Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Foundation Provides $100 Million Gift to Support Precision Oncology Work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

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Jose Baselga, MD

David Solit, MD

Craig Thompson, MD

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has launched an initiative to improve cancer care and research through genomic analysis. The new program will reshape clinical trials and speed the translation of novel molecular discoveries into routine clinical practice. The Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology (CMO) is named in honor of Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, whose gift of $100 million will make it possible to further the promise of precision oncology and support the development of new, individualized cancer therapies and diagnostic tools.

“Progress in our understanding of the biology of cancer has completely shifted the way we think about and treat cancer,” says Craig Thompson, MD, President and CEO, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “We’re moving away from the concept of treating cancer as many different types of the same disease and toward treating each person’s cancer as its own unique disease. Now, thanks to the inspiring generosity of the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Foundation, we will be able to expand and intensify this effort, ushering in what will truly be a new era of precision medicine.”

 “Memorial Sloan Kettering has already proven itself to be a leader in understanding cancer at the genetic level and in putting that knowledge to work for patients,” says Mr. Kravis. “The new Center for Molecular Oncology (CMO) will take these efforts to an entirely new level, and I look forward with great anticipation to the discoveries that lie ahead.”

Next-Generation Sequencing

Archived tumor specimens and tissues obtained in clinical trials will be comprehensively profiled by next-generation sequencing and other molecular technologies. The molecular information of each tumor will then be correlated with clinical outcomes to better understand the significance of genetic alterations in tumors and the opportunities they offer for treating cancers more precisely.

David Solit, MD, the inaugural Director of the CMO, said, “The vision for the CMO is nothing less than to revolutionize the treatment of cancer. Our integrated clinical and scientific teams coupled with our ever-increasing genetic sequencing capabilities will allow us to build upon the molecular insights we’ve gleaned over the past decade to accelerate the development of more effective and less toxic cancer therapies.”

Basket Studies and Exceptional Responders

A cornerstone of the CMO will be to enroll patients in phase I clinical trials called basket studies, in which therapies are offered to patients whose tumors test positive for certain mutations regardless of cancer type. “The location of a tumor, such as breast or lung cancer, is becoming less important than the genomic information of the tumor, and basket studies include many more people than a disease-specific trial. A therapy designed for a specific mutation could benefit everyone whose tumor has that mutation. It really is a game changer,” said Jose Baselga, MD, Physician-in-Chief, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

The CMO will also focus on retrospectively analyzing tumors of exceptional responders, defined as patients who have a sustained response to treatment in a clinical trial in which almost all other participants do not.

 Michael Berger, PhD, Associate Director of the CMO, developed the Integrated Mutation Profiling of Actionable Cancer Targets (IMPACT) test, a new technology platform that can reliably and accurately screen for mutations in 341 cancer-associated genes. Memorial Sloan Kettering plans to use the IMPACT test to help screen more than 10,000 patients each year for genetic mutations that predict for sensitivity to novel cancer therapies. This effort will also help identify new drug targets that will serve as the basis for future clinical studies. ■