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Hospital Spotlight: Q&A with Jason Lewis of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | June 06, 2017
From the June 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Dr. Christian Lohrmann will present on one of the new agents, MVT-2163, for the first time at the Society of Nuclear Medicine’s annual meeting this year. Using an antibody labeled with zirconium-89, it’s imaging a serum biomarker for pancreatic cancer. There has been three or four years of preclinical work done on this and Christian’s presentation will be the first to present the human data from our trial.

HCB News: What challenges do you face?
JL: I would say the very unsettled fiscal and political climate is a challenge. As scientists, we are so unsure about whether funding will be maintained or provided. I also don’t think that science necessarily gets the respect that it should. Another challenge is that human disease constantly provides a new set of questions that need to be answered. Also, especially in the U.S., not enough young people are going into science, and this has profound ramifications for the future.

HCB News: What opportunities do you see ahead?
JL: The fact that we can make a profound difference in how we treat and pursue personalized medicine. If you want to treat someone with cancer, you had better know where the cancer is. A picture speaks a thousand biopsies.

Still, the imaging community has been its own worst enemy. If there are 10 probes to look at the same target, we need to make the decision to get behind one or two, to look at the data objectively and collectively push to get the regulatory approvals and reimbursement. Most probes are coming out of academia or small pharma. Big pharma does some, too, but academic laboratories are the main source. Those labs survive by getting published and landing grants. So they constantly have to have an influx of funding for new projects and clinical trials. When someone finds a great target, others recognize that and then pursue it, too. We have to change our mindset and pick winners and support them together.

HCB News: How do you predict PET will change in the next decade?
JL: It will change in a number of ways. It will become more important as advanced cancers become more common. It will have more of a role in determining the efficacy of therapy at an earlier point. It will help physicians translate new therapies and ask better-defined questions and be a much stronger part of clinical trials. Finally, when UC-Davis introduces their whole-body PET it will lower dose, especially important in the imaging of children.

HCB News: You mentioned advanced cancers. What do you mean by that?
JL: We’ve gotten very good at treating cancer. However, if a treatment cures or destroys 99 percent of the tumor, that leaves 1 percent of the tumor that’s potentially resistant. When it comes back, it’s then a cancer we may not be used to seeing or treating. As this “evolution” happens, the questions change and we have to find new answers.

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