Knight Cancer Challenge: a progress report

In June 2015, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute announced to the world that it had achieved a $500 million fundraising challenge set by Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, raising $1 billion for cancer research. During the year since then, the institute has been busy expanding research and outreach capacity, improving patient care and science facilities, and establishing productive new collaborations.

Sadik Esener Below is a sampling of accomplishments:

In March 2016, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute kicked off a major new initiative on the precision early detection of life-threatening cancers with the hiring of Sadik Esener, Ph.D., as director of the Center for Early Detection Research and Wendt Family Endowed Chair in Early Cancer Detection.

As a nanotechnology expert, engineer and computer scientist, he brings a systems-based approach to integrate cancer biology and state-of-the-art imaging and computing technologies.

In December 2015, Cancer Research UK, one of the largest funders of cancer research globally, and the Knight Cancer Institute formed an international collaboration to accelerate research in early detection.

This collaboration is part of the Knight Cancer Institute’s long-term commitment to invest in early detection research, to understand the biology behind early stage cancers, find new detection and screening methods and enhance the uptake and accuracy of screening.

In June of this year, the two organizations launched an early detection conference, the first of a series of annual events planned through this collaboration.

The Knight Cancer Institute continues to grow clinical trials capacity both on the main OHSU campus and throughout the state. In 2015, close to 700 Oregon residents consented to participate in interventional clinical research studies associated with the Knight Cancer Institute.

These research subjects represented 29 of the 36 Oregon counties. During the past twelve months, faculty researchers reported their study findings in such prestigious journals as CellNatureThe New England Journal of MedicineLancet, and many others.

The Knight Cancer Community Partnership Program, established in October 2014, provides funding and technical assistance to local organizations working to meet community-identified cancer needs. To date, 43 projects have received support in 32 of the state’s 36 counties. The projects represent the full range of cancer-related needs from prevention through survivorship.

The state of Oregon provided financial backing for a new research building for the Knight Cancer Institute in Portland’s South Waterfront District. Nearly 500 came to celebrate the groundbreaking on June 16.

The facility will house research programs in early cancer detection, computational biology, immuno-oncology, leukemia, prostate and other areas, and it will also have administrative offices, a conference center and street-level retail space. It should be move-in ready in July 2018.

Delivering high-quality, effective cancer care to patients is the backbone of the Knight Cancer Institute. Outpatient cancer visits totaled more than 84,000 in the last fiscal year.

In October 2015, the institute formed the OHSU Knight Cancer Network to collaborate with community hospitals, health care organizations, and physicians across the state to reduce cancer risks for Oregonians and improve clinical outcomes for cancer patients. The network also offers resources and support in directing patients to appropriate clinical trials.

“It’s because of those we’ve lost [to cancer] that we feel an urgency for our mission,” Knight Cancer Institute Director Brian Druker, M.D., told the crowd at the recent groundbreaking. “Our success will be measured by patients thriving and living normal lives because of the work that we will do here.”

View our OHSU Knight Cancer Institute 2016 Progress Report 

Safer Summer Grilling

Summer has arrived in Portland, and for many of us, that means firing up the grill. Grilling is a great way to prepare meals — no added fat (such as with sautéing or frying), the kitchen stays nice and cool, plus the smoky flavor of grilled foods can’t be beat.

However, cooking meats at high temperatures (mainly grilling, broiling and pan-frying) can form carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). HCAs form when meats, poultry and fish become charred during grilling, while PAHs form from the smoke that’s produced when fat and juices drip onto the flame. For more information on HCAs and PAHs, visit the National Cancer Institute’s website.

While there is no research that directly links grilling to cancer, there are simple ways to reduce your intake of these potentially harmful compounds. Follow these tips to stay healthy this grill season:

