The mission of the Molecular Therapeutics (MT) program is to improve cancer therapy by targeting tumor cells with new clinical trial strategies.
We identify tumor-associated defects in protein structure and interactions, errors in cell signaling, and search for or improve clinical agents that can selectively target tumors. Clinical and laboratory scientists work together to identify genome, transcriptome, and protein biomarkers that are relevant to cancer therapy and precision medicine. MT is the central hub for translational research at FCCC.
Our work has three aims:
1. To use structural and computational approaches to understand and develop cancer therapeutic approaches.
Program members use X-ray crystallography, NMR, and in silico biophysical and computational techniques to define molecular structures and interactions. These methods are applied to gain insight into and therapeutically optimize kinases, antibodies, and other targets of high relevance to cancer etiology and therapeutic design. Work in this theme also supports studies by clinical investigators and scientists in the Cancer Prevention and Control (CPC) program, to assess the damaging potential of novel mutations identified through genomic testing.
2. To investigate signaling pathways that inform choice of biomarkers and innovative therapy combinations in clinical trials.
Using patient-derived avatars, and state-of-the-art preclinical in vivo imaging tools, new therapeutic strategies are investigated in the context of molecular signatures of unique tumors, to support personalized medicine. We nominate strategies for development of early phase clinical trial concepts. Novel agents and combination therapeutics have emerged and entered clinical trials, as supported by Aim 3.
3. We develop and initiate collaborative translational investigator-initiated clinical trials.
These studies involve genomic and other correlative studies to inform mechanism and support innovative precision medicine efforts. Cross-disciplinary Translational Research Disease Groups facilitate early development of innovative translational clinical protocol concepts. We prioritize including underserved populations to promising clinical trials.
The growing MT faculty has 36 primary and 20 collaborating members. We foster scientific growth, translational interactions and inter-programmatic collaboration through a variety of meetings and support for meritorious concepts. Our members hold leadership positions within the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and in other prominent national cancer-related organizations. This includes leadership within the national Caris Centers of Excellence in Precision Medicine with designation of FCCC as a member and Center of Excellence in Precision Medicine in 2015. MT researchers work with Cancer Prevention and Control, Cancer Epigenetics and Cancer Biology programs to address the consequence of specific mutational variants in cancer incidence and response to treatment. MT researchers use the resources of Temple’s Moulder Center to design and optimize specific small molecule inhibitors of novel targets.