ORLANDO, Fla.—With the benefit of longstanding relationshipsserving as a foundation, the Moffitt Cancer Center, Sanford-Burnham MedicalResearch Institute and Florida Hospital have formed a partnership to invest inpersonalized cancer treatments.
The result is the creation of the Personalized MedicinePartnership (PMP) of Florida, which will conduct collaborative research toaccelerate discovery and develop new treatments in oncology.
According to Dr. John Reed, CEO of Sanford-Burnham, theultimate goal of the partnership is to conduct collaborative research toaccelerate biomarker and target discovery with an initial focus on developingnew personalized treatments in the areas of cancer and also metabolic diseases,including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Reed adds that the parties believe there is significantopportunity to create synergies between the research and clinical careorganizations to advance scientific discoveries and translation ofcompassionate care, cures and prevention of disease.
"PMP Florida is a unique partnership including threeorganizations with very complementary areas of expertise and experience," saysDr. David Moorhead, senior vice president and chief medical officer at FloridaHospital. "Moffitt has demonstrated world-class experience and competency inacquiring, categorizing and storing biologic specimens. Sanford-Burnham MedicalResearch Institute is renowned for its internationally recognized scientificfaculty, multiple sophisticated diagnostic platforms and a commitment totransforming basic science research into clinically available treatments.Florida Hospital is the largest hospital in Florida with broad, innovative andsuperior clinical expertise."
Des Cummings, executive partner of Florida Hospital,explains that each of the three partners came to the table with a culture ofinnovation and each is motivated to creatively solve the toughest medical careproblems that exist today.
"This is bolstered by executive committed to developing aculture of health and healing," Cummings notes. "Each of the partners haveembraced a shared vision of personalized medicine and are willing to invest inrealizing that vision."
Reed adds that a key goal of the partnership is to attractindustry clients, including pharmaceutical and biotech companies, which can usethe partnership as a resource to discover and develop new advances inhealthcare. The partnership will exemplify how personalized medicinediscoveries made in research labs will improve healthcare in hospitals, clinicsand medical offices in Florida and nationally.
"The field of medicine is on the brink of transformationbased on next-gen DNA sequencing and other technologies that enable biomarkerdiscovery," Reed says. "We believe that the partnership with Moffitt, Sanford-Burnhamand Florida Hospital provides the infrastructure to create personalizedtreatment plans based on biomarker discovery technology platforms. We seek toidentify molecular signatures that dissect disease heterogeneity into differenttreatment strategies that improve healthcare outcomes while ideally alsoreducing healthcare costs."
Collaborations between research and clinical organizationsare increasing as a means to access complementary resources, attract moresizable grant revenues and enhance the translation of laboratory research toclinical application.
"I believe that it is becoming more and more widely acceptedthat we are on the cusp of a new era of medicine with the opportunities thatare being made available to us," Reed says. "We have opportunities throughnext-gen DNA sequencing on one hand, and on the other hand, the challengesaround healthcare costs and how we can eventually evolve the practice ofmedicine to something more of a science and less of an art—and get more of thetrial and error out of it and make it more efficient in terms of healthcaredelivery."
That new landscape in personalized medicine provides theperfect opportunity for PMP Florida, notes Dr. William Dalton, CEO and centerdirector of Moffitt.
"This is an incredible opportunity for the three to cometogether and capitalize on our strengths to create a better product, which isinformation," he says.
PMP Florida also will leverage Moffitt's Total Cancer Careto develop similar research and clinical protocols in other disease areasincluding metabolic diseases.
According to Dalton, Total Cancer Care is a treatment paththat begins by mapping the more than 30,000 genes that make up a tumor to findits own unique genetic fingerprint. Through personalized medicine, Moffitt isworking to create individualized therapies that are specific to each patient'stype of cancer, and the way each person responds to the disease and treatmenttherapies.
