NEW YORK—Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) is launching a new cancer initiative with the aid of $100 million from Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis. The Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology (CMO) will seek to improve cancer research and care through genomic analysis, helping to reshape clinical trials and accelerate the process of translating novel molecular discoveries in to routine clinical practice.
“Throughout the course of my involvement at Memorial Sloan Kettering, I have been deeply impressed by the dedication, experience and competence of the physicians and scientists who are working to unravel the complexities of cancer,” said Marie-Josée Kravis, who has been a member of MSK’s boards of Overseers and Managers since October 2000 and is chair of the board of Sloan Kettering Institute. “Henry and I are delighted to support this exciting new initiative, which offers such hope to people around the world.”
“Memorial Sloan Kettering has already proven itself to be a leader in understanding cancer at the genetic level and in putting that knowledge to work for patients,” Henry Kravis said in a press release. “The new Center for Molecular Oncology will take these efforts to an entirely new level, and I look forward with great anticipation to the discoveries that lie ahead.”
The CMO will seek to analyze over 10,000 patient tumors in its first year alone, with a goal of offering molecular analysis for every type of cancer and all MSK patients. A key facet of the CMO will be the enrollment of patients in Phase 1 clinical trials known as basket studies, in which therapies are offered to patients whose tumor test positive for certain mutations regardless of cancer type. Dr. José Baselga, physician-in-chief of Memorial Hospital, noted that, “The location of a tumor, such as breast or lung cancer, is becoming less important than the genomic information of the tumor, and basket studies include many more people than a disease-specific trial. A therapy designed for a specific mutation could benefit everyone whose tumor has that mutation. It really is a game changer.”
The new center will also work to retrospectively analyze the tumors of exceptional responders, those who have a sustained response to treatments in a clinical trial in which almost all other patients do not. MSK was the first academic institution to perform whole-genome sequencing on an exceptional responder, work that resulted in the discovery of a mutation in the TSC1 gene, which is known to activate the mTOR pathway. All told, the CMO will include some 20 labs, with more than 100 MSK faculty and staff, and will work with MSK’s Center for Mechanism-Based Therapies to deliver new therapies into the clinic.
“In terms of structure, the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology epitomizes the multidisciplinary approach to cancer research, which demands that we fully link programs and departments institution-wide so that we can inform each other’s work with our best and brightest ideas,” Dr. Joan Massagué, director of the Sloan Kettering Institute, commented in a statement.
Some of the CMO’s first work, which is already underway, will consist of using the MSK-Integrated Mutation Profiling of Actionable Cancer Targets (IMPACT) test, a new technology platform for reliable and accurate screening for mutations in 341 cancer-associated genes. The test, which was developed by Dr. Michael Berger, associate director of the CMO, will be used to sequence healthy cells and tumor cells in patients with metastatic disease. The CMO will also support the development of new assays, such as those that expand the numbers of genes analyzed in the MSK-IMPACT test, and develop methods to enable genetic profiling of tumors without requiring a biopsy, an approach that will identify mutations in DNA released by the tumor into the bloodstream. The center is also investigating assays that can detect mutations and monitor therapy on the molecular level to allow for more rapid assessment of whether a therapy is working.
“The vision for the CMO is nothing less than to revolutionize the treatment of cancer,” Dr. David Solit, inaugural director of the CMO, said in a press release. “Our integrated clinical and scientific teams coupled with our ever-increasing genetic sequencing capabilities will allow us to build upon the molecular insights we’ve gleaned over the past decade to accelerate the development of more effective and less-toxic cancer therapies.”
SOURCE: MSKCC press release