January Physician of the Month: Floor Backes

Floor Backes

Floor Backes, MD, believes there’s a creative element to cancer research.

“It can be a bit of an art form,” says Backes, an associate professor in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

“We look for something these patients have in common, some sort of genetic characteristic, and then for a drug, or combination of drugs, that will target that,” Backes says.

This type of out-of-the-box thinking is a regular occurrence at the OSUCCC – James and has helped Backes create new clinical trials that combine different chemotherapies and immunotherapies, and others that treat gynecologic cancer patients with drugs already approved for other cancers.

“We need more cures, more options for our patients to help them live longer and have a better quality of life,” Backes says.

Her dedication to patients and leadership in creating new clinical trials are two of the many reasons Backes is the January OSUCCC – James Physician of the Month.

A long journey to The James

Born and educated in the Netherlands, Backes first came to Columbus to study the connection between inflammation and premature births. While in Ohio, she met her future husband, Carl, currently a neonatologist and pediatric cardiologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

She returned to the Netherlands to complete her medical training, but love soon brought her back to central Ohio.

“I had no idea where Columbus was before I got here,” she says. “You could say Carl was the driving force in my return.”

Partnering with patients

Backes completed a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN) at The Ohio State University that led her to specialize in gynecologic cancer.

“The patients I saw were so brave and inspiring, and I wanted to do the very best I could to help them,” she says.

That dedication drew Backes to gynecologic oncology, which allows doctors to stay with their patients through the continuum of their care.

“We’re their primary oncologists, and we see them through surgery and chemotherapy and for their follow-up care,” she explains. “You have the opportunity to really get to know your patients and their families and develop strong relationships.”

“The progress we’re making is amazing”

Clinical trials have helped Backes and her OSUCCC – James colleagues improve care and treatment options for their patients.

“We just completed a Phase 1 clinical trial in which we tested a new drug combined with an older drug for patients with recurrent endometrial and ovarian cancer,” Backes says. “The next step is to add a third drug to see if we can get even better results.”

Backes is also testing a new treatment combination to correct mismatch repair deficiency—mutations in genes that, when functioning normally, automatically correct mistakes that occur when DNA is copied in dividing cells.

“This clinical trial will combine immunotherapy with radiation, rather than standard chemotherapy alone or radiation alone,” she says. “These types of combinations are totally changing the paradigm. The progress we’re making, especially in the last two years, is amazing, and it's what has me so excited about the future.”