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Inroads E-Newsletter


October 2021

Researcher Receives $1.7 Million Grant to Study Faulty DNA Repair & Cancer Risk

James Jackson

DNA damage from environmental toxins can result in mutations and disease if not repaired rapidly and accurately.

The human genome has many mechanisms to help repair itself in the event of damage. Some of these processes are driven by similarity inherent in DNA – dual copies of genes, where one can be used to repair damage in the other, creating a perfect match that replicates the sequence of nucleotides flawlessly. These repair processes, called homology-directed repair (HDR), are very accurate. However, in some cases broken DNA is joined together in a process that is not similarity-based. This inaccurate process – called hon-homologous end joining – is associated with diseases like cancer.

HDR has previously been investigated in yeast and tissue culture models, but studying how it works in living systems has been difficult, as "knocking out" – or removing – the genes necessary for this process has always proven to be lethal to embryonic mice; the mice are never even born much less able to mature to adulthood. However, James Jackson, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, was recently awarded a five-year, $1.71 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for his unique adult mouse model that defies expectations.

"Most people are aware there are breast cancer susceptibility genes that one can inherit from a parent – BRCA1 and BRCA2," said Jackson. A mutation in one of these genes, determined through genetic testing, leads to a genetic predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer.

"Turns out, they are involved in a very specific type of DNA damage repair as well," said Jackson. "If you have normal copies of BRCA1, you can faithfully and correctly repair DNA damage. When you inherit a mutant BRCA1 gene from one of your parents, you have that mutant version in every cell of your body. This means that if the second copy of the gene is inactivated in a cell, accurate repair would be prevented. What we don't know is if they're important in every cell, why are those with mutant BRCA1 genes predisposed to getting only breast or ovarian cancer and only in females. Why aren't tissues in the male susceptible when they are a carrier of a BRCA1 mutation," Jackson said.

The lack of a mouse model to study these questions has held back the field. "One of the reasons BRCA1 has always been thought to be so important is if you try to knock it out in mice, they die at a very early embryonic stage. They can't even be born," said Jackson.

His team, led by graduate student Joy Olayiwola, took a different strategy. They created an adult mouse model whereby BRCA1 could be deleted. "We thought the deletion was going to be extremely toxic – similar to a large dose of radiation – but we were shocked. We induced the deletion of the BRCA1 gene in an adult mouse, effectively deleted it in every cell, but the mouse was fine! This really flew in the face of a lot of dogma that's been around for years that BRCA1 is important for cell viability in the most fundamental way."

But that wasn't Jackson's only surprise. After creating the mouse model, they thought they would have a very short time period to study the animals. "We thought BRCA1 deletion would mean we had hours to days in which to study what was going on in these tissues," said Jackson. "But turns out they can live up to a year. We immediately recognized that we had this unique opportunity to do long-term studies with these mice and that's what this grant is about."

Jackson and his collaborator, DNA damage expert Zachary Pursell, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, plan to use this model to further examine the long-term effects of BRCA1 loss on DNA repair in various tissues. "Comparing for instance the intestine, which never gets a tumor with a BRCA1 mutation, versus the mammary gland, which frequently gets a tumor. Perhaps the backup repair mechanisms in the intestine are fine, but in the mammary gland they're not. We plan to take this mouse model and look at the long-term effects of BRCA1 loss on different tissues and how they depend on BRCA1 differently for maintaining the fidelity of DNA replication and repair."

Tulane Urology Acquires First Single-Port Da Vinci Surgical Robot in the Gulf South

Da Vinci SP

This new robotic surgical platform allows the surgeon to explore through a single incision in the abdomen, rather than multiple entry ports. (Photo © 2021 Intuitive Surgical, Inc.)

Tulane's Department of Urology has a long history of being a regional, national, and international leader in minimally invasive surgery.

Tulane Urology was the first practice in the Gulf South to perform Da Vinci robotic surgery in 2002, and nearly 20 years later – thanks to continuing investment in this cutting-edge technology by HCA, owner of Tulane Medical Center – it is still at the forefront of the field with their recent acquisition of the Da Vinci SP, the first single port robotic surgery platform in the Gulf South.

"This latest fourth-generation Da Vinci model – developed by Intuitive, a pioneer in robotic-assisted surgery, with feedback from physicians who use the platform – allows the surgeon to perform procedures through a single incision in the abdomen rather than multiple entry ports," said Raju Thomas, MD, FACS, FRCS, MHA, professor and chair of the Department of Urology. "That means its less invasive, less painful, and it allows for a quicker recovery and return to normal activity for our patients."

