Prof Eggermont explains WIN and its mission within the cancer community, as well as its current impact and hopes for personalised cancer medicine. Discussion on cell genetic changes and the genetic backgrounds of the person contribute to targeted therapies allow a for greater development in research. With WIN’s emphasis on being a world-wide organisation, Prof Eggermont highlights how this will produce new drugs and discoveries in both the western and non-western world, ultimately from pharma, institutes, and biotech working in a unique partnership.
WIN 2011, 6-8 July, 2011, Paris
Importance and impact of the WIN Symposium
Professor Alexander Eggermont – Gustave Roussy Cancer Institute, Paris, France
First of all, WIN is an initiative that was taken and developed by Institute Gustave Roussy and MD Anderson Cancer Center. And the acronym stands for Worldwide Innovative Networking in Personalised Cancer Medicine but we have only taken the first part, WIN, which is also a nice word and has a positive connotation.
To organise academic research in personalised cancer medicine development in a global manner, because personalised cancer medicine is supposed, not only to look at the cancer cell and the cancer environment and all the genetic changes that take place in that particular tumour site, that are tumour driven, but also against the variety of the genetic backgrounds. And so tumours differ because they are embedded in different genetic backgrounds; targeted therapies differ and actually all therapies differ because they are embedded then in a different genetic background which may influence metabolism, may influence pharmacokinetics, it may influence expression differences of mutations or of mutated products of that, like the proteins etc, receptor status. All this may mean that a drug does not work in the Western population but may work quite well in the Japanese or in a Chinese population and vice versa. So to learn from what you can tease out against these different genetic backgrounds is that it should be beneficial for the whole programme to develop at greater speed new drugs in the targeted treatment area that would lead to implementations, not only in the Western world, but we would make discoveries as much in the non-Western as in the Western world by this approach. So the thing that really distinguishes us from a lot of other programmes is that it starts with Worldwide, and that’s for a scientific reason, but to end up with benefits also in a worldwide manner.
How will this affect the designing of clinical trials?
First of all, this needed a legal entity and it needed a consortium and a consortium agreement and institutes and pharma and biotech who were willing to work together in a very unparity type of manner. And so this consortium has been created and we have, therefore, partners from the public and the private domain. The conferences are organised in exactly this same manner – 50% of the presentations are given by biotech, by technology, by imaging, by pharma and 50% comes out of the academic world and this is where the two meet and where actually a lot of new data and new approaches are being presented and digested in an intertwined manner. Also, in terms of bioinformatics and in data sharing there is a whole new way and we have, as one of the strong partners for instance, Sage Bionetworks, Steven Friend in Seattle, which is all about very novel computational approaches, that is all about shared databases, it’s all about a completely new type of consortia that work at gathering big datasets in a public system and then analyse it in a way that is basically congruent with a systems biology approach. So the father of systems biology, Leroy Hood, is one of the partners and his organisation.
So we have actually very, very much top notch people in the key domain areas that matter in the highly complex development of personalised cancer medicine because this is not old-style medicine development, this is now a different era. But this is where we need to move, to stand a chance, to really make an impact on cancer care.
Have you entered into any partnerships to make such an impact?
We have partners from Asia: we have, from China, Fudan University and they came with a big delegation, I believe sixteen people. We will have, as the new partner, the Sun Yat Sen University, this is one of the biggest cancer centres in the world belonging to the Sun Yut Sen University in Guangzhou; phenomenal infrastructure, as a matter of fact, and big, big numbers in a very well developed, also, healthcare site. We have one of the main sites in India, from Mumbai; in the Middle East we have participation from the King Hussein Cancer Centre in Jordan and from Kuwait National Cancer Institute and from Hadassah in Israel. You know, in the Middle East there are very specific healthcare problems and different genetic backgrounds that may emerge - certain types of leukaemia, certain types of breast cancer etc. Then, from Egypt, the National Cancer Institute, and then we have a number of institutes in Europe and in the United States and in Brazil. So this is extending into a very global representation and the focus is very much on molecular diagnostic assay development to provide the information of all the variety and background to be able to work with newly identified targets and test new targeted drugs within this type of very much enriched network of institutes.