September 7, 2015 | by Robin Heffler
Using a special microscope that emits visible light to detect small objects, Karen Aboody, M.D., professor of neurosciences and co-leader of City of Hope’s Developmental Cancer Therapeutics Program, was able to see stem cells migrate through the brain to tumors. That ability led to several strategies for delivering drugs to destroy brain tumors – strategies that are now being tested in clinical trials.
Similarly, Markus Kalkum, Ph.D., professor of immunology at City of Hope, conducted research using mass spectrometry, a highly sophisticated machine for the analysis of biomolecules, to help identify crucial components of an infectious agent. That agent is now being used to develop a new vaccine seeking to reduce the incidence of opportunistic infections in patients with compromised immune systems.
Both researchers were able to take advantage of what's known as City of Hope’s shared resources ─ specialized equipment, services and expert consultation that are shared among researchers from a variety of specialties. Such resources are key to speeding up the discovery process, encouraging collaboration among researchers and exploring technologies.
The breadth and depth of these resources at City of Hope have long been a point of distinction for the institution. Now the impact of those resources is about to grow, for the greater good of science.
Advancing science through sharing
By teaming up with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), City of Hope will systematically share resources with other comprehensive cancer centers, and potentially with researchers outside the network. The Duarte campus is one of 26 cancer centers in the United States that are participating in the NCCN’s new Shared Resources Database, which includes complex technologies, instrumentation facilities, human-tissue specimens, animal models and specialized databases.
“The idea is to have everyone say what they have available and put it on the NCCN website,” said John Termini, Ph.D., City of Hope’s scientific director of shared resources, professor of molecular medicine, and adjunct professor of diabetes and metabolic diseases research. “Then researchers can go to the directory and look up particular things they need. So it’s a great way for our investigators to access facilities and services not immediately available to them, as well as a way to increase dialogue and collaboration efforts for discovery.”
With technology moving forward very quickly, and research becoming much more interdisciplinary, Termini said, “We have to be able to provide expertise that’s not available in individual labs. Shared resources are so important to accelerating interdisciplinary cancer research and developing new therapeutic strategies.”
'From discovery to clinical trials ...'
Shared resources at City of Hope itself are plentiful. “We have 26 core shared services, a lot of resources for our relatively small size,” Termini said. “We also are special in that the resources have to meet both clinical and research needs.”
He said resources in high demand include genomic DNA sequencing to examine cancer genes or to look at recently discovered regulatory elements of cancer called microRNAs. Also popular is analytic cytometry, which measures various physical and chemical properties of cells, and allows investigators to sort cells, look at different characteristics and separate the diseased from the normal.
A new addition to the cores, and a vital resource for creating timely new therapies, is City of Hope’s Chemical GMP Synthesis Facility, which meets or exceeds all U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements for the large-scale manufacture of drugs for preclinical testing and the first two phases of clinical testing. Termini said City of Hope is unique in the world in possessing the capability for manufacturing both biologics and small- molecule drugs of sufficient quality for human trials.
“With this facility, we have everything needed to take research from the discovery phase to clinical trials and finally translation into diagnostic tools and cures,” he concluded.
Now, more researchers will benefit from City of Hope's resources. It's all about sharing.
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). You may also request a new patient appointment online. 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.