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Archive for 2020

Canary Foundation Welcomes Dr. Joseph DeSimone

November 22, 2020

Dr. Joseph DeSimone

We welcome Professor Joseph M. DeSimone, PhD. in the position of the Sanjiv Sam Gambhir Professor in Translational Medicine. We are fortunate to have such creative and capable leadership as our work together in cancer early detection continues.

From the Stanford Press Release: The Stanford Department of Radiology is proud to announce Professor Joseph M. DeSimone as the inaugural Sanjiv Sam Gambhir Professor in Translational Medicine. A shining example of achievement, Joe has been described as “an igniter of innovation”. He has received international recognition as a scientist, inventor, and entrepreneur, earning major accolades including the U.S. Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, the 2017 Heinz Award, and the Lemelson-MIT Prize. He is one of only 25 individuals elected to all three U.S. National Academies—the National Academy of Sciences, Medicine, and Engineering. In 2016, President Obama presented him with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor in the U.S. for achievement and leadership in advancing technological progress. Read more here.

Joe and his lab have made significant scientific breakthroughs in science and medicine including next-generation approaches to cancer treatment and diagnosis, implantable drug delivery devices, green chemistry, and most recently in 3D printing technology for medical devices tailored to an individual patient’s needs. A dedicated educator and strong advocate for bringing a broader diversity of perspectives into research, he has mentored over 80 students through PhD completion at Univ. of North Carolina and North Carolina State Univ. (his former 30-year career), half of whom were women and members of underrepresented groups in STEM.

As an avid researcher and innovator, Joe has authored over 370 scientific publications with over 42,000 citations to his work, and is a named inventor on over 200 issued patents. Additionally, he brings a unique ability to transfer novel solutions from his lab to the world through the companies he co-founded.

 

 

 

Early Detection of Cancer Annual Conference – hosted by Cancer Research UK, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and the Canary Center at Stanford brought together the brightest minds in cancer research with a record 600 registrants!

October 26, 2020

Highlights of the conference include:

  • DON LISTWIN AWARD for Outstanding Contribution to Cancer Early Detection was awarded posthumously to Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, Canary Center Director, an internationally recognized pioneer in molecular imaging who dedicated his career to developing methods of early disease detection.
  • Jon Emery (University of Melbourne) Cancer screening intensity should be matched to an individual’s risk of getting cancer. He described efforts to use genetic testing to help patients make informed decisions on colorectal cancer screening.
  • Amelie Lutz (Stanford University) is developing an ultrasound guided molecular imaging method for detecting ovarian cancer using microbubbles that target tumor angiogenesis.  They’re focusing on whether the KDR labeled microbubbles actually detect the VEGFR2 expression in the tumor vasculature and whether the KDR bubbles can help to differentiate benign vs malignant (NIH grant work). Her talk highlighted how their team tackled the tricky part where the in vivo imaging has to be matched with the ex vivo histology, and how it required close communication between the imager, the surgeon and the pathologist. So far they have results from 7 patients, planning to go up to 50 (results matched in 6/7 cases).
  • Stefano Avanzini (Stanford University) is using mathematical models to estimate the size tumors must reach to become detectable by tumor DNA circulating in blood.
  • Parag Mallick (Stanford University) explained how tools such as saliency mapping are making it possible to understand how the machines reach their conclusions – building confidence and potentially revealing biological insights. He also showed examples of Artificial Intelligence tools for biomarker discovery that extract and create knowledge from massive, unstructured data sets.
  • Cancer Research United Kingdom released an early detection road map, published in the Lancet (pdf): https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/sites/default/files/early_detection_diagnosis_of_cancer_roadmap.pdf
  • KEYNOTE TALK • Dinah S. Singer (National Cancer Institute) began with a rundown of the NCI’s response to COVID-19 pandemic, from virus-focused research initiatives to the ways the agency is flexing to support grantees. She concluded with an overview of the cancer early detection programs the agency has underway, such as the Early Detection Research Network (now focusing on Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to integrate omic data to find biomarkers), and The Human Tumor Atlas Network (HTAN), a massive effort to map the complex ecosystems of cancer – and pave the way for advances in prevention, early detection and treatment.

