September 2021
Message from the Director
I am pleased to welcome our TCI community back from summer vacation mode to an invigorating fall semester. All of our seminars and meetings have resumed their normal schedules with an impressive line up of speakers—be on the lookout for email announcements. And, moving in a positive direction, many of our gatherings are now happening in a hybrid fashion of both in-person and virtual; our goal, pending COVID behavior, is for all of our meetings to have an in-person option in 2022. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to participate as appropriate, and I also encourage on-site lab meetings (with masks) whenever feasible. While we have all adapted effectively to Zoom meetings, there is nothing that can fully replace the interactive energy of everyone together in the same room.

Since late spring, more than 10 new faculty have come on board and eight first-year fellows have joined the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology. Welcome to all! We look forward to your contributions to our cancer program and the privilege of helping you further your careers.

Ramon Parsons, MD, PhD, TCI Director
Thanks to the generosity of James S. and Merryl H. Tisch, Mount Sinai has established the Mount Sinai Tisch Cancer Center. This new center will include a state-of-the-art cancer hospital—the Tisch Cancer Hospital—located on The Mount Sinai Hospital campus and scheduled for completion by 2025.
Faculty News
Congratulations to Marina Kremyanskaya, MD, PhD, selected by the Mount Sinai Hospital community of nurses as the 2021 Attending of the Year. Dr. Kremyanskaya is Medical Director and Physician Dyad on the 11 East oncology unit. Coleen Calero, Nurse Manager on 11 East who nominated Dr. Kremyanskaya, noted that she is always approachable and cited her commitment to partnering with nurses and unit leaders to develop quality improvement initiatives and promote high-quality, safe patient care. Accepting the award at the September 21 Physician of the Year ceremony, Dr. Kremyanskaya praised the oncology nurses for their excellence and their amazing support and encouragement.
Scott Friedman, MD, has joined Emily Bernstein, PhD, as Co-leader of the Cancer Mechanisms program. Dr. Friedman replaces Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, PhD, who recently left Mount Sinai. Dean for Therapeutic Discovery and Chief of Liver Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Dr. Friedman has conducted pioneering research into the underlying causes of fibrosis associated with chronic liver disease and its contribution to liver cancer. He brings to Cancer Mechanisms a unique translational perspective to the study, diagnosis and treatment of fibrosis and cancer, as well as extensive mentoring skills and scientific leadership. 
New Faculty
Adriana Rossi, MD, has joined Mount Sinai as Associate Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Medical Oncology). A specialist in multiple myeloma, she works with the physician team at the Center of Excellence for Multiple Myeloma and sees patients at the Ruttenberg Treatment Center. Dr. Rossi earned her MD from George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and a Master of Health Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She completed residency in Internal Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at Weill Cornell/New York Presbyterian Hospital, serving as Chief Fellow. Prior to joining Mount Sinai, Dr. Rossi was the Associate Clinical Director of the Myeloma Center at Weill Cornell, where she also served as the physician lead for cellular therapy in multiple myeloma.
Cesar Rodriguez Valdes, MD, has joined the faculty as Associate Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Medical Oncology). He sees patients with multiple myeloma at the Ruttenberg Treatment Center, and as Clinical Director of Multiple Myeloma at The Mount Sinai Hospital he develops and coordinates physician coverage schedules. Dr. Rodriguez is particularly interested in early development drugs and immunotherapy; he serves as committee leader for immunotherapy in myeloma for the Clinical Trials Network Myeloma Intergroup.
Dr. Rodriguez earned his MD from the Ignacio A. Santos School of Medicine at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Monterrey, Mexico. He did his residency in Internal Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso and his fellowship in Hematology and Oncology at the University of Louisville. Dr. Rodriguez was a visiting resident in bone marrow transplant (BMT) at Massachusetts General Hospital and a visiting fellow in BMT at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He also completed a research program on cancer biology and therapeutics at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rodriguez was most recently Associate Professor and Director of the Myeloma and Plasma Cell Disorder Program at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Associate Director of the Hematologic Malignancy Organoid Program at the Wake Forest Organoid Research Center.
Theodora Anagnostou, MD, has joined Mount Sinai as Assistant Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Medical Oncology). She sees patients with hematologic malignancies, particularly lymphoma, at the Ruttenberg Treatment Center. Dr. Anagnostou received her MD from the University of Athens. She did an internship in Internal Medicine at Attikon University Hospital in Greece, followed by postdoctoral fellowships in Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and in Hypertension at Boston University. Dr. Anagnostou completed residency in Internal Medicine at Mount Auburn Hospital/Harvard, fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at the Mayo Clinic, and an additional fellowship in Bone Marrow Transplantation at Memorial Sloan Kettering. She also completed advanced training in Applied Biostatistics at the Harvard Clinical and Translational Institute. Dr. Anagnostou received a Research Training Award for Fellows and an Abstract Achievement Award from the American Society of Hematology; she was honored as a Clinical Research Training Scholar from the American Society of Transplantation and Cellular Therapy and as an International Society of Cell Therapy Scholar. Dr. Anagnostou’s research has been focused on understanding the interactions of the immune system with tumor cells in the tumor microenvironment as well as in the setting of stem cell transplantation, dissecting the mechanisms that lead to relapse, and designing ways to reverse it. She is particularly interested in identifying biomarkers of relapse after immunotherapy.
Anum Aamir, MBBS, has joined Mount Sinai as Assistant Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Medical Oncology). She sees patients at Mount Sinai Queens. Dr. Aamir earned her MBBS from Allama Iqbal Medical College in Lahore, Pakistan. She completed residency in Internal Medicine at NYU Langone Health Brooklyn and fellowship in Hematology and Oncology at Westchester Medical Center; she served as both Chief Resident and Chief Fellow. Prior to residency, Dr. Aamir served as house staff for three years in Lahore.
Le Min Lee, MD, has joined Mount Sinai as Assistant Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Medical Oncology). She sees patients at Mount Sinai Brooklyn and The Blavatnik Family – Chelsea Medical Center. Dr. Lee earned her MD from Dalhousie University of Medicine in Canada. She completed residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Miami School of Medicine and fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at Mount Sinai. Dr. Lee practiced for three years at the Billings Clinic Cancer Center in Montana, where she served as Chair of the Breast Cancer Tumor Board. During fellowship, Dr. Lee conducted breast cancer research with Sarah Cate, MD, and Paula Klein, MD.
Grant Awards
James J. Bieker, PhD, was awarded years 28-31 of his long-running R01 grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “Function of a Putative Determinant in Hematopoiesis.” This most recent iteration is focused on molecular and biological function of EKLF/KLF1 with respect to its ability to coordinate metabolism, epigenetic changes, and transcriptional activation at target sites, and how selected mutations in human and mouse KLF1 alter this regulation.

