The Collaboration of Cancer
The Moores Cancer Research Center is a Revolution in the Way Research is Conducted
If someone asked you to name the most recent and promising advancement in cancer research, would you guess that it had nothing to do with an FDA-approved drug? Would you believe that the process by which a discovery is made, is just as important as the discovery itself?
At the Moores Cancer Research Center, they revolutionized the research process by bringing patients, physicians, scientists and the bio-depository under one architectural-award winning roof. Instead of operating in their separate silos of academia and medicine, the essential elements to cancer therapy are integrated in a strategic collaboration that ensures success on all sides.
Scientists and physicians conduct translative research. This means their studies focus on a specific population and a specific treatment, in order to translate basic findings "from bench to bedside" within 1-2 years, instead of the 10-12 years it usually takes. This form of R&D is not linear, like most clinical trials, where administrators will test one gene, one protein and one drug. Since all tests require human tissue samples (and sometimes large amounts of tissue), if scientists study genes, proteins and drugs one at a time, it results in a costly trial and uncomfortable experience for the patient.
At Moores, they test for multiple genes and proteins at a time, so they can get a clearer and quicker read on the patient's specific situation and a deeper understanding of how effective the drug will be. To do this, they study the DNA and RNA splicing that occurs during cancer. Since DNA and RNA provide a detailed map of our genes, researchers are thus able to zero in on the unique affect the disease is having on each of their patients.
Their theory is that our bodies are unique and therefore illness affects each of us in a different way, so you can't give everyone the same treatment. But in order to give patients the right treatment, you need know what the genome environment looks like. The goal is medicine personalized down to the DNA map of each individual.
Despite the obvious benefits, this method of research is not without its challenges. It requires scientists to shrug off the pervasive culture of independence and to interact with others to come up with viable solutions. It asks that institutions change the measurements by which physicians are paid so they are incentivized to spend more time with their patients; and it requires patients to invest more time and effort into their care. All sides must work together to a collective end.
To facilitate cooperation, Moores hired Ida Deichaite, Ph.D. who ensures that languages from different sides of the research equation translate into an effective team. The result has been development of more effective cancer drugs, a quicker turn-around time between research and product implementation, and a healthier patient population.