Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

With your investment

Highlights of achievements from fiscal year 2013

We attracted and retained leading physician-scientists and researchers from across the country:

New faculty members included:

Division of Hematology, Oncology and Palliative Care

  • Charles Geyer, MD, associate director of clinical research
  • Larisa Litovchick, MD, PhD
  • Shejal Patel, MD Meera Pahuja, MD
  • Rachel Selby-Penczak, MD

Department of Radiation Oncology

  • Paul Goetowski, MD
  • Jatinder Palta, PhD
  • Michael Porrazzo, MD


  • Iain Morgan, PhD, Philips Institute for Oral and Craniofacial Molecular Biology
  • Rachit Shah, MD, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Christina Wiedl, DO, Division of Pediatric Hematology Oncology

New Massey Research Program Members

  • Annemarie Conlon, PhD, Cancer Prevention and Control Program
  • Santanu Dasgupta, PhD, Cancer Molecular Genetics Program
  • Charles Geyer, MD, Developmental Therapeutics Program
  • Christopher Lemmon, PhD, Cancer Cell Signaling Program
  • Larisa Litovchick, MD, PhD,  Cancer Molecular Genetics Program
  • Michael Miles, MD, PhD, Cancer Molecular Genetics Program
  • Iain Morgan, PhD, Cancer Molecular Genetics Program

We lead the region in comprehensive, compassionate patient care backed by the latest research:

  • Rachit Shah, MD, began offering Richmond’s only minimally-invasive esophagectomy surgery that increase survival rates for esophageal cancer patients and significantly reduce appearance and recovery side effects.
  • Andrew Poklepovic, MD, continues to test new technology by ApoCell, Inc. that can detect circulating tumor cells in the bloodstream.  The technology is showing promising diagnostic results in liver and prostate cancer patients, and could eliminate the need for painful biopsies in the future.
  • Amir Toor, MD, demonstrated positive results in a new therapy that may provide lasting protection against the progression of multiple myeloma following a stem cell transplant by making the cancer cells easier targets for the immune system.
  • Aksar Chukmaitov, MD, PhD, led a study that demonstrated that more complex colonscopies increase patient risk for adverse events.
  • Mitchell Anscher, MD, helped publish results from a successful phase I trial testing the BioProtect Balloon Implant procedure for localized prostate cancer patients.  The device showed positive results in reducing rectal injury during radiation treatment and will advance to phase II trial with more patients.
  • Michael Hagan, MD, advocated for new federal policies that have expanded ability to provide cancer care to veterans at Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center by employing medical physicists.  Hagen also implemented a policy to create tougher accreditation standards and improved infrastructure to ensure quality care.

We translated proven laboratory concepts into original phase 1 clinical trials:

  •  Mitchell Anscher, MD, is principal investigator of a new phase I trial testing an innovative radiation therapy for patients with early stage prostate cancer that has the potential to drastically reduce treatment time and difficult side effects.
  •  Asadullah Khan, MD and Andrew Poklepovic, MD, are principal investigators of a phase 2 study of sorafenib, valproic acid, and sildenafil in the treatment of recurrent glioblastoma.  Based on the research of Paul Dent, PhD.

We paved the way for notable scientific discoveries by providing support for our exceptional research faculty:

  •  Paul Fisher, MPh, PhD, led research that uncovered protein functions that may lead to unique treatments for lung cancer.
  • Fisher also discovered a function of a protein that plays a significant role in preventing the production of another protein known as melanoma differentiation associated gene-9, which has been shown contribute to increased metastasis of melanoma.
  • Devanand Sarkar, MBBS, PhD, made significant strides in understanding the role of the cancer promoting gene, Astrocyte elevated gene-1 (AEG-1).
  • Steven Grant, MD, published promising results from laboratory and animal experiments involving a new combination therapy for multiple myeloma.
  • Grant also discovered a promising new treatment for several forms of blood cancer, combining ibrutinib and bortezomib, as well as published results of a study suggesting a new drug combination targeting a cell signaling pathway in leukemia cells.
  • Andrew Larner, MD, PhD, successfully reversed obesity in mice by manipulating the production of a key enzyme.  The discovery of this mechanism has implications for a variety of obesity-related diseases, including cancer.
  • Rakesh Kukreja, MS, PhD, published a study showing that a unique drug trio of doxorubicin, sildenafil (Viagra) and rapamycin could be a powerful way to improve effectiveness of cancer treatment while protecting the heart from harm caused by chemotherapy.
  • Sarah Spiegel, PhD, discovered that a drug currently approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis could potentially eliminate or reduce the progression of colitis-associated cancer.
  • Kristoffer Valerie, PhD, published a study showing the first preclinical evidence that an ATM kinase inhibitor used in combination with radiation therapy could increase effectiveness of treatment for glioblastoma multiforme.
  • Xiang-Yang  Wang, PhD, pubished a study  suggesting a novel immunotherapy could potentially work like a vaccine against metastatic cancers.