Brief from The Early Detection of Cancer Conference  #EDx2020   –   recaps the entire conference, from their website: http://earlydetectionresearch.com    October 6-8, 2020

Recapping day one

We’re glad you made it to the 2020 Early Detection of Cancer Conference. We’re looking forward to more eye-opening presentations, well-argued debates and networking opportunities. Before jumping back into it, here’s a quick recap of day one:

Caroline Dive (University of Manchester, CRUK Manchester Institute) brought us up to speed on efforts to improve lung cancer screening by combining CT imaging with a liquid biopsy. (Her team is running an observational cohort study to test whether blood biomarkers can detect lung cancer recurrence earlier than standard of care clinical surveillance.) The field has no shortage of potential biomarkers to choose from, including: circulating tumor cells, tumor DNA, RNA, and tumor educated platelets. Progress, Dive said, will hinge on a deeper understanding of early disease biology and pre-clinical models that more accurately represent the early stages of cancer.

To that end, Anton Berns (Netherlands Cancer Institute) highlighted the promise of autochthonous tumor models, that is, tumors induced in lab animals, in which it is possible to study early tumor formation in the presence of an intact immune system. With such models, researchers can switch particular oncogenes and tumor-suppressor genes on or off in a given tissue and compare cancer development. Berns said his team’s mouse models closely recapitulate the phenotype of human cancers including small cell lung cancer, and may help identify specific early biomarkers of dangerous tumors.

The first session closed with two lightning talks: Naoki Oshimori (OHSU Knight Cancer Institute) described how a mouse model of squamous cell carcinoma enabled his team’s discovery of a signaling loop between tumor-initiating cells and nearby non-cancer cells that generates the niche microenvironment that is required for invasive progression and drug resistance. Jennifer Munkley (Newcastle University Biosciences Institute) gave an update on the GlycoScore blood test for prostate cancer, which looks for specific glycans (sugars that attach to proteins, lipids, and other glycans on cells). Tested in more than 600 patient samples, a three-glycan test distinguished between benign tissue and prostate cancer with high sensitivity and specificity, she said.

Reflecting on COVID-19 The COVID-19 pandemic, as in all of medicine, has posed severe challenges for cancer screening. Participants in a special panel discussion called out opportunities the pandemic has created. When it became unfeasible for patients to visit the clinic for melanoma screening, Sancy Leachman (OHSU Knight Cancer Institute) and colleagues came up with an alternative: dermatoscopes that attach to a mobile phone, which high-risk patients can borrow and transmit images of suspicious lesions. It’s become a permanent option for rural patients and those who can’t easily travel. For patients with throat symptoms calling for endoscopy, Rebecca Fitzgerald (Cambridge University, MRC Cancer Unit) said her center began cautiously testing an alternative: the Cytosponge, a small mesh sponge within a soluble gelatin capsule that is swallowed and retrieved to collect esophageal cells. Kevin Monahan (St. Marks Hospital) said his team learned the cost of halting colonoscopy procedures and is working to safely maintain the service for symptomatic patients even if a pandemic second wave hits hard. Jackie Shannon (OHSU Knight Cancer Institute) said the pandemic has brought wide attention to long entrenched inequalities and health disparities, perhaps enough to drive much-needed policy changes and enduring efforts to reach underserved populations.

Leveraging risk stratification Cancer screening intensity should be matched to an individual’s risk of getting cancer. Jon Emery (University of Melbourne) described efforts to use genetic testing to help patients make informed decisions on colorectal cancer screening. He said it’s looking feasible to start to implement genetic risk stratification in the general practice setting. In the future, results will be even better with decision support tools that include risk factors such as diet, smoking, screening history, and medication use.

