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Pathology & Laboratory Medicine

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COVID-19 Testing Program Built From Ground Up Amid Escalating Pandemic

In March, as the COVID-19 pandemic gained a visible foothold in New York City and infected hundreds of thousands of residents, Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian faced a task unlike any they had encountered before.

doctors working in a testing lab

Laboratory technologists and accessioning staff at Weill Cornell Medicine. From left, Anqi Chen, Kathy Fauntleroy and Amy Robertson. All photos provided.

How would they quickly establish a reliable diagnostic testing program to identify patients and healthcare workers who had been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, amid a rapidly escalating public health crisis? To accomplish such a task, the institutions would have to prove that newly developed commercial tests accurately diagnose the coronavirus, while simultaneously expanding the operations and hours of pathology laboratories to handle an influx of patient samples.

In this environment, Weill Cornell Medicine’s medical laboratory directors and scientists developed a COVID-19 testing program that, when launched on March 11, analyzed 300 clinical samples a day, in addition to conducting non-COVID related tests. Some seven weeks later, those same laboratories can process up to 2,000 COVID samples daily and are operational 24 hours a day, so that physicians have the most accurate information to guide treatment for suspected COVID-19 patients who come to Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Rhonda K. Yantiss Appointed to the Test Development and Advisory Committee for Gastrointestinal, Liver, and Pancreatic Pathology

Rhonda Yantiss

Rhonda Yantiss, MD
Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

The American Board of Pathology (ABPath) is pleased to announce the appointment of Rhonda K. Yantiss to the ABPath’s Test Development and Advisory Committee (TDAC) for Gastrointestinal, Liver, and Pancreatic pathology for 2020. The TDACs are responsible for developing and reviewing the ABPath certification exam questions that assess and certify a physician’s education, knowledge, experience, and skills in order to provide high quality care in the pathology profession.

To be appointed to a TDAC means a physician is an established subject matter expert in their subspecialty field and is current on the latest advances in the continually evolving field of pathology and patient care. TDAC committee members develop and review examination questions for statistical performance and relevance to current practice. They contribute to the validity of examinations by determining the content and distribution of items on examinations (exam blueprints).  The TDACs also advise the ABPath on issues in their subspecialty area of expertise. 

“As TDAC members, these physicians play a critical role in the development of the exams and are entrusted with maintaining the integrity of the board-certified designation. The appointment to a TDAC indicates the physician is highly regarded in the field of pathology and exemplifies the utmost standards of care,” states Rebecca L. Johnson, M.D., CEO of the American Board of Pathology.

Dr. Alain Borczuk and Colleagues Receive Prestigious Cancer Moonshot Grant

Dr. Alain Borczuk
Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Cancer Moonshot Grant Funds Research into Discovering Targets for Lung Cancer Prevention Strategies

Weill Cornell Medicine has received a prestigious Cancer Moonshot grant from the National Cancer Institute’s Immuno-Oncology Translational Network (IOTN) to explore the mechanisms that allow slow-growing lung cancer lesions to progress into aggressive malignancies and identify new therapeutic strategies to intercept the transition. 

The competitive grant was one of only three awarded this year. The Weill Cornell Medicine investigators, led by Dr. Nasser Altorki, director of the Neuberger Berman Lung Cancer Research Center and the David. B. Skinner Professor of Thoracic Surgery, will receive up to $4.2 million in funding over five years to pursue their research.

The Cancer Moonshot initiative supports scientific research with the potential to accelerate the understanding of cancer and identify new ways to intercept its initiation and progression. Congress established the program in 2016 as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, with a total of $1.8 billion administered over seven years by the National Cancer Institute.

“Our previous work suggests that the progression from precancerous to aggressive lung cancer is associated with the development of a significantly suppressed immune response in the tumor microenvironment,” said Dr. Altorki, who also leads the Experimental Therapeutics Program of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center  at Weill Cornell Medicine and is a thoracic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “With this grant, we will generate crucial insights into the complex interactions that take place between cancer cells and the surrounding cells, including the immune cells they must suppress to survive. We anticipate those insights will reveal a major breakthrough that could be tested in future clinical trials.”  

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