Connecting Experts to Fight Cancer More Effectively
Education & Research Connecting scientists to doctors may sound simple — but it isn’t. As one expert is finding, however, the extra effort makes all the difference for cancer patients seeking an answer.
By any measure, Dr. Sumanta Kumar Pal is a superstar in the fight against cancer. The co-director of City of Hope Hospital’s Kidney Cancer Program, he's also an internationally recognized leader in the research and treatment of genitourinary cancers, which include kidney, bladder and prostate cancer.
Dr. Pal holds patents for new prostate cancer drugs currently in development, maintains one of the largest portfolios of clinical trials for kidney and bladder cancer research on the West Coast, and has published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles. While impressive, these accomplishments may be less directly impactful for some cancer patients than another he's made — one which may have broad influence on City of Hope cancer researchers, surgeons and doctors.
Pal has made it his mission to bring together multiple departments to find new treatments for incurable diseases, promoting collaborations between science researchers at Beckman Research Institute and urologists at City of Hope.
"I think one of the keys to success, in terms of oncology and academic centers, is that doctors want access to the best clinical trials and we want to integrate scientists and get them involved with the process," explains Pal. "It's not the typical model to have these two parts integrated. Often, they're siloed."
“Doctors want access to the best clinical trials and we want to integrate scientists and get them involved with the process.”
What stands in the way
Pal's push to bring together scientists and doctors isn't unique, however. "This is a model that's been in place for a long time, but it's only happened at select cancer centers," he says.
While doctors and scientists usually see an advantage in working together, there is often one drawback — time. "I think when there's any time added connecting research to clinical practice, it takes time and that's the major obstacle,” says Pal. “Any time you can find ways to streamline the process, it makes a difference."
He has noticed positive changes personally, in promoting collaboration. Pal notes how working with scientists to create a prostate cancer drug enabled him to inform them that an oral medication was a better choice than one administered intravenously daily.
"Scientists need that feedback."
Pal is currently excited about the drugs two colleagues, Dr. Jeremy Jones and Dr. Marcin Kortylewski, are creating. "They will be very helpful in treating advanced prostate cancer," he contends. And that's an accomplishment Pal already has to his credit, in light of his willingness to find new ways to fight against cancer.