NRG Oncology GI Committee members appointees to NCI Task Forces

June 16 2021

In this issue of NRG Oncology Currents, we wanted to highlight a few NRG Oncology Gastrointestinal Committee members who have recent new or renewed appointments to the NCI Colon Cancer Task Force. Below they share their insights for gastrointestinal oncology and supporting clinical trial research.

Van Morris, MD   @VanMorrisMD
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Dr. Morris is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology at the University of Texas – MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.  After obtaining his MD degree at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, he completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Duke University and his fellowship in hematology/oncology at MD Anderson, where he stayed for an additional year as an Advanced Scholar before joining the faculty in 2015.  His clinical practice focuses on the treatment of colorectal and anal cancers, and he has written multiple clinical trials which incorporate novel therapeutic approaches involving targeted therapies and immunotherapy.  He is the Principal Investigator for the NRG-GI005 (COBRA) phase II/III trial evaluating circulating tumor DNA as a predictive biomarker for adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with stage IIA colon cancer.  This is the first NCI-supported clinical trial of its kind to evaluate the role of ctDNA in adjuvant therapy decision making for any solid tumor. 

Mohamed E. Salem, MD   @salemgioncdoc
Levine Cancer Institute
  @Levinecancer  @AtriumHealth

Mohamed Salem, MD, is an Associate Professor and gastrointestinal medical oncologist at Levine Cancer Institute, Charlotte, NC. Dr. Salem specializes in the treatment of GI malignancies, particularly colorectal cancer, molecular biomarkers and biomarker discovery, and state-of-the art approaches for advanced malignancies. He also has a special interest in treating colon cancer in young adults. Dr. Salem has published several important papers, some of which have led to major changes in the field and have shaped NCCN guidelines and has made several key research presentations at national and international meetings. Some of his work has led to significant change in patient care. Dr. Salem has won several awards for his work, including a Molecular Cancer Research Michael B. Kastan Award for Research Excellence, AACR Annual Meeting 2020,  Merit Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology and Precision Oncology Alliance “2017- Investigator of The Year” award. Dr. Salem completed a fellowship in experimental therapeutics at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Taussig Cancer Institute, and a fellowship in hematology and oncology at the Wayne State University Karmanos Cancer Institute.

“Perhaps the most important reason for wanting to participate on the Task Force is my desire to contribute to the field and to have an impact, to be part of the team who change the current standard of care to the next one, to provide our cancer patients with next treatment option, so they can do better, live longer and hopefully be "cancer free" one day. This is the true everlasting purpose and achievement. This is the true legacy that all of us strive for.”

Dr. Salem's Philosophy of Care: “Cancer treatment can be like a puzzle, trying to fit different pieces together for a successful outcome. Many of my patients come to me with complex diagnoses and fear they have few, if any, treatment options. The fact, we have many different treatment approaches to GI cancers here at Levine Cancer Institute. My job is to personalize the treatment and care I provide based on my patients' wishes and input. I believe it is best when my patients are involved in their care and treatment decisions and be comfortable with them “ it is a full partnership”. We will work together to identify and choose the best course of treatment available. A cancer diagnosis affects not only the individual, but also his or her entire family “ Cancer is a family diagnosis, not one person disease”. Most important to me is to understand each patient's goals for treatment and quality of life. What we strive to do is to change colon cancer from a life-ending disease to a chronic disease that people will live with and no longer die from.”

Atif Iqbal, MD   @AtifIqbalMD
Baylor College of Medicine   @bcmhouston

Dr. Iqbal is Associate Professor & Chief, Colorectal Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. “I began my career with a surgical research fellowship at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, followed by a general surgery residency at the University of Missouri and a colon and rectal surgery fellowship at Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. I was at the University of Florida (UF) for 8 year as Surgery faculty. I am currently the Chief of Colorectal Surgery and the Surgical Quality Director for the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine. I also serve as the Quality Improvement Coordinator for the NCI-approved Dan L Duncan Cancer Center at Baylor. As a surgeon-scientist, I have an active colorectal surgery practice in a high-volume tertiary care referral center focusing on colorectal cancer and specializing in advanced laparoscopic/robotic techniques. My research interests focus on health services and outcome-based translational research in colorectal pathology with a focus on rectal cancer outcomes and institution of enhanced recovery programs after surgery.”

“I have been serving as a Surgical Expert on both the Rectal-Anal (2016-present) and Colon (2017-present) taskforces of NRG Oncology. Additionally, I was elected for membership to the NRG Oncology’s Colorectal Cancer Core Committee in 2016, New Investigator Committee in 2017, and the Surgical Oncology Committee in 2018. I am also the GI committee’s Surgical Liaison to the NRG surgical oncology committee. I have actively participated in several national clinical trials, and I am currently the surgical co-investigator for the NCI-approved GI005 (COBRA) trial that is testing the use of ctDNA as a go/no-go decision tool for adjuvant treatment in Stage IIA colon cancer. My participation on the taskforces has been very academically and personally gratifying by being able to contribute to the future science that would define our field and benefit our patients. This opportunity merges well with my clinical/research interests and an excellent team of collaborating scientists throughout the largest life sciences destination in the world (Texas Medical Center) and is one of the most fulfilling parts of my career.”

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