Katy News

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Melissa Rotholz

Shield Bearer Associate Director Melissa Rotholz was honored as 2017 Woman of the Year by the Women Empowering Women Express Network (WEWEN) of the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA) at the ABWA Houston Area Council Women Celebrating Women Luncheon on June 24, 2017 at the Junior League of Houston.

The mission of ABWA is to bring together businesswomen of diverse occupations and to provide opportunities for them to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally through leadership, education, networking support, and national recognition. The ABWA Woman of the Year Award highlights women that have demonstrated outstanding leadership and mentorship within their local league, the ABWA organization, their professions, and the community. Melissa is a founding member of WEWEN, currently serves as WEWEN Vice President of Communications, and is slated for WEWEN President in 2018.

As Associate Director of Shield Bearer, a local non-profit organization dedicated to hope and healing for victims of crime and abuse, human trafficking survivors, veterans and active military families, struggling marriages, and many other hurting hearts, Melissa oversees community engagement including marketing, public relations, volunteering, and event planning. She has over fifteen years of experience leading teams dedicated to elevating individual and organizational performance in both the public and private sectors. Melissa feels specifically called to empower families with education and resources, and is passionate about speaking out for those that have experienced traumatic events and are unable to afford services and programs. She recently pioneered a Mother Daughter Strong program that focuses on building strength physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, created a Mentor Program for homeless women and community volunteers, and is publishing the first in a series of poetry books centered around positive self-image for children later this year.

Melissa also currently serves as a mentor for sister ABWA league Cy-Fair Express Network, volunteers for the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce, the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce, Good Shepherd Methodist Church, Reach Unlimited, The Mission of Yahweh, and the Cypress Gems Chapter of the National Charity League. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from Texas State University and a Master of Science in Organizational and Human Resource Development from Abilene Christian University. Her most treasured roles are wife of twenty-three years and mom to two teenagers.

For more information about WEWEN or ABWA, visit wewen.org or email communications@wewen.org. For more information about Shield Bearer, visit shieldbearer.org or call (281) 894-7222.

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On Thursday, September 7, 2017 Nottingham Country Garden Club (NCGC) will feature Linda Gay.

Linda will be speaking on the topic Small Ornamental Trees for The Houston Area & is a horticulturist and gardener by trade.   She has been learning and gardening in Houston since 1979 and worked at Mercer for 26 years.

Meet and greet time begins at 9:30 a.m. and the program will start at 10:00 a.m., followed by the NCGC meeting. Please join us at the Municipal Utility Building #81 at 805 Hidden Canyon Drive in Katy 77450. For more information please see our website: www.ncgctx.org.

We welcome all people interested in gardening and gardening-related areas from West Houston and the Katy area. You do not have to live in Nottingham Country to belong to our group!

NCGC is a non-profit organization affiliated with the Houston Federation of Garden Clubs, the Texas Garden Clubs and the National Federation of Garden Clubs. The purpose of the club is to promote beautification in the community, support local and national educational and charitable organizations and educate the community about our environment. Donations from the NCGC are funded by our annual Spring Sale and projects that vary each year.


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On July 10, 2017 Katy Area Retired Educators (KARE) met at Brazos Valley Credit Union to plan for their upcoming Hooky Day. KARE’s theme this year is “Teamwork is Key”.

All retired teachers are invited to attend Hooky Day on August 16, 2017 from 1:00-3:00PM at the Merrell Center, 6301 S. Stadium Lane, Room 1200.

For more information about the Katy Area Retired Educators check out our website at http://www.localunits.org/KARE/ .

Back Row L to R:       Dorsey Reese, Cecille Vierling, Elysce Garrison, Sue Fagan, Valerie Reeves, Marsha Smith, MayDell Jenks Front Row L to R:      Karen Reese, Marcia Dye, Lee Ann Nuckles

Attached is a picture from their meeting.



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Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (HCOSHEM) Public Information Officer Francisco Sanchez has been selected to serve as a member of the FEMA National Advisory Council (NAC) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Subcommittee to represent state and local emergency managers.

“I am honored by the opportunity to serve and look forward to working diligently on an issue I am deeply committed to, improving how public safety can best deliver the right information to the right people at the right time to save lives,” said Sanchez.

The NAC IPAWS Subcommittee will make recommendations to the NAC on matters related to common alerting and warning protocols, standards, terminology, and operating procedures for an integrated public alert and warning system.