  • Choose lean meats. Fattier meats such as ribs, hamburgers, marbled steaks and dark-meat chicken produce more drippings when they are grilled (in addition to providing more artery-clogging saturated fat than leaner meats), leading to more smoke and thus, higher carcinogen formation. Choose lean meats and proteins such as fish, shrimp, skinless chicken breast, turkey burgers, pork tenderloin or flank steak, and trim away any visible fat before cooking. Remember to stick with the recommended 3-ounce portion of meats (the size of a deck of cards).
  • Marinate meats before grilling. Studies have shown that marinating meats before cooking, even for a few minutes, significantly reduces the formation of HCAs and PAHs. Choose marinades with vinegars, citrus juice or wine, and add fresh herbs such as rosemary, basil or thyme to further increase the antioxidant benefits.
  • Limit time on the grill. Pre-cook meats and finish them on the grill to add flavor, or try cutting meats into bite-sized pieces and cooking them on skewers so they cook faster. Fish cooks faster than meats and poultry, and less time on the grill means less HCA and PAH formation — one more reason to increase consumption of fish and seafood! After grilling, trim away any charred spots on meats.
  • Choose produce. Plant foods such as vegetables, fruit and tofu don’t produce HCAs or PAHs when grilled, so make sure you’re piling on the produce. (As always, aim for half of your plate to be vegetables and fruits.) Try using a grill basket to keep smaller veggies from falling through the grill grates, and for dessert, grill fresh fruit such as peaches, pineapple or plums for a delicious, caramelized treat.
  • Keep it clean. Always clean your grill well after each use to prevent charred foods from building up on the grates.

This summer you’ll find me outside, safely enjoying Portland’s bounty of vegetables, fruit and fish on the grill. Here’s one of my family’s favorite recipes — try it and let me know what you think!


Tracy Severson, R.D., L.D., is the dietitian for the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute. She specializes in nutrition counseling for cardiovascular health and weight management.




Your health questions answered: Heart care for a father with diabetes

You ask. OHSU health experts answer. This National Men’s Health Week, one of our cardiovascular experts is on the hot seat.

We know that facing a heart condition can be difficult for patient and families, and that getting the right information can provide peace of mind. With Father’s Day on the horizon, a recent question to our providers about care for a father with diabetes is especially timely.

Q: My father has diabetes but is in good health. His cholesterol is a little high. Should I be worried?

Diabetics suffer from heart disease and stroke at twice the rate of everyone else. Due to diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage), diabetics are less likely to9482286976_39caaeebd8_z feel the symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain. That said, they can control their risk of heart disease by monitoring blood sugar and lipid levels (blood fats, including cholesterol). A cardiologist can also watch for high lipid levels and atherosclerosis, (hardening of the arteries), which are precursors to heart disease.

Like all diabetics, your father should also avoid smoking, engage in regular exercise, lose excess weight, and consume a diet high in fiber, fruits, vegetables, fatty fish and whole grains, and low in processed sugars for a lower risk of heart disease and increased quality of life.

For more information, contact the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute’s Center for Preventive Cardiology.


Chadderdon_S_08Dr. Scott Chadderdon is a cardiologist at the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute focused on caring for adults with heart disease and diabetes.

“War on Skin Cancer” event to bring community together

Join the OHSU Department of Dermatology on Saturday, May 21, at the Collaborative Life Sciences Building for a fun and educational weekend event helping to advance the science of skin cancer prevention and treatment.redheads

OHSU and Portland dermatology providers will be available to provide screenings and sun safety tips about how attendees can monitor their skin health.

Attendees will also learn about the best sunscreens to use and can take a turn playing educational games containing skin cancer facts. Skin checks will be first come, first serve.

OHSU scientists will also be hand to discuss their latest research efforts. Presenters include:

  • Sancy Leachman, MD, PhD, Chair, Department of Dermatology and Director, Melanoma & Skin Cancer Research Program, will speak on genetics factors as it pertains to melanoma and skin cancer risk.
  • Oliver J. Wisco, DO, FAAD, FACMS, is a fellowship-trained melanoma specialist and skin cancer surgeon at Bend Memorial Clinic. This talk will explore the common question of, “are we are harming ourselves by blocking potentially-beneficial Vitamin D through sun protection?”
  • Amanda Lund, PhD, is a cancer immunologist who is working to understand the mechanisms how lymphatic vessels, key communication highways of the immune system, influence the body’s ability to fight skin cancer. She will talk about the development of new strategies to predict who will respond best to therapy and how immunotherapy could turn non-responders into responders.
  • Anna Bar, MD is a fellowship trained Mohs surgeon and Assistant Professor of Dermatology at OHSU. Bar is teaming up with Dr. John Vetto, OHSU surgical oncologist, for a Phase 3 clinical trial of POL-103A polyvalent, a melanoma vaccine, to test potential efficacy for melanoma patients who are at a high risk of recurrence.
  • Pamela Cassidy, PhD, is a Research Associate Professor in OHSU’s Department of Dermatology. She will speak about her studies that are designed to find both the beneficial and harmful effects (if any) of antioxidants that are candidates for use in melanoma prevention.
  • Tracy Petrie, PhD, is a computer scientist overseeing the continuing development of the Mole Mapper apps for iPhones and, soon, Android phones. Written by Dan Webster, a cancer biologist, Mole Mapper is a free app that lets you map, measure, and monitor moles over time. Learn about how you can participate in melanoma cancer research while you use the app to help manage your skin care.