Julia Hipsley-Cox (University of Oxford) and colleagues are drawing upon the UK health system’s deep and detailed patient records to develop risk stratification algorithms to target cancer screening resources to people at highest risk and most likely to benefit from interventions (you can check them out at www.qcancer.org). Other tools are designed to be integrated into electronic medical record systems.

The day ended with two more lightning talks: Rebecca Landy (National Cancer Institute) noted a huge disparity in lung cancer screening guidelines: 32% of African Americans who developed lung cancer would have been eligible for CT screening, compared with 56% of whites. She showed how an individualized risk calculator (the LYFS-CT model) can effectively eliminate this disparity. Tom Callender (University College London) presented findings on the impact of MRI prior to biopsy on age-based and risk-tailored screening for prostate cancer.

Thank you for joining us. Please accept our sincere apologies for the technical challenges. Don’t forget: the video library will be updated each day with recordings of the meeting sessions.

Recapping day two

We have three more sessions lined up, but first here’s a recap of Wednesday.

Risk-tailored screening is a way to fit the intensity of testing to an individual’s risk of getting cancer. Hilary Robbins (International Agency for Research on Cancer) focused on the job of generating evidence that will be needed to establish risk-tailored cancer screening, presenting examples from lung cancer and breast cancer. Randomized clinical trials are not the way forward, she said, given the large numbers of subjects and lengthy follow-up needed just to answer a limited number of questions in only one context.

A cancer blood test developed by GRAIL, Inc., is being evaluated for its ability to detect more than 20 types of cancer and predict tissue of tumor origin. GRAIL Vice President Eric Fung highlighted the clinical studies that have led the company to focus on DNA methylation patterns for its multi-cancer early detection test undergoing a multicenter clinical trial due for completion in early 2021.

Two lightning talks closed the session: Amelie Lutz (Stanford University) is developing an ultrasound guided molecular imaging method for detecting ovarian cancer using microbubbles that target tumor angiogenesis. Stefano Avanzini (Stanford University) is using mathematical models to estimate the size tumors must reach to become detectable by tumor DNA circulating in blood. (For lung cancer, he estimates a median tumor detection size of 2 cm, which is a 43% decrease compared with the median size of diagnosed cancers in the SEER database.)

KEYNOTE TALK

Dinah S. Singer (National Cancer Institute) began with a rundown of the NCI’s response to COVID-19 pandemic, from virus-focused research initiatives to the ways the agency is flexing to support grantees. She concluded with an overview of the cancer early detection programs the agency has underway, such as the Early Detection Research Network (now focusing on AI and machine learning to integrate omic data to find biomarkers), and The Human Tumor Atlas Network (HTAN), a massive effort to map the complex ecosystems of cancer – and pave the way for advances in prevention, early detection and treatment.

GAMBHIR HONORED WITH DON LISTWIN AWARD

Sanjiv Sam Gambhir was an internationally recognized pioneer in molecular imaging who dedicated his career to developing methods of early disease detection. The director of the Canary Center at Stanford died of cancer on July 18. He was honored with the Don Listwin Award in a ceremony with heartfelt and moving remembrances from Utkan Demirci (Stanford University) and Iain Foulkes (Cancer Research UK). The Listwin Award was established last year to recognize a sustained contribution to, or singular achievement in, the cancer early detection field. The award is named in honor of Don Listwin, founder and chairman of the Canary Foundation.

Recap of the final day

The third and final day kicked off with some eye-opening updates from the world of AI and machine learning.

Lily Peng and Sunny Jansen (Google Health) expounded on three overlooked requirements for building successful AI models: data of high quality, not just quantity; human-centered usability, not just model accuracy; cost-effectiveness, not just excellent performance.

AI systems are becoming adept at reading radiology images and pathology slides to correctly classify lesions as cancer or benign. Parag Mallick (Stanford University) explained how tools such as saliency mapping are making it possible to understand how the machines reach their conclusions – building confidence and potentially revealing biological insights. He also showed examples of AI tools for biomarker discovery that extract and create knowledge from massive, unstructured data sets.