The Da Vinci SP also extends the capabilities of the surgeon's eyes and hands, providing him or her with:

  •     better visualization – 3D high-definition views magnified 10 times to what the human eye sees.
  •     more extensive dexterity – its tiny instruments move like human hands but with a far greater range of motion.

During robotic surgery with the Da Vinci SP, your Tulane urologic surgeon sits at a console next to you in the operating room and performs the procedure through one small incision – about one-and-a-half inches in length – using three fully-wristed and elbowed instruments and the first fully-wristed Da Vinci endoscopic camera. The system translates every hand movement the surgeon makes in real time to bend and rotate the instruments with precision. They move like human hands but with a far greater range of motion, and they can reach anatomy anywhere within 360 degrees from the port placement.

Da Vinci robotic surgical systems are currently used for several different types of surgeries, including cardiac, colorectal, gynecologic, head and neck, thoracic, and urologic. Tulane Urology – which utilizes robotic surgery to treat prostate and kidney cancer among other urologic conditions – performed its first surgery with the new Da Vinci SP in August. "Of course, we also still perform open surgery and laparoscopic surgery for those patients who, for whatever reason, are not candidates for robotic surgery," said Thomas.

With every new system introduced, additional training is a must. "That's a surgeon's investment in their patients," said Thomas. The surgeons on the Tulane Urology robotic team not only train for and provide this state-of-the-art option here in New Orleans, but they have also traveled extensively teaching robotic surgery in several states around the country since 2003. Additionally, Tulane Urology is the only approved fellowship training site in the entire Gulf South.

"We are fortunate our leadership over the past 20 years has been committed to cementing Tulane's position as a regional trailblazer when it comes to robotic surgery," said Thomas. "We offer our experience and expertise in laparoscopic and robotic surgery while treating our patients, teaching our residents-in-training, and educating colleagues throughout the world."

For more information on Tulane Urology's robotic surgery program or to schedule an appointment with a Tulane urologist, call 504-988-5271 or email rthomas@tulane.edu.

Da Vinci Tools

During robotic surgery with the Da Vinci SP, your Tulane urologic surgeon sits at a console next to you in the operating room and performs the procedure through one small incision – about one-and-a-half inches in length – using three fully-wristed, elbowed instruments and the first fully-wristed Da Vinci endoscopic camera. The Da Vinci system translates every hand movement your surgeon makes in real time to bend and rotate the instruments with precision. It extends the capabilities of the surgeon's eyes and hands. (Photo © 2021 Intuitive Surgical, Inc.)

The Department of Surgery Welcomes David Pointer, MD - Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Oncological Surgery

David Pointer

We are pleased to announce the appointment of David Pointer, MD, as assistant professor of surgery.

Dr. Pointer earned his medical degree from and completed general surgery residency at Tulane University School of Medicine, which included a research fellowship within the Department of Structural and Cellular Biology. Dr. Pointer received fellowship training in complex general surgical oncology at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, which included additional focus on robotic approaches in complex surgical oncology.

As a surgical oncologist specializing in the diagnosis and management of complex malignancies, he utilizes a variety of skills and strategies, including minimally invasive techniques and multidisciplinary care, to provide quality personalized treatment for both common and rare malignancies.

His clinical interests include gastrointestinal, hepatopancreaticobiliary, skin and soft tissue malignancies, with a specific focus on minimally invasive techniques. His research interests include surgical education and outcomes in minimally invasive oncologic surgery.

Other interests include mentorship and leadership in medicine which Dr. Pointer has cultivated over the course of his training and early career. Dr. Pointer is double board certified in complex general surgical oncology and general surgery.

He is a member of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), the Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO), and the Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association (AHPBA).


  •     Gastric and Esophageal Cancer
  •     Pancreatic Cancer
  •     Melanoma
  •     Neuroendocrine Tumors
  •     Sarcoma
  •     Robotic and Minimally Invasive Surgery
  •     Peritoneal Surface Malignancies


  •     MD, Tulane University School of Medicine
  •     Residency: General Surgery - Tulane University School of Medicine
  •     Fellowship: Complex General Surgical Oncology - H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute


  •     Tulane Downtown Clinic, 1415 Tulane Ave., 504-988-5110
  •     UMC Clinic, UMC Cancer Center, 2000 Canal St., 504-702-3311


Cancer Crusaders Postpones 20th Annual Celebration of Life Luncheon

Cancer Crusaders Honorees

Due to ongoing restrictions related to COVID-19 and the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Cancer Crusaders has postponed their 20th Annual Celebration of Life Luncheon. The event is now scheduled for January 28, 2022, at the New Orleans Marriott, 555 Canal St.
At this signature annual event, the organization plans to honor twelve local cancer survivors (pictured above) who have taken their survivorship a step further by giving back to their communities.
Cancer Crusaders is a local, all-volunteer nonprofit organization that divides the funds it raises equally between the cancer research programs at Tulane Cancer Center and LSU Health Sciences Center. Since its inception, they have donated over $5 million to support cancer research here in New Orleans.
For more information on the event, visit https://bidpal.net/cancercrusaders or contact Luncheon Co-Chairs Dawn Miller at idtwn@att.net or Charleen Boos at charleenboos@cox.net.

