publication date: Apr. 20, 2018

Piantadosi leaves Cedars-Sinai for Alliance and Harvard

By Paul Goldberg

Steven Piantadosi is moving to Alliance, where he will serve as the associate group chair for strategic initiatives and innovation.

For a decade, Piantadosi served as director of Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute. He stepped down from that position in August, 2017, to head the newly established Cedars-Sinai Clinical Trials Design Research Center (The Cancer Letter, July 17, 2017).

Piantadosi’s move to the Alliance headquarters in Boston was presaged by his joining the group’s external advisory boards.

“This meeting generated so many exciting ideas, we asked Steven to consider working with us as a collaborator,” said Monica Bertagnolli, chair of the Alliance. “Pretty soon, the research teams at Brigham and Women’s, Dana Farber, and the Harvard School of Public Health all joined in to convince Steven to join us full time in Boston.”

Piantadosi’s last day at Cedars-Sinai will be June 30. In Boston, he will work from the Alliance group chair’s office in Boston, where he has recently accepted a position as a professor of surgery and biostatistics at Harvard Medical School. He will also join the Alliance Statistics and Data Management Program, working with the group statistician, Sumithra Mandrekar.

“Having Steven at Alliance is going to make it possible for us to tackle a new initiative to make clinical trials smarter, faster, and with less unnecessary expense,” Bertagnolli said.

“A key part of my activity there will be collaborating with some very sharp MIT scientists on innovative clinical trial informatics. Other activities include research, collaboration, and teaching with colleagues at Partners. Brigham and Women’s Hospital offers me many ways to make an impact on the science of clinical trials, and consequently on the care of patients by working in the world’s premier academic medical institutions.”

In an email to The Cancer Letter, Piantadosi said the Alliance has selected the following areas for innovation:

  • “Improve access of underrepresented populations in cancer clinical trials and related research–people over age 65, adolescents and young adults, underrepresented minorities, and participants for whom data collection is very difficult, such as those with rare tumors, or those living in rural locations. The strategy is to provide a data collection tool that can interface with any electronic health record, and replace cumbersome conventional clinical trials case report forms that are labor-intensive to complete.  This approach is currently under initial testing at a number of Alliance sites.

  • “Statistical modeling of treatment outcomes to identify patients who are outliers with respect to response to adjuvant therapy for solid tumors.  Honing in on these exceptional cases provides a strategy to identify differences in biology. We can then target these cases to fully characterize them using comprehensive molecular analyses.  This can be a much more efficient and less costly way of linking clinical behavior to molecular subtyping than analyzing all specimens available.”

In a letter to his colleagues at Cedars-Sinai, Piantadossi wrote:

“Many opportunities presented themselves to me in the past nine months, including remaining here with a wide circle of collaborators nationally. But the scientific and funding opportunities presented to me in Boston were too exciting to pass up (despite their annual snowfall totals).

“A key part of my activity there will be collaborating with some very sharp MIT scientists on clinical trial informatics. My other activities will include research, collaboration, and teaching with colleagues at Dana Farber and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in addition to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Clinical Investigation.

“Both the current and incoming ASCO Presidents will be my close collaborators at Harvard, so cancer will remain my research and teaching focus.  But I will also explore contributing to other disease areas, as has been an integral part of my career for 30 years.

“Brigham and Women’s Hospital has about $700M in annual research funding—the total funding in the Partners system is about $1.6B yearly. Opportunities are endless. I will have many more chances to make an impact on the science of clinical trials, and consequently on the care of patients by working in several of the premier academic medical institutions in the world.”

Mandrekar, Alliance statistician, who is based at Mayo Clinic, said Piantadosi will be focused full-time on developing new ideas and approaches.

“He will be able to coordinate efforts currently distributed across many Alliance disease committees and projects,” Mandrekar said. “We are also particularly excited to have Steven as a mentor to train and inspire a new generation of clinical trial statisticians.”

Copyright (c) 2018 The Cancer Letter Inc.