Cancer Currents for December 2011

News and Notes from the Director
Photo: Mark Israel, Director of Norris Cotton Cancer Center

Recently I've been reading Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee's book The Emperor of All Maladies, and I've been struck by how most of the substantive advancements in cancer research and care have occurred only in the past few decades. Moreover, heroes in this recent history of cancer are people many of us know personally. Looking forward, it is likely that heroes of the next phase of this remarkable journey are among us in Rubin, Remsen, or Vail, and may hail from any of the Cancer Center's programs.

Our faculty is remarkable and doing inspiring work. As we develop our next Strategic Plan, it is essential to have the benefit of their collective skill and insight. Recently, 108 NCCC members and physicians met for a Strategic Planning Workshop to consider 11 provocative questions that will shape our future work at NCCC. That three-hour session was marked by both enthusiasm and, frankly, frustration—enthusiasm over what may be possible and frustration over what has historically held us back. Importantly, the interdisciplinary discussion groups committed to looking beyond barriers to create new pathways for success.

A number of themes emerged. One of the most consistent was that to facilitate team science, we need more ongoing opportunities to interact and learn about each other's skills and interests. As I write this, we are reviewing the many excellent ideas and themes from the Workshop, and our research leaders Yoli Sanchez, PhD; Marc Ernstoff, MD; Jim Sargent, MD; and Jason Moore, PhD, will make recommendations to identify priorities and action steps.

I must add that we are so fortunate to have The Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center at work on our behalf. With their philanthropy, we can expect funding to assist in the activation of the best ideas developed at the Strategic Planning Workshop. I look forward to reporting to you soon on our next steps.

Mark Israel, Director

Message to Staff
Photo: Michael Ward, VP for Cancer Programs

I want to acknowledge the dedication and resilience of the staff at Norris Cotton Cancer Center. It's been a tough couple of weeks. We've welcomed a new CEO and said farewell to colleagues. Our organization's challenges and changes have been front-page news. As a result, people have more questions than answers. I visited with as many staff members as possible to answer questions. I will continue to visit and meet with staff in the coming days and weeks. My door is open, and I encourage all of you to call or visit with questions and concerns.

One thing I want all staff to know is how much your work is valued and appreciated. The Cancer Center plays a central role in the future of our patients, the Medical Center, and the College. We are a center of excellence offering the latest scientific advances in routine patient care. I believe we are the D-H mission in action: "Advancing health through research, education, clinical practice, and community partnerships."

As the medical school pursues its goal to become one of the top 20 medical schools in the U.S. by the year 2020, Norris Cotton Cancer Center's expertise in bioinformatics, biostatistics, genomics, and translational research serves as an important foundation for the medical school's investment in expansion over the next decade.

As staff, we should be proud of the role we will play in shaping the future for our organization and know that each and every day you make a difference in the lives of people facing the greatest challenge of their lives.

Michael Ward, Vice President for Cancer Programs

Interim Director of Clinical Care Named

Gay Bailey, RN, has been named Interim Director of Clinical Care for NCCC. Gay is an incredible resource with exceptional experience and credentials, having helped multiple NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers with workflow, nursing staff organization, policies, and procedures. Gay will work with us through the end of February 2012. Some of you may know Gay as an associate of Roberta (Bobbi) Marks. Bobbi conducted a clinical leadership assessment for us this past fall. We will be sharing some of the highlights of this assessment in the coming weeks. Please welcome Gay to NCCC.

Patients Capture Experience in Poetry

Great poetry can be inspired sometimes by the most unlikely situations—two roads merely diverging in a forest, for example. Cancer, too, can be an inspiration. On the evening of Nov. 16, Marv Klassen-Landis, writing instructor and mentor for the poetry writing group at Patient and Family Support Services, hosted a group of Cancer Center patients and staff who shared their poetry that's been developed in Marv's program. The event, titled "Poems of Illness and Healing," was one of the more extraordinary gatherings of the year for the Cancer Center.

In all, more than two dozen poems were read. All were powerful, some were very emotional, and a few were even funny. All contained the truth of living with cancer. Here's how patient and staff member Clare Wilmot-Goreau described her feelings as a cancer patient in a poem she called "Longings":

Photo: Poet and patient Clare Wilmot-Goreau. (Photo by Mark Washburn)

Poet and patient Clare Wilmot-Goreau. (Photo by Mark Washburn)

I want to feel useful, not just beloved.
I want to deadhead my flowers and weed my garden
And eat raw food with dirt on it—carrots, peas, tomatoes, radishes.
I want to embrace my family completely.
No masks, no consideration for their dirty clothes.
I want my sister to succeed and live close to me.
I do not want to walk into a store.
I do not want to shop.
I do not want to walk into my work
And be inundated by people who look sorry for me.
I do want to see my grandchildren who are not yet conceived.
I do want to take my grandchildren around my garden
And read them stories about how the world was made.