Jerry Chipuk, PhD, was awarded an R01 Supplement to his National Cancer Institute grant, “Function and Regulation of the BCL-2 Family.” The grant focuses on the mechanistic contributions of mitochondrial aldehydes to the cell death machinery, with an emphasis on enhancing chemotherapeutic responses.
Minal Kale, MD, and Cardinale Smith, MD, PhD, were awarded R01 funding from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities for “Investigating the Roles of Patient Beliefs, Stigma, and Physician Implicit Bias on Disparities in Lung Cancer Screening.”

The researchers plan to recruit lung cancer screening-eligible smokers and their primary care providers from primary care practices within the Mount Sinai Health System.
They will measure patients’ beliefs about lung cancer and low dose CT screening, stigma, and medical mistrust, and will also measure physicians’ bias and test associations with lung cancer screening referral and completion. Results of the study will directly guide the development of targeted strategies to improve lung cancer screening rates among minorities.
Grant Opportunities
Melanoma Res Alliance
Request for Proposals is open for pre-clinical, translational, and early clinical research with the potential to produce high impact advancements in melanoma prevention, detection, diagnosis, staging, and treatment.

Due Dates
October 6—Team Science Award Letter of Intent
November 3—Young Investigator Award Eligibility Checklist
November 17—Young Investigator Award and Pilot Award Full Proposal
January 19—Team Science Award Full Proposal (from invited applicants)
Clinical Trials