Previous Issues...

August 2021
Tulane Cancer Center Faculty Honored as "Top Doctors" in Their Fields
Join Us! Community Webinar on Prostate Cancer
Shedding Light on Light: Can Daytime Indoor Lighting Impact Your Health / Cancer Risk?
Fly Bayou: The Tiny Fruit Fly Helps Researchers in the Fight Against Cancer

July 2021
NCI's Annual Report to Nation: Overall Cancer Death Rates Continue to Decline
Liquid Biopsy Analysis Reveals Genetic Differences in Advanced Prostate Tumors
USPSTF Lowers Recommended Age to Begin Colon Cancer Screenings
Chancellor Donald, MD, Honored as a "Health Care Hero"

June 2021
Researcher Awarded $1.74 Million to Study Role of Virus in HIV-Associated Lung Cancer
Molecularly Targeted Radiation Therapy Extends Survival for Patients with Advanced Prostate Cancer
Head & Neck Cancer Surgical Clinic Opens on the Northshore
Cancer Crusaders Raise $81K for Research Despite Challenges of COVID-19
"Chocolate Extravaganza" to Benefit Breast Cancer Research

May 2021
Tulane World Leader in Molecularly Targeted Radiation Trials for Prostate Cancer
New Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines Include Broader Patient Population
Calling All Chocoholics!  Indulge Those Cravings And Make a Difference
Join Our 1st Interdisciplinary Urothelial Carcinoma Workshop

April 2021
Researcher Investigates Possible Link Between Obesity and Colon Cancer
New Faculty Member Broadens Tulane's Fruit Fly Research Program
$50K ACS Award to Assist Patients in Getting to Treatment Appointments
Pink Bra Run Goes VIRTUAL This Year!
Department of Urology Launches Men's Health Webinar Series

March 2021
Tulane Cancer Center First in Region to Offer MRI-Guided Perineal Prostate Biopsy
Doctors Should Address Reduced Sense of Taste and Smell in Cancer Patients, Tulane Study Says
Tulane Cancer Center Receives American Cancer Society Lodging Funds
Annual Sporting Clays Event Raises $180K for Prostate Cancer Research
Department of Urology Launches Men's Health Webinar Series

February 2021
Want a Rapid Second Opinion?  Tulane Cancer Center Doctors Are Standing By
Krewe de Pink Donates $25K to Breast Cancer Research Program
Annual Pink Games Surpass $200K in Funds Raised for Patient Relief
Department of Urology Launches Men's Health Webinar Series

December 2020
Progress in a Year of Unprecedented Challenge
Tulane Cancer Center Welcomes New Office of Clinical Research Director
Cancer Crusaders Raise $131K for Cancer Research at Tulane/LSU

November 2020
New Thoracic Oncologist Spearheads Development of Lung Cancer Program
Researchers Identify Marker That May Predict Whether Lung Cancer Likely to Spread
Tulane / ACCC Host Urothelial Carcinoma Workshop for Healthcare Professionals

October 2020
VIRTUAL Krewe de Pink Prom Benefits Breast Cancer Research Program
Kidney Cancer Association Hosts First Annual Virtual Patient Symposium
Tulane / ACCC Host Urothelial Carcinoma Workshop for Healthcare Professionals
Liver Cancer Treatment Showing Positive Results, Tulane Study Says
Community Webinar on Prostate Cancer Posted to YouTube
Many Thanks to Our 2020 NOLA Bluedoo Donors

September 2020
Join Our Community Webinar on Prostate Cancer
Patient Stories - Cyril Harvey, Jr.
NOLA Bluedoo is Canceled, BUT Prostate Cancer Research Support is Still Needed!

