May 20, 2022: 

Joseph Maakaron, MD of the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota, and Kalyan Vara Ganesh Nadiminti, MBBS of the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center have been appointed as co-chairs of the Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant Clinical Trial Working Group.

Dr. Maakaron, a hematologist oncologist, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Transplantation at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Maakaron completed medical school at the American University of Beirut (AUB), and he is no stranger to the Big Ten institutions as he completed his residency at Indiana University, fellowship at The Ohio State University, and now holds a faculty position in the department of Hematology, Oncology, and Transplantation at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Maakaron specializes in treating and studying leukemias and lymphomas using novel therapies in the context of clinical trials. He focuses particularly on cellular therapies such as bone marrow transplantation and modified lymphocytes (CAR-T and CAR-NK). His research focuses on making these products safer to administer and more widely available.

Dr. Maakaron’s research focuses on utilizing biomarkers to predict outcomes of novel cellular therapies. In the short term, using biomarkers will allow for better patient care and safer delivery of the novel treatments. Eventually, it will allow investigators to determine who benefits, and how to care for patients who are unlikely to benefit.

Dr. Nadiminti attended medical school at Andhra Medical College and completed his internal medicine residency at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, Illinois. Dr. Nadiminti attended the University of Iowa for his fellowship in hematology and medical oncology and completed his transplant training at Mayo Clinic.

Currently, Dr. Nadiminti holds a faculty position as an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin in the division of hematology, medical oncology, and palliative care within the department of medicine. Dr. Nadiminti is a member of the American College of Physicians and serves as an ad hoc reviewer for peer-reviewed journals such as Bone Marrow Transplant and Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation.

Dr. Nadiminti’s clinical interests focus on acute leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, myeloproliferative neoplasms, and stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy. His research interests focus on advancing novel therapeutic options for myeloproliferative neoplasms and MDS/MPN overlap neoplasms and improving outcomes of allogeneic stem cell transplantation.

Drs. Maakaron and Nadiminti both credit curiosity and discovery for their initial interest in medicine. 

“There is an infinite amount of information that can be discovered, different progressions, scientific mysteries, and puzzles to be solved to make a positive impact in someone’s life,” says Dr. Maakaron.

During his training, Dr. Maakaron’s rotations with cancer patients stood out. He found the heroism and courage displayed by these patients inspiring.

“We treat patients who have this immeasurable amount of bad luck. There is some scientific evidence for risk factors of cancer, but for the most part, they just woke up one day and end up dealing with this life-threatening diagnosis.”

Dr. Maakaron was immediately enticed with the bone marrow transplant procedure. He was fascinated with this sophisticated procedure and the changes it brings about into a person. Dr. Maakaron mentions patients even start to share this fascination when they learn their blood type changes.

Dr. Maakaron found CAR-T-cell therapy even more remarkable because this treatment includes engineering immune cells. These cells are taken out, engineered, and then put back in the body. 

“Five to ten years ago, I would have said that sounds like science-fiction,” said Dr. Maakaron.

Dr. Nadiminti became interested in bone marrow transplant after a rotation at the National Institute of Health (NIH), where he was assigned to a bone marrow transplant clinical trial unit.

“It was a phenomenal experience and solidified my goal to pursue hematology and transplantation right in my residency,” said Dr. Nadiminti.

Dr. Nadiminti shared a big motivation for pursuing medicine was the opportunity to make a real difference in a patient’s life. Witnessing patients achieve long-term remission from a very tough diagnosis inspires him to continue his work in this field.

Drs. Nadiminti and Maakaron are looking forward to collaborating with other investigators to collectively advance the field of bone marrow/stem cell transplant. 

The Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant Clinical Trial Working Group host meetings where members participate in open discussion about clinical trials, databases, biomarkers, artificial intelligence, or any topic in relation. The BMT clinical trial working group is open to look at data from multiple angles and is welcoming those with concepts to present at meetings.

Drs. Nadiminti and Maakaron also invite junior faculty to join the group. Members are encouraged to present research concepts among this group of supportive peers and mentors, as they have access to the institutional resources at Big Ten universities to get their ideas off the ground. For junior faculty, it can be disheartening when projects are not accepted through national groups such as the CIBMTR, and the Big Ten CRC can be just as great a resource for collaboration and mentorship.

The vision of the Big Ten CRC is deeper than publishing a paper, receiving a promotion, or presenting at a conference. There is a mission that unites Big Ten investigators across the consortium: A mission that inspires collaboration, mentorship, and improving the lives of all patients with cancer.

The Big Ten CRC is grateful to all investigators who participate in our clinical trial working groups. Get to know more of our members at www.bigtencrc.org.

About the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium: The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium was created in 2013 to transform the conduct of cancer research through collaborative, hypothesis-driven, highly translational oncology trials that leverage the scientific and clinical expertise of Big Ten universities. The goal of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium is to create a unique team-research culture to drive science rapidly from ideas to new approaches to cancer treatment. Within this innovative environment, today’s research leaders collaborate with and mentor the research leaders of tomorrow with the unified goal of improving the lives of all patients with cancer.

About the Big Ten Conference: The Big Ten Conference is an association of world-class universities whose member institutions share a common mission of research, graduate, professional and undergraduate teaching and public service. Founded in 1896, the Big Ten has sustained a comprehensive set of shared practices and policies that enforce the priority of academics in the lives of students competing in intercollegiate athletics and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness and competitiveness. The broad-based programs of the 14 Big Ten institutions will provide over $200 million in direct financial support to more than 9,800 students for more than 11,000 participation opportunities on 350 teams in 42 different sports. The Big Ten sponsors 28 official conference sports, 14 for men and 14 for women, including the addition of men’s ice hockey and men’s and women’s lacrosse since 2013. For more information, visit www.bigten.org