Update from Section Chief Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD
The Section of Medical Oncology has 100+ full-time faculty focused on advancing therapy from the lab to the clinic and back. The section is led by Section Chief Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, and Clinical Chief Harriet Kluger, MD.
Patient Care / Clinical Services
The Section of Medical Oncology had to adapt its locations to care for COVID-19 patients, relocating some patients from Smilow Cancer Hospital’s York Street Campus to Yale New Haven Hospital’s Saint Raphael Campus. Care was also relocated from New Haven to North Haven Medical Center.
The section works within the following disease-aligned research teams (DARTs) of breast, gastroenterology, genitourinary, head & neck, melanoma, Phase I trials, and thoracic. Clinical volume continues to grow at Smilow’s main campus and across the care centers. Yale’s medical oncologists care
for patients across Smilow Care Centers across Connecticut and Rhode Island. In total, the section’s faculty provides patient care at 15 practice sites, and is committed to offering patients innovative clinical care that stems from laboratory science into treatment options, delivered with compassion at their local care site. In March 2020, new North Pavilion 12 firm chiefs were named: Paul Eder, MD (Education and Oncology Practice); and Elizabeth Prsic, MD (Operations and Quality). In June 2021, Sarah Mougalian, MD, was appointed as the chief ambulatory officer for Smilow Cancer Hospital.
The Smilow Hospitalist Co-Management Program was launched in July 2021, led by Jensa Morris, MD, program director. Five hospitalists have been hired, and the team is determining the co-management model for the program. The inpatient consult service has been led by Hari Deshpande, MD, who has been adding APRNs to support the service going forward.
The faculty also care for patients at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System (VACHS), led by Michal Rose, MD, section chief; and Herta Chao, MD, PhD, director of clinical trials.
The number of clinical trials grew consistently since Herbst took the reins of the section, but dipped in FY20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In FY21, the team has regrouped to continue to bring the industry, institutional, and national trials to its patients.
The Translational-Targeted Areas of Research Excellence (T-TARES) program continues to grow. Started in 2011, the work of T-TARES has resulted in multiple R01/U01 grants and three SPOREs, with a 25:1 return on investment. In 2020, the T-TARES transitioned to start supporting such investigator-initiated trials as the optimization of cellular immunotherapy for melanoma; mechanisms and biomarkers for combinatorial treatment of solid tumors with BETi and HDACi; and CXCR5-targeted CAR T for aggressive T Cell lymphomas. In 2021, an additional T-TARE award was given to a team led by Donna Spiegelman, PhD, to lead a study to increase adherence to cervical cancer early detection and treatment recommendations.
Investigators of the Section of Medical Oncology lead three active Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) programs in skin, head & neck, and lung cancer. These transdisciplinary teams are led by Marcus Bosenberg, MD, PhD, and Harriet Kluger, MD (Skin); Barbara Burtness, MD (Head & Neck); and Roy Herbst, MD, PhD (Lung).
The Skin SPORE have taken their a PD1 with CD40 agonists and aCSF1R trial back to the lab after seeing modest activity in patients and evaluated the dosing to optimize the aCSF1R agonist. The work has gone back to clinical trials this year. The Head & Neck SPORE earned funding in September 2020 for a five-year period. Three projects are under way with scientists across Yale School of Medicine led by Barbara Burtness, MD, PhD.
For the Lung SPORE researchers, work in Siglec-15 as a potential immunotherapy option for cancer patients continues. Scott Gettinger, MD, is leading the clinical trial to evaluate Siglec-15’s effectiveness for patients with prior PD-1 inhibitors and concurrently looking for potential biomarkers for this treatment option. Sarah Goldberg, MD, MPH, leads the clinical development for a research project focused on combating resistance to EGFR-targeted therapies.
The AstraZeneca-Yale Alliance continues strong with renewal of our collaborative projects between the Yale investigators and AstraZeneca, much of which complements the research aims of the Yale SPORE in Lung Cancer.