The IPAWS subcommittee is comprised of federal officials from FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Commerce and the National Council on Disability, and a broad set of other public safety stakeholders and technology innovators.

Sanchez has vast experience in public emergency alerts having served two terms (2013-2017) on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) where he co-chaired a work group tasked with reviewing Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) security practices and making recommendations on how to best encourage the use of emergency alerts by local and state officials.

Sánchez has been with Harris County since 2004, now heading emergency communications in the nation’s third largest county. Sanchez was lead public information officer during the Houston area’s response to both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. He also led the region’s Joint Information Center operations during Hurricane Ike and the highly active 2008 hurricane season.

Most recently, Sanchez was listed by StateScoop as one of Top 11 Public Safety Tech Leaders to Watch. He has been a featured speaker at SXSW, National Hurricane Conference, National Conference of State Legislatures, Texas Homeland Security Conference, Emergency Management Magazine Road Show, the National All-Hazard Incident Management Team Training & Education Conference, Texas State Firemen’s and Fire Marshal’s Conference, Smart Cities (Toronto) and other forums. In 2013, he was profiled as Emergency Management Magazine’s Major Player. In 2015, the University of Houston named Sanchez its Houston Public Official of the Year and also received the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Residents of Katy’s Cane Island now can pick their own herbs, vine-ripe tomatoes, flavorful peppers and a handful of other fresh produce thanks to a new collection of raised gardens in the community’s Amenity Village.
Hub’s Garden, aptly named after the Cane Island’s popular canine ambassador, features several raised planter boxes adjacent to the Amenity Village conservatory where residents can pick herbs, fruits and vegetables at no cost. The gardens are managed by Cane Island’s landscaping team.
While there is no limit to the amount residents can pick, Cane Island Director of Marketing Lawren Eckhardt says residents are considerate to make sure there’s plenty for everyone.
“Every time I pass by the gardens, there’s a resident stopping by to see what’s ready to be picked,” she says. “It’s become quite a popular spot in the Amenity Village.”
The 2016 GHBA Community of the Year, Cane Island presents new luxury homes from the mid $200s to the millions from CalAtlantic Homes, Coventry Homes, David Weekley Homes, Perry Homes, Shea Homes, Toll Brothers and Trendmaker Homes.
The community also offers the Estates at Cane Island, an exclusive, gated enclave of custom homes by Jeff Paul Custom Homes, Mike Harrison Custom Homes, Westport and William David Custom Homes featuring half-acre homesites and Houston’s first street pantries.
Go to www.CaneIsand.com for directions to the community, builder incentives and homes available for immediate move in. Also, follow Cane Island at www.Facebook.com/CaneIslandKatyTX and on Instagram and Twitter @caneislandkaty.

A Cane Island resident looks over the fresh offerings among the new raised gardens in the community’s Amenity Village



Panoramic view of famous Gendarmenmarkt square with Berlin Concert Hall in twilight during blue hour at dusk, Berlin Mitte district, Germany.

Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada will lead the Houston Symphony on a four-country, eight-city European Tour through some of Europe’s most prestigious concert halls and festivals, March 9–March 19, 2018. World-renowned violinist and three-time Grammy Award-winner Hilary Hahn joins the Houston Symphony for all performances. The high-profile tour, which features concerts in Belgium, Germany, Poland and Austria, is Orozco-Estrada’s first international tour with the orchestra and the Houston Symphony’s first major European tour in more than 20 years.

Central to the tour repertoire will be Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7, a work that was featured in Orozco-Estrada’s critically-acclaimed inaugural recording with the Houston Symphony. The program also celebrates the 100th birthday of legendary conductor, composer and musical ambassador Leonard Bernstein, including Bernstein’s Serenade for Violin (featuring Hilary Hahn); Overture to West Side Story; and Three Dance Episodes from On the Town. Rounding out the tour repertoire will be Dvořák’s The Noon Witch.

The tour opens at the distinguished Klarafestival at BOZAR in Brussels, Belgium (March 9), followed by two performances in Germany, one at Philharmonie Essen  (March 11) and one at Konzerthaus Berlin (March 12). The orchestra then travels to Warsaw, Poland, to perform at the Filharmonia Narodowa (March 14) before heading to Vienna, Austria (March 15) to perform at the Wiener Konzerthaus. The orchestra returns to Germany for the last leg of the tour to perform at Elbphilharmonie Hamburg (March 17), the Hannover Congress Centrum (March 18), and Gasteig München (March 19).

