Message From Dr. Lippman: February 2013

Dr. Scott Lippman

Dr. Scott Lippman

Dr. Scott Lippman is the director of Moores Cancer Center. Find out more about him.

New Director’s Answer to Cancer Takes Root

February 2013

When a San Diegan returns home after living out of town for an extended period the first thing he might do is pay a visit to one of the city’s many extraordinary eateries, visit with old friends and family or take part in a favorite pastime such as tennis. Since leaving Houston to assume the role of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center director in May, Scott M. Lippman, MD, has enjoyed the great weather, but his focus has been on reshaping the future of cancer care in his hometown.

“Moores Cancer Center is already one of the world’s premier cancer centers,” said Lippman. “Through innovation, we can make it even more effective in advancing research-driven cancer detection, treatment and prevention.”

New Recruits Include Pioneering Scientists

Lippman brings with him more than two decades of accomplishments in the field of cancer research and treatment. Perhaps one of his greatest triumphs is in his leadership. So much so that half a dozen of his colleagues were willing to follow him from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to San Diego.

In order to continue to work by his side, one of the nation’s leading cancer researchers, Razelle Kurzrock, MD, left the Lone Star State to become Moores Cancer Center senior deputy director for Clinical Science. She is known for developing the largest and best phase 1 clinical trials program in the nation. This program emphasizes targeted, personalized cancer medicine—exactly what Lippman wants for San Diego. Kurzrock’s charge is broad, including not just growing and innovating the Center’s clinical trials program, but also as vice chief of the Hematology-Oncology division in the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

In addition to her arrival, Napoleone Ferrara, MD, PhD, joined the Moores Cancer Center after a storied career in Northern California at the biotechnology giant, Genentech, where he pioneered development of new treatments for cancer and age-related macular degeneration. There, he discovered vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)—and made the first VEGF antibody—which suppresses growth of a variety of tumors.

Focus on Translational Research

The recruitment of these incredible scientists is one of many steps moving the Cancer Center into the future of battling cancer. Kurzrock initiated the Molecular Tumor Board, but instead of including solely physicians to discuss patient cases this group also includes researchers. Together they will expand translational research—taking research from the lab into patient rooms and back to the lab—by creating effective treatments, innovative clinical trials and translational laboratory investigations.

To further expand on this collaborative work, Lippman is leading the newly formed San Diego National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers Council along with co-chairs from La Jolla-based Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and Salk Institute. San Diego is one of the few cities to house not just a NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center (Moores) but also two NCI-designated basic research cancer centers (Sanford-Burnham and Salk).

The mission of the Council is to leverage the powerful resources each has in its scientific expertise, technology and initiatives. Having great minds working together in the same city could enhance collaboration not just in the scientific community but in other public and private organizations to find additional answers to cancer care.

Personalized Cancer Treatment

The Cancer Center, under Lippman’s direction, introduced a visionary philanthropic initiative called MY ANSWER TO CANCER to raise money for research that would match each patient with personalized cancer care for greater success in treatment. MY ANSWER TO CANCER’s expert team, made up of cancer physicians to geneticists, will someday analyze the DNA sequence of cancer patients to pinpoint causes of each cancer type. This data can then be used collaboratively to more effectively personalize cancer treatments and to improve upon these as new information is generated.

To help Lippman in his quest to reshape cancer care, Kurzrock will head the Moores Cancer Center’s newly established Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy. While at M.D. Anderson she and her team successfully incorporated advanced molecular profiling technology as a routine procedure for patients involved in early drug development trials, thus making personalized medicine a reality.

“With the use of personalized, targeted therapies, we will be able to convert many cancer types into chronic, controllable diseases that people can live with, and it will increase the potential for cures,” said Lippman. “Together we can make a difference in the lives of patients and family members in and beyond San Diego for generations to come.”

This update was featured in Moores Cancer Center's February 2013 email newsletter. If you don't receive it, you can subscribe here.