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From Dr. Len Wexler

To the Memorial Sloan Kettering Community:

I am pleased to announce that Memorial Sloan Kettering is today launching an ambitious initiative to improve cancer care and research through genomic analysis. This collaborative effort, involving both researchers and clinicians, will reshape clinical trials and speed the translation of novel molecular discoveries into routine clinical practice. The Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology (CMO), named in honor of its donors, is made possible by a landmark gift of $100 million from the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Foundation. Marie-Josée Kravis has been a member of MSK’s Boards of Overseers and Managers since October 2000 and is Chair of the Board of the Sloan Kettering Institute. MSK will now be positioned to realize the promise of precision oncology and to support the development of new, individualized cancer therapies and diagnostic tools.

Dr. David Solit, who holds a Geoffrey Beene Chair and joint appointments in the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program and the Department of Medicine, will serve as the inaugural Director of the CMO. His research, which focuses on the identification and biologic characterization of genetic alterations that promote cancer development and predict drug response, corresponds directly to the goals of the CMO. The CMO leadership team will also include Associate Directors Drs. Michael Berger and Agnès Viale.

The CMO will employ the diverse expertise required to profile archived tumor specimens and tissues obtained in clinical trials using next-generation sequencing and other molecular technologies. It also unites physicians with scientists who are working to discover new molecular changes that promote tumor formation, which may represent new drug targets. One goal is to analyze more than 10,000 patient tumors in the CMO’s first year, with the hope of eventually providing molecular analysis for every type of cancer and for all MSK patients.

A cornerstone of the CMO will be to enroll patients in phase I clinical trials called basket studies, in which therapies are offered to those whose tumors test positive for certain mutations regardless of the type of cancer they have. Basket studies will include many more people than disease-specific trials and could yield therapies that would benefit everyone whose tumor has the same mutation, potentially revolutionizing the treatment of cancer.

Based on MSK’s experience in understanding which genetic mutations play a role in the development of cancer, Dr. Berger developed the Integrated Mutation Profiling of Actionable Cancer Targets (IMPACT) test, a new technology platform that can reliably and accurately screen for 341 genetic mutations. MSK is now using the IMPACT test to identify which patients with metastatic disease might be suitable for basket studies.

The CMO will also focus on retrospectively analyzing tumors of exceptional responders — those patients in a clinical trial who have a sustained positive response to a drug that was not effective in treating other patients with the same type of cancer.

The CMO will bring together a number of existing researchers and facilities, as well as create new facilities and recruit new faculty. New lab space is currently under construction and state-of-the-art instrumentation for the generation and analysis of large-scale genomic data is being purchased. The Genomics Core Laboratory, led by Dr. Viale, will assist with the processing, automation, and sequencing of tumor samples.

Working closely with the Center for Mechanism-Based Therapies (CMBT), the CMO will bring new findings into the clinic. When mutations are found, the CMBT will help translate those findings into therapies that can be tested in clinical trials. New clinical trial protocols are being developed to address the special needs of conducting trials based on mutations as opposed to cancer type.

This collaborative effort will usher in what will truly be a new era of precision medicine. Please join me in wishing David, Michael, Agnès and the entire staff of the CMO every success.

To watch a video and learn more about the CMO click on this link.

Craig Thompson