April 4, 2014 - Spring is always an exciting time – the days get longer and warmer, and we see growth, development and opportunity. The same holds true for oncology – with some of the key meetings and events of the year, spring is always incredibly busy and rewarding as we learn about the latest advances in cancer diagnostics and treatment. I personally can’t think of a more energizing time of year to start my tenure as Genentech and Roche’s Global Head of Clinical Development for Hematology and Oncology.
I’ve held many different roles in cancer care – as a practicing hematologist and oncologist, as a friend and family member of people with cancer, as a researcher and, most recently, as head of clinical development for HER2-targeted breast and stomach cancer medicines. With the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting kicking off this week and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in early June, the next few months will be filled with data on potential new treatment paradigms for cancer. I’m excited about the promise of these new approaches to possibly help patients.
There have been many times when I’ve felt devastated that I couldn’t do more to help the people in my life battling cancer. As a former practicing doctor, I’ve had moments of incredible hope, for example when I’ve told a young woman that her leukemia was gone, and moments of deep sadness when I’ve had to deliver the wrenching news that the disease had come back. However, during my time in the clinic we saw major steps forward, including our first infusions of targeted medicines that would change the way certain cancers were treated.
I’m optimistic about the possibility of major advances in the future and Genentech’s role in driving them. I look forward to applying my experiences in the clinic, in research and in drug development to hopefully help people with difficult-to-treat cancers – most notably, looking at personalized medicine, immunotherapies, combination treatments and new platforms like antibody-drug conjugates in several different types of cancer. We’ll see data in all of these areas this year. I’m also excited about collaborating with patient advocates, FDA and others in our industry to explore innovative endpoints and new regulatory pathways to get medicines to patients faster.
We are on the brink of knowing whether new scientific approaches could transform how certain cancers are treated.
Preparing for What’s to Come
At AACR this week, we’ll all get our first look at some of the most exciting discoveries that could pave the way for future treatment advances. I’m particularly interested in approaches like phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitors, B-cell-directed treatments in blood cancer and antibodies against immune checkpoints. While AACR has always been an important venue for scientific discussion, I believe it’s becoming even more critical – with new regulatory pathways like breakthrough designation and adaptive licensing, early stage data can potentially inform the approval path of a medicine and influence how quickly it may reach patients.
In early May, Genentech is partnering with the LIVESTRONG Foundation to host the REV Forum, with featured participant Conquer Cancer Foundation, in Washington, D.C. At REV, doctors, artists, policymakers and patient advocates will come together to discuss how personalized medicine and technology are changing cancer care, and how we can better collaborate to help patients. If you’re not already attending, check it out at rev-forum.com – you’ll be able to tune in remotely or join in the Twitter conversation via #REV2014.
This brings us to ASCO, which I’ve looked forward to every year since my first ASCO meeting in 1986. 2014 marks ASCO’s 50th anniversary, and while I anticipate valuable discussions around past progress in cancer treatment, I believe we still have a lot of work to do. As we approach the meeting, my colleagues and I will be offering our thoughts on specific topics relevant to ASCO and the future of cancer care. Check back on gene.com for more news and perspectives, and check in with us on Twitter. You’ll be hearing a lot from us and we want to hear from you.