Charlie Rose: Experts talk of cancer breakthroughs and 'tyranny of time'

February 26, 2015 | by Nicole White

Charlie Rose Charlie Rose interviews, from left, City of Hope's Stephen J. Forman, Steven T. Rosen and City of Hope President and CEO Robert W. Stone.

The breakthroughs that have revolutionized cancer treatment, transforming cancer in many cases to a very manageable and even curable disease, started out as just ideas.

“I will often tell patients there’s no therapy we’re using to help them that wasn’t derived from somebody’s idea in some laboratory, working late into the night,” said Stephen J. Forman, M.D., Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope. “There’s a challenge, I think, maintaining a certain level of funding so that all good ideas get a chance to see if they’re going to help someone.”

The commitment to that ingenuity, along with the ability to seamlessly and safely bring those ideas from the laboratory to the patient, are what set City of Hope apart. The challenges in translating medicine into practical benefit, the future of precision medicine, how the field of cancer treatment has evolved and the role of 101-year-old City of Hope were the topics recently on "Charlie Rose," a nationally syndicated show on PBS and Bloomberg television.

City of Hope President and Chief Executive Officer Robert W. Stone, Provost and Chief Scientific Officer Steven T. Rosen, M.D., and Forman sat down with Rose in an interview that aired Feb. 25.

From City of Hope's beginning ...

Stone explained City of Hope's century-long history of addressing disease, beginning with tuberculosis, and how the institution has evolved into a center known for combining science with compassion.

"To really understand us, you need to know where applied science – which is translational bench to bedside research – meets a patient and family experience of treating the individual, the body and the soul," Stone said.

In recent times, monoclonal antibodies, powerful targeted therapies, better methods of radiation and surgery have helped cancer become a much more treatable disease.

Said Rosen: "These are all very exciting, rapidly evolving treatments, and they've had a profound effect in the clinic, either prolonging life or curing the disease – and often with modest toxicity."

One of the most promising forms of cancer therapy currently is immunotherapy, a particular focus of research at City of Hope.

... to the latest in cancer therapy

Forman explained how immunotherapy fits into the current treatment models for cancer. “Immunotherapy is now the fourth partner in the way we treat and cure cancer, along with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy,” he said. “Immune-based therapy uses a person’s own immune system to help in the fight.”

“I think we’re very aware – sometimes painfully aware – of what we can do now, and had we known it then, who would be with us today?” Forman said. “There’s a certain tyranny of time that comes with our work, and that’s why we want to move faster. One of the things we pride ourselves on at City of Hope is trying to take that idea in the lab and move it quickly to the patient. They come to us for that purpose.”

Partnering with pharmaceutical companies and other research institutions, as well as pursuing funding to forward research, is necessary to advance therapies. As exciting as the promise of a new therapy on the horizon is, doctors are always aware of how badly new treatments are needed.

“Because the patient is sitting there, looking at you, in the room that day,” Forman said. “When people talk about personalized medicine, there’s the idea that we want to give you the right therapy, for the right gene, for the right cancer that you might have – but not at the expense of depersonalizing the experience. For all of us who take care of people with cancer, it is a person to person relationship. We’re grateful for the trust they place in us.”

The full interview can be viewed online or below.

** Learn more about T cell immunotherapy at City of Hope.

Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.


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