Although we commonly think of cancer of a particular organ such as the breast or lung as a single disease, basic science research points to the likelihood that many subtypes exist within each organ. A patient may bear a specific type of cancer cell that is best treated by a medication or vaccine or hormonal approach that has been developed for that specific target. One treatment will not fit all.
The Core Cancer Investigator Group within this program consists of experts in basic, clinical and translational research who together possess the comprehensive knowledge required for an iterative and collaborative approach to the identification and validation of novel cancer therapeutic targets and the subsequent clinical testing of agents that interfere with their function. The expertise aligned in APCR covers the spectrum of human cancers; ranging from the major epithelial cancers (with regards to incidence) such as colorectal, lung, prostate and breast cancers to lower incidence but equally challenging malignancies such as lymphomas, leukemias, sarcomas and melanoma as well as cancers of the ovary, pancreas, esophagus and stomach, kidney, other genitourinary tissues, head and neck tissues, the central nervous and hepatobiliary systems. The Core investigator Group has adopted a strategy that is based on the premise that the identification of the most useful new targets and the rational use of the resulting novel targeted therapeutics in the appropriate set of patients will require a thorough interrogation of the various types of genetic, epigenetic and molecular alterations that have occurred in cancerous tissues.
To show the feasibility of this approach, the Core has initiated its first proof of concept demonstration project in ovarian cancer using annotated frozen tumor tissues that comprise the various histological types of ovarian cancer from a cohort of 225 patients. The Core will dissect out suspected molecular targets using some of the newest technologies available to cancer biologists. The group will decide which leads look most robust, try to validate them in unique tissue and rodent models of the disease, identify a treatment in collaboration with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and translate the most promising leads into a clinical trial.
In addition to his role as director of Clinical/Translational Research, Dr. Dennis J. Slamon serves as director of the Revlon/UCLA Women's Cancer Research Program at the JCCC. He is a professor of Medicine, chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology and executive vice chair for Research for UCLA's Department of Medicine. Slamon also serves as director of the medical advisory board for the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, a fund-raising organization that promotes advances in colorectal cancer.
For 12 years, Slamon and his colleagues conducted the laboratory and clinical research that led to the development of the new breast cancer drug Herceptin, which targets a specific genetic alteration found in about 30 percent of breast cancer patients. Because of his many accomplishments, President Clinton in June 2000 appointed Slamon to the three-member President's Cancer Panel.
Slamon has won nearly a dozen national research awards honoring his scientific endeavors. In 2000, Slamon was awarded the Translational Medicine Award by the USCD-Salk Institute as well as the Bristol-Myers Squibb Oncology Millennium Award for significant achievement and leadership in breast cancer research. In 2001, Slamon was awarded the Wadsworth Center's Brown-Hazen Award for Excellence in the Basic Sciences, and in 2002, he received the Jeffrey A. Gottlieb Memorial Award from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. In 2003, Slamon received the Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research, an international award given by the Kirk A. and Dorothy P. Landon Foundation and the American Association for Cancer Research. And in 2004, the American Cancer Society presented Slamon with the Medal of Honor, the top award bestowed by the organization.
A 1975 honors graduate of the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine, Slamon earned his Ph.D. in cell biology that same year. He completed his internship and residency at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics, becoming chief resident in 1978. One year later, he became a fellow in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at UCLA.