As a cultural ambassador for the city and the region, the Houston Symphony has toured extensively, from regional tours to military bases in Texas and Louisiana, to international appearances in Singapore, Moscow and Japan in addition to various parts of Europe. The 2018 European Tour marks the first major international touring activity since the 1990s under the artistic leadership of Music Director Christoph Eschenbach, whose last tour with the orchestra was the European Festival Tour in 2000, with appearances in Germany and Switzerland.

Since becoming music director in 2014, Orozco-Estrada, who holds the Roy and Lillie Cullen Chair, has quickly forged a strong artistic bond with the musicians of the Houston Symphony. This 2018 tour marks the next step in a dynamic artistic partnership that has included a series of critically-acclaimed recordings of the last four Dvořák symphonies under the Dutch recording label PENTATONE. Orozco-Estrada and the Houston Symphony will soon release a Music of the Americas disc, featuring Gershwin’s An American in Paris, Revueltas’ Sensemayá, Piazzolla’s Tangazo and Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Additional recording projects with PENTATONE include Haydn’s The Creation.

“It is very special for me to take the orchestra to some of the most distinguished halls in the world with major works that are essential to the classical repertoire, such as Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7, which we recently recorded and released to international audiences,” said Orozco-Estrada. “Touring is an important part of our artistic growth that helps us connect with audiences in other parts of the world and represent our city of Houston well.”

“This is an opportunity for us to showcase not only our musicians and Andrés, but to reinforce to European audiences that Houston is the Cultural Capital of the South,” said Mark C. Hanson, Executive Director and CEO, Margaret Alkek Williams Chair. “We’re confident that both audiences in Europe and in Houston following the tour will be moved and inspired by the performances of the Houston Symphony.”

The European Tour is made possible through the generosity of 34 generous individuals, foundations and corporations, including the following leadership donors: Rochelle & Max Levit, Barbara J. Burger, Janet F. Clark, Barbara & Pat McCelvey, The Brown Foundation, Inc., Drs. Dennis & Susan Carlyle, Mr. John N. Neighbors, Bobby & Phoebe Tudor, John & Lindy Rydman/Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods/Spec’s Charitable Foundation, Ron Franklin & Janet Gurwitch, The Joan & Marvin Kaplan Foundation, Carol & Michael Linn & The Michael C. Linn Family Foundation, Beth Madison, Nancy & Robert Peiser, Dave & Alie Pruner, Mr. Jay Steinfeld & Mrs. Barbara Winthrop, Judith Vincent, Viviana & David Denechaud, Cora Sue & Harry Mach, Brad & Joan Corson, and Steve & Joella Mach.

Houstonians can get a sneak peek of the tour when repertoire is featured Feb. 15, 17 and 18 and Feb. 23-25 at Jones Hall. Single tickets for these preview performances go on sale to public on August 27, 2017. For more information, visit houstonsymphony.org.


Six Memorial Hermann Hospitals, including Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Texas Medical CenterMemorial Hermann Katy HospitalMemorial Hermann Northeast Hospital, Memorial Hermann Southeast HospitalMemorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital and Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital, were recently honored with Mission: Lifeline Awards by the American Heart Association (AHA) for the treatment of patients who suffer severe heart attacks.

“Memorial Hermann is dedicated to improving the quality of care for our patients who suffer a heart attack, and the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline program is helping us accomplish that goal through nationally-respected clinical guidelines,” said Amy Harberg, vice president of Heart & Vascular Services at Memorial Hermann. “We are honored to be recognized for our dedication and achievements in cardiac care.  Our team of expert physicians and staff are among the very best in the country and deserve this recognition.”

“We’d also be remiss if we didn’t thank our local EMS providers who recognize the signs of heart attack and begin care in in the field,” added Harberg.

Every year, more than 250,000 people experience an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the deadliest type of heart attack caused by a blockage of blood flow to the heart that requires timely treatment. To prevent death, it’s critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible, either by mechanically opening the blocked vessel or by providing clot-busting medication.

