July 21, 2023/Cancer/Innovations

Novel Cancer Therapeutics Center Helps Navigate Complex Treatment Landscape and Emerging Side Effects from Cancer Treatment

Driving advances in cancer care

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From theranostics to modified cell therapy, the landscape of cancer treatment has changed substantially in recent years, bringing fresh hope as well as new challenges for those caring for patients. The Novel Cancer Therapeutics Center at Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Center is bringing together researchers, geneticists and specialists to support patients and healthcare providers in this complex new realm.

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Pioneering new treatment options

“The technology is becoming more advanced so that we are delivering increasingly sophisticated cancer treatments like antibody drug conjugates and immune cell stimulators,” says Wen Wee Ma, MBBS, the inaugural Director of the Novel Cancer Therapeutics Center. “It can be challenging for patients and providers to navigate and access these cutting-edge yet complex anti-cancer therapies that are just entering clinical testing. The center aims to be a central driver for these early phase therapeutic trials across the Clinic, and to help patients and clinicians navigate these complexities. At the same time, patients are surviving longer, and facing new types of side effects such as that from immunotherapy. We aim to be a leader in developing the expertise and helping clinicians manage these treatment complications.”

Driving clinical innovations

The Novel Cancer Therapeutics Center has five key areas of focus:

  • Early cancer therapeutics program, exploring pharmaceutical agents, immune cell stimulants as well as novel radiation technologies
  • Cellular therapy research, including CAR T-cell and CAR NK cell therapies that re-tool patients’ immune cells to attack tumors
  • Precision oncology program that focuses on understanding and developing personalized treatment plans according to the genetic and molecular drivers of cancer
  • The development of a knowledge base to understand and to help clinicians care for patients suffering from side effects of cancer treatment
  • Innovative care delivery to break down barriers and improve access to clinical trial participation

The vision isn’t confined to any one cancer type. “More and more, we’re thinking about how to treat cancers according to their underlying biological processes instead of according to which organ the cancer started in,” explains Dr. Ma. “Over the past 5-10 years, it’s been exciting to see new treatments being approved based on molecular abnormalities. In that same vein, in our research we’re incorporating what we understand about cancer processes and the way they respond to treatment.”

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Next steps

Dr. Ma is recruiting a growing team of researchers in the Novel Cancer Therapeutics Center who will form a multi-modality program to guide patients who may benefit from participation in complex early-stage clinical trials. The team is working in concert with Cleveland Clinic’s Learner Research Institute (LRI) to bring newly-discovered treatments in the lab into clinical trials. At the same time, the team meets regularly with LRI staff to share notable learnings they’ve gleaned in the clinic.

One of the first initiatives being launched in the center is the Oncology Pharmacovigilance Clinic. Some patients receiving immunotherapy develop autoimmune diseases such as colitis, hepatitis, hypothyroidism or inflammatory lung disease that may persist after stopping the treatment.

“As oncologists, we need help to better understand and manage those complications,” explains Dr. Ma. “Taussig Cancer Institute is already a leader in this emerging field. “We have assembled a multidisciplinary team together with other departments and institutes, including rheumatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology and dermatology, to focus on this challenge. ”The goal is to be a one-stop consultative clinic and be a resource for cancer providers within and outside of Cleveland Clinic in caring for their patients.

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Learn more in our podcast episode with Director of the Novel Cancer Therapeutics Center, Wen Wee Ma, MBBS.

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