Cold Spring Partnership Gives Hope to Cancer Patients

Newsday
LI Medical Partnership Gives Hope to Cancer Patients
April 8, 2015
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

 
There's been a lot of wishful thinking about the potential that could be unleashed if Long Island's top-shelf research and health care institutions joined forces to drive innovation.

The agreement that Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System signed last week is one tangible manifestation of that imagining.

Desperate cancer patients looking to experimental treatments for some hope of recovery will be among the immediate beneficiaries. But in the long term, the Long Island economy could benefit, too, because the affiliation should help researchers move breakthrough products more quickly down the difficult, costly road to commercial success.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has world-class expertise in basic cancer research, often involving animal testing. North Shore is a vast health care network that treats about 16,000 cancer patients a year. The collaboration will help the two powerhouses break out of those silos. The lab's most promising research will be more readily available to cancer patients via clinical trials at North Shore facilities. And those trials should help advance the research.

North Shore makes participation in one of 195 national clinical trials a possibility for its cancer patients. But most of them involve treatments in later phases of testing than those expected to grow out of research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Local patients with intractable cancers now will be among the first in line for homegrown, cutting-edge experimental treatment options.

Medical breakthroughs are hard to come by. So is hope for the terminally ill. This collaboration could help deliver some of each.

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Newsday
April 3, 2015
Cold Spring Harbor Lab, North Shore-LIJ Health System Sign Pact on 'Bench to Bedside' Cancer Care
By DELTHIA RICKS  

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Newsday
April 3, 2015
Collaborating to Fight Cancer

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Modern Healthcare
April 2, 2015
North Shore-LIJ Inks Deal to Create New Cancer Research Center
By Andis Robeznieks 

 
North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System and Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) Laboratory have agreed on a $120 million “joint, long-term investment,” much of which will be used to create a new clinical cancer research unit at the system's Cancer Institute in Lake Success, N.Y.

Financial terms of the agreement and the source of the $120 million were not disclosed, though it was noted that the funding would be used to support early-phase clinical studies for new cancer therapies and to recruit and train clinician-scientists. 

The agreement builds upon the Great Neck, N.Y.-based system's recent $175 million investment to open and expand cancer treatment centers in New York and Long Island, as well as the $84 million expansion of its Cancer Institute. The system is also building a $34 million cancer outpatient center in Bay Shore, N.Y.

The agreement calls for training clinician-scientists to perform “preclinical cancer research” and to conduct early-stage human clinical trials, according to a health system news release. Positive findings will lead to the development of advanced trials at North Shore-LIJ and other medical centers.

“The unique integration of research scientists, clinical translational researchers and cancer clinicians promises to speed the advance of novel cancer diagnostics and therapeutics to patients in the region," Bruce Stillman, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's president and CEO, said in the release.

The laboratory has been a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center since 1987 and conducts more than $50 million worth of cancer research annually.

Michael Dowling, North Shore-LIJ's president and CEO, said in the release that making Cold Spring's “promising pre-clinical research” available to the 200 academic oncologists and clinicians at the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute will transform treatment throughout the New York area.

News of the affiliation was just one of several recent developments in cancer research and treatment. Others include the naming of Dr. Douglas Lowy as acting director of the National Cancer Institute, and expansion of an existing cancer-research affiliation to include four new members between Ohio State University in Columbus and Tampa, Fla.-based Moffitt Cancer Center. 

The affiliation, formed last May and known as the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network, has grown to include Duarte, Calif.-based City of Hope, and cancer centers at the Universities of Colorado, New Mexico and Virginia.

Also, the Charles C. Gates Biomanufacturing Facility will open April 6 at the University of Colorado's Aurora campus. The 14,000-square-foot facility will be dedicated to producing cell- and protein-based therapies for cancer, macular degeneration and skin ailments.

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GenomeWeb
April 6, 2015
CSHL, North Shore-LIJ Pact Marries Omics Research, Clinical Oncology to Speed Rx Discovery

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the North Shore-LIJ Health System have announced a strategic partnership that will pair CSHL's basic and translational cancer research capabilities — particularly its omics expertise — with North Shore-LIJ's growing clinical cancer program, which includes more than 16,000 new cancer cases annually across the New York metropolitan area.

