State of the Cancer Program Part 1: Research

Michael Caligiuri

“We are creating an enormous impact and it can’t come too soon,” said Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, as he began his annual State of the Cancer Program Address in late 2016.

“You all know people who hear those three words — ‘You have cancer’ — and desperately need our help, and help is on the way from the discoveries being made right here at this amazing facility as we build this incredible team to create a cancer-free world,” said Dr. Caligiuri, Director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and CEO of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

As he does each year in his address, Dr. Caligiuri highlighted several of the many accomplishments of the OSUCCC – James.

Dr. Caligiuri also announced a new, statewide program that will screen hundreds of lung cancer patients across Ohio for genetic mutations. This will then allow doctors at the OSUCCC – James to recommend targeted treatments or clinical trials that will extend the lives of these lung cancer patients and with the ultimate goal of improving lung cancer treatment and prolonging life.

Dr. Caligiuri gave several illustrations of the upward trend in the quantity and quality of the research being done at the OSUCCC – James.

For example, funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has been flat the past several years. When you factor in inflation, funding has actually gone down. Because of this, it’s become harder for scientists, even senior-level scientists with long resumes of accomplishments, to receive NCI funding.

The amount of NCI funding that the OSUCCC – James received in 2015 was $54.4 million, a 40.7 percent increase from the 2005 total of $36 million.

Publications in what Dr. Caligiuri called “high-impact” scientific journals are another measure of an institution’s cancer-research success. The number at the OSUCCC – James was 224 from 2010 to 2015, a 92.8 percent jump from 2000 to 2005.

Among these most-recent publications, 87 percent were collaborative efforts among two or more researchers and labs, and often between multiple colleges at Ohio State. “This is what creates the quality of science,” Dr. Caligiuri said of all this research and collaboration. “And, we’re constantly working on the translation of taking all that science and bringing it into our clinics so our patients have another chance in this fight.”

Clinical trials are one of the best ways to bring science to patients. The five-year average of the number of patients at the OSUCCC – James in therapeutic clinical trials is 23 percent, well ahead of the national average of 3 percent.

Because of this, when someone comes to the OSUCCC – James, “we can say; I think I have something that will help you,” Dr. Caligiuri said.

The Drug Development Institute is another example of how the OSUCCC – James is bringing science to patients.

The Drug Development Institute has several new drugs “percolating” through development, including one developed by Robert Baiocchi, MD, PhD. It inhibits PRMT5, an onco-protein that transforms normal cells into cancer cells. “When you look at the number of tumors it blocks, it’s astounding,” Dr. Caligiuri said. “And we’ve partnered with a pharmaceutical company to get this into clinical trials.”

This part one of a four-part series on Dr. Michael Caligiuri’s annual State of the Cancer Program Address. Read the rest of the series at the links below:

Part two: Compassionate Care at the OSUCCC – James

Part three: Community Partners at the OSUCCC – James

Part four: Changing the Landscape

View the 2016 State of the Cancer Program Address in its entirety here.

Additional video of Dr. Caligiuri discussing the state of cancer today.