The Mission: Lifeline program’s goal is to reduce system barriers to prompt treatment for heart attacks, beginning with the 9-1-1 call and continuing through hospital treatment.  As part of the program, AHA recognizes hospital achievements with a series of awards at various levels.  Memorial Hermann’s 2017 awards include:

Mission: Lifeline® Gold Receiving Quality Achievement Award

Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Texas Medical Center (HVI)

Mission: Lifeline STEMI Silver Receiving Plus Quality Achievement Award

Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital

Mission: Lifeline STEMI Silver Receiving Quality Achievement Award

Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital

Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital

Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital

Mission: Lifeline NSTEMI Bronze Quality Achievement Award

Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Texas Medical Center (HVI)

Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital

“We commend Memorial Hermann for its achievement awards, which reflect a significant institutional commitment to the highest quality of care for their heart attack patients,” said James G. Jollis, MD, Chair of the Mission: Lifeline Advisory Working Group. “Achieving these awards means the hospitals have met specific reporting and achievement measures for the treatment of their patients who suffer heart attacks and we applaud them for their commitment to quality and timely care.”



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Four Katy ISD students recently traveled to Carnegie Hall in New York City to be honored with the Gold Key Metals from the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.  Akhil Thadani from Seven Lakes High School, Connie Lau, Asma Mashal and Fatemeh Ebrahimi from Taylor High School were among 25 of the best artists and writers who were recognized.

More than 330,000 entries were submitted and in total, 59 National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards were received by students from Katy ISD and other neighboring school districts as well as private schools in Harris County.

“It’s amazing what happens when you mix extraordinary talent with th

e resources, leadership and support our district offers,” stated Lisa Matschek, art teacher for Seven Lakes High School. “To share in the experience of recognizing students at a national level, in the top one percent, was really special.  Katy ISD was well represented with five gold national winners in New York City.”

“It truly was a life changing experience for our students,” adds Ashley Niemi, art teacher for Taylor High School. “At the ceremony the key note speaker talked about how his scholastic award was the kick start to him believing he could live a creative life!  It was truly an inspirational recognition for us all!”

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards recognizes the vision, ingenuity and talent of students and provides opportunities for creative teens to be celebrated.  Harris County Department of Education serves as the regional sponsor of this prestigious national program and hosts yearly judging and awards ceremonies for thousands of writing and art entries.  For more information visit www.hcde-texas.org/scholastic .



Fort Bend County Libraries’ Cinco Ranch Branch Library will present a program on “Personal Finance Education” on Saturday, August 5, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., in the Multi-purpose Room of the library, located at 2620 Commercial Center Blvd in Katy.

Kimmy Le, Executive Vice Chairman of the Houston office of World Financial Group/Transamerica, will talk about ways to increase cash flow and savings. She will also discuss debt management. Get tips on ways to pay off debt slowly but surely the right way.

The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call the Cinco Ranch Branch Library at 281-395-1311 or the library system’s Public Information Office at 281-633-4734.



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HOUSTON – Immune cells with a general knack for recognizing and killing many types of infected or abnormal cells also can be engineered to hunt down cells with specific targets on them to treat cancer, researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center report in the journal Leukemia.

The team’s preclinical research shows that natural killer cells derived from donated umbilical cords can be modified to seek and destroy some types of leukemia and lymphoma. Genetic engineering also boosts their persistence and embeds a suicide gene that allows the modified cells to be shut down if they cause a severe inflammatory response.

A first-in-human phase I/II clinical trial of these cord-blood-derived, chimeric antigen receptor-equipped natural killer cells opened at MD Anderson in June for patients with relapsed or resistant chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), or non-Hodgkin lymphoma. All are cancers of the B cells, another white blood cell involved in immune response.

“Natural killer cells are the immune system’s most potent killers, but they are short-lived and cancers manage to evade a patient’s own NK cells to progress,” said Katy Rezvani, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy.

“Our cord-blood derived NK cells, genetically equipped with a receptor that focuses them on B-cell malignancies and with interleukin-15 to help them persist longer — potentially for months instead of two or three  weeks — are designed to address these challenges,” Rezvani said.

Moon Shots Program funds project

The clinical trial is funded by MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program™, designed to more rapidly develop life-saving advances based on scientific discoveries.

The chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), so-called because it’s added to the cells, targets CD19, a surface protein found on B cells.

In cell lines and mouse models of lymphoma and CLL, CD19-targeted NK cells killed cancer cells and extended survival of animals compared to simply giving NK cells alone. Addition of IL-15 to the CD19 receptor was crucial for the longer persistence and enhanced activity of the NK cells against tumor cells.

NK cells are a different breed of killer from their more famous immune system cousins, the T cells.  Both are white blood cells, but T cells are highly specialized hunters that look for invaders or abnormal cells that bear a specific antigen target, kill them and then remember the antigen target forever.

Natural killers have an array of inhibitory and activating receptors that work together to allow them to detect a wider variety of infected, stressed or abnormal cells.

