George Prendergast, President and CEO of the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR), part of Main Line Health, was a panelist at the Cancer Precision Medicine conference sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the Philadelphia Media Network, held on January 21, 2016 at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Philadelphia.
Other panelists included the directors of every cancer center in Pennsylvania, including from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson University, Fox Chase Cancer Center, the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the Wistar Institute. Audience members included researchers and the general public.
During the first panel discussion, entitled “Personalized Treatment, One Patient at a Time,” participants discussed recent innovations in cancer research at their individual cancer centers. Dr. Prendergast spoke in particular about IDO inhibitory drugs discovered at Lankenau that can remove the immune barriers erected by tumors and enhance chemotherapeutic efficacy. He also presented the unique “acapreneurial” organization at Lankenau, which is designed to speed translation of laboratory innovations into clinical trials, as used for the IDO inhibitors. Panelists also discussed the importance of peer-reviewed public funding of cancer research and the need to recruit more patients for clinical trials.
The second panel discussion, “Tailoring Cancer Prevention to the Individual,” focused on ways that patients could arrest cancer development by taking simple actions, such as not smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and getting screenings as per their doctors’ recommendations.
Dr. Prendergast predicted that one day, wearable technology products may be able to determine users’ risk for disease development and prompt them to take action. He also discussed some of the early research in the field on gut microbiome and its role in disease development. He noted work being done by LIMR scientists on a blood test that can predict the severity of nausea in chemotherapy patients, thus signaling to physicians the appropriate dosages and providing a needed tool to rationalize insurance coverage for more expensive antiemetic drugs that some, but not all, patients need to tolerate chemotherapy.
The conference, which communicated the most promising developments and directions in oncology, was presented by AACR and Philadelphia Media Network, publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.