NCRC Attracts New Faculty Member Recruits

November 09, 2012

Mark S. Cohen MD, FACS, Associate Professor of Surgery and Director of Endocrine Surgery Research recently moved his lab to NCRC from the University of Kansas, as part of the Translational Oncology program. We spoke with him recently.

About his research and his move to NCRC
We are very excited to move in here at NCRC. As a clinician/scientist, I try to bridge my translational cancer research into clinical applications for patients with endocrine tumors, head and neck cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma. My clinical efforts are focused on cancer patients with endocrine tumors and melanoma requiring surgical treatment. In the laboratory, our work is focused on translational targeted cancer-drug development and drug delivery systems in thyroid cancer, head and neck squamous cell cancer, melanoma and breast cancer. Specifically we have developed a patented nanocarrier-based drug-delivery platform which improves cancer drug delivery to tumors and their draining lymph nodes for enhanced efficacy while decreasing the systemic toxicity of the drugs. Additionally our lab is translating novel natural product compounds called withanolides as well as novel heat-shock protein inhibitors into improved anti-cancer drugs for future clinical trials in thyroid cancer, head and neck squamous cell cancer, breast cancer, melanoma and adrenal cancer here at the University of Michigan. We have been fortunate to receive funding from the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the National Institute of Health and plan to further develop this research program through active collaborations here at NCRC.

The interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of his work
Our work is very interdisciplinary and in just being here a month, I have already established several new collaborations with faculty members from several departments working on novel cancer drug development and delivery. I think our platform has implications in a number of different cancers, so it allows me to collaborate with other faculty members to find new applications in several different malignancy types. Our lab is continuing several collaborations with investigators from across the country and we now have several novel candidate drug compounds that we are moving through preclinical studies. We hope to move our first nano carrier chemotherapy drug into clinical trials in the next year here at U of M. The lab space here at NCRC provides an ideal environment for this type of interdisciplinary interaction and collaborative effort.

How NCRC is different from other similar research centers
The set up currently at NCRC in my opinion is very forward-thinking. Being able to combine a core group of translational researchers – clinicians, clinician-scientists and basic scientists, to bridge the bench to bedside approach is best way to accelerate scientific discovery and will be a model for many places to follow. For decades, academic departments have been compartmentalized. Bringing different disciplines together, with core facilities to support them, can be a daunting task but is something that is happening at NCRC. Such an environment provides researchers with those sparks of interaction that can develop into both novel discoveries and a mechanism to develop it more rapidly into practice. Now that we have completed our move, we are looking forward to getting these projects ramped up here at Michigan!

NCRC a factor in decision to move to Michigan
The space and the ability to collaborate directly with some of the key scientists in areas of cancer drug development and drug delivery was a big draw for me. Access to and being a part of interdisciplinary programs is a significant benefit to my research goals. I foresee a lot more faculty members who are interested in multi-disciplinary interactions considering moving here. I think NCRC is going to grow rapidly. The space is being developed in a forward thinking way to allow for different disciplines to come together cohesively and once the engine is turned on, it has great potential to create a multidisciplinary mecca for translational oncology research.