Hematologic oncologist C. Ola Landgren, M.D., Ph.D., has been recruited to be the inaugural leader of a new research program – Experimental Therapeutics at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, at the University of Miami Health System and the Miller School of Medicine.
Dr. Landgren, who was chief of myeloma service for the past six years at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of the top two cancer centers in the U.S., will also lead the myeloma clinical and research team at Sylvester.
“We are delighted to have Dr. Landgren as a colleague. He is a world leader with great vision and expertise,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester. “He will help us develop effective new treatments and new lines of research.”
Dr. Landgren starts at Sylvester on November 1. Before his arrival, he answered a few questions about his new roles and mission.
Why did you decide to come to Sylvester?
I am thrilled to join Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center – South Florida's only NCI-designated cancer center. It is a vibrant institution with outstanding people, access to all the leading technologies, and lots of positive energy. When Dr. Nimer offered me to serve as the inaugural leader for the Experimental Therapeutics Program as well as the leader for the myeloma program, I was blown away. For me, it is a unique opportunity to both deepen and broaden the type of work I have done for many years. Our ongoing work focusing on genomic characterization of tumor cells and cells in the tumor microenvironment is already at the forefront, and we will keep on pushing the envelope. I look forward to collaborate and develop new ideas together with colleagues as Sylvester, and to seek innovative ways toward improved survival and curative therapies for patients diagnosed with cancer.
Describe the new program you’ll be leading - Experimental Therapeutics - and what you’ll be striving to achieve in the next few years.
The Experimental Therapeutics Program will bring together multidisciplinary teams of clinicians and scientists throughout Sylvester. We will work together to advance research into novel therapies and to accelerate discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside. The Experimental Therapeutics Program will support early laboratory discoveries, refinement of preclinical models, and early-stage and first-in-human clinical trials – all with the overall goal to move therapeutic advances forward and to facilitate FDA approvals so patients will have access to newer and better therapies.
The Experimental Therapeutics Program will offer support in various ways, including internal seed-grants, laboratory and translational expertise, as well as support from experts in intellectual property and related topics. Also, the Experimental Therapeutics Program will play a key role for continued and expanded scientific medical education, mentoring, and culture of intellectual synergism and collaboration. It will create a unique research environment that will enhance our abilities to pursue drug development. We will support all promising discoveries made in our laboratories and clinics, with the goal to reach its full potential for benefiting people with cancer.
Why did you choose multiple myeloma as your area of focus?
I chose to focus on multiple myeloma because I thought that was a great opportunity and had potential to significantly improve patient outcomes. The multiple myeloma treatment field has undergone several changes over the past 10-20 years. The average overall survival has changed from 1-3 years to 10-20 years. Yet, we do not have an established curative therapy for multiple myeloma. I think advanced monitoring with minimal residual disease (MRD) testing, targeted imaging, and cutting-edge molecular profiling of residual disease post-therapy will drive the field forward in the coming few years. With better identification of residual disease as well as detection of early recurrences, we will improve remission-free follow-up for our patients.
As the leader of Sylvester’s myeloma team what is your vision?
We will continue our mission to drive new ideas and the development of novel treatment strategies, biomarkers, and targeted imaging modalities, for improved clinical outcomes for patients. We are already opening a range of new treatment trials, which will give our patients access to all the newest treatment options – independent of the stage of disease.
Today, we know that multiple myeloma is a genomically highly heterogeneous disease. Every newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patient has several “parallel multiple myelomas” going on at the same time. They are all genomically different. If we could figure out what the residual cells have in common, and we develop a treatment targeting those cells, that could potentially lead to a cure. In the current era, we have many new, sophisticated technologies available. We need to be smart and use the best technologies coupled with our best therapies. We will continue to develop translational clinical trials designed to go after these and other related questions.
What are your plans for continuing to see patients from South Florida, across the country, and abroad?
We will offer face-to-face visits on the main campus in Miami, as well as at the satellite facilities around the region. Also, we will offer patient access via telemedicine. Our telemedicine consultations will be open to patients across the U.S. as well as internationally. Patients will be able to receive therapy in Miami and the satellite facilities; we will also collaborate with other hematologists and oncologists who treat patients in other cities and countries. Some patients who live far away may choose to visit us every 3-6 months, for example, while others may come for annual follow-up visits.
With the integration of face-to-face and telemedicine visits, we can offer solutions that match the needs for each patient – independently of where he/she lives. This is modern medicine! Our model is an expansion of the work we have developed for several years. I have many years of experience treating and monitoring patients this way, so I know it works very well.