Lynch's Career Brings Clinic and Laboratory Advancements Into Focus

Thomas J. Lynch, Jr, MD, brings an enthusiasm to exploring and developing treatments to help patients with cancer.

Thomas J. Lynch, Jr, MD

Even at a young age, Thomas J. Lynch, Jr, MD’s ideas about his future career focused on taking care of patients who had a serious disease. Although, at the time, 10-year old Thomas didn’t realize the “serious disease” that his father, a hematologist, treated was called “cancer,” his father’s devotion to his patients influenced his son’s choice.

“I knew that I wanted to follow that path,” Lynch told OncLive recently. “When I got to medical school, it confirmed that oncology was the right career choice for me.”

In a career that has spanned many facets of cancer care, from providing direct patient care, to his work as a fellowship director, as a physician chief of a cancer hospital, and now, as executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), Lynch brings an enthusiasm to exploring and developing treatments to help patients with cancer. Throughout his career, he was “drawn to the idea that clinical research and the ability to take new drugs and new paradigms and bring them to patients was very exciting and stimulating.” For his endeavors prior to joining BMS, Lynch was honored with the OncLive® Giants of Cancer Care® award in lung cancer in 2013.

Lynch accepted the position in March 2017, taking over for Francis Cuss, MB BChir, FRCP, who retired from BMS last year. “We can learn so much about what drives cancer and so much about how treatment works. That is extremely motivating when you consider cancer as a career,” said Lynch. He looks forward to continuing to lead the research and development efforts and accelerating the development of the immuno-oncology (I-O) franchise, while fully realizing the potential opportunity of the company’s diverse, innovative pipeline.

Lynch says that as a physician, you are motivated by 2 things—the desire to help patients and the sense of mission conveyed by the hospital, the doctors, and the nurses. “All those professionals are working together for a common cause,” said Lynch. “What I have found at BMS is that same sense of commonality, which brings together the different professionals in our company to create better medicines,” continued Lynch.

That collaborative motivation is also reflected in a BMS initiative called the International Immuno-Oncology Network (IION), which partners BMS scientists with scientists from academia to further the scientific understanding of IO. The program encompasses 16 sites across North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia. The collaborators generate innovative IO science, launch biology-driven trials, and apply cutting-edge technologies with the goal of translating research findings into clinical trials and, ultimately, supporting efforts to improve survival outcomes across tumor types.

Lynch has seen some impressive advancements over the course of his life’s work. For example, Lynch, who specializes in treating patients with lung cancer, recalls the early days of treatment. “We were treating patients with platinum-based chemotherapy,” said Lynch. “Yes, we were helping them, but it is nowhere near what we can do now with targeted therapies and immuno-oncology type drugs. The opportunities are extraordinary.” Lynch and colleagues pioneered the use of molecular testing for EGFR mutations in lung cancer.

Lynch brings medical, management, and leadership experience at different healthcare institutions, including more than 23 years at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), to his position. He recalls his involvement with the MGH/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute fellowship program, where he had the opportunity to work with first-year fellows.

“That was some of the most impactful work I got to do in my career. I was privileged to shape the careers of these young oncologists,” said Lynch. “I tried to convey to them that no other career will challenge you more, will push you more, will motivate you more to make a difference for patients with cancer.”

Lynch has served as chairman and chief executive officer of Massachusetts General Physicians Organization and a member of the Massachusetts General Hospital Board since 2015. From 2009 to 2015, he was director of Yale Cancer Center and was the Richard and Jonathan Sackler Professor of Internal Medicine, Yale Cancer Center, Yale School of Medicine. He has also served as the physician in chief of the Smilow Cancer Hospital, Yale-New Haven, since 2009. Prior to 2009, Lynch was professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of Hematology/Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“The IION has been a great example of this collaborative effort because of the frank interactions that occur between the scientists at BMS and the scientists at the academic laboratories,” said Lynch. He hopes that the connections between scientists at BMS and the partners in the initiative will lead to a better understanding and a better ability to translate science into advances that can make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer.