'Can Do' Collaborations Speed Progress in GI Cancers

John L. Marshall, MD


July 15, 2016

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

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This is John Marshall for Medscape. Look where I am. Look at this beautiful place: Barcelona. The reason I'm here is that I'm attending the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer, a wonderful annual meeting always held this time of year here in Barcelona. It's sort of like our GI ASCO—a GI ESMO. There is a good group here of about 3000 people, and there's a lot of content.

We're coming together, convening at a convention. The reason is that we want to share ideas. We want to hear how other people are thinking and what they're doing so that we can be better doctors and move the bar forward.

But there's more than that. We have to work together.

Convening is about coming together to not only share ideas, but also to do common work. At the Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers at Georgetown University, where I come from, that's been one of our main principles. We want to try to cure GI cancers, but we know we can't do this by ourselves; we have to bring other people together in order to do that. We need a bigger army. So I want to talk to you about two projects that we're working on right now that are convening people. We hope that these projects will have really dramatic power and be the catalyst for making progress in GI cancers.

The first is taking place primarily on a national level and focuses on advocacy groups. As you may know, there are many different GI cancer advocacy groups, including several for colon cancer, one main group in pancreatic cancer, and some others out there as well.

I am so proud of the work that Craig Lustig from the Ruesch Center has done with other members of advocacy groups to bring together a new group called the GI Cancers Alliance. The advocacy groups are going to work together when it's appropriate, yet still maintain their individual, disease-specific focus on cholangiocarcinoma, stomach cancer, colon cancer, etc. They maintain whatever their focus is, but they work together to raise money, to advocate on the Hill, and to even up the funding. This group has really moved forward, and I want you to keep an eye out for them and help support any one of those groups, because they're working together collectively toward the goal of preventing and curing GI cancers.

There was another meeting that I just held this morning here in Barcelona. It's a different alliance, which we're calling the GI Cancer Alliance Network, or GI CAN. This is a collaboration between lots of global academic institutions that are really leading the way in GI cancers, as well as key pharmaceutical partners, molecular profiling companies, and other allied stakeholders that all share a common goal of trying to move this forward.

We know that personalized medicine, precision medicine, is the way to go. We want to collectively profile all of our patients, offering them either standard or cutting-edge technologies to identify the best treatment for the right patient, get faster drug approvals, and lower the cost of that process for a better impact around the world. The only way we're going to cure these cancers is to identify their vulnerabilities, identify the agents for the individual patients, and get them on those treatments—not just in our established societies, but around the world. That is going along very nicely as we now begin to put together the projects that will initiate that collaboration.

I'm at a convention. I'm thinking about convening. I'm thinking about the work around advocacy as well as around clinical research, because the only way we're going to cure these diseases is by working together.

From Barcelona, and a great meeting, this is John Marshall for Medscape. You should come sometime. It's also a pretty good city with pretty good food.


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