Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, and John Theurer Cancer Center, part of Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, have announced that they have developed a joint cancer research agenda as part of a multi-year plan to form a National Cancer Institute (NCI) recognized cancer consortium. This recognition would support the scientific excellence of the two centers along with their capability to integrate multi-disciplinary, collaborative research approaches to focus on all the aspects of cancer.
The research framework for this unique collaboration is designed to significantly expand the ability of the institutions to conduct research that will lead to innovative clinical trials and improvement in cancer care. One of the joint research projects is focused on therapies that harness the tumor-killing power of the immune system to help patients fight cancer. Georgetown Lombardi is an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center, the only one in Washington and one of 41 in the country. Through the partnership, John Theurer Cancer Center is working to secure this NCI designation as well.
“Advancing cancer care requires teams of clinicians and researchers, as well as the participation of patients, to reach this common goal. Our view is that combining the strengths of both of these institutions significantly magnifies the progress that can be made,” said Louis M. Weiner, MD, director of Georgetown Lombardi.
“Hackensack University Medical Center has always focused on excellence in patient care and investing in research and technology for the future,” said Robert C. Garrett, president and chief executive officer of Hackensack University Health Network. “For this partnership, we are combining our strength in clinical care with Georgetown Lombardi’s strong research base that significantly contributes to its clinical excellence. By working together, we will elevate our cancer research to offer more treatment options for tomorrow’s patients.”
Among the collaborative projects that have been identified are:
Blood stem cell transplantation and immunotherapy clinical research at Washington DC’s only Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplant Program, established in 2013 by John Theurer and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Georgetown Lombardi’s clinical partner. The research areas include expansion of clinical bone marrow transplant research; clinical study of “haplo” transplants — use of half-matched stem cell donor cells; re-engineering the function and focus of key immune cells; and the investigation of “immune checkpoint” blocking antibodies that unleash a sustained immune response against cancer.
Experimental therapeutic research that investigates patient treatment based on molecular characterization of tumors including through next generation genomic sequencing. This research will utilize the Clinical Outcomes Tracking & Analysis Platform (COTA) (oncota.com), a large cancer patient treatment and outcomes database developed by John Theurer Cancer Center to sort patients, reduce variance (hence costs) and improve outcomes. This project will help the design and execution of phase I/II clinical trials by targeting relevant populations (i.e., providing a molecular rationale for clinical trials).
Population Science Research that expands existing programs focused on the unique characteristics of patients living in the greater Washington and the northern New Jersey areas. The John Theurer Cancer Center will establish a Cancer Prevention and Control office and Georgetown Lombardi will expand its population science research using the COTA database platform.
“These are areas in which each institution already excels. Combining such expertise will be fruitful, not to mention exciting,” Weiner said.
“Our teams have collaborated to identify specific joint research projects we feel are of the utmost importance and significance in cancer care. We are excited for the research to begin and look forward to the developments to come,” said Andrew Pecora, MD, FACP, CPE, vice president, Cancer Services and chief innovations officer at John Theurer Cancer Center and president of Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA).
“Together our institutions carry a tremendous opportunity to be transformative for our cancer patients population and beyond,” added André Goy, MD, MS, chairman and director and division chief of Lymphoma, John Theurer Cancer Center; chief science officer and director of Research and Innovation, RCCA; professor of medicine, Georgetown University. “The timing of this joint effort could not be better given the definitely revolutionary changes occurring in cancer care. The chosen founding projects are well positioned to take advantage of the synergy between our institutions and illustrate our commitment to discovering better care for the future.”