The partnership will be supported with more than $120 million over the next 10 years from undisclosed investors, and will be CSHL's first comprehensive clinical-oriented collaboration, which is expected to enable the institution to more quickly move its basic biomarker and therapeutic discoveries to the clinic, CSHL Director of Research David Spector told GenomeWeb.

"I think this more structured back and forth between clinicians and basic scientists will really allow us to make tremendous leaps forward … that would probably not be possible with the more casual type of relationship that exists today," Spector said. "By working together in this context, we can make great strides to identify great targets, mechanisms, and ultimately to help treat and cure patients."

Although oncology biomarker discovery and therapeutic development will be the main thrust of the collaboration, the organizations also plan to use funding to develop a new clinical cancer research unit at the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute's headquarters in Lake Success, NY, and to recruit and train more clinician-scientists in oncology.

"We plan to hire clinician scientists at North Shore-LIJ who have expertise in Phase I clinical trials [which] will help us in our translational research," Spector said. In addition, the partners plan to support clinical fellows from North Shore-LIJ healthcare system who want to work in basic science laboratories at CSHL. "The clinical fellow will provide some insight from the clinic, and he or she will gain some basic science insight, so again this will hopefully bridge the two groups," Spector noted.

As an example of the type of translational research at CSHL that could benefit from a clinical oncology conduit, Spector cited the work of CSHL scientists Chris Vakoc and Greg Hannon. Vakoc, Spector said, "has identified a battery of potential targets and has developed [short-hairpin] RNA libraries" in conjunction with Hannon's group to knock down individual members of a family of chromatin-associated proteins to develop new treatments for specific leukemia subtypes.

Vakoc and Hannon, in collaboration with James Bradner at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, have already made significant advances in this field by using RNAi screens to identify Brd4 — a member of the BET family of proteins that contains a distinct domain known as a bromodomain and helps regulate gene expression.

The group is already testing a drug candidate targeting Brd4 in clinical trials, Spector noted. "We want to capitalize on that initial discovery, and Chris now has a larger number of other exciting candidates, and we will work together with North Shore-LIJ to pursue that basic research as it moves from the laboratory to a more clinical opportunity," Spector added.

Another potential research program at CSHL that could benefit from access to North Shore-LIJ's large clinical cancer cohorts and clinical oncology expertise is work being done on pancreatic cancer in Dave Tuveson's lab. There, researchers are trying to identify blood-based biomarkers that could serve as early indicators of disease.

"One of the big issues with pancreatic cancer is once it's detected, it's pretty much too late," Spector said. Tuveson, he added, is using both proteomics and 3D culture systems as an alternative to mouse models in order to identify these potential new biomarkers. "He is able to take material from actual human pancreatic cancers, grow them in culture, and then treat them with various molecules to see if he can alter their gene expression profiles as a strategy to tailor treatment to a specific patient," Spector said.

Finally, Spector underscored his own research as a potential beneficiary of a clinical oncologist's perspective.

"We have a big focus on breast cancer, and we are trying to identify long non-coding RNAs that are upregulated in breast tumors versus normal mammary glands," he said. "The idea here would be to then develop approaches to modulate the expression level of those targets, so that we might be able to have an impact on both the primary tumor as well as on metastases."

Having a clinician's perspective on these types of basic research questions, Spector noted, might change the tack taken by CSHL researchers. "It's all about designing the experiment properly, and as basic scientists we have a particular view of how an experiment should be designed, but I think ... clinicians who know the disease really well and deal with patients on a daily basis ... may be able to provide additional insight to modulate the direction of that research, and put it on a slight tangent that will get us to a better end point," he said. "I think it's going to change the ultimate outcome of our approach to thinking about science, even in the early stages, as well as when we're ready to move them toward the clinic."

As part of their affiliation, CSHL and North Shore-LIJ have appointed an oversight committee with responsibility for oversight, staffing, and implementation. The committee includes three CSHL representatives — Spector; President and CEO Bruce Stillman, and Tuveson, who is also deputy director of CSHL's Cancer Center — and three representatives from North Shore-LIJ — Physician-in-Chief Lawrence Smith; Feinstein Institute for Medical Research President and CEO Kevin Tracey; and Chair of Medicine Thomas McGinn.

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