17th Annual Scientific Meeting Showcases Advances in Cancer Research
Peter Shields, MD, looked out across the vast ballroom filled with some of the best and brightest cancer doctors and researchers in the country, and couldn’t contain his enthusiasm for what they’ve accomplished.
“We are having an impact, at the local, state, national and international levels,” said Dr. Shields, deputy director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, to the crowd of more than 550 gathered at the Ohio Union.
The 17th Annual Scientific Meeting hosted by The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) was an opportunity to share successful research efforts, advance promising new ideas and discuss ways to create even more of the collaborations that have led to all this success. Both internal and external speakers presented their research and program updates.
There were updates on leukemia research, tumor suppressors, molecular biology and cancer genetics, as well as many other areas of advanced research. More than 100 posters featuring research efforts happening at the OSUCCC – James were also on display all day, fostering opportunities for researchers to discuss projects and possible points of collaboration.
A few themes ran through the presentations: Collaboration is vital and now a common practice at the OSUCCC – James; and the increased use of gene sequencing has led to great advances in smart drugs that target a patient’s specific type of cancer and result in better outcomes.
“Everything we need to be doing comes from you,” said Michael Caligiuri, MD, director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center and CEO of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
Drs. Caligiuri and Shields talked about how the OSUCCC recently received an “exceptional” ranking from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and a perfect score of 10.
“To receive such a score you have to prove to the NCI that we’re fostering cancer research in ways that wouldn’t happen in a typical university setting and that we’re having an impact,” Dr. Shields said.
Two of the many examples of the impact of the OSUCCC – James are the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN) and the Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative (OCCPI).
ORIEN is a rapidly growing national network of cancer centers created by the OSUCCC – James and the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL. ORIEN’s member institutions collect tissue samples and clinical data from cancer patients to enhance research at the molecular level.
“We’re building a national infrastructure,” Dr. Caligiuri said. “We can sequence any tumors you want sequenced … so it’s imperative for you to get your tumors to ORIEN.”
The OCCPI is a statewide network of about 50 hospitals that test every colorectal cancer patient in Ohio to determine if they have Lynch syndrome, a genetic mutation that causes colorectal, uterine, ovarian or gastric cancer. If the patient tests positive for Lynch syndrome then their relatives are screened and provided genetic counseling and if necessary early screenings.
“It’s a wonderful thing we’ve done for the entire state,” Dr. Caligiuri said of the OCCPI. “And it fits into Vice President Biden’s cancer Moonshot and could be taken nationally.”
The Moonshot effort to eradicate cancer was announced by President Obama in his final State of the Union address in January, and is expected to make an additional $1 billion in federal funds available for research under Biden’s leadership.
“It’s important that we take advantage of this opportunity and go after grants,” Dr. Caligiuri said. “Let us know about your proposals and we’ll help you.”
“Everybody’s cancer is different, and if we apply the same treatment to everyone we’ll have mediocre results,” he said. “Now, the standard of care includes genetic sequencing before the start of treatment.”
This can lead to treatment plans in which chemotherapy isn’t necessary and the cancer “can be treated with immunotherapy,” Dr. Carbone said, adding this will create more “minimally toxic personalized therapies.”
This is the direction in which much of the research at the OSUCCC – James is headed.
“We’re at the cusp of where technology allows us to dissect molecularly different types of cancer,” said Michael Freitas, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology, & Medical Genetics. “Once you can look inside a cancer cell, then you can use the best therapy to treat that patient.”
“The future is smart drugs based on genetic sequencing combined with immunotherapy,” he said. “But you can only do it if you have the expertise and collaboration that we have here at the OSUCCC – James.”
Genetic sequencing has taught researchers a great deal about cancer.
“It turns out cancer is a lot more complicated and that while my specialty, colon cancer, looks like one disease, it’s actually several,” said Richard Goldberg, MD, Interim Division Director of Medical Oncology and Physician-in-Chief.
“But now our understanding is so much more sophisticated … and allows us to be so much smarter and more directed in our treatment, and this has everyone excited. Now, we’re using a laser rather than a sledgehammer.”
Save the date for next year’s Annual Scientific Meeting, set for Friday, April 28, 2017, at the Ohio Union — another great chance to share programmatic research efforts, advance new ideas and experience an environment of collaboration.