Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) recently announced the establishment of The Tow Center for Developmental Oncology (TCDO). The new institution will bring together the unique expertise of researchers and physicians from across MSK and empower them to pursue translational research projects to develop fundamental insights into the molecular mechanisms of young-onset cancers and therapeutic approaches for their definitive therapy and control. The goal of this collaborative effort will focus on making transformative advances for both understanding and treating childhood and young adult cancers.
Alex Kentsis, MD, PhD
Made possible with support from The Tow Foundation and other donors, TCDO will be led by Alex Kentsis, MD, PhD, Associate Attending Physician at MSK Kids—the pediatric cancer program at MSK—and Associate Member in the Molecular Pharmacology Program at the Sloan Kettering Institute. “Historically, research into cancers that affect children and young adults has been insufficient, and treatments have largely been limited to approaches that model those of adult-onset cancers. Thanks to recent discoveries, however, we now know that cancers affecting children and young people are caused by distinct developmental mechanisms rather than by happenstance or a life-long accumulation of DNA mutations due to aging,” said Dr. Kentsis. “At TCDO, we seek to define this developmental biology and use the resultant knowledge to fundamentally improve the way we treat and prevent cancers in children and young adults.”
Focus on Basic and Translational Research
Dr. Kentsis will oversee a team of researchers and physicians from across MSK, including MSK Kids, led by Andrew Kung, MD, PhD; the Human Oncology & Pathogenesis Program, led by Charles Sawyers, MD; and the Sloan Kettering Institute, led by Joan Massagué, PhD—ensuring that TCDO benefits from a wide range of experience and expertise and ultimately leads to new discoveries and treatments for pediatric and young-onset cancers. Research at TCDO will emphasize the generation of key insights into the fundamental biology of young-onset cancers. Studies will examine how developmental processes are specifically disrupted to cause cancer, and researchers will work to develop definitive therapies for cancers that affect children and young adults.
Andrew Kung, MD, PhD
Charles Sawyers, MD
Joan Massagué, PhD
In addition to spearheading new and innovative research efforts, Dr. Kentsis and the leadership team will support the recruitment of diverse scientists, the development of new shared resources, and funding of interdisciplinary research projects.
“Our knowledge of young-onset cancer biology will not only advance molecular pathology and therapy for young people but for many varied human cancers, since childhood and young adult developmental cancers involve essential mechanisms that can help us understand how all cancers develop and spread,” said Dr. Kentsis. “We are enthusiastic about the potential for scientific discovery….”