Two lightning talks concluded the session: Freya Woods (Swansea University) showed how AI can improve the sensitivity and specificity of cancer detection by Raman spectroscopy, which her group is developing as a triage tool in the diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Rawen Kader (University College London) and colleagues have developed a neural network to assist real time decision-making during colonoscopy by classifying polyps as pre-cancerous or not, with a randomized clinical trial in the offing.

GREAT DEBATES

Should genomic risk stratification be part of early detection? Gareth Evans (Manchester University) made the case that it must, noting that polygenic risk scores robustly predict risk for several common cancers and can be used to fit the intensity of screening to a person’s risk of getting cancer. Cristian Tomasetti (Johns Hopkins University) argued that, while genomic risk stratification is useful for some cancer types, many others have no known inherited factors. He asserted that the development of affordable and minimally invasive multi- cancer blood tests will reduce the need for genetic risk stratification. Before the debate, 60% of meeting attendees agreed with Evans, and 40% agreed with Tomasetti. The ratio shifted to 50:50 after.

Before approving new early detection approaches for clinical use, should we require evidence of a cancer-specific mortality benefit from at least two randomized controlled trials? Harry De Koning (Erasmus University Medical Centre) pointed to the conflicting findings of clinical trials of screening methods such as PSA for prostate cancer to make the affirmative case. Steve Skates (Harvard University) asserted that requiring such evidence unnecessarily delays the use of early detection advances, and costs too much, when there are faster and less costly trial endpoints, such as reduction in late-stage diagnoses. In the poll of meeting attendees, agreement with De Koning dropped from 32% pre- debate to 20% percent after, with many deciding that it’s too much to ask for randomized trials showing mortality benefit.

On behalf of the Canary Center at Stanford, Cancer Research UK and the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, thank you for joining us for the 2020 Early Detection of Cancer Virtual Conference. With luck, we’ll be able to meet in person at next year’s meeting. For now, the organizing committee has decided to be optimistic and start preparing for an in-person gathering in London.

Our ovarian cancer team continues to build infrastructure for innovative pilot study and biobank.

October 7, 2020

The Ovarian team has used these past months to hone and polish the infrastructure for the High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer Initiative and to ensure that high quality molecular data can be generated from the samples. This includes both the pilot project that focuses on changes in the micro-environment, and the retrospective study that looks back at tissue.

Focus of the project
Our focus is to define the role of the fallopian tube micro-environment in the development of high grade serous ovarian cancer (fallopian tube being the most common ovarian cancer), with the ultimate objective to find targets for prevention and markers of early disease onset for early detection.

Convening experts
In order to develop a robust and innovative research plan, we invited a multidisciplinary team of roughly 25 world class ovarian cancer researchers from across the US and Canada to an initial two day planning meeting in March 2019 in Los Gatos, California. The meeting was highly successful.  The number of promising ideas exceeded our available funding level.  Over the ensuing months the Executive Committee worked to refine and finalize our research proposal and also put in place the necessary infrastructure to conduct our studies.

What problem is the team trying to solve? Our overall plan includes a series of innovate pilot studies specifically designed to demonstrate the power of our team and generate preliminary data that can be leveraged to compete for large grants by the end of a two year period.   The research will be performed in two phases: first, a retrospective phase that involves analysis of previously collected, banked fallopian tube samples with associated clinical information, and second, a prospective study, that includes newly collected samples, each with the goal of identifying what changes in the molecular landscape signal cancer.

Our progress March – Summer 2020. During these past months, the team has finalized the infrastructure for the pilot program and has worked to ensure that the expected high quality molecular data from our samples can be achieved. The process for sample sharing has been completed. Additionally, reviews, discussions, and decisions have been held to work out a draft of the high-quality protocol necessary for all team members to follow. 6 potential sites have been identified. We are testing our data management processes. This includes a portal for sharing and annotating data among multiple investigators and analysts.  Canary Foundation has experience in this field.

