomic Regulation Program, utilizes novel approach to characterize retinoblastoma (tumors of the eye) in children
    • Cancer Network sits down with Dr. Heinz-Josef Lenz, Deputy Director for Research Programs at USC Norris, to discuss two novel genes that appear to be promising targets in advanced colorectal cancer
    • Dr. Steve Kay, co-director of the Rosalie and Harold Rae Brown Center for Cancer Drug Development at USC Norris and member of the USC Norris Genomic and Epigenomic Regulation Program, reveals new insights into a deadly brain tumor
    • Clinical trial reveals potential new cancer therapy is feasible and well tolerated amongst patients with metastatic disease

Miscellaneous

    • Faculty Spotlight: Chanita Hughes-Halbert, PhD
    • The Patient Voice: Debbie Sierra-Wilhelm
    • Why Your Gift Matters: Anne Lynch
    • Staff Member of the Month: Carla Martinez 

June/July 2022

Featured Stories

Honors and Appointments

    • Anthony El-Khoueiry has been appointed as the Associate Director for Clinical Research
    • Chanita Hughes-Halbert, Associate Director for Cancer Equity at USC Norris, has been appointed to the Stand Up To Cancer Health Equity Committee
    • John Carpten, Associate Director for Basic Research at USC Norris, was awarded the 2022 Healing Award
    • Adam Leventhal, a member of the USC Norris Cancer Control Research Program, has been awarded the American Psychological Foundation Gold Medal Award for Impact in Psychology.
    • Ahmad Besaratinia, member of the USC Norris Cancer Epidemiology Program, has been appointed to the California Carcinogen Identification Committee.
    • Mariana Stern, Associate Director for Population Science at USC Norris, was a lead contributor to the 2nd American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Cancer Disparities Report
    • Preet Chaudhary, member of the USC Norris Tumor Microenvironment Program, received a $5.8 million award from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine
    • Congratulations to Dr. Adam de Smith, member of the USC Norris Cancer Epidemiology Program, who was awarded a major grant from the National Cancer Institute

Scientific Advances

    • Study reveals a lack of concordance in symptomatic adverse event reporting by children, clinicians, and caregivers
    • Results of randomized controlled trial demonstrate sun protection changes among diverse elementary schoolchildren
    • New study reveals structural analysis of the basal state of the Artemis: DNA-PKcs complex
    • Clinical trial reveals potential new cancer therapy is feasible and well tolerated amongst patients with metastatic disease

Miscellaneous

    • Faculty Spotlight: Gabriel Zada, MD
    • 32nd Festival of Life at USC Norris
    • The Patient Voice: Tiffanie Lin
    • Why Your Gift Matters: Dana Dornsife
    • Staff Member of the Month: Melba Ragasa

April/May 2022

Featured Stories

Honors and Appointments

    • Dr. Heinz-Josef Lenz appointed as the inaugural Deputy Director for Research Programs at USC Norris
    • Dr. William (Dean) Wallace  appointed as the new director of the USC Norris Translational Pathology Core (TPC)
    • Dr. Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement at USC Norris, is the recipient of the USC Joint Educational Project’s 2022 Award for Community Engaged Teaching and Research
    • Ms. Joi Torrence-Hill, Chief of USC Norris Hospital Operations,  has been selected as a 2022 Women of Influence in Health Care recipient by the Los Angeles Business Journal
    • Dr. Evanthia Roussos Torres, member of the USC Norris Tumor Microenvironment Program,  has been awarded the Early Career Investigator Award by METAvivor 

Scientific Advances

    • Metastatic prostate cancer is on the rise after changes to guidelines recommending decreased cancer screenings
    • New approach to non-invasive profiling of advanced prostate cancer combines liquid biopsies and radiomic imaging analysis 
    • A concerning rise in early onset pancreatic cancer particularly among Hispanic and White women
    • Novel epigenetic therapy decreases immune suppression and promotes anti-tumor responses against certain breast tumors
    • New clinical guidance for PET imaging for prostate cancer
    • Immortalizing human alveolar epithelial cells 
    • New consensus report from the National Academies of Sciences provides comprehensive review of patterns of use and health effects of premium cigars 
    • USC Norris Adolescent and Young Adult Program whose project Comedy and Cancer was awarded a grant by the USC Arts in Action, part of USC Visions and Voices.
    • Faculty Spotlight: Casey O’Connell, MD
    • Celebrating Our Nurses
    • USC Norris Volunteer Highlight
    • Why Your Gift Matters: The Gloria Borges WunderGlo Foundation

January/February 2022

Featured Stories

Honors and Appointments

    • Dr. Joseph Wiemels has been appointed Associate Director for Shared Resources at USC Norris
    • Dr. Bodour Salhia has been appointed as the director of the USC Norris Preclinical Shared Resource
    • Minhaal Nathani appointed Executive Director of Development for USC Norris