VICKtOrY Early Clinical Trial Consortium continues to thrive with new sites included in the consortium. Several early-phase trials have gone through this UM1 mechanism with the most recent ones led by Patricia LoRusso, DO, and Kurt Schalper, MD, PhD, investigating a PARP inhibitor, olaparib alone or in combination with anti-PD-L1 therapy for metastatic breast cancer.
Under the leadership of Harriet Kluger, MD, the Immuno-Oncology K12 Training Program continues to thrive. Three scholars: Michael Cecchini, MD; Thuy Tran, MD, PhD; and Sarah Weiss, MD, are from the section, and the remaining nine scholars are from other sections and departments across Yale School of Medicine. Throughout 2021, Cecchini received an NCI K08 grant; Weiss was promoted to associate professor; and Tran received a Yale Skin Cancer SPORE Career Enhancement Award.
The Yale Hematology/Oncology Fellowship, led by new director Alfred Lee, MD, PhD, adds eight fellows annually, trained through 18 months of clinical practice and 18 months of research. For 2021 - 2022, the program named its first chief fellows Benjamin Lu, MD, and Anna Kress, MD. In 2022, the program will expand to host 10 fellows. Sarah Goldberg, MD, MPH, is the new associate fellowship program director, working closely with the other associate directors Michael Hurwitz, MD, PhD, and Nikolai Podoltsev, MD, PhD (Hematology).
Numerous medical oncology faculty were recognized on local, regional, and national levels this year. Pamela Kunz, MD, was named vice chief for diversity, equity, and inclusion for the section. Joseph W. Kim, MD, received a 2021 Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The award recognizes and supports outstanding mid-career clinical investigators at NCI-designated cancer centers who are working to improve the lives of people with cancer through NCI-funded collaborative clinical trials; and whose leadership, participation, and activities promote clinical trials and research.
Jill Lacy, MD, was named a Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (FASCO). The FASCO distinction honors members of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) for extraordinary volunteer service, commitment, and dedication to the organization. In addition, Lacy was awarded a Yale Medicine Distinguished Clinical Career Award, which recognizes and honors the careers of physicians marked by significant accomplishments, exemplary dedication, and important contributions in advancing Yale Medicine, the overall medical profession, and the community.
Lieping Chen, MD, PhD, United Technologies Corporation Professor in Cancer Research, Professor of Immunobiology, Dermatology, and of Medical Oncology, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). He was also elected a Fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Academy. Jeremy Kortmansky, MD, was named associate chief medical officer for Network Medical Services and chief network officer at Smilow Cancer Hospital. Kortmansky will partner with the Smilow Cancer Hospital leadership team to further expand multidisciplinary cancer services across the Smilow Care Center Network, and supervise the Medical Specialty Services for Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Centers with oversight over recruitment and onboarding of new medical oncology and hematology faculty. He will focus on mentorship, clinical operations, market assessment, and strategic planning for the medical specialty services within the Care Centers.
Anne Chiang, MD, PhD, was named Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Chief Integration Officer at Smilow Cancer Hospital. Chiang will work with the Smilow Cancer Hospital leadership team to further expand multidisciplinary cancer services across the Care Center Network. She also won the 2020 Joseph V. Simone Award and Lecture, given by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The award is given annually to an oncologist to recognize innovation and excellence in the field of quality in cancer care. Chiang was also appointed an executive officer of the Southwest Oncology Group Cancer Research Network. In this role, she will oversee the SWOG portfolio of clinical trials in lung and breast cancers.
Other important honors include: Edward Kaftan, PhD, appointed assistant cancer center director for translational science at YCC; and Stacey Stein, MD, and Neal Fischbach, MD, being named assistant medical directors for YCC’s Clinical Trials Office.
To learn more about the Section of Medical Oncology, visit medicine.yale.edu/intmed/medonc/.