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Inspiring Hope

Winship Magazine: Where does hope live for this dreadful disease?

Adam Marcus: Hope begins with research. The concept of working in silos, all alone in a research lab, is long gone. Hope lives in research teams that span multiple disciplines with a clear mission of making a difference in the lives of the patients we serve. These teams will change the way we think about cancer, prevent cancer, diagnose cancer and treat cancer.

WM: How have/will jumps in technology made a difference in thinking about cancer?

Adam Marcus, PhD, in the lab
AM: In many ways, technology has moved beyond our understanding of the disease. For example, we can use technology to probe the underlying genomes of single cancer cells in a fast and relatively cost-efficient manner to generate terabytes of data; however, the challenge is figuring out what this all means for the biology of the cancer and most importantly for the patient. A ton of progress has been made in this area but we are probably at the tip of the iceberg on this, with so much more to be done. Going forward, I would envision in the not-too-far future a scenario where the technology and biology fully synergize, allowing us to understand the behavior and genetics of any tumor cell, neighboring non-tumor cells, across multiple points in time and in any specific location in the tumor. Furthermore, understanding how all these different tumor cells work together to ultimately create a tumor/non-tumor cell “system” is on the horizon.

WM: You describe personalized cancer medicine as "the next revolution in cancer treatment." How is the revolution playing out at Winship?

AM: Clearly this has been a game changer with numerous success stories in the clinic across different tumor types. It is now becoming even more relevant as we have moved into the age of immunotherapy for cancer treatment. We are now at a critical intersection of figuring out who will respond to immunotherapy, and this will likely take a similar personalized approach.

WM: What are you most excited about in the Marcus Lab these days?

AM: Understanding the genetics of single cells is a major technological advance. Now we are at a crucial juncture of understanding how those single cells behave, then merging all of this information together. If we can connect the genetics with the behavior of the cancer cell, we have a much more complete data set that will reveal which cancer cells we need to kill, which cancer cells may initiate the cancer, and which cancer cells may spread. This research will take multidisciplinary teams like we have here at Winship to drive this forward and translate it to patient care in a safe and effective manner.

WM: How has being designated the Winship 5K Professor supported your work?

AM: The Winship 5K, and more broadly Winship, support for my research has allowed us to conduct high-risk, high-reward research that challenges current paradigms. We have used this information to discover new concepts for treatments, discovered new drugs that we are developing, and new biomarkers for determining which cells are likely to spread.

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