PMP Florida will provide researchers at the partneringinstitutions with access a robust research and clinical care infrastructure.Bio-samples representing a variety of diseases will be derived from FloridaHospital's expansive patient population. Pilot projects will utilize Moffitt'sgenome mapping, information systems and clinical research protocols developedthrough Total Cancer Care. The research will be empowered by Sanford-Burnham'sscientific expertise in genomics and metabolics technology platforms.
A business development plan will be created with input fromrepresentatives of the three partnering organizations. A steering committeewill prioritize research projects.
"Our initial target is the creation of the PMPinfrastructure—a pioneering effort in itself," Reed says. "We expect the bulkof the formation of systems in year one with multiple biomarker discoveryprojects up and running in year two."
As for funding, Reed notes that each organization will bearits own costs and expenses for its respective activities in connection with thedevelopment and execution of the partnership. The initial phase of thisrelationship will focus on collaboration efforts for care and research betweenresearchers and physicians at Moffitt, Sanford-Burnham and Florida Hospital.Reed adds that the partners will emphasize short-term "wins" and milestones,which will include research and joint publications.
"As these initial collaborations become better established,we will continue to phase in other areas of collaboration," he says.
Reed says success of PMP Florida will be measured "by theimpact that our discoveries make on healthcare outcomes, healthcare costsavings and the economic development opportunities created."
Moreover, Cummings points out that success also will bedefined across the matrix of the PMP activities.
"Important milestones will be the development of our firstclinic/hospital ready biomarker, external industry partnerships whichcapitalize on the PMP infrastructure and ultimately, improvements in thequality and healthcare cost reductions," Cummings says. "Ultimately, thesuccess of the partnership will be based on the ability to improve diagnosis,treatment, and prevention of disease. This is a journey that is worthy of ourbest efforts, and is fueled by our common commitment to advance the health and well-beingof all humanity."
Sanford-Burnhamresearchers find molecular switch that allows melanoma to resist therapy
LA JOLLA, Calif.—A research team at Sanford-Burnham MedicalResearch Institute is working to unravel the molecular mechanisms underlyingmelanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
The laboratory of Dr. Ze'ev Ronai has been studying aprotein named Activating Transcription Factor 2 (ATF2), which is associatedwith poor prognosis in melanoma. ATF2 is oncogenic in melanoma ells and acts asa tumor suppressor in non-malignant types of skin cancers. In a paper publishedFeb. 3 in the journal Cell, the teamidentified a molecular switch that controls ATF2's dual functions. This switchis controlled by protein kinase Cε (PKCε), which disables ATF2'stumor-suppressing activities, sensitizing cells to chemotherapy; instead,ATF2's tumor-promoting activity is enhanced. The team also found that highlevels of PKCε in melanoma are associated with poor prognosis.
In the study, Ronai and lead author Dr. Eric Lau found thatPKCε's malignant power is in its ability to direct ATF2's location and activitywithin a cell. In a normal cell, PKCε modifies ATF2, keeping it in the nucleus,where it turns genes on and off and helps repair damaged DNA. When the cellexperiences exposure to toxicity or stress, PKCε backs off and ATF2 is able tomove out of the nucleus and to the mitochondria, the part of the cell thatgenerates energy and helps control cellular life and death. When it gets there,ATF2 helps to set the cell on a death course—a safeguard cells use to preventerrors that often make them cancerous.
PKCε levels are abnormally high in melanoma, and more PKCεmeans more ATF2 stuck in the nucleus, where it can't help the cells to die.Instead, in the nucleus, ATF2 promotes cellular survival and thus contributesto tumor development.
The researchers are now searching for small molecules thathelp release ATF2 from PKCε's grip, thereby resuming ATF2's ability to promotecell death when needed. Since such an approach will effectively kill melanomacells, it is expected to offer new therapeutic options for melanoma andpossibly other tumors with high PKCε levels.
"This work has clear potential for translation from a basiclaboratory discovery to a melanoma therapy," said Dr. Michael Jackson, vicepresident of drug discovery and development at Sanford-Burnham, in a statement."We are excited to begin the screening process to identify a new class of drugsto treat cancer."