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Dec. 6, 2011

Forming a global cancer network for research, clinical care, education and prevention.

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A.C. Camargo Leader Passes - Ricardo R. Brentani, M.D., Ph.D.

Discussions regarding seminal leaders in the GAP network inevitably include Ricardo R. Brentani, M.D., Ph.D. Until his passing on Nov. 29, 2011, Brentani was the president of our Sister Institution – Hospital do Cancer A.C. Camargo in São Paulo, Brazil. Born July 21, 1937 in Trieste, Italy, Brentani expressed a desire to become a physician early in life. His drive to better understand the inner workings of the human body led him to medical school and subsequently a Ph.D. in Biochemistry; both from the University of São Paulo. Throughout his life, Brentani engaged in research, education and collaboration intended to help patients and train physicians and researchers.

Brentani’s early career focused on analyzing RNA structure and activity. From this, Brentani developed an interest in cell membrane proteins. While director of the São Paulo branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Brentani published the first of several high-impact articles stemming from his membrane research. In 1985 in Science, Brentani and others showed that laminin receptors were present in the membrane of invasive Staphylococcus, but not in non-invasive forms. This allowed a new way to identify pathogens, or invasive prokaryotic cells, and assisted in developing antimicrobial chemotherapeutic drugs.

In 1990, Brentani became the president of A.C. Camargo, the institution that hosted the Sao Paulo branch of the Ludwig Institute at the time. Under Brentani’s leadership, the Ludwig lab entered a new era, with publications in Nature and Nature Medicine in 1997. The lab had moved on to studying prion proteins and described how a certain prion mutation was linked to a type of spongiform encephalopathy with neuropsychiatric characteristics. This research contributed to the growing body of evidence that pointed to mutated prions as the cause of these types of encephalopathies. The lab went on to analyze many of the protein’s behaviors and structure as well as correlate those attributes to the effect on symptoms in the host.

Brentani retired from The Ludwig Institute in 2005 but continued in his role as president of A.C. Camargo. He also continued to build relationships and collaborations. Throughout much of his career, Brentani maintained a faculty position at the University of São Paulo’s School of Medicine. In that capacity he was a mentor to hundreds of future researchers and physicians. Two of his students, Wadih Arap, M.D., Ph.D. and Renata Pasqualini, Ph.D., wound up at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology.

Through cooperative research with the Arap/Pasqualini Lab, Brentani laid much of the groundwork towards A.C. Camargo becoming a Sister Institution. In November 2007, John Mendelsohn, M.D., then-president of MD Anderson, visited Brazil and signed the original Sister Institution agreement. (In the photo above, Mendelsohn is in the middle and Brentani is on the right.) Arap and Pasqualini were, in fact, visiting A.C. Camargo when Brentani passed away and it is former students like these who are Brentani’s legacy.  Upon his retirement from the Ludwig Institute, the former associate director of the British branch of the Institute, Munro Neville, M.D. Ph.D., commented on Brentani’s contributions:

“One of Dr. Brentani’s most important and lasting accomplishments has been the generation of a cadre of young scientists and clinical researchers whose activities will ensure the future of clinical oncology in Brazil.”

And beyond Brazil, it seems. The Arap/Pasqualini lab has an impressive list of publications and research achievements. But they also carry on the tradition instilled in them by their mentor, that training the next generation of researchers is of paramount importance. Last week GAP Connect highlighted Hitomi Hosoya, M.D., a Ph.D. candidate from The University of Tokyo who will return for the fourth time to work alongside her MD Anderson mentors in the Arap/Pasqualini lab.

Brentani has a commendable number of professional achievements from a lifetime of effort and research. But his role as a mentor will continue to impact the future of cancer research and has already affected multiple generations across the globe. Hearing of his death, Ronald DePinho, president of MD Anderson commented on his achievements:

“Life is short but great scientific contributions to humanity remain.”

Calendar of Events

Recent Developments in Cancer Prevention
Udaipur, India
Dec. 16-19, 20111

Excellence in Oncology
Istanbul, Turkey
Feb. 23-25, 2012

GAP Annual Conference
Oslo, Norway
May 14-16, 2012


GAP Conference 2012

The invitations asking MD Anderson and Sister Institution faculty to participate in GAP’s Annual Conference from May 14-16, 2012 in Oslo, Norway are going out now. This year the format is slightly different. Several topics will have Keynote lectures with associated breakout workshops, while additional categories will have Workshops alone. Listed below are the topics for the Keynote lectures and Workshops.  The length of the Workshops will vary according to the number of participants. To express an interest in a Keynote or Workshop, please contact your institutions’ liaison in GAP. If you are unsure of whom to contact, please email GAP and your inquiry will be routed to the appropriate person. Keep reading GAP Connect for updates and information. All relevant material will also be available on the conference website.

Cancer RegistryMedical Informatics
Personalized MedicineGenitourinary
Palliative MedicineHead and Neck
Smoking CessationBreast Cancer
MetastasisColorectal Cancer
Cancer SurvivorshipLung Cancer
ImmunotherapyIntegrated Medicine
New Research and DevelopmentGynecology
*All Keynotes will have breakout workshopsTumor Tissue Bank

Network News

MD Anderson Physician Invited Speaker at A.C. Camargo Conference

On Dec. 1-3, 2011, A.C. Camargo hosted the Second Latin American Head and Neck / Lung Cancer Treatment Symposium in São Paulo, Brazil. Merrill Kies, M.D., professor in the Department of Thoracic/Head & Neck Medical Oncology, participated in the conference as guest faculty and took part in three sessions:

• Prognostic and therapeutic implications of HPV status in oropharyngeal cancer
• Chemoradiotherapy: What have we learned so far and what is the role of targeted therapies?
• What is the role of induction chemotherapy in the management of locally advanced head and neck cancer?

A.C. Camargo is the largest cancer hospital in Brazil, seeing 10,000 new cancers cases a year. The institution performs 9,000 surgeries a year and on a daily basis provides radiation treatment for 250 patients and 160 infusions. Scheduled to renew its Sister Institution status in 2012, A.C. Camargo is one of three SIs in Brazil and one of six in South America.