Other events such as the 5th annual AIM Melanoma 5K Walk will be taking place as part of the event. Registration info can be found here with all proceeds benefiting the OHSU Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium.

There’s also a chance for attendees to be a part of history if they are a natural redhead! Redhead Events, a local non-profit, will attempt to break the world record for the largest gathering of natural redheads in one place.

Training tomorrow’s data scientists

The following is an abbreviated version of a blog post titled “Technical education for a connected world,” authored by Stephen Wu, an assistant professor of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology at OHSU School of MedicineIn it, Wu shares how including peer reviews in his class led him to develop a new approach to technical education: one that centers around five core values that he believes to be essential to both scholarly and professional development. The original post can be viewed here.

Who’s going to grade these? I needed a TA. I was three weeks into teaching my first full-fledged Computer Science class — Natural Language Processing (NLP) — and I was getting a little desperate. All my students had submitted Homework 1 on time. Great! But now I had a stack of programming assignments and writeups to grade.

I had just stayed up late (after my kids went to bed) for a few nights in a row, prepping Homework 2, then trying to prep Lecture 5. I ran out of time on the latter, so, embarrassingly, I’d had to let class out early after my under-prepped interactive whiteboard lecture on word similarity. Coming up in less than 48 hours was another 90-minute lecture, and I would need to find another 5-10 hours (with my kids sleeping) to prep that. This is ironic. When I was a student, I never imagined that my professors lost more sleep over my classes than I did.

So, grading Homework 1. No time. No TA. No free computer science experts to bail me out. If only my students could grade their homework themselves…technical education

And all of a sudden, it all made sense. Peer reviews!  

I turned this epiphany over in my head. This one thing embodied so much of the process I had gone through in entering academia and growing as professional. It was conspicuous in every journal article that I got accepted, and essential in every grant that I got funded. It was embedded, as code review, in the seasoned software engineering process at the tech startup I’d worked at, Trapit.

At a broader level, this collaborative collegial activity, this humility to accept and learn from criticism — I needed it in my marriage, relationships, spiritual life, everywhere.

It was too late to do peer reviews for Homeworks 1 and 2. I’d just have to buckle down with a few more late nights to finish that. And I knew that when I first got students to do peer reviews, I’d have to coach them on how to do them — meta-review their reviews. I wondered if this would actually save me time. Certainly not in the short run, I thought, but this is what I want them to get out of my class. More than NLP. Character.

What emerged from that CSEE 562 NLP class is my modern-day re-imagining of technical education, centering around five core values that I believe to be essential in scholarly and professional development. Transparency. Excellence. Collaboration. Humility. Innovation. I call it techi education, or techied.

Those values are articulated in a grading scheme, expressed in a process for peer review, and implemented in modern collaborative software tools (git). My class was far from perfect, but that’s why I’m writing! Fellow educators: let’s build a new generation of scholars, coders, and teachers who know how to be in the emerging collaborative world of data science. Clone my techied git repository. Build on these ideas. And join me in a new kind of technical education.

Stephen Wu

Stephen Wu is an assistant professor of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology at OHSU School of Medicine whose research aims to make medical information understandable to computers and actionable for people. He also teaches graduate courses in computer science.


Pregnancy and the heart

Waiting for a baby. Close-up of pregnant woman touching her belly while sitting in lotus positionHeart disease is not always a disease of the elderly. According to the American Heart Association, there are over 15,000 deaths due to heart disease annually in the U.S. in young women under the age of 55.

While most young patients have at least one risk factor for a cardiac event, many women underestimate their cardiovascular risk. These risk factors may come from family history, lifestyle, and unique to female patients: conditions that developed during pregnancy.

Major changes happen to the body during pregnancy to which the heart and vascular system must adapt. We now know that pregnant women can develop conditions which may signal a risk for heart problems in the future.

Conditions that have been linked to future heart risk include:

  • Gestational hypertension
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preeclampsia
  • Spontaneous pregnancy loss
  • Preterm birth

The good news is there is plenty you can do to minimize your heart risk before, during, and after pregnancy. Here are a few tips to note when you’re trying to get pregnant and to ensure you have a heart-healthy pregnancy.