Next steps: the in-person clinical aspect of the pilot will resume when each of the participating sites are reopened. When further steps in reopening allow, clinical sites will be responsible for providing patient samples and annotated clinical and pathologic data in a timely and cost-effective way. Each site includes a collaborative PI who has a robust system in place for conducting translational research studies, banking samples and linking clinical information.

Additionally, steps are being taken to identify and put in place a central project manager. An interim plan is in place utilizing resources at the University of Pennsylvania.

Organizational Structure
Clinical data and sample coordination center:  The University of Pennsylvania leader is Michael Feldman. We are working with the team at UPenn to write sample protocols and requirements and to finalize the overall collaboration agreement that will be signed by all institutions. The coordinating center will receive samples from clinical sites, perform quality control, and prepare and ship samples to molecular profiling sites. The center will also maintain the clinical database of participants linked to their sample information. The clinical data will be linked later to the molecular data for each of the samples and participants.

Clinical teams: when further steps in reopening allow, clinical sites will be responsible for providing patient samples and annotated clinical and pathologic data in a timely and cost-effective way.

Molecular profiling sites:  Molecular analyses will include bulk RNA and DNA sequencing, global methylome profiling, proteomics with spatial profiling, single cell analyses using the Nanostring DSP platforms.

Data management and analysis center:  We have multiple types of data that need to be securely stored and annotated. We are using a similar structure to that used by the large NIH-funded effort, TCGA.  Raw data will be hosted in the data center managed by Adam Olshen at UCSF.  We will run data analysis pipelines and upload processed data into a program that will function as a portal for sharing and annotating data among multiple investigators and analysts.  Canary Foundation has experience in this field.

Shaping bioinformatics. Our leadership and analysis team leaders are enthusiastic about working together using Synapse and the Sage engineers. The associated infrastructure and analysis plan from our bioinformaticians Adam Olshen (UCSF) and
Hui Shen (Van Andel) has been reviewed and approved by the group.

Checking our system.

  • Testing of infrastructure and logistics with a small set of samples will include:
  • Assessing technical issues
  • Management of resources
  • Rapid course correction procedures
  • Generating first data set
  • Send samples through the pipeline (10 BRCA mutation carriers)
  • Check quality control measures on data set

Working as a team. Part of the strategy is to demonstrate our ability to work together and generate data so that we are able to apply for additional support from external agencies (e.g. government or foundations). The team is actively making connections to seek out the best funding opportunities as part of our future plan, and the breadth of expertise in the team and their ability to work well together go a long way in securing future funding.

 

Our prostate cancer team has big news from the Prostate Active Surveillance Study (PASS) – a new publication in JAMA Oncology!

Our prostate cancer team has more than a decade of experience working remotely from various institutions. During the time of the pandemic, the team has moved forward on important fronts.

Big News –PASS has a new publication in JAMA Oncology! A scientific paper was recently published in the premiere publication JAMA Oncology: The Journal of the American Medical Association. JAMA is a rigorously peer-reviewed medical journal. The principal investigator Matthew R. Cooperberg is on Canary’s Prostate Active Surveillance Study (PASS) team. Many familiar names from the team are seen on the study. The study shows an important way of determining risk assessment that can aid in deciding how often to monitor and other decisions.  To hear an interview with Dr. Cooperberg, click here:
https://edhub.ama-assn.org/jn-learning/audio-player/18536720

Tissue Microarray.  The team studies the progression of prostate cancer using high-through analysis of multiple cases. Work in this area during the pandemic has included the review of new proposals and project progress from partners, including ones from Austria and Canada. The work has included data analysis, correcting missing data, and arranging tissue shipment.

PASS Central Review. Decisions have been made on reviewing cases.

Meetings and communications. The prostate team has been disciplined in meeting remotely and communicating long distances since it’s formation in 2006. A group meeting was held in June and follow up ensued. Additionally, their annual November in-person meeting has been approved to move to a virtual format.

