Prominent Scientist to Launch New Cancer Research Institute
Top cancer biologist Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, Ph.D., has been chosen as the founding director of the Cancer Dormancy and Tumor Microenvironment Institute at the Albert Einstein Cancer Center (AECC). Dr. Aguirre-Ghiso also has been named the new director of the Gruss Lipper Biophotonics Center and co-leader of the AECC Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Program. An endowed professor of cell biology at Einstein, he assumed his new roles on Oct. 1, 2021.
The new institute will build upon the current strengths in tumor microenvironment research at Einstein while expanding to include cancer dormancy, which closely aligns with the biology of aging, stem cells, epigenetics, and systems biology. The institute will also focus on developing technologies to better detect dormant cancer and prevent and control recurrent disease.
Dr. Aguirre-Ghiso and colleagues helped lead a major shift in cancer biology by showing that cancer is not perpetually proliferating, as had been thought. They discovered that cross talk between cancer cells and the tumor microenvironment regulates the cells’ ability to switch between dormancy and proliferation. His lab has provided key insights into the early spread of breast cancer and how that process contributes to dormancy and to metastatic progression. His research has also explored how adaptive pathways within cancer cells enable the cells to survive while in a state of dormancy.
Those insights led Dr. Aguirre-Ghiso to develop novel strategies for preventing cancer recurrences by targeting residual cancer cells that have survived initial chemotherapy. He has founded a start-up company, HiberCell, that is conducting clinical trials and drug development.
Dr. Aguirre-Ghiso most recently was an endowed chair, Mount Sinai Professor in Cancer Biology, in the departments of medicine, otolaryngology, and oncological sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, Ph.D.
Deputy Director of Administration to Lead Operations
Lauren Hackett, M.P.A., has been appointed the deputy director of administration of the Albert Einstein Cancer Center and associate vice president of cancer medicine at Montefiore Medicine.
Ms. Hackett, who assumed her new role in August 2021, has oversight and authority over the administrative team and structure, running all aspects of operations at AECC. A key part of her role is to partner with senior leaders at AECC, Einstein, and Montefiore to align and implement strategic priorities across its cancer enterprise.
Most recently she was chief operating officer at the nonprofit Allen Institute, where she co-developed its comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative. She also worked to integrate scientific strategy and planning.
Ms. Hackett has served for more than seven years as the executive director for administration and chief business officer at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tennessee. She played an integral role in supporting the translation of discovery research into clinical practice at Vanderbilt. She also served as the executive director for administration at the New York University Cancer Institute and held similar roles with the Yale School of Medicine and the Yale Cancer Center. Additionally, she was the director of sponsored programs at Rockefeller University.
Ms. Hackett continues to serve on numerous National Cancer Institute–designated cancer centers’ external advisory boards and is a peer reviewer for site-visit teams and committees for the institute.
Lauren Hackett, M.P.A.
Cancer Center Surgical Director Named
Leading cardiothoracic surgeon and researcher Brendon Stiles, M.D., has been appointed chief of the divisions of thoracic surgery and surgical oncology in the department of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery at Montefiore and assistant professor of cardiothoracic & vascular surgery at Einstein. He also has been named the associate director of surgical services at the Albert Einstein Cancer Center.
Dr. Stiles’ clinical focus is on the treatment of lung and esophageal cancer and unusual thoracic cancers, including metastatic tumors and those invading the heart. He has built a reputation for his “patient-first” approach, which includes his pioneering use of minimally invasive, organ-sparing surgery for early tumors. In his new role, Dr. Stiles says, he plans to address health disparities in lung cancer by increasing screening of vulnerable populations.
Previously Dr. Stiles was on the faculty at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where he and his team discovered the role that a protein, ADP-ribosyltransferase 1, plays in helping lung cancer cells evade the immune system. His current research, which is supported by a Department of Defense grant, is focused on translating this discovery into new therapies.
Dr. Stiles is the chair of the board of directors of the Lung Cancer Research Foundation and serves as the vice chair of its Scientific Advisory Board.