Thank you to Marv, to the Patient and Family Support Services staff, and especially to these brave poets for allowing us a glimpse into the real cancer truth of their lives.

 Photo: The Lupien research team: Elizabeth Ballantyne; Mathieu Lupien, PhD; Luca Magnani, PhD; and Xiaoyang Zhang

The Lupien research team: Elizabeth Ballantyne; Mathieu Lupien, PhD; Luca Magnani, PhD; and Xiaoyang Zhang.

Pioneer Factor Discovered

Research by genetic researchers with the Lupien lab at NCCC have identified a new pioneer factor, PBX1, that alone can discriminate the risk of metastasis in two-thirds of breast cancer patients with an estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) associated with aggressive breast tumors. Congratulations to Mathieu Lupien, PhD, and his team for this terrific work. Read the full story in our Focus section.

The Joint Commission Visit

The Joint Commission is conducting an unannounced survey this week. Please keep a close eye on the environment of care. Sweep your area on a regular basis to ensure all records, medications, and logs are up-to-date and accurate. For quick checklists to prepare for surveyors’ questions, visit the Joint Commission Stds & Info website on the DHMC intranet. Note that you must be within the Dartmouth network in order to view this site.

FACT Accreditation

Congratulations to the Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program on a successful Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) Survey. FACT accredits quality organizations that meet or exceed the highest standards when it comes to patient care and laboratory practices.

Photo: Christmas cookies arranged on a plate
Sharing Holiday Cheer

Please join us for a Holiday Cookie Party on Wednesday, December 21, 2011, from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. in the atriums on Rubin floors six and seven. On this occasion we will honor all of your hard work. Your dedication makes Norris Cotton Cancer Center the incredible and inspirational place it is. We also want to offer good cheer and best wishes for a warm and magical holiday season. Bring a nonperishable food for donation and receive a raffle ticket for an exciting door prize. See you then.

Photo: Wiley Souba, Dean of Dartmouth Medical School
Dean Souba Challenges Leaders' Thinking

DMS Dean Wiley Souba, MD, ScD, MBA, presented NCCC Grand Rounds on Nov. 10 at DHMC in Lebanon on how leaders' thoughts, perceptions, and internal conversations help them solve daily challenges. View the full presentation.

Giving—and Giving Back

Up at NCCC North in St. Johnsbury, where the Cancer Center is woven deeply and tightly into the fabric of the town and its surrounding rural communities, a local beauty salon recently held a Cancer Center fundraiser. A check for $2,000 was presented to clinical manager Lory Grimes, RN, BS, MEd. She used the money to open a transportation fund: Cancer Center patients in need can apply for taxi fares, gas cards, etc., to help alleviate the cost of getting to and from the clinic. "Not only are our patients served, but this shows the strong support the Cancer Center in St. J has from the local business community," says Lory. "People tell me all the time that they can't imagine us not being here."

Photo: Taxi cab on street

A similar program has been underway at NCCC at Kingsbury Pavilion in Keene. As part of its Patient Relief Fund, Cheshire staff offer gas cards to low income and uninsured patients facing financial challenges to reduce the cost of travel for radiation or chemotherapy. The gas card program for the Patient Relief Fund is supported by an annual motorcycle ride and golf tournament sponsored by community groups.

Programs like these help make the Cancer Center a vital health provider for all of northern New England's citizens, no matter their income status. Well done, St. J and Keene!

Town Hall Captured On Video

Did you miss the Town Hall meeting with D-H President and CEO Jim Weinstein? If so, watch the recordings on the DHMC intranet. Note that you must be within the Dartmouth network in order to view these recordings.

Photo: Red Square, Moscow
International Travelers Take Note

Dartmouth College offers faculty, staff, students, and dependents (traveling with a covered person) free emergency assistance while overseas. The program, called "International SOS," will help with medical emergencies, natural disasters, interpreters, lost documents, and legal referrals. For more information, visit the Travel Risk Management page on the Dartmouth College website

Photo: Screen shot of the Department of Surgery intranet website
Department of Surgery Launches Intranet

Need forms, documents, or links for the Department of Surgery, its sections, or staff? Visit the new Department of Surgery site on the DHMC intranet. Note that you must be within the Dartmouth network in order to view these recordings.

The 34th Annual David B. Kaner Memorial Lecture on Thursday

"From Translational to Transformational Medicine: Lessons from GIST and other Sarcomas to Accelerate Discovery and Development of Effective Anti-cancer Therapies"

Speaker: George Demetri, MD
Senior Vice President for Experimental Therapeutics
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School

Thursday, December 1, 2011 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Auditorium E, Level 3, Barbara E. Rubin Building, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
Live/archived webcast, podcast at

Light lunch provided on a first-come basis.