Looking Ahead: A Conversation with Steven T. Rosen, M.D., Provost and Chief Scientific Officer

May 30, 2018 | by Michael Easterling

Steven Rosen Steven T. Rosen, M.D.
Steven T. Rosen, M.D., just marked his fourth year at City of Hope as provost and chief scientific officer. Prior to joining City of Hope in 2014, he was the second longest-serving director of a cancer center in the United States, boasting a 25-year tenure at Northwestern University’s Robert H. Lurie Cancer Center.

When he decided to leave the Windy City, he headed west. He regarded City of Hope as “one of the great treasures in American medicine,” a sentiment he said he still feels today.
On the occasion of the anniversary of his first four years at City of Hope and the recent five-year renewal of a National Cancer Institute grant — which earned the highest rating ever for the comprehensive cancer center — we sat down with the Irell & Manella Cancer Center Director’s Distinguished Chair to reflect on his time at City of Hope and the evolution of cancer treatment over the past several years.
What do you remember about your first few days at City of Hope?
Steven Rosen: When I first arrived, I immediately appreciated the incredible foundation that had been developed, to see that firsthand, and to take in the remarkable history of the institution in cancer and diabetes clinical care. I was amazed at the strengths of the stem cell transplant program, and the advances being made in (chimeric antigen receptor) CAR T therapy, led by my dear friend and City of Hope legend Dr. Stephen Forman.  I was also impressed with the talent of the robotic surgeries taking place.
Of course, I was also acutely aware of the pioneering, visionary and clinically relevant contributions that Art Riggs has made at City of Hope, and to patients around the globe.
I found it very appealing in those first days and months – and I still feel this way – that the people who work here wear the mission of City of Hope on their sleeves; they’re committed and it’s real. The empathy and consideration for what is best for the patient and the family is apparent from the moment you enter the campus.
What were your initial goals coming in as City of Hope’s first provost and chief scientific officer?
SR: I saw the opportunity to build on the strengths City of Hope already had – and still has. And through the resources made available to me by (President and CEO) Robert Stone and our board of directors, we have been able to recruit some of the best minds in science and medicine from all over the world.
What are some of the most important discoveries and advances in research you’ve seen since you came to City of Hope?
SR: In the last four years at City of Hope, I would say I have been very impressed by the commitment of the faculty to clinical trials and being part of the development of new treatments as a result. Our CAR T therapy and other programs involving immunotherapeutics are flourishing. The stem cell transplant programs remain at the forefront of cancer care. Our novel approach to radiation therapy and the applications I’ve seen in robotics make us the industry leader above all others.
I’m equally impressed by our progress and evolution in the field of molecular pathology, and I’m certain that our affiliation with TGen will only enhance our ability to conduct precision medicine, leading to more and more personalized care for individuals.
You were instrumental in establishing the alliance with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, correct?
SR: I was. It all began with a chance meeting. I was in Phoenix and had an afternoon free, so I arranged to visit TGen. I thought it was a commercial operation. It wasn’t until I got there that I realized they were a nonprofit. I met with (President) Jeff Trent and the synergies between our two institutions quickly became clear.
City of Hope provides the finest care for patients and families at every level, and at the same time makes discoveries that benefit all of humanity.
What would you say is the biggest change you’ve seen in the last four years at City of Hope?
SR: Growth. Growth in investigational and clinical trials. Growth in staff through recruiting that has brought remarkable people here and fortified our infrastructure as a comprehensive cancer center.
The number of treatment infusions performed at City of Hope has grown by 99 percent in the last four years. Why do you think that is?
SR: I would attribute that to the growth of the faculty we’ve recruited and the fact that everyone wants to come to City of Hope for their treatment. People are seeking us out more and more because we have an unparalleled reputation for care and outcomes.
Would you say the same is true in the growth of our number of patents and licenses?
SR: Yes. I won’t take credit for that, but City of Hope did put into place not long after I got here a process called the Strategic Portfolio Optimization Committee, or SPOC, which has given support to investigators on licensing and commercialization. Formalizing the process that way has made a substantial difference.
What would say you differentiates City of Hope from the other 48 comprehensive cancer centers in the country? How does it stand out?
SR: I always say that City of Hope provides the finest care for patients and families at every level, and at the same time makes discoveries that benefit all of humanity. The fact that we can develop therapies right here and speed them to patients without having to go through a pharmaceutical company is quite unique and remarkable. And there’s also a fantastic collaborative spirit here that makes us special. People like working together and they are genuinely proud of each other.
City of Hope just received another National Cancer Institute renewal as a comprehensive cancer center. What do you predict the cancer center will look like at the next renewal review in 2022?
SR: We’ll have seen continued advances in our precision therapy and CAR T therapy programs. We’ll have a clinical trials network with our satellites so that the latest care can be delivered throughout the region. We’ll have expanded our cancer outreach through our Department of Internal Medicine. We’ll have advanced our relationship with our catchment area, and have an even stronger framework to ensure that no patient is abandoned. Our continued commitment to health equity will remain essential.
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