It couldn’t be a more exciting time to be involved in cancer research for John Haley, PhD, Director of Developmental Therapeutics at Stony Brook University Cancer Center.
Before coming to Stony Brook Medicine in 2014, Dr. Haley was involved in the discovery and development of a drug called erlotinib, or Tarceva®, which has become a valuable addition in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer for patients with a mutation in a gene called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR).
At Stony Brook, he is taking it a step further by working on uncovering the molecular resistance mechanisms to this class of drugs that occurs in some individuals.In looking at how to design a strategy to minimize resistance to this treatment approach, Dr. Haley and his team, which includes pharmacology, pathology and life sciences groups, are examining several factors:
- The process by which these cells transform and become more aggressive with properties of cancer stem cells
- The way in which the cells have changed in order to find a means to destroy them after they mutated
- How the wiring inside the tumor cells vary among patients
- How the immune system recognizes and fights these mutated cells
- What the drug targets already identified have in common
“We are able to take such a comprehensive approach because of the collaborative way Stony Brook handles research,” said Dr. Haley. “Departments are no longer in silos. As an academic medical center, we bring people together with common interests but different skill sets and disparate backgrounds. This allows us to deal with a problem in a much broader and flexible way.” Dr. Haley also acknowledged the multiple benefits of conducting research this way. “Beyond the melding of the broad skill sets toward a common goal, this approach offers more funding opportunities and helps speed the process from bench to bedside.”