City of Hope has selected three disease areas as its first strategic integrated programs: prostate, gastrointestinal and women’s cancers.
The strategic integrated programs aim to create a pipeline of programs that achieve national or international prominence, contribute to
City of Hope’s National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center designation and lead to demonstrable results.
“These programs were selected because they show impressive strengths across departments and divisions and demonstrate excellence from research to patient care,” said Robert Figlin, M.D., Arthur and Rosalie Kaplan Professor of Medical Oncology and interim cancer center director. “We believe they hold potential to become truly world-class interdisciplinary programs.”
Besides outstanding basic, clinical and translational science, programs must draw enough patients to conduct a variety of clinical trials, and their goals must align with City of Hope’s strategic plan.
“We’re confident that these programs, at this time, provide the greatest opportunity to propel our mission forward while further elevating our organization’s standing among centers worldwide,” said Michael A. Friedman, M.D., president and chief executive officer.
As strategic integrated programs, the three designated programs will receive dedicated funding. Programs were selected after review by the Cancer Center Leadership Committee and the Executive Team.
Timothy Wilson (Photo by Markie Ramirez)
The prostate program is led by Timothy G. Wilson, M.D., Pauline and Martin Collins Family Chair in Urology. The program seeks to improve outcomes for men with prostate cancer, drawing on clinical, translational and lab research to improve understanding of the disease process and developing new diagnostic and prognostic tools and therapies.
Many prostate-related research projects are under way at City of Hope, including work to illuminate signal transduction pathways involving the protein called signal transducer and activator of transcription 3, or STAT3 for short. Organizers plan to use tumor tissue to identify key targets in these pathways for attack by siRNA therapeutics, working closely with the Synthetic and Biopolymer Chemistry Core.
In addition, organizers point to work under way on engineered antibodies that may light up prostate cancer tissue, better helping surgeons completely remove tumors. The program also counts on outcomes research through the Prostate Cancer Survivorship Clinic, as well as molecular science through work in DNA methylation.
The prostate program sees about 1,500 new patients each year, providing a vast population for a variety of clinical trials.
Julio Garcia-Aguilar (Photo by Walter Urie)
Led by Julio Garcia-Aguilar, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Surgery, the gastrointestinal cancer program strives to improve patient survival and preserve quality of life in patients with these cancers by moving toward a customized treatment approach based on each patient’s cancer.
Researchers plan to study tumor tissue to identify biomarkers that could help predict patient response to therapy. These biomarkers could help physicians determine whether giving patients chemotherapy before surgery would improve their outcome. They also hope to use these biomarkers to develop better therapies.
In addition, researchers plan to work with imaging experts to create better techniques to monitor how well tumors are responding to chemotherapy before surgery. Ultimately, through clinical trials, they hope to answer key questions that will make treatments less invasive, more precise and more effective.
Examples of research projects already under way include a vaccine that targets p53, an antigen associated with tumors, and a compound that targets the nuclear receptor FXR, which already is being evaluated in a phase I clinical trial for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.
Joanne Mortimer (Photo by Walter Urie)
The women’s cancer program, led by Joanne Mortimer, M.D., vice chair and professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, aims to better understand and improve outcomes in breast cancer and gynecologic malignancies. Program research spans from epidemiology to survivorship.
Researchers in the Division of Cancer Etiology are studying risk factors for breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers, as well as predictors of mortality, through several population-based studies. In addition, researchers in the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics investigate inherited cancer risk and interventions that may reduce that risk.
At the same time, scientists in the Developmental Cancer Therapeutics Program are identifying new possible therapies for women’s cancers. Researchers are exploring the potential of agents that target STAT3 and combinations of such agents with Herceptin, a drug that targets human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.
Researchers also aim to understand the challenges experienced by women undergoing treatment for breast and gynecologic cancers, and use their findings to ease treatment-related complications in survivors.
Richard Jove, Ph.D., director of Beckman Research Institute, sees the strategic integrated programs as a way to enhance scientific innovation and collaboration among clinical and laboratory researchers on campus.
Said Jove: “I’m looking forward to seeing more collaborative research efforts that translate our scientific laboratory discoveries more quickly in to the clinic for the benefit of cancer patients.”