Eat heart-healthy

During pregnancy it’s more important than ever to have a balanced, heart-healthy diet. In particular, avoid excess salt and minimize your caffeine intake. Consider using OHSU’s My Pregnancy Plate as a guide on optimal nutrition during pregnancy.

Maintain a healthy weight

Weight gain is normal during pregnancy and the healthy amount can vary person to person. Talk to your OB at the beginning of your pregnancy to determine the optimal weight gain for you.


As is the case outside of pregnancy, regular exercise is vital to cardiovascular health. Moderate exercise is typically okay for most pregnant women but discuss the specifics with your doctor.

Talk to your doctor

Make sure to discuss any medications you are taking with your doctor prior to pregnancy. If you have an existing heart condition, talk to your cardiologist before getting pregnant. Many women with repaired congenital heart disease can have a safe pregnancy, but the risk depends upon the person. Body changes can cause an increase in symptoms, even for women without preexisting problems, so it’s important for patients with a heart history to be monitored by a cardiologist throughout pregnancy.


Dr. AAbigail, Khan_15 (CAR)bigail Khan is a cardiologist at the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute focused on caring for adults with congenital heart disease and women who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy and have existing heart problems. Her role as a cardiologist guiding these young women is an important one given that risk factors for heart disease are rising for women under 45, and pregnant women may have additional cardiovascular concerns.

At OHSU, a mother’s passion inspires

OHSU seems to run in the family for four of the six Mansoor siblings, and it all started with their mother, Salma.

Steven Mansoor, M.D., Ph.D., David Mansoor, M.D., Lori Mansoor, L.C.S.W. and André Mansoor, M.D. all work in different capacities at OHSU and three are graduates of the OHSU School of Medicine.

Their mother is no longer with them, but her passion for helping people, for science and for family is reflected in her children’s lives.

“Our family story at OHSU all started with her,” Steven said.

Her kids remember her as a very scientifically-minded person who wanted to be a physician but gave up her career to raise them.

Salma (pictured third row from the front, far right) posing with a group during her training at OHSU in 1972

Before that, Salma worked as a lab technician, and she did her training at OHSU.

Salma encouraged her kids to pursue careers in medicine. She fostered an interest in math and science in them, all the while nudging them toward helping professions.

Steven is the eldest of the siblings who went into medicine. A physician scientist, he has a cardiology fellowship at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute and serves as a Postdoc in the Gouaux Lab, where his research revolves around the structure and function of purinergic receptors. Steve has been affiliated with OHSU since 1996.

David, an assistant professor of Psychiatry, focuses on geriatric medicine. His practice includes a combination of dementia care and adult psychiatry, seeing patients with age-related psychiatric disorders linked to memory, cognitive impairment, depression and anxiety. He enjoys the complexity of care that goes into caring for older patients.

Lori says it was always her goal to work at OHSU because she knew about it from such a young age. She enjoyed visiting her brothers on campus while they were studying and wanted to be close to them – since she started in 2015, she’s been able to do just that, even meeting her brother at the OHSU Farmers Market for lunch during her orientation. Lori works with people who struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues as a therapist at the Avel Gordly Center for Healing, a culturally-specific counseling center.

André, the youngest of the Mansoors, is an assistant professor of Medicine. Like his brothers, he attended the OHSU School of Medicine and did his residency at OHSU. As a hospitalist, he cares for patients with a variety of medical problems.

André remembers his mom’s passion for connecting with people in need through her work with Meals on Wheels. It was that same desire that drove him to pursue medicine.

“I wanted a career that would allow me to establish similar relationships,” he said.

The Mansoors’ mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in 2001 knowing that Steve and David had been accepted to the OHSU School of Medicine.

Steven, David, Lori and André are continuing their mom’s caring legacy and, like her, they continue to place family above all else. Steven and David lived together when they were in med school and André and Steven even did OB rotation nights together. The entire family gathers at their father’s home every Sunday for dinner and the siblings meet for lunch on the hill when they can.

“We’re a close-knit family,” Lori said. “We support each other with success and we’re vocal with one another about the things we love.”

“It all really began with our mom’s dream to help people,” Lori said. “OHSU will always be special to us.”

Ten things you need to know about our outstanding nurses

It’s National Nurses Week and we are proud of our hardworking nurses for the excellence they bring to their work each and every day.

Here are just a few things you might not know about our nurses and the amazing work they do here at OHSU.