We conducted research to understand how to better educate, prevent, diagnose and control cancer:

  • Opened 19 new cancer prevention and control studies.
  • Cathy Bradley, MPH, PhD, published a study that shed insight into decision-making by men following cancer diagnosis based on their employment and health insurance coverage.
  • Alex Krist, MD, MPH, published a study showing that patients who use an interactive personal health record are almost twice as likely to be up to date with clinical preventive services.
  • Lynne Penberthy, MD, PhD, led research to better understand why Caucasian and African-American patients who are offered clinical trials are ineligible or refuse to participate, ultimately leading to opportunities to reduce patient barriers and increase accrual to trials.
  • Maghboeba Mosavel, MA, PhD, implemented “Project LIFE!” to explore the impact of church-based wellness programs in the African-American community.
  • Robin Matsuyama, PhD, conducted a study demonstrating that educational videos shown before patients’ initial consultation with their radiation oncologist can significantly boost heir understanding of the planning and treatment process.

We increased the breadth and depth of externally funded basic, translational and clinical research:

  • Obtained peer-reviewed, national level, sponsored research project funding totaling $28,439,559 representing 78 percent of total research funding.
  • Obtained $13,481,543 from the National Cancer Institute to support 70 research projects.
  • Forty-six percent of peer-reviewed funding and 36 percent of total funding was obtained through grants from the NCI.

We supported research faculty in obtaining new funding to pursue promising concepts:

  • Beata Holkova, MD, was awarded an Alliance Research Grant to support her work involving drug combinations to battle B-cell lymphomas.
  • Steven Grant, MD, was appointed deputy editor of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, the American Association for Cancer Research’s journal of drug discovery and development.
  • Grant was also awarded $200,000 over  two years through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Translational Research Program
  • Paul Fisher, MPh, PhD, was awarded the Prostate Cancer Foundation’s 2012 A. David Mazonne PCF Challenge Award, providing $400,000 in funding over two years.
  • Zendra Zehner, PhD, is co-leader of a collaborative team of cancer and forensic science researchers at Massey and VCU were awarded a two-year $310,000 grant from the Office of Justice Programs to study microRNAs and their role in regulation of gene expression.

We continued expanding the ways we provide cancer resources throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia:

  • Partnered with the Crater Health District to open the Petersburg Healthy Living and Learning Center.
  • Began providing radiation oncology services at Community Memorial Healthcenter in South Hill, Virginia.
  • Successfully opened three clinical trials at Community Memorial Healthcenter in South Hill, Virginia, where Massey began providing medical oncology care in summer 2012 and radiation oncology care in early 2013.
  • Partnered with Saint Paul’s college to open the Cancer Resource of Southern Virginia in Lawrenceville, Virginia.
  • Established new clinical research affiliations with Shenendoah Oncology, PC , in Winchester, Virginia, and with Mary Washington Healthcare in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
  • Received funding to implement Breast Health Research Champions program in Petersburg, with two full-time Community Health Educators dedicated to this area of extremely high cancer burden.
  • Received three year, $222,000 grant from NIH Community Based Participatory Research planning grant to address poor health outcomes through targeting obesity and its association with chronic conditions including cancer.
  • Continued partnership with Haddasah, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Nueva Vida and the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation to provide education to teens about breast cancer and testicular cancer six school districts.
  • Health Information Specialists worked with more nearly 2,000 citizens of Southside counties to research medical and health questions and provide health literacy activities in seven library systems.
  • Provided nutrition and exercise programming to more than 657 participants through Southside libraries.
  • Maintained the Health Information and Advocacy @ Your Library web portal, receiving 28,965 patron visits with a 95 percent increase in website usage.
  • Fostered community partnership through the Cancer Resource Center of Southern Virginia to identify and supplement oncology resources, and provide education throughout the continuum of cancer care for residents.
  • Conducted more than 14 free, educational programs  throughout the Southside counties.

We expanded administrative, research and technological infrastructure to accommodate growth in research enterprise:

  • Acquired DNAStar software for analysis of genomic sequencing to be used as a shared resource, quickening the pace of research for numerous projects.
  • Expanded use of ApoCell technology in clinical trials.
  • Ensured necessary support for continued expansion of Statewide Clinical Trial Network.