Cutting-edge cancer care at the Miami Cancer Institute

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Published: 18 Jun 2019
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Dr Miguel Villalona - Miami Cancer Institute, Miami, USA

Dr Miguel Villalona talks to ecancer at the 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting about the Miami Cancer Institute (MCI): a new and innovative cancer centre in Florida.

He explains that the MCI is a 'hybrid' centre which combines new scientific advances with community practice.

Dr Villalona also discusses some of the work presented at ASCO from the MCI and also his highlights from the conference.

The Miami Cancer Institute is a new cancer centre that was formed in South Florida and the city of Miami. It’s what we call a hybrid centre. We wanted to bring all the science and technology to the community so we do both, a community practice and at the same time with the most scientific advantage and the access to clinical trials.

We have several affiliations, one with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Some of their clinical trials we have opened at the Miami Cancer Institute. We also have some trials with other organisations, one called US Oncology and some direct with pharma. In terms of research that is led by our cancer centre staff we have several trials with proton therapy, looking at homologous recombination repair therapies and some therapies in brain tumours.

I presented a poster and a particular test to detect patients that have repair deficiencies and treating them with what we call immune checkpoint inhibitors, which is a type of immunotherapy. That demonstrated that those patients did better so we’re planning future studies on that concept.

Have you got any highlights from ASCO in general?

Yes, several things. As you know, the latest in terms of cancer treatment are the immunotherapy agents that have been incorporated into practice and also molecularly targeted agents. So I would say one of the highlights is that patients with HIV, which is a segment of the population that had been excluded in the past from clinical trials, have been demonstrated that safely you can give immunotherapy to them obtaining similar responses. So to me that was a very, very important study that was made.

Another one that was presented in the plenary session was about disparities in healthcare. So all the disparities that we’ll see are racial disparities and also insurance disparities. There was a study that addressed how states that had embraced the Medicaid expansion have closed that disparity in access to cancer treatment. That had not been done before, it was a plenary session, which was very, very telling.

Then in terms of molecular targeted therapies, more and more agents are becoming available for the treatment of lung cancer and even some other cancers like pancreatic cancer. So it is very, very important that all patients with cancer get their tumour tested molecularly to see what is driving them because the therapy is changing in giant steps.