Using a viral vector, the researchers transduce NK cells taken from cord blood with the CD19 CAR, the IL-15 gene, and an inducible caspase-9-based suicide gene.“By adding the CD19 CAR, we’re also turning them into guided missiles,” said Elizabeth Shpall, M.D., professor of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cell Therapy.

Cell line tests found the engineered NK cells to be more efficient killers of lymphoma and CLL cells, compared to unmodified NK cells, indicating the engineered cells’ killing was not related to non-specific natural killer cell cytotoxicity.

Another experiment showed the engineered cord blood NK cells killed CLL cells much more efficiently than NK cells taken from CLL patients and engineered, highlighting the need to transplant CAR-engineered NK cells from healthy cord blood rather than use a patient’s own cells.

Suicide gene to counter cytokine release syndrome

Mouse model lymphoma experiments using a single infusion of low dose NK cells resulted in prolongation of survival. At a higher, double dose, none of the mice treated with the CD19/IL-15 NK cells died of lymphoma, with half surviving for 100 days and beyond. All mice treated with other types of NK cells died by day 41.

A proportion of mice treated with the higher dose of engineered NK cells died of cytokine release syndrome, a severe inflammatory response that also occurs in people treated with CAR T cells.

To counteract this toxicity, the researchers incorporated a suicide gene (iC9) that can be activated to kill the NK cells by treatment with a small-molecule dimerizer. This combination worked to swiftly reduce the engineered NK cells in the mouse model.

Subsequent safety experiments were conducted in preparation for the clinical trial. Rezvani, the principal investigator of the clinical trial, says the protocol calls for vigilance for signs of cytokine release syndrome, treatment with steroids and tocilizumab for low-grade CRS with AP1903 added to activate the suicide gene for grade 3 or 4 CRS.

NK CARs available off the shelf

T cells modified with chimeric antigen receptors against CD19 have shown efficacy in clinical trials. In these therapies, a patient’s own T cells are modified, expanded, and given back to the patient, a process that takes weeks.  Finding a matched donor for T cells would be a challenge, but would be necessary because unmatched T cells could attack the recipient’s normal tissue – graft vs. host disease.

Rezvani and Shpall have given patients cord-blood derived NK cells in a variety of clinical trials and found that they do not cause graft vs. host disease, therefore don’t have to be matched.  NK cells can be an off-the-shelf product, prepared in advance with the necessary receptor and given promptly to patients.

“CAR NK cells are scalable in a way that CAR T cells are not,” Rezvani noted.

A strength of T cells is the development of memory cells that persist and repeatedly attack cells bearing the specific antigen that return.  NK cells do not seem to have a memory function, but Rezvani says the experience of the longer-lived mice, which are now more than a year old, raises the possibility that a prolonged NK cell attack will suffice.

Shpall, Rezvani and colleagues are developing cord blood NK CARs for other targets in a variety of blood cancers and solid tumors.

MD Anderson and the researchers have intellectual property related to the engineered NK cells, which is being managed in accordance with the institution’s conflict-of-interest rules.

Shpall founded and directs MD Anderson’s Cord Blood Bank, originally established to provide umbilical cord blood stem cells for patients who need them but cannot get a precise donor match.  Donated by mothers who deliver babies at seven Houston hospitals and two others from California and Michigan, the bank now has 26,000 cords stored. MD Anderson researchers pioneered the extraction and expansion of NK cells from umbilical cords.

Shpall is also co-leader of the Moon Shots Adoptive Cell Therapy Platform™, along with Cassian Yee, M.D., professor of Melanoma Medical Oncology, which develops cell-based cancer immunotherapies.

Co-authors with Rezvani and Shpall are first author Enli Liu, Yijiu Tong, Hila Shaim, Xinhai Wan, Pinaki Banerjee, Rong Cai, Mustafa H Bdaiwi, Rafet Basar, Muharrem Muftuoglu, Li Li, David Marin, Richard Champlin, all of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy; Xinyan Lu and Alexandra Reynolds of the Department of Hematopathology; Mihai Gagea of the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery; William Wierda and Michael Keating of the Department of Leukemia: Gianpietro Dotti, Barbara Savoldo of the University of North Carolina; Malini Mukherjee and Jordan Orange of Baylor College of Medicine

Funding for this research was provided by MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program, the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health Cancer Center Support Grant (CA016672) to MD Anderson and grants from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the American Cancer Society.