Message from the Director: Unprecedented Shift in Activities

Dear Cancer Center community,

This week brings an unprecedented shift in all our activities.

  • For our physicians caring for cancer patients, a heightened awareness of our patients' risks for COVID-19 infection and complications.
  • For each of us, a heightened awareness of changes in social interactions, family preparedness and reduced exposure to the daily unknown of who might transmit COVID-19 and with whom we share risk exposure.
  • For our research labs and our research colleagues, a rapid ramp down in on-site activities is necessary to manage our risks and safeguard our critical and highly-valued ongoing research, animals, cell lines and storage freezers, resulting in an expeditious reduction of on-site time and effort.
  • Cancer Center administration is continuing to work normal business hours, but will move to remote work starting tomorrow, March 17. The best way to contact them will be via email or to leave a voicemail on their work phone, which is forwarded to their email.

We will face a daily groundhog day as we recognize that a potential exposure yesterday starts fresh the next day. So where does that leave us?

  • After we accomplish the above, we could take advantage of this off-site time and effort to analyze the data we have stored for weeks, months and years, to hold virtual sessions with our trainees and collaborators and to consider new research ideas.
  • The cancer center is refining its strategic plan, with the input of program leaders and will issue the final update in the next week or so.
  • We will issue a few new pilot grant RFAs so that grant applications can be developed and submitted during this downturn. Use the time to submit a proposal!
  • If it warms up just a bit, get on your bike and start your exercise program for VeloSano. There is nothing wrong with fresh air.

Also, on the NIH grant RFA level, I remind you of the provocative questions RFA we showcased a few weeks ago, and the long list of RFA opportunities published this past week by the NIH. See this link for the full scope of new RFAs. In this slow down, seize the moment and prepare yourself for the next grant submission!

But also, a few of you have noted that perhaps you can do something to combat the unknowns of COVID-19. Perhaps you have an idea for a diagnostic, a therapeutic, a better approach to a vaccine. Now is the time to give your creativity some space and think through that experimental detail. I have no doubt that somewhere in our research community a great idea is being hatched. Even in the Cancer Center, there are times when our research efforts need to spill into other fields as we did when HIV emerged on the horizon.

Research and discovery are what we do. Keep at it!

Stan Gerson, MD
Director, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center