NCI-Cancer Center: Collaboration is the Key to our Success

Doctors bring expertise to NCI-designated cancer center

Cleveland Clinic joined the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCCC) at Case Western Reserve University in 2003, bringing decades of strength in research, clinical trials and a huge patient population.

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The CCCC also includes University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center. The combination of the three institutes has formed a solid collaboration to the greater good of treating cancer in the region.

In June of 2013, the CCCC received an outstanding rating and a five-year renewal of its grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Groundbreaking genomics research

The CCCC has contributed to groundbreaking research on genomics and its role in cancer. Center members have increasing knowledge of the role genetic factors play in the development of various forms of cancer, which in turn opens the door to new approaches for prevention and treatment.

“We are realizing more and more that cancer is hundreds of diagnoses within a disease type. Many CCCC members are focusing on either identifying cancer by genetic lesions or identifying genetic lesions that could lead to cancer being responsive to drug therapy,” said Mikkael Sekeres, MD, director of the leukemia program at Cleveland Clinic and Vice-chair for Clinical Research at Taussig Cancer Institute. A key factor to the focus on genetics is Jaroslaw P. Maciejewski, MD, PhD, chair of the department of translational hematology and oncology research at Taussig Cancer Institute at Cleveland Clinic and one of 10 CCCC senior leaders. Dr. Maciejewski works with applying the latest technologies to perform whole genome screening in patients with leukemia, in conjunction with the core sequencing facilities at the CCCC.

Eric Klein, MD, a Cleveland Clinic urologist, was an integral part of developing a prostate cancer test that relies on a multi-gene signature to predict cancer aggressiveness more accurately than traditional methods.

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Charis Eng, MD, PhD, founding director of Cleveland Clinic Genomic Medicine Institute, led a research team that has been clarifying the PTEN gene mutation’s associations with thyroid, breast and several other cancers.

Collaboration of clinical trials

Cleveland Clinic alone has more than 300 clinical trials that are open to patients from all three institutions. In 2013, Cleveland Clinic accrued more than 400 patients for therapeutic studies and more than 2,000 for cancer clinical trials. The 2014 CCCC annual report detailed that the Center had 333 active clinical trials, 143 active therapeutic trials that enrolled a record 1,008 patients and 147 NCI-supported projects.

Patients taking part in these studies could have received a trial drug, given blood samples or participated in a quality of life study among many other aspects of clinical research.

Cleveland Clinic has enormous strength in clinical research and has leaders in oncology who are internationally renowned within the individual subtypes. There are trials in which all institutions participate and may enroll the patients at Cleveland Clinic.

The CCCC has a specific review committee that approves each study and a database into which patient data are entered. Part of the goal is to standardize the approach to patient care, such as procedures in enrolling patients into trials, following patients and measuring outcomes for the trials.

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Connection of care

“The unifying aspects of a comprehensive cancer center are translational research, clinical research and serving the community,” says Dr. Sekeres.

The CCCC is also sensitive to issues in cancer advocacy and government relations.

“We have precedent-setting translational researchers,” Dr. Sekeres says. “Case also brings unique strengths in translational and clinical research that complement the strengths we have. It’s been impressive how the leaders of the institutions have come together in recognizing the greater good of treating cancer in our region.”

UH Seidman Cancer Center brings to the CCCC research in areas such as breast cancer and colon cancer, as well as knowledge from its Center for Cancer Drug Development (with Case Western Reserve University).