publication date: Oct. 6, 2017

In Brief

Sunil Sharma joins TGen, City of Hope and HonorHealth

Sunil Sharma, joined the Translational Genomics Research Institute, pursuing drug development and patient clinical trials in concert with TGen’s research alliance with City of Hope in California, and TGen’s clinical partnership with the HonorHealth Research Institute in Scottsdale.

Sharma most recently was deputy director of Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Previously he served as senior director of clinical research and director of the Center for Investigational Therapeutics at HCI, where he also held a Jon and Karen Huntsman Presidential Professorship in Cancer Research and taught at the University of Utah School of Medicine. He helped HCI receive a coveted Comprehensive Cancer Center designation from the NCI in 2015.

Sharma is TGen deputy director of Clinical Sciences, and will work with closely with Daniel Von Hoff, TGen Distinguished Professor and Physician-In-Chief. Sharma will hold the titles of professor and head of TGen’s Applied Cancer Research and Drug Discovery Program.

He also will be a professor of medicine at City of Hope, and serve as chief of translational oncology and drug development at the HonorHealth Research Institute. He will be part of the senior leadership for the TGen-City of Hope alliance.  

Before joining the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Sharma built a phase I clinical trials program at the Nevada Cancer Institute in Las Vegas and worked as a physician in the Division of Gastrointestinal Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He earned his medical degree at the University of Delhi in New Delhi, India.

In addition to his clinical work, he worked for Novartis, where he helped developed one of the most widely used anti-lung cancer agents, ceritinib, and recent immunotherapies, pembrolizumab and nivolumab, which help the body’s own immune system attack cancer cells.

Sharma also helped start two drug development firms — Beta Cat Pharmaceuticals, and Salarius Pharmaceuticals — each initiated under nearly $20 million grants from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

 

Wisconsin state budget expands precision medicine in cancer

An item in the newly passed Wisconsin state budget will expand a collaborative network of the UW Carbone Cancer Center and cancer doctors around the state to help find treatments matched to the genetic differences in patients’ cancer.

The budget designates $980,000 for the Precision Medicine Molecular Tumor Board to reach all Wisconsin cancer patients who may need a customized approach to their treatment.

The board began work in September 2015 as collaboration between UW Carbone and the state’s largest oncology practices, including Gundersen  Health System in La Crosse, Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee, and Green Bay Oncology. More recently, Fox River Hematology/Oncology, ProHealth and ThedaCare have joined.

When a patient needs new treatment options, physicians around the state can request a genetic test and refer the case to the PMMTB, which reviews the findings and identifies treatments that target the mutations.

For example, a drug already approved for melanoma might target the same mutation found in the patient’s lung cancer.  In other cases, the board might find a clinical trial of an experimental treatment that matches the patient’s cancer. In the first year, PMMTB found treatment options for a majority of patients whose cases were reviewed.

The new funding will allow the board to:

  • Increase access to precision medicine by supporting hospitals and clinics across the state that are not currently using precision oncology.

  • Establish a state-wide precision medicine database which allows patients, treatments, and outcomes to be tracked, building a knowledge base for future cases. This has potential to benefit cancer patients across the state and the nation.

  • Continue to review novel cases, while being able to respond more quickly to cases in which the mutations fit patterns that have been seen in the past.

  • Provide support for specialized genetic testing for patients, and support patients who cannot afford testing.

Copyright (c) 2017 The Cancer Letter Inc.