In Memoriam: Elaine Ron, Senior Investigator in DCEG
Dr. Elaine Ron, a senior investigator in NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG), died of cancer on November 20 at her home in Bethesda, MD. She was 67.
Dr. Ron was renowned as one of the leading experts in radiation epidemiology and in the causes of thyroid cancer, as well as a champion of women in science. Over the course of her career she authored more than 200 scientific peer-reviewed papers and mentored researchers from around the world. She leaves as a legacy numerous junior investigators who were inspired by her example.
Dr. Ron conducted groundbreaking research. In her earliest work, in Israel, she identified the long-term cancer risk associated with radiation treatment for tinea capitis (a fungal infection of the scalp). Dr. Ron joined NCI in 1986 and served as chief of the Radiation Epidemiology Branch from 1997 to 2002. She participated in numerous international committees, including the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the Scientific Council of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the Public Health Committee of the American Thyroid Association.
“Elaine contributed enormously to our understanding of the cancer risks associated with radiation,” reflected Dr. Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., director of DCEG. “Her interests included studies of the atomic bomb survivors in Japan, residents of the former Soviet Union exposed to radioactive compounds from the Chernobyl accident, and patients exposed to diagnostic and therapeutic radiation. In addition to addressing the biological mechanisms of disease, Dr. Ron was keenly focused on public health and policy implications of her research.”
Her scientific achievements included the largest study of cancer risks among patients treated with radioactive iodine for hyperthyroidism and the first international effort to pool epidemiologic data on thyroid cancer. She had recently launched a major investigation into the potential adverse effects of CT screening among children and young adults.
Dr. Shelia Hoar Zahm, deputy director of DCEG, noted, “Elaine was passionate about fighting injustice. Whether it was promoting equity for women scientists at work, preventing cruelty to animals, or advancing human rights around the globe, she refused to accept the status quo.”
Dr. Ron is survived by her son, Ariel Ron, her greatest joy.
Data and biospecimens from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial are available to qualified researchers through a peer-review process. The Etiologic and Early Marker Studies (EEMS) program accepts proposals for access to PLCO biospecimens twice a year, in June/July and December/January.
By collecting biologic materials and risk factor information from trial participants before the diagnosis of disease, EEMS—a component of the PLCO—provides a resource for cancer researchers who are focused on cancer etiology and early markers. Etiologic studies investigate the environmental, biochemical, and genetic risk factors for cancer. Early detection studies aim to develop reproducible, reliable biomarkers of early disease.
Proposals will be accepted for the next EEMS review cycle starting December 1. Applications will be accepted until January 14, 2011, at 5:00 p.m. EST. Details of the review process and application materials are available at http://www.plcostars.com. Questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or 240-314-2313.
The National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) will meet on December 7 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. in Building 31 on the NIH main campus in Bethesda, MD. The agenda is now available, and the meeting will be broadcast live online. An archived videocast of the meeting will be available a few days after the meeting.
The President’s Cancer Panel held the second meeting of its 2010–2011 series, The Future of Cancer Research: Accelerating Scientific Innovation, on October 26 in Philadelphia. The meeting featured expert testimony and discussion on opportunities to facilitate progress within the National Cancer Program (NCP).
Presenters discussed the need to examine the cancer research environment. Attendees noted that current government funding mechanisms and the overall research and development strategy of the private sector do not foster high-risk, creative projects with the potential for innovative breakthroughs;rather, development programs support incremental innovations that build on already-known concepts. Presenters also further challenged the existing paradigm of research, stressing that true innovation will flourish at the point of care, where researchers and patients interact.
Many presenters said that health information technology, including electronic health records (EHR), will play a critical role in the future of cancer care and research. The widespread adoption of EHR would facilitate the collection and analysis of vast amounts of data from across the United States, they noted, and holds the promise of individualized guidelines for disease prevention and care. They stressed that researchers should have open access to such data collections.
The importance of biospecimens in cancer research in the coming years cannot be overstated, and participants said that efforts must be made to ensure an adequate supply of specimens are stored and that the quality of the specimens is sufficient to yield meaningful information for clinical and research applications. They agreed that developing standards for specimen collection and storage will be a key element of these efforts.
The Panel will summarize findings and recommendations from this meeting, along with the other meetings in the series, in its 2010–2011 Annual Report to the President of the United States.