Both Marshall and Wellstein stressed that this type of funding takes creativity, the design of the trials can be exceedingly complex, and the collection and preparation of the samples for the specimen bank is anything but glamorous.
“There’s a huge difference between having a mission and actually following through,” said Wellstein. “Lombardi and the Ruesch Center have created an environment that is conducive to keeping our noses to the grindstone as we go about the day-to-day work that brings us closer to effective individualized therapy.”
Not surprisingly, this commitment to the behind- the-scenes work toward individualized care is at the core of another of Georgetown Lombardi’s innovative endeavors: namely, the G-DOC.
“The opening of the Ruesch Center has given us the opportunity to bring together research and clinical practice, to use all our muscle to improve outcomes, and to determine which patients will most likely benefit from existing treatments and those in the pipeline. Individualized therapy is the bottom line.”
–Anton Wellstein, MD, PhD
G-DOC: Tapping the Untapped Potential
When Louis M. Weiner, MD, was named director of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2007, his vision for the Ruesch Center included “a novel approach to bringing advances in research and treatment into clinical practice.” That vision ultimately manifested as G-DOC.
G-DOC, which is still under development, is a series of databases containing detailed analyses of the cancers of several thousand patients, including molecular characteristics (ie, DNA, proteins, and other markers), findings from imaging scans, and treatment information. It is, in fact, estimated that every patient in the database will generate approximately 10^39 bytes of data for analysis.
The idea is to use G-DOC as a tool for comparing a particular patient’s clinical information to corresponding G-DOC data from every other patient with a similar disease. This, Weiner explained, will enable Georgetown Lombardi researchers to identify the clinical and molecular characteristics of a patient’s cancer that most reliably track with clinical outcomes (see “G-DOC at Work”). And this, in turn, will be a major step toward the personalized medicine so desperately needed to improve treatment outcomes.
Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center Timeline Continued
2006 – Georgetown Lombardi’s Drug Discovery program, led by medicinal chemist Milton Brown, MD, PhD, is established to support translational research.
2006– The FDA approves Gardasil, the first-ever cancer vaccine, the technology for which was developed in the laboratory of C. Richard Schlegel, MD, PhD, chairman of the department of pathology at Georgetown Lombardi.
2006– The Fisher Center for Familial Cancer Research is established with a generous gift from the Robert M. Fisher Memorial Foundation to expand research into the genetic causes of cancer.
2007– Louis M. Weiner, MD, is named director of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
2008– Georgetown University Medical Center initiates collaboration with Indivumed GmbH, the Germanybased international research and biobanking company, to support the development of the Georgetown Database of Cancer (G-DOC).
2008– Lucile Adams-Campbell, PhD, is named Georgetown Lombardi’s first associate director for Minority Health & Health Disparities Research, with research focusing on reducing cancer disparities among the underserved and ethnic minority populations in the District of Columbia.
2009– The Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers opens its doors to refocus research efforts, advocacy, and policy initiatives on gastrointestinal cancers.
2010– The G-DOC is launched after nearly 2 years of development and testing.
“Without such a tool we’re essentially approaching newly diagnosed patients as we did back in the 1950s: taking a history, performing an exam, ordering lab and radiology studies, and using those results along with our experience and knowledge of the literature to formulate a treatment plan,” said Weiner.