Scientific Advances

    • Dr. Adam Leventhal reported that adult smoking cessation rates have stalled in the United States in the past five years
    • Dr. Chanita Hughes Halbert discusses basic behavioral science research priorities in minority health and health disparities
    • Dr. Ahmad Besaratinia and his USC Norris colleagues Drs. Stella Tommasi and Kimberly Siegmund reported that critical gene networks are dysregulated in both tobacco and e-cigarette users
    • Dr. Amy Lee and her colleagues revealed a new function of cardiac glycosides 
    • Dr. Albert Farias and his USC Norris colleagues revealed Asian ethnic subgroup disparities in delays of surgical treatment for breast cancer
    • Dr. Fumito Ito identified a critical pathway for the generation of various types of conventional dendritic cells from human induced pluripotent stem cells

Community Outreach and Engagement 

    • Toy Give-Away at the Clinica Monseñor Óscar Romero/ Dia De Reyes 
    • Faculty Spotlight: George Yaghmour, MD
    • Staff Member of the Month: Mechell Epps

November/December 2021

Featured Stories

Scientific Advances

    • USC Norris launches the new Eileen McGeever Breast Cancer Survivorship Program
    • Developing new ways to pinpoint cancer disparities and environmental causes of cancer risk and recurrence
    • Dr. Janice Lu, member of the USC Norris Translational and Clinical Sciences Program, launched a global clinical trial testing a potential therapy for an aggressive type of breast cancer
    • Dr. Heinz-Josef Lenz, associate director for clinical research at USC Norris, and his colleagues identified a promising new first-line treatment for newly diagnosed colon cancer 
    • Dr. Oliver Bell, member of the USC Norris Genomic and Epigenomic Regulation Program, developed a new drug-like molecule that can counteract the effects of mutated epigenetic regulators

Research Grants 

      • Dr. Jennifer Unger, co-leader of the USC Norris Cancer Control Research Program, received a major grant from the National Cancer Institute to examine how social media influencers promote tobacco products
      • Dr. Adam de Smith, member of the USC Norris Cancer Epidemiology Program, received a major grant from the National Cancer Institute to examine cord blood for genetic alterations contributing to a leukemia diagnosis
      • Dr. Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, associate director for community outreach and engagement at USC Norris, and USC Norris member Dr. Michael Goran received a Center grant from the National Institutes of Health to reduce obesity and cancer-related health disparities in Latino/a/x children and families
      • Dr. Kimberly Miller, member of the USC Norris Cancer Control Research Program, received a major grant from the National Cancer Institute to examine factors associated with cancer-focused survivorship care among young adult Asian American childhood cancer survivors
      • Dr. Ahmad Besaratinia, member of the USC Norris Cancer Epidemiology Program, received a grant from the National Cancer Institute to differentiate the biological consequences of vaping from smoking

Honors and Appointments

    • Dr. Fumito Ito has been recruited to USC Norris and appointed co-leader of the USC Norris Translational and Clinical Sciences Program
    • Dr. Vasiliki Anest, chief innovation officer for USC Norris, has been elected to the board of California Life Sciences
    • Dr. Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati received the Health Equity Award from the Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy, and Leadership
    • Dr. Dieuwertje (DJ) Kast, co-director of the USC Norris Cancer STEM Education Partnership Program, received the Social Impact Abie Award from the global nonprofit AnitaB.org
    • Dr. Mariana Stern, associate director for population science at USC Norris, has been appointed to the steering committee of the Cancer Prevention Working Group
  • Tournament of Roses 2022 Royal Court visits USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Staff Member of the Month: Hinde Kast 
  • The Patient Perspective: Donna Soskin

September/October 2021

Featured Stories

  • Dr. John Carpten appointed by President Biden to chair the National Cancer Advisory Board
  • Dr. Omid Akbari, member of the Tumor Microenvironment Program, and his colleagues identified a novel way to delay the progression of metastatic melanoma 
  • Dr. Amy Lee, associate director for Shared Resources, and her colleagues revealed a new mechanism important in the development and progression of colon and lung cancers 
  • Dr. Adam de Smith, member of the USC Norris Cancer Epidemiology Program, and his colleagues identified a genetic risk factor for  children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • Dr. Woojin An, member of the USC Norris Genomic and Epigenomic Regulation Program, and his USC Norris colleagues revealed that a specific protein is overexpressed in colon cancer and directly contributes to epigenetic gene silencing and the development of colon cancer  
  • Dr. Evanthia Roussos Torres, member of the Tumor Microenvironment Program, and her colleagues discovered a novel immunotherapy approach to improve clinical outcomes in patients with advanced cancers
  • Dr. Vasiliki Anest has been appointed Chief Innovation Officer for USC Norris
  • Dr. Bodour Salhia has been appointed as the new co-leader for the USC Norris Genomic and Epigenomic Regulation Program 
  • Staff Member of the Month: Isabel Lora, Administrative Assistant, Director’s Office
  • Why Your Gifts Matter: Ronald Bloom 
  • The Patient Perspective: Sylvia Kast 

