Columbia, NewYork-Presbyterian, and Life Raft Group Form Cancer Research Partnership


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Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian, and the Life Raft Group, a patient advocacy organization specializing in advanced gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), announced that they have entered into a collaborative research project to investigate the efficacy of a novel system biology approach to identifying the best treatment options for patients with GIST.

The science behind the approach, developed in the Califano Laboratory at Columbia University, utilizes VIPER algorithm software (Virtual Inference of Protein activity by Enriched Regulon analysis) to investigate the molecular networks of patients with GIST, that have become resistant to approved tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Although oncogene targets are already established in GIST, this will identify the master regulators, or “tumor checkpoints,” representing the final “on” and “off” switches in the GIST cells. Personalized therapeutic agents can then be selected for patients currently lacking any effective therapeutic options.

Unique Analytics Tool

Clinical and molecular data from the study participants will be stored in the Life Raft Group’s Patient Registry, a unique data management analytics tool developed by the Life Raft Group, which tracks a patient’s clinical history and links it to a companion record of tissue and mutational data housed in the Life Raft Group’s Tissue Bank. The project will launch with the mapping of tissue samples donated by patients to the Life Raft Group. The Life Raft Group will also serve as the monitoring arm of the study and use its proprietary research collaboration platform, InterGR, to provide investigators a centralized repository for all data collected.

The collaboration is an example of the vital role patient advocacy groups play in bridging the gap between researchers and motivated patient populations who want to share their clinical histories and tissue to create new treatments and better outcomes.

Gary K. Schwartz, MD

Gary K. Schwartz, MD

Gary K. Schwartz, MD, Chief of NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center’s Division of Hematology and Oncology, who is spearheading the project, thinks it could be “monumental.” He stated: “It shows how a major patient advocacy group and academic centers can work so closely together.”

Collaboration begins with six other academic institutions: Fox Chase Cancer Center; Oregon Health & Science University; University of California, San Diego; University of Miami; Washington University; and Stanford University. ■



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