(Double-click the image to view full-size)

SOC 21436790 Nurses Week GRAF v2


Be a leader, a scientist, a teacher — a nurse. All at OHSU. We are hiring nurses for a variety of clinical areas. Learn more at

Top five reasons to volunteer at OHSU

volunteer-weekIn 2015, more than 1,300 people volunteered their time at OHSU to help advance the boundaries of medicine, improve patients’ quality of life and share their genuine passion for serving our community in Oregon and beyond.

There are several reasons people choose to volunteer at OHSU – to gain work experience, to help save lives, to give back to a place that’s made a difference in their own lives. Every now and then, a friendly critter also gets the calling to help make a difference!

This National Volunteer Week, I rounded up five of the top reasons to volunteer at OHSU:

1. Make a difference
One of the top reasons to volunteer is to make a positive impact in others’ lives. It’s about giving back to our community and the people in it.

2. Be part of the discovery
Year after year, there are extraordinary breakthroughs in research influenced by the support of OHSU’s volunteers. Volunteers are provided with a multitude of free training and lecture series available to grow their knowledge base and light the way to new discoveries.

3. Gain professional experience
Interested in gaining experience in research or healthcare? Volunteering at OHSU provides the perfect opportunity to gain experience in any field. Whether that experience may be observing cavity fills in the School of Dentistry, developing patient interaction skills by entertaining children in the OHSU Doernbecher waiting areas or finding patients eligible to enroll in research studies, there is opportunity for everyone to get involved.

4: Become an active member of the community
OHSU’s expansive outreach programs throughout the state of Oregon provide the unique opportunity to get involved in the community, either on OHSU’s campus or at one of our affiliate partners.

Live in the Salem Area? Check out how you can volunteer at Salem Health.

5: Develop long-lasting connections
Volunteering at OHSU provides the incredible opportunity to shape and form connections with some of the most talented professionals in the world. OHSU’s sheer number of talented students, professors, doctors, nurses and numerous other professionals help to foster an environment of professional and personal growth.

Please join me in thanking the amazing volunteers here at OHSU – we’re very lucky to have them!




Sean Robertson is a volunteer digital marketing promoter for Research and Academic Volunteer Services and also volunteers with The P.O.L.A.R.I.S Research Team in Pediatric Hematology Oncology, as well as the Cord Blood Donation Program



Interested in volunteering?
Find out how to get started with Healthcare or Research and Academics.

Ask the expert: Should I take aspirin to prevent a heart attack?

This week you may have seen news headlines touting aspirin as a way to prevent heart attacks. But does that apply to you?

OHSU experts are cautioning against a run to the pharmacy until you know whether you meet the specific criteria required to benefit from the regimen. Many people with existing heart disease are advised to take a low-dose aspirin every day to prevent blood clots, the cause of heart attacks and most strokes. Whether healthy individuals should do the same to prevent heart attack and stroke, known as primary prevention, has been up for debate.

The news coverage this week comes from new guidelines released by a government panel of experts outlining who would benefit from taking daily low-dose aspirin for primary prevention.

In order to benefit from an aspirin regimen, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, healthy men and women must meet a strict list of criteria — including a high risk of heart disease and a low risk of bleeding side effects.aspirin

Specifically, the group recommends that adults in their 50s, who have a 10 percent or greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, are not at risk for bleeding, and have a life expectancy of at least 10 years take a daily low-dose aspirin to prevent heart attack, stroke, and also colorectal cancer.

According to OHSU cardiologist Dr. Michael Shapiro, “These new recommendations reflect a greater consensus regarding a narrower role for aspirin in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. In other words, one must exceed a certain threshold of risk for a vascular event, and this must be balanced by risk of bleeding, in order to benefit from daily low-dose aspirin.”

He added, “There is now recognition that statins are by far the most effective and safest agents for primary prevention. Statins are safer than aspirin by an order of magnitude.”

Our experts agree that low-dose aspirin is still an extremely effective therapy for secondary prevention and should be recommended routinely to heart disease patients if they have a low risk of bleeding.

Be sure to check with your doctor if you’re wondering if low-dose aspirin is right for you, and before starting any new medication. Learn more about the best ways to prevent heart disease at the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute.

Why 96,000 Square Miles?

OHSU Health Fair at Pioneer Square.

President Robertson is fond of saying that OHSU has a 96,000 square mile campus, serving Oregonians “from Enterprise to Coos Bay, from Portland to Klamath Falls.”

This blog aims to highlight that breadth. 96,000 Square Miles (96K for short) will focus on the people of OHSU, the Oregonians we serve and the ripple effect of our work in Oregon and beyond.

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