Enrolling men. PASS enrolls men to keep a steady level of patients as some men rotate out of the program, 2000 being the current number of enrollees. Enrollment is on hold due to the pandemic.

Other action of the Prostate Team include:

  1. Reviewing new proposals for Canary TMA (pathology)
  2. Progress on approved projects for Canary TMA (pathology) has been made with data having been submitted from a number of groups and a shipment of tissue samples having been coordinated to an international partner.
  3. Concordance project for PASS central review (pathology), coordinated decision making on review of cases.
  4. Papers: read and commented on meeting submissions and manuscripts in progress.
  5. Administrative: we have held an all-team PASS and prostate pathology group meetings, distributed notes & action items. Plan approved to move November 20 meeting to virtual format.

The Canary Center at Stanford – A word from our researchers on safely reopening

September 16, 2020

Over the years, Canary Foundation has helped researchers develop successful ways of working together over distance, and we draw on that experience during these times.

A message on the Canary Center re-opening from:

Dr. Utkan Demirci, Co-Director, Canary Center at Stanford
Dr. Ryan Spitler, Deputy Director of the Precision Health and Integrated Diagnostics Center
Dr. Sharon Pitteri, Associate Professor, Canary Center at Stanford

We discover ways to move forward while staying safe. From the very early arrival of COVID-19, we have been able to successfully keep the Canary Center vibrant with virtual interactions and with safety in mind. We have implemented measures for social distancing, and staggered laboratory shifts as we follow the guidance on re-opening stages from the Radiology department and Stanford University. We are using our time out of the lab well.  Many researchers have taken this hard-to-find time to focus on data analysis, writing manuscripts, reading scientific literature, and developing new ideas for future projects. We also are exploring intersecting dimensions between cancer and COVID-19 related research. We have asked ourselves this question: how are we uniquely positioned to contribute to the pandemic crisis through the work we are doing in cancer early detection?

We look after each other. Everyone working in the Center has committed to the safety and well-being of every other Canary member. This is key. Each research group also has their own independent safety plan to ensure they are aware of their colleagues as well as their specific research needs. Collectively, we have been building up our research efforts in phases.

We will continue to push forward to detect cancer before it strikes and support COVID-19 related efforts. Take our Smart Toilet system. The Smart Toilet system is a wave-of-the-near-future method of collecting important changes in biodata to serve personalized medicine.  We have been able to modify our Smart Toilet system originally designed for early cancer detection to also be used as a screening tool to detect COVID-19. This approach enhances longitudinal testing and serves to detect very small, early changes. Unnecessary exposure is also limited for the patient and the health care provider who normally must come in close proximity for a nasal swab that often triggers a cough or sneeze.

Human health is our passion and one that burns strongly no matter what challenges we face.

To better envision the opening of the Canary Center, please enjoy this brief video.

Remembering Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD, Stanford University Radiology Chair, Director of the Canary Center at Stanford for Cancer Early Detection

August 4, 2020

Sam’s image: forever in our hearts.

November 23, 1962 – July 18, 2020

“The body is a mystery.” This is something you don’t expect to hear from a distinguished worldwide leading expert in radiology, who developed cutting edge imaging tests to spot disease early inside the body using new and repurposed technologies in highly innovative ways. You would think such a person would tout how much we do know. And yet, this is exactly what we would hear from our good friend and guide Sanjiv Sam Gambhir. He believed that the reason cancer seemed to take so many different characteristics in each individual person was because we know so little about the body. It was times like this you would be moved by just how humble Sam was. Add to that just how important Sam has been to Canary Foundation’s mission, and you understand why we will miss him as a beloved partner and visionary for cancer early detection.

