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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AACI Thanks President Obama, Vice President Biden for Highlighting “Cancer Moonshot”

The Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) thanks President Barack Obama for his call for a “cancer moonshot” in his final State of the Union address, and Vice President Joe Biden’s focus on expanded cooperation among cancer centers.

Official_portrait_of_Vice_President_Joe_Biden

Vice President Joe Biden

AACI President George J. Weiner, MD, director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa, applauded the President’s remarks, saying:

“It is an incredible time in cancer research and cancer medicine. In many ways, a cancer moonshot is much more challenging than the original moonshot.  There is only one moon, and its behavior is predictable based on the laws of physics.   However, every cancer is different and every patient is different.  Nevertheless, based on years of progress resulting from research conducted in large part at the nation’s academic cancer centers, we now understand cancer better than ever and are advancing clinical care for cancer patients at a rapid pace.”

In a follow-up to the President’s speech, Vice President Biden outlined in a blog post plans to encourage leading cancer centers to reach unprecedented levels of cooperation.  AACI cancer centers currently collaborate in many ways based on the understanding that success in cancer research, education and care is faster when we work together.  The Vice President’s call to action will push AACI cancer centers to a new level of partnership and cooperation. Comprised of 95 premier academic cancer research centers in the U.S. and Canada, AACI is poised to ease the burden of cancer by supporting the ability of its member centers to work together.

“A coordinated cancer moonshot will allow us to accelerate our research progress, thereby reducing the pain and suffering caused by cancer, for current and future generations,” Dr. Weiner said.  “The nation’s cancer centers look forward to working with the President and Vice President to move these general concepts from the drawing board to the launching pad.”