AACR Annual Meeting 2013
The aims of the WIN Consortium
Dr John Mendelsohn – MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA
Worldwide innovative networking with the mission of getting personalised cancer therapy sounds a magnificent goal, tell me what is WIN?
WIN is a consortium. It involves many constituencies all of which are interested in improving cancer care through personalised therapy. So it includes academicians who are carrying out the clinical trials; it includes the companies that are producing the sequencing equipment; it includes the people doing the data analysis; it includes advocacy groups; it includes regulatory specialists all gathering together at a symposium once a year in Paris, as we will do on July 10th, where each of these constituencies will speak together in a relatively small group with lots of time for questions and challenging each other.
What, in fact, are you doing then? I mean, it’s all about genes and actually looking at the individual patients to see what is the best treatment.
We’re sharing information and ideas and challenging each other to develop in each of our sectors. We’re all looking through different spectacles at the same question; we can all do a more efficient and effective job if we listen to each other and see what the roadblocks are and go home to our places of work and change how we’re doing things.
What’s the significance of WIN to ordinary cancer doctors?
The significance for ordinary cancer doctors is that we’re trying to develop the procedures and the knowledge base so that their practices can change and they’ll be able to be more effectively treating their patients.
And what’s the difference between this personalised approach that you’re now promoting through WIN and traditional approaches to cancer medicine which have yielded a lot of benefits?
I agree, they’ve yielded tremendous benefits. When I was born a third of cancer patients lived five years, today two-thirds live five years. But one third don’t and for those there’s going to be a point in their care where we need something new. And something new, we believe, will come from a more personalised targeted approach to the therapies. And the drug companies and the academic institutions are developing these therapies but they need to be tested and they need to be tested on a diverse population. So WIN brings together cancer centres from four different continents; it brings together specialists in clinical trials from academic institutions around the world and, in addition to our symposium, we are beginning to initiate clinical trials that will involve diverse populations. And we will be able to study these drugs in many different countries.
And what is new about what you’re doing because scientists and doctors are already quite international, so what’s the basic ingredient that could be a catalyst to make things even better?
What’s new about what we’re doing? Two things. One is we’re bringing together specialists that are involved in the technology. Some of the trials we’re planning are being really piloted by the companies that make the instruments that are learning how to interrogate tumours better. Some of the trials are being developed by clinical investigators at universities who think they have a better method for assigning the right drug to the right patient. And the second important thing is there’s a diversity in responses and susceptibilities to cancer that we don’t know how to measure. And it’s important, we think, to study patients in Asia and the Middle East and Europe and North America and South America because we’re going to find differences that we can’t predict with any of our tests.
So, in a few words, what do you want cancer doctors to do with respect to WIN?
We want cancer doctors that are part of WIN to participate in these trials. We want to expand the participation levels. We have to prove ourselves, we have to show that this works and we expect to expand. We have a very limited budget, there’s no one agency supporting us but our first trial went through which will open next month is supported by a $3 million grant, it’s a €2.3 million grant from the European Union because we applied for funding from them and they thought this was a good project. So each of the clinical trials we’re developing needs to stand on its own legs. It’s a challenge to put this together.
And in Paris that’s the main focus coming up very shortly.
In Paris the main focus is to discuss these trials but even more to bring the various stakeholders together in an open discussion, each of us trying to figure out how we can do this more effectively and more efficiently by listening to each other.
John Mendelsohn, thank you very much.