Hem-Onc’s Craig Portell Selected as Lymphoma Research Foundation Scholar

Craig Portell, MD, was selected as a Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) scholar in the LRF’s Clinical Research Mentoring Program, for his project, “Multi-institution Phase I/Ib study of ibrutinib with ABT-199 in relapsed/refractory MCL.” This is a competitive program which provides mentorship over the course of two years for a proposed clinical trial.

Dr. Portell was also featured in December on the UVA Health System Blog’s “7 Quick Questions” series, which provides a personal view of UVA physicians. Below is the Q&A.

Craig Portell, MD, UVA Cancer Center

Craig Portell, MD, Division of Hematology-Oncology

1. What did you want to be when you were little? 

Depends on how far back you want to go…. When I was really little I wanted to be a paleontologist. I liked dinosaurs.

In high school, I was very impressed by forensics, mostly due to the OJ Simpson trial. I wanted to be a forensic pathologist. That’s actually why I went into medicine. And yes, I really did watch the OJ Simpson trial.

2. What’s your favorite place to travel?

There are so many! My wife and I did a Mediterranean cruise this summer. Many places were amazing, but the best day was on the island of Capri in Italy. So beautiful.

3. What’s one thing you always have in your fridge?

Half and Half. I must have it with my coffee. I consider my coffee more important than my stethoscope.

4. What’s the most unhealthy thing you eat?

I try to eat as healthy as possible, but I can always have some kettle potato chips…

5. What’s the most exciting thing/research happening in your field right now?

I’m very excited about combinations of novel agents with a goal of getting patients away from conventional chemotherapy. It’s a long way away, and may not happen, but I’m hopeful for a day when we can control incurable cancers with a few pills.

6. Why leukemias and lymphomas?

We’ll start with “why cancer?” I realized that the forensic pathology field was a lot of paperwork. During medical school I also really enjoyed talking with live patients. I decided that cancer treatments was a way to mix the pathology (vital for our field) with patient care. In residency, I did some research in lymphoma and became comfortable with the field. In fellowship, I really connected with a lymphoma doctor at Cleveland Clinic and thus focused on leukemias and lymphomas.

It is very gratifying for me to see tumors melt with treatment. We have been curing some leukemias and lymphomas for many years, but we still have a ways to go. There are a lot of new agents in the field and many more on the horizon. I really enjoy working with diseases where there is a mix of cure, management and comfort.

7. Who’s your inspiration/hero?

My mom and dad fostered me throughout my early education. Their hard work and determination and love for family have lasting impressions on me. I can only hope I can be so successful in every aspect of life!

[Originally published on-line 12/8/14]

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