August 2020
Clinical Trial to Test Effectiveness of Drug in Treating Cancer Patients with Severe COVID-19
Join Us for our Virtual Community Seminar on Prostate Cancer
Gynecologic Oncology: Diverse Team of "Women Caring for Women"

June 2020
$792K ACS Grant to Help Metastatic Cancer Patients Understand/Access Palliative Care
Tulane Scientists Find a Switch to Flip and Turn off Breast Cancer Growth and Metastasis
$100K Kay Yow Cancer Fund Grant to Raise Clinical Trial Awareness In Minority Patients
Fruit Flies Help Shed Light on Tumor Formation, Migration and Growth

May 2020
Tulane Seeks Recovered COVID-19 Patients to Volunteer as Plasma Donors for Clinical Trial
A Ray of Hope in the Crisis, Dr. Kendra Harris Shines Light on Needs of Healthcare Providers
ACS Grant to Help Cancer Patients Overcome Transportation Barriers Especially Critical Now
Study Targeting Tumor Genetic Mutations Yields ‘Practice Changing’ Results for Prostate Cancer Treatment
Gunning for a Cure 2020 Raises $220K for Prostate Cancer Research

February 2020
Spike in U.S. Colorectal Cancer Rates From Age 49 to 50 Suggests Many Cases Likely Undiagnosed Before Screenings
Gunning for a Cure: Making a "Tremendous Difference" to Prostate Cancer Research
Radiation Oncologist Audrey Dang Returns to NOLA / Joins Tulane's Team
Death by Chocolate: A Sweet (and Savory!) Success
Pink Games Initiative Sets New Record in Effort to Assist Local Cancer Patients

January 2020
Radiation Oncology to Unveil New Linear Accelerator / Patient Care Area
Krewe de Pink Presents Death by Chocolate
Tulane Health First in Region to Offer Focal Therapy for Prostate Cancer

December 2019
Our Year in Review

November 2019
Kidney Cancer Day: Connecting Patients to Care Teams
Tulane Researcher is Editor of Journal Issue Honoring 40th Anniversary of Key Cancer Discovery
Pickup Truck for the Cure Raffle Extended - Winner to be Pulled June 1, 2020

October 2019
Tulane Study Reveals Dim Light at Night May Promote Breast Cancer Metastasis to Bone
Cancer Cells Turn to Cannibalism to Survive Chemotherapy
Tulane School of Medicine Welcomes Neuro-Oncologist Christopher Trevino, MD
Sixth Annual NOLA Bluedoo Raises $143K for Prostate Cancer Research
Cancer Crusaders Support Research/Celebrate Life at Annual Luncheon
Blue Ribbon Soiree Closing in on $1 Million Raised for Prostate Cancer Initiatives
Krewe de Pink Continues Their Support of Breast Cancer Research with $35K Gift

August 2019
Tulane Lakeside Hospital Now Offering 3D Breast Biopsy
16 Tulane Cancer Center Faculty Named "Top Docs" by New Orleans Magazine

July 2019
Flemington Team Awarded $2.3 Million For Virus-Related Malignancies Research
Our Summer Drive is ON!
Bryan Subaru / LLS Distribute Blankets, Art Kits & Messages of Hope to Cancer Patients

May 2019
Win a Truck & Help Cure Prostate Cancer
Researcher's Publication Honored as "Top 100" by Scientific Reports
New Multidisciplinary Prostate Cancer Clinic Enhances Care / Convenience
In the Pink: 4th Annual Pink Bra Run Raises Spirits/Funds for Breast Cancer Research
Cancer Crusaders Raise $171K for Tulane/LSU Cancer Research Programs

April 2019
Researcher Awarded $1.8 Million NCI Grant to Study New Targets for Rare Pediatric Cancer
Meet Us at the Levee: Pink Bra Run to Benefit Breast Cancer Research!
2019 One Man Shoot Continues the Mission - Making a Difference in Fighting Prostate Cancer

March 2019
Exploring "Dark Matter of Genomes" Could Shed Light on Cancer Risk
Joe W. & Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation Grant Supports Training of Aspiring Female Scientists
Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month Q & A - "Screening Saves Lives"

February 2019
Improving Access to Care Top Priority for New Genitourinary Cancers Expert
Study Finds Genetic Risks Associated With Prostate Cancer are Underestimated
Greenberg Family Endowment Boosts Fight Against Prostate Cancer
8th Annual One Man Shoot: Proving "One Man Can Make a Difference"
Gunning for a Cure Sets New Record, Raising $220K for Prostate Cancer Research
Tulane Medical Students Raise Money for Pediatric Cancer Research

January 2019
New Gynecologic Oncologist Aims to Reduce Cervical Cancer Rates in NOLA
Tulane Study Finds Potential Role for Personality Psychology in Cancer Care
Sixth Annual Gunning for a Cure Benefits Prostate Cancer Research
Student Athletes Provide Much-Needed Financial Assistance to Cancer Patients