We met Sam during the first year Don Listwin founded Canary Foundation in 2004. Don had lost his mother several years before to misdiagnosed ovarian cancer and had decided to use his time and resources to try to impact the common problem of misdiagnosis. Don and cancer research Nobel Laureate Lee Hartwell had earlier conversations about cancer being an engineering problem, where answers were out there but not being brought together to sensible resolution. Canary Foundation went on to develop multi-institutional, multi-disciplined teams providing them with start-up funds to work together towards common goals. They then gather enough results to attract further funding from larger grantors and the government.

Sam filled a vital role in the “workflow” as an imaging expert, and much more. He helped solidify our mission to develop tests to curb cancer deaths by finding tumors early, then isolating their location through imaging, followed by removal or targeted treatment. He quickly became the leader of the science teams using his expert skills in convening the lead researchers in the field.
What was it about Sam that made his complex science and vision understandable? Sam was relaxed as he described a full and brilliant universe of information, knowing exactly what metaphors to use to get his ideas across. For instance, Sam eagerly described his work in imaging as using “molecular spies” that could sleuth out cancer tumors, then send back a signal that greatly enhanced a physician’s ability to “spot” the cancer in the imaging.

Sam laughed easily and liked to poke good humored fun at his colleagues. He was mild mannered and didn’t jockey for the spotlight as one with his level of mastery might. He liked pop music and was genuinely interested in what you had to say. While none of this is written in leadership training books, it all worked well in moving the science forward.

In 2008, Canary Foundation and Stanford University signed partnership papers that sealed the deal on an agreement where both institutions would bring resources to create the Canary Center at Stanford for Cancer Early Detection. Sam led Stanford and kept his eye on the potential that would become the first worldwide center focused on cancer early detection. The Canary Center opened doors in 2009 and would grow to attract world-class researchers. We have accomplished much with Sam at our side. Canary Foundation has since mentored those working on opening international centers at Cambridge United Kingdom and the University of Calgary, Canada. Our annual symposium, the first of its kind that attracted young and seasoned researchers to a collaborative forum, has become, with Sam’s help, a prestigious multi-institutional event now organized by national and global partners.

Sam’s big strategy, like Canary Foundation’s, has always been to mentor both new and seasoned scientists. His lab and the Canary Center have been a dynamic place of productivity, exchange, energy and solution-based translational research. The seeds of his work will continue to grow and flourish by those he has taught and inspired.

Sam has been an extraordinary partner. “It is amazing what you can accomplish through collaboration,” Sam said just last September at the Early Detection of Cancer Conference. We wholeheartedly agree.

All of this is to say, Sam has been a good friend to Canary Foundation and a visionary of a bright future for helping those with a cancer diagnosis.

The world will not be the same without him.

Canary Foundation

Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, pioneer in molecular imaging, Director of the Canary Center at Stanford for Cancer Early Detection, dies at 57

July 21, 2020

From Stanford University News:

Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD, professor and chair of radiology at the Stanford School of Medicine and an internationally recognized pioneer in molecular imaging, died July 18 of cancer. He was 57.  He was a global leader in advancing techniques for molecular imaging and early cancer detection.

Below is the message that Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, shared with the community on July 18.

Dear Colleagues,It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you that Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine, passed away this morning.

Words cannot express what an immense loss this is personally, for our Stanford community, and for the field of medicine. 

Sam was an uncommonly talented physician-scientist. As the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor in Cancer Research and director of the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS), Sam earned international recognition as a pioneer of molecular imaging. He authored nearly 700 peer-reviewed articles, several books, filed for 40 patents, and his lab’s work has been featured on dozens of journal covers. But Sam was most proud to see many of his discoveries translate to the clinic, which today benefit patients around the globe. 

To many of us, however, Sam was much more: a dear friend. His kindness, sense of humor, and graceful way with people were among his defining qualities and will be sorely missed by those who knew him. 

I first met Sam in 2012 when he was serving as co-chair of the search committee that selected me to be Dean. It was then that I immediately understood why he is so revered at Stanford Medicine and across the university. As a leader and as a person, Sam exemplified through his life the best of Stanford and the highest values to which we aspire. 

