The AACR debuted at its annual conference today an informative video about the accomplishments and possibilities of cancer research. Check it out.
Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann was profiled in the Sunday, April 11, 2010 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle. The story was featured on the front page. It provides a personal look at what drives the new leader of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). I was fortunate to have worked with Dr. Desmond-Hellmann while at UCSF. For me, she is a role model.
Dr. Desmond-Hellmann is credited with helping to create an industry powerhouse (Genentech) and bringing the world’s most successful anti-cancer drug treatments to market. These include Rituxan, the first drug to use monoclonal antibodies, which works by attacking specific types of cancer cells; Herceptin, the seminal drug which opened the doorway to personalized medicine by targeting the HER2 gene, which defines a specific subtype of breast cancer; and Avastin, the first angiogenesis inhibitor to stop tumors by preventing the formation of new blood vessels.
In the article, Bob Cohen, a senior Genentech executive best describes Desmond-Hellmann: “(she has a) sense of obligation that runs deep…I think she has always loved UCSF, and she also has deep spiritual beliefs. She’s also brilliant. A quick study. And she never disappoints…She used all she knew to develop a portfolio of oncology drugs…She was a gifted manager of people and resources, and she bet on the right horses and was able to get them to the finish line.”
“What’s possible for patients” has been a consistent theme throughout Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann’s career. She sums it up in the article: “It’s a life-changing moment for someone to be told they
have cancer,” she said. “So I’ve always felt this incredible commitment
to being a part of something that can help them.”
Desmond-Hellmann has been both a champion of and game changing pioneer in oncology translational research – taking the basic understanding of biology, science and technology and using that deep understanding for the direct benefit of patients. She helped fundamentally transform the way we research and treat cancer, and improved and helped extend millions of lives worldwide.
Today, as Chancellor of UCSF, she is taking her experience to the next level and applying it to finding treatments and cures for an even broader array of the world’s most devastating and unsolvable diseases. The future of this great institution is in good hands.
Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann explains her translational vision for
fighting cancer during her recent keynote address to UCSF’s breast oncology leaders. She describes 1997 to 2001 as oncology’s golden years. Rituxan, Herceptin and Gleevec debuted and changed the face of cancer treatments. Dr. Desmond-Hellmann believes that academia can today play a critical role in introducing “the platinum age” of cancer drug development.
“Cancer research is too slow, too expensive, too inefficient and too uncertain…we need to understand earlier and with greater confidence what the best ideas are,” she says. Read the full article here.
UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann discusses the future of oncology
drug development and adaptive clinical trial design and what it means
to patients in an interview with Pharma Strategy Blog’s Sally Church. Here are excerpts from the post:
“What’s really neat about the I-SPY trial is that Laura Esserman, the PI of the trial, is a breast cancer surgeon here at UCSF and has added so much value to the project because she sees patients early and has a unique opportunity to offer neoadjuvant therapy.
Patients are getting their primary therapy before they get surgery, so for imaging and biomarkers – either established or exploratory – it is a fantastic opportunity. The endpoint is pathological complete response, so you can see if the tumor has disappeared or not.”
“It’s a fantastic rapid readout model so you can get answers much more quickly in a year, including pathological specimens, along with the answers from biomarkers and imaging, which are important.
The FDA has allowed a master IND agreement for this study, so it will be possible to move agents in and out of the trial quickly. So if agent A looks promising it can be advanced quickly and more patients put on it, but if agent B looks toxic, it can be discarded quickly. It’s not just a clinical trial but a experimental trial process that gives you a rapid readout of whether the agent works or not.”
“The hope is that you won’t wasting time and money in phase III trials, but most importantly, patients experience on that molecule. If the answer is yes on I-SPY, you then have a biomarker hypothesis for that agent and can then do a more traditional phase III trial having increased your chances of success.”
Read about the i-Spy 2 adaptive clinical trial which was launched on March 17 in Washington.
Watch the video from the Biomarkers Consortium press conference:
A new approach to delivering gene therapy to the brain to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, was revealed in research findings published in the February 4 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
UCSF neuroscientist Dr. Krystof Bankiewicz has developed a promising way to get nerve cells to help disperse gene therapy to targeted brain cells. He uses a technique called convection-enhanced delivery. The fluid containing the gene therapy is injected under pressure, delivered in pulses. Says Bankiewicz:
For the first time, specific regions of the cortex can be supplied with therapeutic agents by targeting defined regions of the thalamus…Translational experiments now are in progress to evaluate the potential of this unique gene delivery technology for the treatment of cortical dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease…
Bankiewicz’s research at UCSF has a strong focus on the development of practical approaches to gene and cell replacement therapies; he synthesizes several individual technologies into powerful new approaches to the treatment of such serious disease as brain cancer and neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s disease.
Source: Science Cafe
“From Bench to Bedside to Market — Envisioning How Translational Research Will Make a Difference for Women With Breast Cancer” — UCSF’s 2009 Breast Oncology Program Scientific Retreat — was held this week. The focus was on experimental therapeutics, molecular markers, clinical trials and early detection. Among the topics discussed was “How siRNA will Change Cancer Therapy.” Here are a few take-aways:
- Many mutant proteins are not druggable. Cancer can adapt to tolerate targeted therapies.
- Current process of developing cancer drugs is not working.
- UCSF is developing a new paradigm of drug development through its pioneering siRNA research.
- Ultimately these siRNA discoveries will help eliminate the pharma industry R&D “valley of death.”
To learn more, visit UCSF’s Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center site.