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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Three New Members Join AACI CRI Steering Committee

AACI congratulates the following new members of the AACI Clinical Research Initiative (CRI) Steering Committee. Each will serve a three-year term beginning September 1, 2015:

  • Rosemarie Gagliardi, Tisch Cancer Institute, Mount Sinai Medical Center
  • Jessica Moehle, BS, CCRP, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah
  • Steve Williamson, MD, University of Kansas Cancer Center
New CRI Steering Committee members (L-R) Gagliari, Moehle and Williamson.

New CRI Steering Committee Members (L-R) Gagliardi, Moehle and Williamson.

The AACI CRI is a network of cancer center clinical research leaders that examines and shares best practices that promote the efficient operation of cancer center clinical research facilities, and leverages the ability of the AACI cancer center network to advocate for improvement in the national clinical trials enterprise.

Rosemarie Gagliardi is Associate Dean of Research Services, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai;  Operations Director, Cancer Clinical Trials Office (CCTO), Tisch Cancer Institute; and Assistant Professor, Department of Population Health Science and Policy. The primary mission of the Tisch Cancer Institute Clinical Protocol and Data Monitoring (CPDM) program is to assist investigators in the development, conduct, and reporting of clinical research in an efficient, compliant and scientifically sound manner. The CPDM provides regulatory, budgeting, study management, compliance, data management and reporting services to ensure clinical research uniformity and consistency. Ms. Gagliardi serves as the CCTO Operations Director, a role established in 2011 to provide direct management of CPDM operations.

Jessica Moehle is Associate Director of Operations, Clinical Trials Office, at Huntsman Cancer Institute. She has more than ten years of clinical research experience, including directing operations for the clinical trials office overseeing a staff of 109 FTEs. Prior to this time she served as the Clinical Trials Regulatory Department Manager and specialized in project management, operational leadership, protocol development, clinical trial portfolio management, IRB regulation, IND submissions, FDA regulation, NCI National Reporting criteria, principal investigator and pharmaceutical sponsor relations, clinical trial staff hiring and training. Ms. Moehle also spent several years in pre-clinical office administration at the National Institutes of Health, Division of AIDS, and Vaccine Research Program.

Stephen Williamson is Medical Director, Clinical Trials Research Unit, and Phase I Director, at University of Kansas Cancer Center. He has been involved in clinical trials research since his oncology fellowship, starting in 1984. Dr. Williamson has been involved in clinical trial development locally and nationally through the Southwest Oncology Group (now known as SWOG). Since 1986 he has been active in the Lung, GI and Head and Neck Committees of the Southwest Oncology Group. His first multi-institutional phase II trial through SWOG was initiated in 1986 and he has been the principal investigator on multiple investigator-initiated trials at the University of Kansas, including a phase I gene therapy clinical trial utilizing irradiated autologous melanoma cells adenovirally transduced with the human GM-CSF gene.