December 2018
Improving Early Prostate Cancer Detection: Latest Technology Combines Imaging/Biopsy Tools to Improve Accuracy of Diagnosis
Advanced Cancer Patients Can Live Longer with Palliative Care, Tulane Study Says
Serve and Assist: Student Athletes Raise Funds for Patient Relief

November 2018
Prostate Cancer Patients Target of New $1.6M Tulane Study
Tulane Opens Novocure Trial for Patients with Stage 4 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
The Great American Smokeout ® - Quitting Starts Here!
8th Annual Blue Ribbon Soiree Sets Record, Raising $130K for Prostate Cancer Research
Krewe de Pink Celebrates New Orleans-Style, Donating $35K to Breast Cancer Research!

October 2018
Researcher Examines Role of DNA-Damaging Elements in Aging/Age-Related Diseases
Lynch Syndrome Can Lead to Cancer — Why Physicians Don't Test For It
Fifth NOLA Bluedoo a Record-Setting Success - Raises $193K for Prostate Cancer Research

August 2018
Tulane Cancer Center to Host Free Prostate Cancer Seminar
Fifth Annual NOLA Bluedoo Celebrates Prostate Cancer Survivorship New Orleans-Style
Tulane Doctor Elected to Elite Surgery College

July 2018
Tulane Welcomes Kendra Harris, MD, MSc - New Interim Chair of Radiation Oncology
Nakhle Saba Receives Ladies Leukemia League Grant to Study New Target for ALL
Bryan Subaru & LLS Bring Comfort to Patients Through Subaru Loves to Care Initiative

June 2018
Repurposed Drug Approach May Halt Spread of Cancer Cells
Tulane Head and Neck Experts Lead Call for HPV Vaccines
American Cancer Society Updates Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines

May 2018
Tulane Cancer Center Now Offering Imaging Tool to Detect Recurring Prostate Cancer
Grant Supports Smoking Cessation Education for Outpatient Mental Health Facilities
It's All About the Pink - Third Annual Pink Bra Run Supports Breast Cancer Research
Cancer Crusaders Donate $169,000 to Tulane/LSU Cancer Research Programs

April 2018
Grant Supports Smoking Cessation Program for Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients
Med Student Takes Top Honors at Recent Meeting
State Rep. Julie Stokes to Lead 3rd Annual Pink Bra 5K Fun Run
7th Annual One Man Shoot Raises $130,000 for Prostate Cancer Research
Grant Supports Smoking Cessation Program For Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients

March 2018
Researcher Explores Unique Genetic Mutation Associated with Liver Cancer
Healing Hands Across the Divide: Evolving to Address Cancer Disparities
Gunning for a Cure Raises $192K for Prostate Cancer Research

February 2018
Tulane Oncologist Outlines Prostate Cancer Treatment Advances in New England Journal of Medicine
Pink Games raise money — and hope — for patients fighting cancer

May 25, 2017
Prostate Cancer Immunotherapy Works Better for African-American Men
Cancer Crusaders Present Check for $210K
Free Skin Cancer Screenings Offered at Downtown Dermatology Clinic
National Cancer Survivor's Day
Celebration Planned
Second Annual Pink Bra Run -
Great Fun for a Great Cause

April 25, 2017
"Scarless Thyroid Surgery" on Agenda at Thyroid/Parathyroid & Skin Malignancies Symposia
Free Skin Cancer Screenings Offered at Covington Clinic
Second Annual Pink Bra Run Scheduled for Mother's Day Weekend

April 11, 2017
Tulane Researcher Shows Education Can Ease Fear in Cancer Patients
Thanks A Million!

March 10, 2017
Komen Grant Supports Study of Ductal Carcinoma In Situ
One Man Can Make a Difference: 6th Annual One Man Shoot Takes Aim at Prostate Cancer
2017 Gunning for a Cure Fundraiser Exceeds $500,000 Goal!

February 16, 2017
Leading Study Backs Hormone Therapy With Radiation for Recurrent Prostate Cancer
Victory Bell: Donation Helps Cancer Patients Celebrate Survivorship

February 3, 2017
Genetic Counselors Help Patients Better Understand Inherited Cancer Risk
Perez Family Targets Prostate Cancer Through Sporting Clays Event

January 26, 2017
Tulane Researchers Find Tumor-Suppressing Protein Actually Promotes Cancer
Tickled Pink: Local Student Athletes Assist Breast Cancer Patients