July/August 2021

Featured Stories

  • Chris Draft, NFL Football Player, presented a white ribbon to USC Norris 
  • Dr. Joseph Wiemels, member of the USC Norris Cancer Epidemiology Program, publishes new data that indicates inherited risk of early-onset cancer is higher amongst Latino, African American, and Asian/Pacific Islander families
  • Dr. Josh Neman, member of the USC Norris Tumor Microenvironment Program, published data demonstrating that a critical enzyme can be chemotherapeutically targeted to alleviate metastatic tumor burden on pediatric patients
  • Dr. Crystal Marconett, member of the USC Norris Genomic and Epigenomic Regulation Program, received grant to investigate how a specific form of RNA affects the relationship between DNA repair and immuno-therapeutic responses
  • Dr. David Freyer, member of the USC Norris Cancer Control Research Program, and his colleagues discovered that adolescents and young adults are less likely to present with metastatic disease for almost every cancer
  • Dr. Juliet Emamaullee, member of the USC Norris Tumor Microenvironment Program, has been awarded the 2021 Clinical Science Development Award
  • Staff Member of the Month: John Johnson, Research Lab Tech III/Supervisor 
  • Why Your Gifts Matter: David and Kirsten Muñoz

May/June 2021

Featured Stories

  • Dr. Chanita Hughes-Halbert to advance cancer equity at USC Norris 
  • Drs. Amir Goldkorn, Timothy Triche, and Vinay Duddalwar awarded a new multi-investigator R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute for translational biomarker studies in advanced prostate cancer
  • Dr. Rongfu Wang, co-leader of the USC Norris Tumor Microenvironment Program, identified specific bacteria and immune mechanisms that protect against colorectal cancer
  • Dr. Eugene Kim, USC Norris Tumor Microenvironment Program member, discovered a new approach to a deadly brain tumor in children
  • Dr. Amy Lee, associate director for shared resources at USC Norris, identified a key protein and regulator as a novel target to combat lung cancer
  • USC Norris members Drs. Hugo Rosen and Wendy Setiawan, co-leader of the Cancer Epidemiology Program, received a major grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
  • Dr. Suhn Rhie, member of the Genomic and Epigenomic Regulation Program, received a grant from the Department of Defense to investigate changes in gene activity in men of African ancestry with prostate cancer
  • Dr. Sia Daneshmand, member of the Translational and Clinical Sciences Program, presented results of a multi-institutional phase II clinical trial of surgery in men with early metastatic testicular cancer
  • Staff Spotlight: Nancy Iwasaki, Accountant
  • Why Your Gifts Matter: Larry Freeman
  • Patient Story 

March/April 2021

Featured Stories

    • Dr. John Carpten elected to the 2021 class of fellows of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Academy
    • Dr. Kimberly Miller, USC Norris Cancer Control Program member, awarded an NCI MERIT award to study how social health might contribute to health behaviors during treatment
    • Dr. Chintan Parekh, USC Norris Tumor Microenvironment Program member, received an NCI R01 grant to support his work in developing new cancer immunotherapies
    • Dr. Wendy Setiawan, co-leader of the USC Norris Cancer Epidemiology Program, received an NCI U01 grant to study to the determinants of endometrical cancer in African American women who suffer higher mortality from this disease
    • Dr. Janice Lu, USC Norris Translational and Clinical Sciences Program member, published the results of a new clinical trial for women with stage 2 or 3 breast cancer
    • The San Pedro Peninsula Cancer Guild
    • New Faculty Spotlight: Ming Li, PhD
    • Staff Spotlight: Alfred Ascencio, USC Norris Facilities Manager 

February 2021

Featured Stories

    • Dr. Amir Goldkorn, USC Norris Associate Director for Translational Research, publishes results from a national phase III trial in Clinical Cancer Research: “Baseline circulating tumor cell count as a prognostic marker of PSA response and disease progression in metastatic castrate sensitive prostate cancer”
    • USC Norris member Shannon Mumenthaler receives National Cancer Institute (NCI) R01 funding for her project to develop a micro-engineered colorectal cancer-on-a-chip model
    • USC Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer (AYA@USC) Program
    • USC Norris receives a new gift to provide genetic testing at no cost for patients without insurance coverage
    • Always Have Hope. As Long as You Live, There Is Hope.
    • New Faculty Spotlight: Mohamed Abou-el-Enein, MD, PhD, MSPH

January 2021

Featured Stories

    • NCCC investigators publish multicenter immunotherapy trial in cervical cancer patients
    • Dr. Crystal Nicole Marconett awarded Research  Scholar Grant from the American Cancer Society to support her research
    • Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) Awards W. Martin Kast and his team the Team Science Award
    • Viewing Life through a Survivor’s Lens
    • Gene and Dodie Gregg Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund

November 2020

Featured Stories

    • Predicting Breast Cancer Recurrence: The Bench with Bedside Initiative™
    • Swing Against Cancer with Bill Poland
    • Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati earns AACR Distinguished Lectureship
    • New Faculty Spotlight: Jennifer Tsui, PhD 

October 2020

Featured Stories

    • USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center receives $5 million for cancer drug discoveries
    • NCI U54 CaRE2 Center for Health Equity
    • AACR Report on Cancer Disparities
    • New Faculty Spotlight: Steven Grossman, MD, PhD; Yali Dou, PhD