Mount Sinai South Nassau (MSSN) is a new affiliate site under TCI’s membership in the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology (Alliance). The Alliance is part of the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Louis Silverman, MD, a member of the Alliance’s Board of Directors, serves as the Mount Sinai Institutional Principal Investigator for the Alliance program.
As an affiliate site, MSSN will have access to all clinical trials within the NCTN program. TCI will support MSSN through training/education, administrative oversight, and monitoring/audit-preparation. “We are thrilled to expand our network of sites that can offer patients access to cancer clinical trials close to home,” said Karyn Goodman, MD, MS, Associate Director for Clinical Research at TCI.
The Patient-Oriented Research Training and Leadership (PORTAL) program is proud to recognize Lukas Ronner, MD, MSCR, who completed the dual degree MD/Master of Clinical Research (MSCR) program in 2020. The PORTAL program fosters career development of medical students who aim to excel as physician scientist leaders in translational clinical research. Dr. Ronner, now an Internal Medicine resident at the University of Pennsylvania, has authored four papers (first author on three) with John Mascarenhas, MD, et al. in Lancet Haematology, Blood, Leukemia Research, and Blood Advances; the most recent is Improving the investigative approach to polycythaemia vera: a critical assessment of current evidence and vision for the future in Lancet Haematology. While enrolled in the PORTAL program, Dr. Ronner was engaged in numerous activities, including the East Harlem Health Outreach Partnership.
Keith Sigel, MD, PhD, member of TCI’s Cancer Prevention and Control Program, is Director of the PORTAL program. Janice Gabrilove, MD, Associate Director of Education and Training at TCI, is Co-director.
Paz Polak, PhD, and colleagues

NPJ Precision Oncology. 2021 Sep 17.
PMID: 34535742

This study—the first ever liquid biopsy study in Sub Saharan Africa—shows the depth of genomic information that can be obtained by interrogating whole-genome sequencing of cell-free DNA from plasma samples of breast cancer patients in Ghana. It found that all of the randomly selected Ghanaian breast cancer patients had significant amounts of tumor DNA at the time of diagnosis, as compared to less than 10 percent in the U.S. The observation of key alterations having similar frequencies in Ghanaian and African Ancestry breast cancer patients suggests that circulating tumor DNA sequencing may be a useful method for comparative genomic studies of breast cancer as well as other cancers. The study opens the door to investigating cancer in Africa in a fully collaborative manner; findings can inform new paradigms for prevention, surveillance, diagnosis, and clinical management.
The computational analysis was conducted by a visiting student from Kumasi, Ghana, via cloud computing. 
Paz Polak, PhD, and colleagues

NPJ Breast Cancer. 2021 Aug 25.
PMID: 34433815
This study investigated for unidentified yet breast cancer genes that can lead to familial homologous recombination repair deficiency (HRD)-associated familial breast cancer. To do so the author used mutational signatures and second hits in tumor DNA from multiple-case familial breast cancer. Findings revealed that no new candidate genes were associated with HRD in 38 probands previously tested negative with gene panels, leading to the conclusion that unknown HRD-associated genes are unlikely to account for a large fraction of unsolved familial breast cancer. Almost all inherited germline variant relevant to PARP inhibitors in Europeans are captured by current genes panels. Tumor sequencing is important to find HRD tumors eligible to PARP that developed due to somatic causes.

Blood Cancer Discovery. 2021 Sep.
The authors discuss the use of bispecific antibodies—a novel immunotherapeutic modality designed to bind antigens on malignant plasma cells and cytotoxic immune effector cells. Preliminary response rates compare favorably with recently approved drugs in multiple myeloma. The depth of response and likely median duration of response are impressive for a single agent in a heavily pretreated and refractory population.
Service of Remembrance
The Mount Sinai Health System Bereavement Committee will hold its annual system-wide Memorial Service on October 5 at 6 pm and October 14 at 12 noon to remember and celebrate the lives of cancer patients who passed away this year. Recognizing that many staff members have dealt with immense loss this year due to COVID-19 and other causes, the committee invites staff who have lost a loved one this year and would like their loved one honored at the service to email [email protected].

ID: 874 8148 8091
Passcode: 051851
Phone: 929-436-2866
Do you have news for the next issue of TCI Connections

Please send to Janet Aronson (646-745-6376).

Remember to share breaking news and high impact news that might be appropriate for media coverage with Marlene Naanes (929-237-5802) in the Press Office. This may include pending FDA drug/device approvals, studies/trial results being published in high-impact journals, and patient stories. The more lead time you can give Marlene, the better—ideally, four weeks or when a paper is accepted by the journal. Embargoes will always be honored and news will only be released with your approval.
  TCI Connections  is a monthly publication of The Tisch Cancer Institute
Ramon Parsons, MD, PhD, Director
Janet Aronson , Editor
Past issues of  TCI Connections  are available on the TCI website