Bench to Bedside Recap: The Academic and NCI Difference

Dr. George WeinerThe University of Kansas Cancer Center’s weekly Bench to Bedside Facebook Live video series pairs Roy Jensen, MD, director of the center, with experts on topics ranging from research to the latest developments in cancer treatment.

On Wednesday, June 6, AACI co-hosted a Bench to Bedside conversation between Dr. Jensen and George Weiner, MD, director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa and immediate past president of AACI. In the video, Drs. Jensen and Weiner discussed the unique ways academic and NCI-designated cancer centers—including HCCC and KU Cancer Center—play a lead role in influencing and improving cancer research and care.

The topic was the centerpiece of Dr. Weiner’s presidential initiative—“The Academic Difference”—during his time as AACI president from 2014 to 2016.

“Academic cancer centers are unique,” said Dr. Weiner, “in that they perform a number of roles that are vital for us in our efforts to reduce pain and suffering from cancer.”

Those roles include performing what he described as “basic cancer research to understand the fundamental nature of cancer, and, more importantly, taking that information to develop new approaches to cancer prevention, early detection, and therapy.”

Academic cancer centers are the training hubs for the vast majority of cancer clinicians, where they learn about state-of-the-art medicine. Clinicians also have more opportunities to specialize—and interact with other specialists and sub-specialists—in academic cancer centers than in stand-alone centers.

According to Dr. Weiner, this is becoming increasingly important as we learn how complex cancer is – and the unique ways each patient responds to the disease.

Roy Jensen, MD

Roy Jensen, MD

“We’re coming to realize no two cancer cases are exactly alike,” said Dr. Jensen, who is also president-elect of AACI.

In the past, Dr. Weiner acknowledged, cancers were diagnosed based on their appearance under the microscope, resulting in identical treatments for patients whose cancers may have been the same in appearance, but different in other ways. This often resulted in significant side effects.

“We now can look deeper,” Dr. Weiner added. “We can dig in to the very genetics and the genes that go haywire to cause that cancer to grow out of control, and we’ve learned that two cancers that look identical under the microscope actually can have very different genetic causes and will respond to very different, individualized treatments.”

Bench to Bedside follows news from researchers focused on the study of cancer and clinical trials, physicians, and care team members focused on patient care. Visit KU Cancer Center’s Facebook page to watch live at 10:00 a.m. Central (11:00 a.m. EST) each Wednesday and follow #BenchtoBedside on the center’s social media.

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