What’s Next – Improving Upon Perfection
Over the years, Michael Caligiuri, MD, has become a bit of an entrepreneur. Dr. Caligiuri loves to brainstorm with colleagues, come up with big ideas, then develop and implement a plan to take these ideas from the bench to the bedside and improve patient care.
“We’re trying to create alternate streams of revenue because cancer research is expensive, and, no money, no mission,” 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).
He cited Pelotonia as a perfect example. The fundraising bike ride he started in 2009 has raised more than $130 million and every dollar funds research at the OSUCCC – James. Fortunately, he said, Pelotonia is in the capable hands of Pelotonia President and CEO Doug Ulman and his team, so Dr. Caligiuri can focus his efforts on five new programs that show great promise to raise revenue, advance research and improve patient outcomes.
Pursuing these opportunities is how Dr. Caligiuri said he will continue to challenge himself to get better every day and to help the OSUCCC – James improve upon the perfect score it recently received from the National Cancer Institute.
“They’re going to be game changers,” Dr. Caligiuri said of the programs. “And, if I don’t spend enough time on them, they won’t get done right.”
Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN): ORIEN was launched by Ohio State and the Moffitt Cancer Center (Tampa, Fla.) in May 2014. ORIEN is a collaboration among 15 cancer centers (and growing) from all over the United States and has enrolled more than 160,000 cancer patients, who agree to donate tissue from their tumors and clinical data that will be used for research.
This has already begun to accelerate the development of precision medicine and treatments, enabling physicians to more quickly match patients to clinical trials and conduct larger and more comprehensive analyses.
“Now, we won’t have to wait for patients to come in to see us,” Dr. Caligiuri said. “We can call someone and say, for example, your pancreatic cancer is in remission, but history tells us it will come back. We have a drug for you that has just been approved.”
The revenue from ORIEN comes from the pharmaceutical companies that pay for access to this information in order to more efficiently find patients for their clinical trials and new drugs.
Drug Development Institute (DDI): The DDI’s mission is to accelerate the development of cancer drugs through strategic partnerships with pharmaceutical companies. The DDI has cataloged 30 new and novel, anti-cancer agents being developed at the OSUCCC – James and is working to advance the most promising toward Phase 1 testing with the help of funding support from Pelotonia.
Cancer Bridge: The OSUCCC – James has the top team of cancer specialists in the world. The idea behind Cancer Bridge is to provide this expertise to the employees of companies in central Ohio and beyond.
So now, when an employee or the family member of someone who works for a company that’s part Cancer Bridge hears those three terrible words – “You have cancer” – they can call an OSUCCC – James doctor. Within 24 hours, they will receive a call back from a physician who’s an expert in their specific type of cancer and will answer any questions they may have and discuss the next steps in their treatment. For large, local companies with facilities around the country, this is a perfect match.
Digital Pathology: It takes a long time to analyze a tumor sample under a microscope. “Someone has to look at it on a slide and then they may say, ‘Hey, I’ve seen something similar to this and the patient did well’ and then they have to look through a massive amount of slides to find that one.” Dr. Caligiuri said.
The OSUCCC – James has teamed with Inspirata, Inc., to speed up and improve this process by doing it digitally.
“We can now scan 1,000 slides a day into our computers, and we have developed algorithms that develop patterns and help us immediately find the 30 or 40 cases just like the one we’re looking at,” Dr. Caligiuri said. “This is a big step forward and by identifying genomic patterns in tumors, this will become a better predictor for treatment and improve outcomes.”
The Caligiuri Lab: Dr. Caligiuri is first and foremost a scientist, and he and his lab continue to make breakthroughs. Toss in the fact that he was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and the result is: “I’m starting my own biotech company,” he said. It will include members of the Caligiuri Lab. “Immune therapies will be the focus,” Dr. Caligiuri said, adding that he and the members of his team will focus on blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, but have also done a great deal of research on many other types of cancer and are pursuing some promising discoveries in these areas.
When Dr. Caligiuri talks about the five new programs he and his teams at the OSUCCC – James are working on, he gets excited. The passion is evident. And contagious.
“What I’ve learned on my journey is I like growth; I like new ideas and I like making them happen,” he said. “When I wake up every morning, that’s what gets me going.”