Leadership

Donald M Miller, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Miller is the Director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.  Under his leadership since 1999, the James Graham Brown Cancer Center has experienced a period of remarkable growth in both its clinical and research programs. Strong multidisciplinary clinical programs have been developed, providing a team-focused approach to cancer care for the citizens of Kentucky.  Dr. Miller’s strategic plan has placed heavy emphasis on investigational areas that will lead to new approaches to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. This emphasis on translation is paying off. Cancer Center scientists have several novel cancer treatments in early phase cancer trials with more than a dozen others in preclinical stages as well as several new technologies to detect early stage cancers and prevent cancer-related fatalities. Remarkably, cancer research grants have grown from less than $1 million in 1999 to more than $40 million in 2014.

Under Dr. Miller's leadership, the growth of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center has been made possible with the development of the Kentucky Research Challenge Trust Fund, commonly known as “Bucks for Brains”, and support by the James Graham Brown Foundation, the Humana Foundation and the Kentucky Lung Cancer Research Fund.  This has resulted in nationally recognized research programs that are having a direct impact on cancer patients in Kentucky.

Dr. Miller’s laboratory group was the first to describe modulation of transcription of several cancer related genes by DNA binding drugs and, subsequently, by triple helical DNA.  For the past fifteen years his group has focused on quadruplex-forming oligonucleotides as aptamer therapy for a variety of tumors.  One of the aptamers discovered in Dr. Miller’s laboratory, AS1411, has undergone clinical trial testing and several patients are alive today as a result of their participation. Dr. Miller has also been interested in cancer cell metabolism and he and his collaborators have just completed the first in human study of lung cancer metabolomics.  His clinical focus is on curing high-risk melanoma patients before they develop distant metastases using a combination of the cytotoxic chemotherapy, dacarbazine, and the immunotherapy, interleukin 2. Importantly, Dr. Miller has been continuously funded for the last twelve years by a Molecular Targets Center of Biomedical Research Excellence grant that has exceeded $30M to train new cancer researchers at the University of Louisville.

Dr. Miller's leadership and administrative skills are exemplified by his selection as Chair of the NIH Hematology II Study Section, Chair of the VA Oncology Merit Review Study Section, President of the Southern Society of Clinical Oncology and a Member of the IOM Committee to advise the DOD on the investment of breast cancer research funding.

Jason Chesney, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Chesney has served as the Deputy Director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center since early 2012.  He works closely with the Director, Donald Miller, M.D., Ph.D., to lead the clinical and research operations of the Cancer Center including the coordination of the multidisciplinary cancer clinics, cancer trials and scientific programs.  In addition to serving as Deputy Director, he is Director of the Clinical Research Program and Biorepository, Chairperson of the Data and Safety Monitoring Committee and Co-Leader of the Molecular Targets Program.

Dr. Chesney was a Principal Investigator on several cancer trials that resulted in the FDA approval of ipilimumab, the first drug to show an improvement in the overall survival of metastatic melanoma patients.  The positive results of these studies led to new cancer trials that are available at the Cancer Center testing combinations of ipilimumab with other immunotherapies. In 2014, Dr. Chesney’s clinical research team and a second team from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center were the top two clinical groups worldwide to find that the combination of ipilimumab with another immune checkpoint inhibitor, nivolumab, was the most effective immunotherapy regimen ever developed for cancer patients. Dr. Chesney was recently designated as a U.S. News and World Report Top Doctor for Solid Tumors and Cancer Trials.

Dr. Chesney is funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Congressionally-Directed Medical Research Program and the National Center for Research Resources to develop novel experimental therapeutics for the treatment of cancer.   He is an inventor on nine U.S. patents for new cancer therapies and his laboratory research has resulted in two phase 1 cancer trials of novel cancer drugs that are currently available to advanced cancer patients, including PFK-158 (clinicaltrials.gov #NCT02044861) and Anti-Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor Antibody (#NCT01765790).  His group is currently testing the ability of PFK-158 to overcome the intrinsic and acquired resistance of cancer cells to multiple targeted, immunotherapeutic and radiation therapies including BRAF inhibitors for melanoma patients (vemurafenib), EGFR inhibitors for lung cancer patients (erlotinib), anti-estrogen agents for breast cancer patients (fulvestrant) and anti-CTLA4 antibodies for all types of cancer (ipilimumab).

Since 2010, Dr. Chesney has been a Reviewer on the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Specialized Programs in Research Excellence (SPORE) Study Section and recently has served as a Discussion Leader and Co-Chair.   He also is a Standing Member on the NCI’s Tumor Cell Biology Study Section and thus functions to not only review large SPORE Clinical and Translational Program Project grants but also basic laboratory science R21 and R01 grants focused on cancer.  In 2015, he was selected to serve as an On-Site Reviewer of P30 NCI-Designated Cancer Centers throughout the United States.

Karen Carter, RN, MBA

Karen Carter is the Associate Director of the Clinical Research Program and Executive Director of BCC (Operations) at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, where she is responsible for our biorepository, research nurses, coordinators, regulatory, and financial staff.  She is charged with supervising a staff of 25 and managing the conduct of over 100 cancer trials involving 750 cancer patients, all cancer-related biospecimen collections, the Clinical & Scientific Review Committee, and the Data & Safety Monitoring Committee.  Additionally, Karen represents this program's interests with the BCC Cancer Committee, with external pharmaceutical sponsors, with the partnering KYOne clinical operations at the BCC facility, and with CHI's national research organization "CIRI."

Karen has over 20 years' experience in a corporate legal department at a local manufacturing company, with experience in staff management, project and change management, and quality initiatives.  She has been an R.N. since 2006, working at Baptist East Hospital and at the Brown Cancer Center as an oncology nurse and as a research nurse.  In the BCC Cancer Trials Program, Karen has managed complex oncology cancer trials, and previously served as Manager of Clinical Operations.  Her educational background includes an MBA with a concentration in health sector management (from UofL).  She is well versed in the complex and evolving regulations governing clinical research.   Building on her corporate and educational background, Karen works to embed within the clinical research program an operational framework including continuous improvement, process analysis and change, and the ethical and respectful conduct of cancer trials with cancer patients.

Connie Sorrell

Connie Sorrell is the Associate Director for Community Outreach and Education.  During her 25 year tenure, she has collaborated with the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morehouse University, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, University of Illinois at Chicago, Moffitt Cancer Center, Dartmouth University, and others to develop innovative cancer prevention and control programs for Kentucky.  Today under her leadership, the James Graham Brown Cancer Center is recognized as a leader in cancer screening and early detection, cancer health disparities, and professional education.  Most recently, she and her colleagues at the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky were awarded an $8 million research grant for professional education to improve lung cancer care in the Commonwealth.

Connie also directs the Kentucky Cancer Program, the state mandated cancer control program, which is jointly administered by the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, University of Louisville and the Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky.  She represents the Cancer Center on governor appointed boards including the Kentucky Breast Cancer Advisory Committee, the Kentucky Colon Cancer Advisory Committee, and the Kentucky Breast Cancer Research and Education Trust Fund Board.  Connie has forged partnerships with Kentucky First Ladies for over two decades for signature initiatives like the Governor’s Task Force on Breast Cancer and Horses and Hope, and recently announced an exciting endeavor in 2015 with Jane Beshear for a new cancer screening van for the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.  Connie earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Connie also helps guide community programs by serving on the Louisville Metro Board of Health, boards of non-profit groups like the Kentucky Colon Cancer Prevention Project and the Kentucky Prostate Cancer Coalition and served on the founding boards of Gilda’s Club of Louisville and the Louisville Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.