Many of us witnessed Sam’s courage and tenacity during the 21 months that he and his wife Aruna fought for the life of their son Milan, who passed away in 2015 at the age of sixteen. Sam understood the fragility of human health and worked every day to apply his genius to research focused on diagnosing disease in its earliest and most treatable stages.

Sam was an advocate for precision health long before it was popularized. In recent years, he dedicated his life to the early detection of cancer as director of the Canary Center for Cancer Early Detection at Stanford. In 2016, he established the Precision Health and Integrated Diagnostics (PHIND) Center to help create the future he envisioned for health care—a world in which technologies continuously monitor our health to keep us healthy.

Throughout his prolific career, he mentored more than 150 postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. These leaders, representing more than ten disciplines, will carry on his legacy.

I hope that we may come together as a community, virtually and in spirit, to support each other during this difficult time and to share our memories of Sam—a scientific visionary, a trusted mentor, a beloved colleague and friend.

In lieu of flowers, the Gambhir family prefers donations to the PHIND Center, the Canary Center for Cancer Early Detection at Stanford, the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation, or The Sanjiv Sam Gambhir Professorship in Translational Medicine.

Sincerely,
Lloyd Minor

Canary Foundation congratulates Dr. Sanjiv Sam Gambhir on receiving the 2020 European Society of Molecular Imaging award.

July 6, 2020

From the Stanford press release:

Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD, the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor for Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research and Chair of the Department of Radiology, has received the 2020 European Society of Molecular Imaging (ESMI) annual award.

“The Committee recognizes Sam as one of the founding fathers of the field in which we all have the privilege to work. He has been a pioneer and visionary, a mentor and inspiration – thanks for your continuous and passionate dedication for imaging science.”

The ESMI Award is given to an excellent scientist for her/his outstanding contribution to the interdisciplinary research in Imaging Science. The nominee must have contributed significantly to the knowledge in this field.

Congratulations, Dr. Gambhir!

Canary’s new: High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer Initiative. HGSOC is the most common and lethal form of ovarian cancer.

February 4, 2020

Ovarian cancer remains the most lethal gynecologic malignancy in the United States. In 2018, over 22,000 new cases were diagnosed and 14,000 women lost their lives to the disease.

Ovarian cancer is made up of distinct subtypes. High grade serous ovarian carcinoma is 70% of cases, and is the most lethal subtype accounting for over 60% of ovarian cancer deaths.

People who have inherited mutations in BRCA genes are at higher risk for certain types of cancer, including HGSOC. In looking very carefully at the fallopian tubes removed from BRCA mutation carriers, the discovery was made that the fallopian tube was a site of origin for HGSOC – not the ovary itself, but the fallopian tube. This understanding over the past 15 years represents a paradigm shift in the origin of the HGSOC and opportunity for us to better understand how the cancer develops and design better strategies for early detection and prevention.

80% of HGSOC are diagnosed at a late stage!

We want to eliminate deaths from HGSOC by early detection and prevention.

There are currently no effective methods for early detection for ovarian cancer. Substantial progress has been made in identifying the putative precursor lesions for ovarian cancers.

Our focus is to define the role of the fallopian tube microenvironment in the development of high grade serous ovarian cancer, with the ultimate objective to find targets for prevention and markers of early disease onset for early detection.  We are tackling the problem from multiple directions to ensure the greatest probability of success.

It is unclear which precursor lesions are likely to progress and/or be associated with invasive disease. A critical knowledge gap is how the various constituents of the fallopian tube microenvironment impact tumor development or progression.

Achieving our goals requires a multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary effort. The team we assembled is made up of gynecologic oncologists, molecular biologists, epidemiologists, pathologists and bioinformaticians. The team is world class and has the requisite expertise to capitalize on complementary molecular profiling. Our research plan leverages powerful, broad-based discovery approaches to tackle this difficult challenge of early detection.

Dr. Heidi Aumen explains more:

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